From Windhoek we head directly west. We have found a back road that heads towards Swakopmund, and as we prefer back roads we head off. It proves to be an incredibly scenic drive. But before long the tarseal ends and the road becomes more challenging with huge sections of bare rock. There are a few ruins to stop at. First, Liebig House that is no longer open and second, an old German Fortress overlooking the hills and a pretty river (with water!) We continue on over the Bosua Pass and find a great spot with views across the mountains and enjoy yet another red sunset.
Next morning, we continue further along the pass and find an even better campspot with magic views and a loo with a view – truly unique. The best long drop we have ever seen. After descending the mountains, we turn and head directly north towards Karibib. There are some glorious rock formations before we head through more desert. When we see signs to the Tsaunobis Leopard Nature Reserve we head in. A great 9km rocky track in to a rather rundown resort that has a camping area beside the very dry river bed. We decide to stay even though it is early for us to stop. It is hot so I relax and as John can’t relax, he finds things to fix. The night sky is fabulous with zillions of stars – rather like in Outback Australia.
After hanging out our washing we explore the riverbed. Definitely not a leopard or even baboons (as we have been promised) in sight. Oh well, time to head off and on to Karibib where we catch up on emails etc. Then on to the town of Usakos where we drive down the streets (we have decided we see more from our vehicle than walking – lazy aye!) and head to the Erongo Mountains. Our destination is Phillip Cave: sight of some ancient rock art. Access is via Ameib Ranch, part of a huge Conservation Park where the animal roam free. Its hot and the camp area has a pool –a great spot to cool off and laze away the rest of the day.
Before it gets too hot the next morning, we head to the Elephant Rock area to explore. On our way in John sees a rhino rush across the road – a rare sight here. Sadly, I completely miss it, but I do check that the footprints are there! There is a film crew already at the rocks making an advert and we meet up with Bridget (we met the night before) and she shows us her favourite spots. A few more hikes, but as it is now hot, we head back to the pool. The final walk to Phillips Cave we do the next morning. A lot of clambering up and down before we reach the overhanging rock that houses some rock art. A few animals, warriors and the famous white elephant. Finally, back at GR2 we head out of the concession area and head to the town of Omaruru via another huge fenced and gated concession area that takes us along the northern side of the rocky Erongo Mountains. Great scenery but the road is rough and corrugated. Finally, we reach the tidy town of Omaruru and hunt down the sights. The vineyard has long gone, but the old tower (that we climb) is still there., plus numerous old buildings. We get food & fuel, then hit the road going west (we really are zigzagging) towards Brandberg Mountain. We won’t get there tonight so we find a spot beside a rocky outcrop well off the road for the night.
Continue to the small town of Uis that is surrounded by huge slag heaps from tin mining. Finally, onto Brandberg Mountain with lots more shaking over hundreds of corrugations. On the way Himba people wave us down to sell their rocks and handcrafts. By the time we reach the start of the hike to see the famous White Lady it is hot, so we decide to go and camp at the Lodge and return tomorrow for the hike. Instead of a hot sweaty hike we laze beside the pool, and in the morning, we head back to the start of the hike, pay, collect our compulsory guide and head off. We follow the nearly dry river to the rocky outcrop to see the famous white lady, which is actually a male warrior. Feeling quite “rock-arted out” we decide not to continue to Twyfelfontein as planned, but head north to Khorixas. When we stop at a mound of rocks for lunch we discover there is more rock art here! Two local guys pop out of nowhere to show us around. They normally farm goats. More interesting is the cave where a leopard usually lives. Next turn is towards Outjo where we spy a back road that will take us to Klippvinger (Gods Finger) and Monument Valley so naturally we head down there. We decide to wing it and drive right in to the Lodge to ask if we can camp. NO! So back down the road to the Ugab Terrace Resort where we can eat and stay. Bonus: Magic sunset views of Monument Valley.
We make it to Outjo via the back road. Lots of gate to open, poor farms to pass and massive escarpments. Outjo has a great bakery we visit, and is quite a tidy modern town. Then continue on to the larger town of Ojiwarongo where John gets his firewood bag mended (yes it has already ripped!) and tracks down some overalls. He left his 15-year-old ones behind at the workshop in Windhoek (he is getting forgetful!) Finally, on to our next destination – Waterberg National Park. A huge escarpment that is famous for its rhinos (which by the way we don’t see as we don’t want to pay for a pricey game drive) We pay exorbitant fees anyway for the privilege of camping and hiking, which we do the next day. Much later we continue along back roads, again with lots more gates to open, to Grootfontein. Rather disappointing as the museum is permanently closed and there aren’t many sandstone buildings as mentioned in our guide book. At a woodwork shop (John gets a wooden cover made for the batteries) we meet the local optician who leads us to the Maori Camp site where we stay for the night. The gregarious owner, Connie, tells us all about the kindy’s that she helps run (60 children per class) and the soup kitchen she has on Fridays. What an awesome lady. She loved all the jigsaws we gave her.
In the morning we follow a scenic back road we have been recommended. It runs through a valley with some lovely hills. There is also lots of wildlife. It comes out at the old copper mining town of Kombat, and from here we continue on to Tsuemb. We have been told to visit the Mining Museum there which is full of native exhibits, countless rocks/gemstones and artillery that has been pulled out of the nearby sinkhole lake. We also go to a great butcher shop and a more ordinary supermarket. Finally find a fabulous campsite at Kupferquelle Conference Centre.
We are finally on our way to Etosha National Park. But first a coffee stop beside the Oshivelo Sinkhole, which we can see from the road (will not go in for A$25 each foreigner price!). Once in the Etosha Gate we head to the first waterhole, and it doesn’t disappoint. Giraffes, zebras, antelopes, warthogs all coming for a drink while we sit and eat our lunch. We drive a loop beyond the waterhole and I comment that all we need is an elephant to wander in, and guess what, as we return to the waterhole, an elephant is there! Wow! And so, the day continues: zebra crossings, giraffe roadblocks and so many elephants. Before dusk we head into the Namutoni Camp Ground.
The next day we drive from waterhole to waterhole enjoying all our animal sightings. Then some French tourists tell us about a lion sighting, so we head off. The lion is sitting beside the huge salt pan watching. So, we watch her. When she goes for a stroll all the cars jostle forward. It doesn’t faze her a bit, she just strolls over the road in front of us and vanishes into the trees. Much later in the day as we are heading into Halali Camp Ground we see a huge family of elephants. Another wow moment. After dinner we wander down to the viewing platform that is set above a water hole and floodlit with discrete lighting. We watch jackals harassing the hyenas and finally decide to leave when in wander 2 rhino, so we grab our seats again. Eventually there are 5 rhinos with a few getting rather hissy with each other. A rhino standoff.
In the morning we explore smaller back roads that really are terribly corrugated, with barely an animal in sight. We are glad to get back to the more main (but also corrugated) road. There are fewer animals as we head westwards across flat dry dusty plains. Finally, we reach the Olifantsrus Camp Ground where they tell us they are booked out! Bother. But we can camp in the day use area for the same price. Not an animal in sight!
Today is our last day in Etosha and we take a back road that is actually reasonably smooth. This last section is quite hilly and rather pretty and before we know it, we exit the Park. The plan is now to head north, but as you know our plans are very flexible/changeable. More to come soon.