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NAMIBIA  20/11-28/12 2008    DIARY 1


Map and Plan   

 Diary 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8   

 I have not had a day off since January, and in September, I'm desperate! None of my usual travel companions have the time, but I talk my selves into a trip to Namibia. It have been on my short wishing list for quite some time, and now, as part of my education, I realize I just have to go! My final project (which only should be max 12 pages about how to grow tomatoes, tulips or alike, using the pre-made manuals) have involved into something like a PhD on the culture of Welwitschia mirabilis from seeds and tissue culture (I received the highest grade for it). I just need some data from the wild, which I don't seem to be able to find anywhere else.

 Quite fast, I find a flight ticket and a friend who is into the same plants as I. For once, in a long time, this tour is planned! After having read a lot, and written with friends who have been in Namibia, we come up with a simplified version of my first rough plan, and after I have made eight tour detailed suggestions, I leave it to my co-traveller to make the final plan. If I had been alone, I could have made the full tour around, but we focus on those of our favourite plants, which can be found in the dry, western region. To save time, giving us more time to explore the remote regions, we plan to camp in the wild. That causes for a lot of shopping: A new PC with 12V supply and solid state memory, a gadget that transform 12V to 230V for the camera batteries, tent and other camping gear (almost complete list). That again causes for a big bag, and I eventually have to have a checked in bag, and not only the usual two or three kilos carry-on bag. My friend find a 4x4 rental car, and we are ready to explore!

 THE COUNTRY. (Jump to Diary)
 Namibia lies in the south western Africa, between Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the south. It covers an area of 825,418 km²  (20x Denmark) and is inhabited by close to two millions. The official langue is English, but Afrikaans, German and several local languets are also spoken.
 The BNI high for an African country: 1662€ (Denmark: 28.500€)(2004 numbers), manly thanks to the diamond mining in the southernmost areas. AIDS is an issue; 20% of the entire population have HIV, and the expected lifespan is 47 years; 55% is below 20 years.

Being a young country, the word "ecosystem" and "biological diversity" actually occurs in their constitution, and they have some real gems to protect. There are 4300 diocots and 422 monocot plants described, around 200 endemic. Quite special: 100 lichens. 630 species of birds, 240 mammals, 50 amphibians and 250 reptilians. Some best seen on a bit of distance, like the green- and the black mamba, puff adders, three species of spitting cobras, horned adders, boomsnake, sidewinders and the Nile crock. I'll try to focusing on the plants: 75 already got their own pages on my Caudiciform Site. There are 21 national parks along with a fast growing number of private reserves.

The country are topography divided into four main areas: The extreme dry Namib Desert and the costal dunes receiving as little as 10-15 mm rain a year. The slopes of the Central Plateau (200-400mm). The dry Kalahari sands (100mm) in south-east; the almost wet wooded bushveld in Kavango and Caprivi with 600 mm rain a year. The first part containing the oldest arid area in the world, and the youngest: The Namib Desert is around 80 millions years old, the dunes are still moving out in the sea. The fog covers the dunes around 300 mornings a year. This gives room for some of the most specialised and weird plants and animals of this world, and my main reason to visit this great country.
 Temperature goes from frost at night in the deserts to 35-40C in midday. During my stay - in the hot season - I can expect 17C at night and up to 20C in south east and even 40C in north east.The different climate zones of Namibia.

 The vegetation follows the topographical areas, more or less. Along the Atlantic Ocean (Namib Desert), plants are real scares, but on the other hand very interesting, as the Welwitschia in the mettle, and Karoo succulents in the south (yellow + kaki). On the western slopes of the Central Plateau and the Kalahari in southern part, the little more fertile landscape gives home to Nama Karoo (light green), which will be our main area of exploration. The Central Plateau in the north is dominated with trees, and the central to eastern part with shrub (dark green).

 Inhabited at least 1,3 millions years by human-like inhabitants, then Homo erectus and finally Homo sapiens 20.000 years ago the Boskop people were hunters-and-gathers, and a few of their decentness are today's San people (known as Bushmen). Then, Khoisan (Khoi-Khoi) people (known as Hottentots) came from south, and started farming around 400 BC. From east, the Gokomere came with iron works. In 500-1000 AD, they started gold mining, and the first San people were retreating or enslaved. In 1600 AD, Herero people came from north-east, and "swallowed" up the other ethnic groups.

 As a result of the most in hostile and uninviting coastline, Europeans came as late as 1486, in the form of Portuguese mariners. In the 17th century, Dutch sailors from the Cape started exploring the deserts. The first real settlement was made in the early 19th century. In 1883, Adolf Lüderitz bought some land around Angra Pequene, and  - with some difficulties - got it under German protection. Later, he got the whole country "protected". They did not put much effort into keeping the internal peace, but after some fights between Nama and Herero people, the Schutztruppe was formed, and the country became German South-West Africa. Settlers started to arrive, and the first major incidence occur in 1904, where Herero joined with Mama, Baster and Owambo tribes. After killing a better part of the original people, Germans came out as winner, only to loose the whole area to South African in WW1 a few years later. Until it's independence in 1990, Namibia was part of South Africa.

20/11.  It turns out my timing have been perfect. The weather forecast predicts dropping temperatures and the first snow, at least five days in a row, starting from to morrow. On top of that, a huge outdoor skating lane have been build right outside my windows, and it will open this weekend.

The weather forcast say: GO! +The scating laine say: GO!=So that is exactly what I do.

 Catch at train at 10 in the morning, only to take off at 13.20. Check-in the huge, 19 kilo bag, and hang onto the two kilo essentials: PC, cameras, chargers, memory sticks, Visa and passport. Two hours flight, and then I have three and a half hour in Heathrow before the eleven hours flight down to Johannesburg in South Africa. It is a night flight, and I only wakes up for the food. Five and a half hour more waiting. Luckily, I meet up with my travel companion after a couple of hours, and we get acquainted. Two more hours in the air, and we arrival at Windhoek International Airport. Total travel time was 29 hours!

21/11. Short stop in the airport to withdraw some cash. Strangely enough, I get a bunch of South African Rands, but the Namibian Dollar is tied up completely with is, and both coins and notes are frequently used. The Namibian Dollar is close to 1/10 of an Euro. Short stop at an internet cafe and a cellar phone shop to buy airtime.

 Meanwhile, the car-guy have collected the car, and we drive down to Kalahari Car Rental. Turns out it doesn't have the cassette player my co-driver wanted, and we get it swapped with an slightly older car. 100 meters down the road we find out; the seatbelt doesn't work.  After a lot of tinkering, we get a new seat installed, and we are off. Windhoek Centra

 Next stop is a gasoline station. 120 litters of petrol for 986 N$. Then we head for the mall. Plenty of water and food and other essentials. Spends 1375 N$. We end up too late at Safari Den shop, but two young girls guides us around the huge mall, and we find Checkers. The manager helps us, and we find the most expensive item: A big gas canister and burner:  885N$,  but we are going to cook all our food ourselves. People are truly helpful around here!

 It is getting late, but luckily, it turns out is stays light until seven. I have made a reservation at Düesternbrook Guest Farm and claimed we would be there around eight, in the evening. We drive through the centre of the cosy, clean and friendly Windhoek, and 30 kilometres north, and turns into a small dusty gravel road. On the way, we see some wild animals, gazelles, giant millipedes, horn billed birds, grouses, starlings and small rodents.

 It is now completely dark, but plenty of wildlife passes our headlights. I stop a single time to make a photo of a large millipede. Besides from that, we see impalas, warthogs, gemsbok, jackal, solifugae and some other illusive animals. One looks and moves, exactly like a small kangaroo, but I guess it must be a hare?. End up at the reception three minutes pass eight. Lovely place. It is the oldest guest farm in Namibia; 100 years old, and real cosy.

 We are pointed somewhere out in the dark, and after some off-road driving, we find what must be the camping ground. I have a hellish time trying to find my stuff - head lamp mainly. My gear are packed for the flight handling, not for use. Finally, I get it sorted out, and we put up the two small tents. Fast supper, an even shorter shower and into the sleeping bag. Even though, there is a massive concert of cicadas, bullfrogs and night birds like owls, I pass out immediately.

22. Evening's concert was nothing compared with the morning's. Hundreds of birds competes, and I just have to get out and have a peek half pass five. The sun is starting to raise, and I find my selves in a astonishing area. Across the dried-out river, some small mountains are raising. First camp in the outback

 A fast breakfast, without coffee. I simply can't make the gas burner work. I thought the canisters was a bit too light, but it hisses fine, but I just can't light the burner. We discuss it, and agrees on driving back to Windhoek to get it sorted. We pay 300 N$ for the camp site. I don't feel bad about the two short showers!

 We find the manager at the shop, and after he has tried several burners, one of the employees tell him; they don't sell gas - just the empty canister. Well, he had only worked there for fourteen days. He draws a weird map to the place, where we can buy gas. We fails to find it, and ask on a gasoline station. Barboons are frequently seen along the road.

 One of the customers knows the place, and drive ahead. Quite a ride, but although it should be open, it isn't. He know an other place, that might replace the empty container with a filled, and once again, he shows us. These are really the nicest people I ever have meet!

 We get a re-fill, and heads back up north. A de-tour of 120 kilometres and four hours, which we didn't need, but we are back on the track. Along the central highway B1, which is a two lined well paved road, game parks lines up. We sBush savannahe a wide variety of antelopes, gazelles and even baboons along the road. Marabou storks and large eagles crosses the road, while it is flanked by  termite mounts.

 We makes a few stops and enter the dry, 37C hot but nice landscape. It is bush savannah. The bushes are mainly green, but the grass brown and yellow. Twice, I notes some bulbs in flower. They can only be found within a kilometre, and that causes for two short stops.

 In front of us, the twin mountains of Omatako towers up. They are actually 2240 meters high, but because of we drive on the high plateau, they looks like two big hills. BehindThe first giraffe was close to us. them, we can see the Wattenberg, which should be a stronghold for succulents.

 While we see rain and thunder in the distance, the Wattenbergs tend to avoid us. Once we walk cross the bushy fields, only to discover no succulents at all, except a Aloe littoralis. Due to the lost time in the morning, we decides to head back towards Etosha National Park.

 It is a long drive, but among others, we see some giraffes right next to the road, just behind the fences. Etosha lodges are not for us, but I have found a much cheaper on the road. We arrivals at six, while the horizon are cowered with dark clouds, enlighten by lightning. We are alone, and only have to pay 200N$. It is real nice with thick, green grass for the tents.

 Bit of tinkering with the different chargers and 12-230V gadgets, put up the tents and makes a fast supper. Coffee and then photo tampering and diary writing. All in heavy  bombardment of beetles. The biggest ones are seven centimetres long!

23. Five and a half hour of sleep, and we are ready for another day in the wild. A light shower during the night have nicely sealed the dust, and when the sun emerges, we are already on the road for the famous Etosha National Park.  It is still partly cloudy, and the first activity among the wilds animals can be seen along the road. The usual gravel is mixed with areas of limestone, but the plantation remains relatively  unchanged.Eustriches are plentyfull, most in the open land.

 We reaches the park entrance at seven, and quite soon after, we see guinea fouls, wildebeest, springbok, mice, zebras, chipmunks and some other gazelles. We are hoping for something bigger, and head out for the watering holes. A few ostriches, more zebras and gazelles, but there are long in-between. The grass might be yellow, but the plentifully bushes have nice lush leaves. Springboks can be seen almost all over.

 We head back to the city within the park, Okaukuejo and out to the west. Significantly drier, but to my surprise also more animals. Her  we can add gemsboks to the list. Finally we reaches The Haunted Forest, a group of widely spread Moringa ovalifolia. The grow some distance from the road, which we are not aloud to leave. On top of that, we are strictly bitten to remain inside our car. Moringa ovalifolia in Haunted Forest.

 The Moringas are our main purpose to go here, My favorite; Oryx or Gemabok.and we surely want some nice photos. What do you do? Drive into the ground, scalp for lions and then walk around. Great photos we get, and not a single lion in sight. The park continues, but we have seen the most - except elephants, lions and giraffes, and we still have a long drive. And we have seen some unexpected, like a monitor, real close on.Rock monitor, close as well.

 Where the road have Old bull, real close.been dug down through a small hill, a few Aloe pictifolia-like have found a home. On a open stretch, along the road we recently drown on, a huge elephant bull slowly walks along the road. Get some nice close-ups, and continue out of the park. Right before the exit, a group of five giraffes stands along the road.

 We are not sure how much gasoline we have left. TheZebras know how to enjoy shadow. meter only works on one of the tanks, but which? I hope it is on the first, but with a quarter of a tank, we better be sure. The park have a gasoline station, and it is even standard prices; 8,28 N$ a litre. We starts to gas, and even though I know, it is a slow pump, I start to look underneath and inside the car. We have actually burned 108 litres on 887 kilometres! Might consider to drive a bit slower from now...

 A bit back by the tarred road, and then right of D2695, a brilliant gravel road. Along the road, we spot some Commiphora trees, Here are at least two species, one with green stem, one with yellow/red stem. We get to the granite rock mountains, and onPachypodium lealii in the huge form. one hillside, we spot two mighty Pachypodium lealii. Massive stems with little branches. They are around seven meters high, but we don't spot a single little plant in the area.

 A bit further out of this arid, deserted road, we find huge Sesamothamnus guerichii which seem a pVast plains, endless gravel roads.erfect ending on a great day. After 130 kilometres on this gravel road, meeting only three other cars, we reaches Kamanjab. Right outside the town, I spot some Euphorbias, and while I climb the barbwire fence, I learn Namibian farmers also uses electric fences. Heavy electric!

 Hurts like hell, but at lest, I end up on the right side: Inside along with the Euphorbias. The sun have gone down, and we hurry to a campsite and get the tent up before it is completely dark. This camp is only 80 N$ each, but should be 30! On top of that, I get a heat stroke, and spend the most of the night feeling sorry for myselves. Not much help; the owner of the camp is having a party - loud party. The temperature drops from 40C to 20C, but I feel sick and either sweat or shivers in cold.

 24. There passes four small showers during the night, but only enough to get the tents wet and bind the dust. A slow start on  the day, but I still don't feel that fresh. On top of that; the guy heating the shower water with wood only opens the water when it is warm - around eight thirty.Few huts made of tinplates or cow dune.

 Today, we head even more north, taking the C35 towards Ruscana. The area contains of real old granite, mixed with gravel and little limestone. Some places, steep hills of what looks like basalt, raises from the plains. After 120 kilometres, we turn left on D3709, a well maintained gravel road leading towards Opuwo.

Huts belonning to an other tribe. First, we see a single huge Sesamothamnus guerichii later they become as common as the acacias. One of the illusive lizards turns out to be a agama, which poses on a pole. Other places, we have seen really colourful, large lizards. Fockea multiflora I think.

 I spot, what looks like a Madagascan Cyphostemma, but it turns out to be a huge Fockea multiflora.  It seems like it is alone in this area, and as with so many of the other interesting plants we find, there are no younger plants to find. The road partly turns in to the typical red dust road, just like the surrounding almost barren plains we are on.

 We reaches the main town of the north-west, Opuwo, which truly is an experience. All theHinba people looks like this, even in the supermarked. cultural tribes meets here, many dressed in traditional suits. Most special is the Himba, which is cowered  in grease with ochre and a small, raw hide around their waist. We almost only see women, with their hair set up with ochre as well. They somehow seems a bit out f place in the modern supermarket, reaching for milk in the refrigerator.

 The women of an other tribe are huge, proud ladies, in giant ropes of multicolour dresses and some matching, but vied hats, looking like horns. It is really nice to see, who the tribes remain their culture, but on the other hand seems to blend and live in harmony, in this area.

 We do some shopping, empty the ATM and fill up the tank. Then we leave town, going south on C43 heading for Sesfontain. The landsCows can be seen on fields and roads.cape turns more hilly, but there are not much variation in the vegetation at first. Then it becomes a bit more humid, and the bushes turns into almost trees, standing in a nice, dense wall along the road.A large Adansonia digitata.

 Finally, we reach Baobab country. I have been in five countries which have this magnificent trees, but the only Adansonia digitata I have seen, it the one in Kirstenbosh Botanical Garden, and some seedlings in other botanical gardens.

 The first we spot is a real nice looking specimen with a short trunk around three and a half meter in diameter, and its leaves just starting toThis could be a Fockea multiflora. An nice Adansonia digitata.emerge. A few old fruits and a few new flowers can be found in the low, but huge crown. Underneath, I find what seems to be a tiny palm. Not more then eight centimetres high.

 More and more baobabs grows on the rocky hillsides, and it must be the Namibian equivalent to Madagascar's baobab Alley. Unfortunately, the real big trees can only be found further up north, and I can't talk my co-traveller into that 100-200 kilometre de-tour.

 It starts to rain, and we still have a long drive ahead of us. Never the less, we have to stop from time to time: Her are too many motives, and we even find a huge Fockea multiflora.

 Almost on the top of Joubert's Pass, we spot two giant Cyphostemma currori. Although the light is fainting, we simply need to photo them. The last stretch on this, sometimes real wining road, is in the dark. We reaches Sesfontain around nine, but the only open campsite is a bit to rough and dark for our taste.Dry, but promisses of rain.

 We follows the road south to Warmquelle, which should have a nice camp. It is located six kilometres out in a mace of really rough roads, and we have to take upCyphostemma currori in the evening. a guide. No chance to see the surroundings, but we pass a river, engaging four wheel drive and diff. lock.

 End up along a huge wall of straws, which are literally covered in sparrows. The water, which apparently covers the area, is teaming with frogs and toads, sinning their stereotype serenade against the numerous stars. A fast meal, and I starts on photos and diary.

 The camps shower is basic: Straw walls, cold water, nothing else. Well, we only pay 60 N$ each. At one o'clock, I have to give in.
                                                The adventures continues in Diary 2


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