Where ever you go, there you are.

It has been an amazing 6 weeks. Over-landing in Africa is hard work. Long days, rough roads, heat and dust. Physically, we are glad we went when we did, rather than putting it off for a few more years. Having said that, over-landing lets you really see the country warts and all. Something that flying from place to place doesn’t allow you to do.

Africa is a rapidly developing land of contrasts. Most of the people we spoke to are optimistic about the future of their country. Some not so much. The future will be interesting to watch unfold. Kenya and Tanzania were Carol’s favourites. Mine were Botswana and Namibia. We both loved South Africa.

Many thanks to everyone who followed the blog. The trip was a life changing one which we enjoyed sharing with you. Hope to see you all soon!


Cape Town

Today was a wonderful end to our trip. We hired a guide and a car and started the day with a boat trip and tour of Robben Island. The site of the infamous prison where Nelson Mandela and numerous other political prisoners were incarcerated during the apartheid era. We toured the island, as well as the prisons and saw the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 17 years of his life. One of our guides was an ex-political prisoner who spent 8 years jailed on the island. His recollections of what life was like were horrifying and very sad. The spirit of forgiveness shown by the men imprisoned on Robben island is quite astonishing given what they were subjected to while there.

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After a morning on the island we rode the famous cable car to the top of Table Mountain. The views were outstanding! We followed that with a walking tour of the old city, including the colourful houses in the Muslim quarter. After the day and a SA lunch of boboties we packed up and headed for the airport. Cape Town is lovely and we hope to return one day and spend more time here.

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Southern Namibia to Capetown

It began in a roundabout way. Our first revolving door at a bank in the town of springbok refused to open until we figured out that it works backwards to North American doors. Gave the locals a good laugh anyways. Down the road, using a private pay toilet became an adventure when the metal revolving gate shut behind me on the way out and I was stuck.

The ecology slowly changed from dry desert to mountains to the first vineyards around Clanwillian. It became lusher and lusher as we travelled further south. The SA vineyards and fruit growing areas are immense.

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The last stop before reaching Capetown was a wonderful historical and educational site about the San Bushmen. We had an excellent tour by a San tribe member which included a San language lesson, a detailed tour of the art garden and an introduction to the ethnobotany of the San. We finished up in a San village watching music and fire making demonstrations and learning more about the culture and day to day life.

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On the road again, Table Mountain and Capetown appeared in the distance. What a gorgeous setting. We have a day to explore tomorrow before catching our flight to Amsterdam at 11 pm.

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Fish Creek Canyon

Another dawn departure got us to Fish Creek Canyon in southern Namibia by mid afternoon. The drive was a beautiful one.

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Fish Creek Canyon is similar to the Grand Canyon but not quite as large. The basement sediments here are over 1 billion years old. Tectonic movement began the formation of the canyon and water continued the process. We arrived at the canyon just before sunset and enjoyed a sundowner on its rim. – the colours were spectacular.

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The area around the canyon is part of a park where depleted/extinct wildlife populations are being established again with introductions of the native species from other areas of Africa. the program is working well and we saw evidence of various types of antelopes, zebra and kudu.


Namib-Naukluft National Park

Leaving camp before dawn brought us to the gates of the park just before sunrise. the rising sun turned the dunes into orange flame as we pulled up to the foot of Dune 45, one of the highest stationary sand dunes in the world at 900 feet over the desert floor. The park contains the highest dunes in the world with some over 1000 feet in height. Three of us got to the top – the views were incredible, as was the wind at the top of the dune.

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Our travels then took us further into the desert to the Dead Vlei with its 800-1000 year old dead acacia trees. The trees died 800 + years ago when the Orange river changed course due to drifting sand dunes. Their long roots and the clay hard pan around their trunks has keep them up right since. An amazing moonscape….. More moisture comes in as a fog off the Atlantic Ocean than falls as rain, with the average 106 millimeters of rainfall per year concentrated in the months of February and April. Whole areas of dry river beds and plains will flood every few years. The area attracts lots of bird and animal life at that time. Even flamingos from the coast appear.

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The adaptations of the plants and animals living here year round are amazing. The back striped mouse builds its communal nest underneath a thorny !nara bush which produces a very nice melon that the mice eat. Smart rodent to build its house under a supermarket with a built in security system. The shovel snouted lizard can bury itself in the sand in the blink of an eye – we caught a glimpse of one shedding its skin before it disappeared. The blue beetle stands on its head in the sand in the morning capturing morning moisture from sea mists. The moisture runs down funnels in the beetle carapace to its mouth. A couple of drops is all it needs for the day.

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A wonderful morning.

Swakopmund to Namib-Naukluft National park

The first part of our travels took us through Walvis Bay – the main Port along the coast of South West Africa. The coast just north of Walvis Bay was covered with seaside developments that had been built in anticipation of the tourism that the Africa Cup was anticipated to bring into the area. This didn’t occur and the developments are like ghost towns – lovely properties deserted for the most part. Walvis Bay itself has an upscale area along the water and a walkway that goes for miles along the sandy beach. It could be Vancouver or Victoria – just a different beach and pink flamingos are the shore birds – not ducks.

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As we drove deeper into the desert the coastal moonscape of dunes and kopjes changed to flat land and then gradually to mountains. The drive was stunningly beautiful. The rocks are old and the stratigraphy evidence of the great uplifting that occurred during the plate tectonic activity which led to the break up of Gondwanaland in the Cretaceous about 120 million years ago. Our lunch was at a road side stop called Solitaire. It used to be the one stop along the road for gas, groceries and lodging – a graveyard for old cars was fun to see. The car headlights have energy saving bulbs in them that are turned on at night to light the courtyard of the Solitaire lodge.

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After lunch we started to see evidence of the famous red dunes of the Namib-Naukluft park. Our evening is at a desert camp just outside the park – the sunset was gorgeous and the air is like warm silk. We can hear hyenas in the distance and the southern stars are out in all their glory.

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Khoraxis to Swakopmund

We broke our long journey to the coast from Khoraxis to Swakopmund at a roadside stand of the Herero tribe. The Herero women make lovely dolls, as well as other carvings. They wear gorgeous clothing and graciously allowed us to take their photos.

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Following our stop we made the coast in several hours, passing through increasingly dry/desert ecosystems and by Brandberg mountain – the highest moutain in Namibia and home of the famous Brandberg rock paintings.

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Our first stop on the coast was Cape Cross were Diego Cao planted his famous cross and the home of a colony of 80,000-100,000 fur seals. Diego Cao reached Cape Cross in 1485 and erected the cross to honour his king.  He thought he had reached the southern most part of Africa. The original cross is now in Germany and Cao died shortly after erecting it – possibly of disappointment. The fur seal community was thriving with lots of babies. After watching for a while we headed south and reached our detination for the evening – Swakopmund. Swakopmund literally means dirty mouth. The name comes from the Swakopmund river which when it is raining dumps garbage and pollutants into the ocean near the town. Keeps the city crews busy cleaning it up. Other than that and the city using partially treated sewage water to irrigate the boulevards (everything is very green here) the city is pleasant. We spent our day off from traveling shopping and having lunch. Carol and I actually felt like women rather than bedraggled dust bunnies.

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Twylefelfontein and Khoraxis

As we drove deeper into Damaraland the land turned to a mountainous desert. The geology is amazing, mountains, kopjes, rocks showing evidence of all types of marine environments in the past. We passed stratified rock beds of granite and sandstone – including some of the oldest rocks on earth. The colours are stunning – the deep reds of oxidizing environments together with the darker hues of more anoxic marine environments.

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Twylefelfontein is a huge sandstone amphitheatre in the desert that surrounds a spring hidden in the sandstone mountain face. The name means doubtful spring. The San Bushmen knew of the spot and spent a lot of time here carving pictures of animals in the sandstone, some 2000-6000 years ago. They used granite to do this. The etchings are lovely and depict hunting and magical scenes from the bushmen culture. It is thought that Shamans carved some of the pictures to ensure passage into the afterlife. Shamans in the Bushman culture were also thought to be able to pass through rock and were considered to be shape shifters. Some of the animals depicted are half human and half animal indicating a shaman changing into an animal. Also among the etchings are probably the first depictions of movement in animals. The heat was intense by the time we left and traveled back to Khoraxis for the evening.

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Etosha to Gelbingen and the Himba tribe

We left Etosha this morning on our way south deeper into Namibia. Cheetahs are persecuted by many farmers outside of the wildlife reserves in Namibia and some people have set up mini reserves for them on private land. We visited one of these places on our way to Gelbingen. Amazing cats – they sound just like domestic cats – purring and mewing.

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The ecology is changing towards a drier more desert like environment as we move further south. Our evening was spent in a small lodge that is also a working farm near Gelbingen. The lodge is located in the area where the Himba tribe live and we visited their village. The Himba are a semi nomadic pastoralist people who have so far resisted any integration into western society. The men are away for long periods of time with the cattle while the women maintain the village. The women are beautiful. They treat their hair with animal fat mixed with ochre pigment and spread a similar ointment on their skin turning themselves a dark red colour. Water never touches their skin and their skin is smooth and unlined no matter what the age. The feel in the village was relaxed – smiles everywhere. The resistance to western society values seems to result in happy, well adjusted human beings in Africa. The steps from traditional to so called modern society is when things get messy.

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The lodge flower garden is classic xeriscaping at its best. Flowers, cacti and iron work filled the front areas while in the back raised beds covered with shade cloth grow vegetables for the kitchen. The raised bed soil was built using animal manure and compost, as the native soil is sand and unable to support a traditional garden.. Our rooms were small stone cabins. The stones held the heat of the day and radiated it slowly into the rooms overnight. A good system for chilly desert nights. Water was solar heated. After a night watching the full moon light up the landscape and listening to hyenas, kangas (guinea fowl), and cicadas we were greeted by the owner’s cats and dogs in the early morning and soon were on our way still further south towards Khorixas and the UNESCO world heritage San Bushman site at Twylefontein.

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