Wednesday 24 July 2013

Camping with Fred and Evelyne

These two happy campers would have come to Namibia already a year ago, but because of personal reasons it was thought better to postpone the trip with a year. This time round there was no hick-ups and everything went smooth from the start!
Fred is an avid photographer and (specially for this trip) bought himself a 150 - 500mm lens for his Nikon D90 camera. For landscapes and close-ups he also brought his 24-120mm lens with.
Evelyne was going to do the filming... 

We stayed the first night at Terra Africa in Windhoek...

Evelyne was ecstatic about the place! Service was good and the rooms very neat... In the afternoon we did a short city tour and then had a great meal at Joe's Beerhouse! Oryx fillet was on the menu and it was promptly devoured! No meal is complete without something sweet, so a malva pudding and a few Don Pedro's were also dealt with in similar fashion .. After all that, it was time for comfy beds and dreamland...

The following morning we left for Sossusvlei and our first night camping! On the way several springbok were seen as well as a few Klipspringer. These little antelope walk on the tips of their hooves (for better grip) and are probably one of very few animals that stands a chance to outrun a leopard on a cliff face. Unfortunately they are not so swift footed on flat ground, so are always close to rocks, or cliffs.

At Solitaire we ordered some of Moose's famous Apple pie while Fred took some pic's of the surroundings.

A few minutes later...our first Oryx...

Camp was made and we were ready for an early morning to the famous Sossusvlei..., but first Joyce prepared us a feast on the campfire and then it was their first night in tents!

Next morning we were out of bed before the chickens. The only complaint about their first night camping was that they had to get up so early...and even that was not serious as they were very eager to go to Sossusvlei! 
After arriving at dune 45, I decided it was a good idea to stay below and make coffee, while Fred, Evelyne and Joyce ran up the dune for the sunrise.

In the past 18 years I have been many times to this magnificent place and it is never boring! Every group I bring here experiences it differently... Some just look in awe with open mouths, while others can't stop talking about it's beauty... Maybe it is the change of color as the sun starts to rise above the horizon, or maybe the sheer height of the ocher colored dunes towering above the desert floor...It might also be the different shapes and sizes of the dunes, or maybe it is the thrill of being amongst the highest dunes in the world and in the oldest desert in the world, or maybe it is the thought of "WOW! I'm HERE and it's AWESOME!!!" It might even be that one suddenly feels tiny in God's creation... No one knows, but one thing is certain.... everybody becomes a photographer! All that could be heard in the car was 'Wow' and the clicking of camera's...and we still had to go to Dead Vlei...

As the shadows started to lose its grip on the slipfaces of the dunes, our rumbling tummies told us it was time to eat and we sat down to a buffet style brunch with yoghurt, muesli, fruit salad and juice while Joyce made us eggs and bacon on toast...all that was washed down with a freshly made pot of coffee! Food just tastes much better when the surroundings are as beautiful as this!

The sparrows soon noticed our enthusiasm around the table and decided to join jumping right into the frying pan and helping themselves to leftover egg! Fortunately the flame was out...

With our tummies full, we walked the 1.1 km to deadvlei. Once more 'Ooohh's' and 'Aaahh's' were heard all over the vlei as Fred and Evelyne looked for the best angle to photograph and film the stunning scenery...

Around 4 0'clock we visited Sesriem Canyon. Light was a bit low, but it was still beautiful. 

Fred decided it was time to photograph the guide and cook!

Next morning we broke up camp and headed to Swakopmund via Walvis Bay, but first we had to have lunch.... 

Our lunch spot was chosen with a serious dose of desert landscapes in the 'Gramadulas' close to Kuiseb Canyon! 

Then we saw some monkey business...

This little chacma baboon felt 'left out' as no-one wanted to pick his fleas! 

Quiver trees bloom between May and July and we saw a few close to the road that was in full bloom. Fred must have thought "Mmmm,...two flowers at once!"

No, this is not a rock! It is the stem of a Quiver tree.

This lovely lesser flamingo were just one of many that was strutting around in the Walvis Bay lagoon.

In the centre of the picture is a greater flamingo. These birds are taller and 'paler' than lesser flamingos. Different eating habits is the main reason why lesser flamingos are pinker than greater flamingos.

The next morning Fred and Evelyne was picked up by Tommy. He takes clients on a desert experience they don't forget very quickly!

Tommy starts off by welcoming clients into his office... Below is a picture of his office!

First on the menu was the sand diving lizard.

Which can also be used as jewelry...just incase one feels a bit 'barren'!

Then it was on to "...something even more interesting!", namely the 'see-thru' Palmato Gecko. These  ingenious little gecko's only come out at night and even a little bit of sunshine on their sensitive skins can be too much. As they have no eyelids, they use their tongue to clean their eyes!

Of course there are snakes in the desert! Tommy managed to find this 'sidewinder' by scratching around in the sand where it was laying in ambush for a tasty morsel to pass by...

Then it was time for the chameleon, or 'verkleurmannetjie' as we call it in Afrikaans. This one didn't know which mealworm to eat first. Just look at the greedy look in those beady little eyes!

Once more Evelyne had to play 'host' to a creepy crawly. Notice the mealworm on her left arm, which the chameleon got in one go!

Close to the end of the excursion, Tommy explained where the 'black stuff' on top of the magnet inside the bag came from. Then he put some of the 'black stuff' on peoples arms and passed with the magnet below for more effect... Many 'ooohh's and 'aaahh's' were heard...

It was time to leave the 'Skeleton coast' and head back inland to Twyfelfontein..., but first we had a few stops on the way...

The Captain of this trawler must surely be fired!

At Cape Cross we spotted first a lonely seal.

Further on there was a few hanging around...

And then we saw the rest of the 'crowd'!

Our camping shower and toilet at Aba Huab. Notice the fire under the 'donkey' (this is how we call woodfired geysers in Afrikaans!)

'Our' campsite! ....just for us!

Next morning they went for a quick visit to the Bushmen engravings at Twyfelfontein. After that we started searching for fresh desert elephant tracks...

And we searched...

...and we searched...

...and searched... This little oryx calf was all alone and would probably not survive very long without his mother to drink from and to guide him to safety.

We finally gave up and went back to camp empty handed... Fred had to be satisfied with this yellow billed hornbill.

The next morning we broke up camp and drove past Palmwag where we spotted the first zebras. 

AND...yes! The first elephants! I originally stopped for some giraffes that was standing quite far away and while the guests were looking at them I 'browsed' the area for something else. I noticed a rather large ear slowly flapping in the shadow of a mopane tree a few hundred meters on the other side!

The matriarch also had a very small calf that was just a week or two old and she was very protective of it.

After watching them for quite some time they slowly started ambling off to the next riverbed... 

That night we camped on the banks of the Hoanib river at Khowarib lodge. Fred took a photo of this female Namibian Rock Agama while scouring the area for birds.

On the way to the Himba village, we drove past this butter tree.

It was early and the Himba women were still eating breakfast...sort of...

The kids did enjoy their maize pap! Preferably eaten out of the pot by hand... Who needs a spoon anyway?

This girl was the pick of the lot. Sorry guys, but you'll need 3 cows and a goat if you want to marry her! Plus you will have to get the bottom 4 teeth knocked out to be able to pass as an adult Himba...and there are some other things I don't want to mention here...!!

The newest addition to the (extended) family...

Some of the necessities in the kitchen of 'modern day' Himba women.

Fred and Evelyne's heads were still spinning from explanations of holy fires, ochre, Himba culture and the smell in the first lady's hut, but it was the end of our Himba tour and they could now buy their favorite Himba crafts...  

After the visit we gave them the 'present' (which consists of 10 kg maize meal, tea, tobacco, frying oil, sugar, snuff, vaseline, yeast and headache pills (for after party days!).

The next morning we broke up camp and drove past Sesfontein into the Hoanib river on our way to Puros. Shortly after passing Elephant song campsite, we spotted this beauty on the river bank. This oryx was not scared of us and just stood there, posing for the perfect picture!

The rest of the day was spent bouncing along the 4x4 track...first in the river bed and then on the main 'road' to Puros.

Whilst having breakfast the following morning, this elephant cow walked silently past our bungalows...fortunately I heard 'something' behind me and turned around just in time to see her disappear behind a tree...

We went for a drive after a leisurely breakfast. Not much was to be seen, except very nice landscapes and a few himba herders trekking with their cattle and goats to better grazing. 

In the afternoon I found the old cow again. She had walked quite some distance from where we saw her in the morning.

Close to her was this giraffe cow and calf. The light was beautiful as the sun was starting to set.

Everything seemed to pose for us...even the moon!

Next morning we had a long drive to Palmwag via the Hoarusib canyon, then along the border of the skeleton coast southwards to the Hoanib, up the Hoanib to Elephant song and then past Sesfontein and Khowarib to Palmwag...a long day indeed!

As usual, when one is in a bit of a see something nice! I spotted 2 elephants on top of the bank with a heard of cows following them. I was wondering why the cows was following them when it became clear...The elephants shook the acacia trees to get the seeds to drop to the ground and this is when the cows pounced! They promptly moved in to 'help' the elephants pick up the pods. This 'help' was not welcome, but there was little they could do... It was still nice to see!

The riverbed was quite green and the water level seemed even higher than when we passed trough the 'poort' about a month ago with Kees and Marleen on our previous trip.

Talks of lions in the area was also confirmed with a few fresh tracks and this oryx carcass, although it could also have been caught by Hyenas..., or some other disaster had hit this poor animal.

Once we left the Hoarusib we did not see much... a few giraffe, oryx and springbok did show themselves  but it was only once we were in the Hoanib that we met this magnificent bull. We had lunch a few hundred meters from him and I was hoping that he would do his circus act by standing on his hind legs to get to higher branches...

Unfortunately this was all he could muster in the heat of the day!

This mother and calf was very tame, so Fred and Evelyne use the opportunity to photograph and film them up close.

By now it was getting quite late and, yes, once more our road was blocked. This elephant cow decided it was a good idea to park her rather large frame on the road in a spot where I could not easily we waited...and waited...and waited a bit more. Finally she gave way and we could pass. We got to Palmwag later than was expected!

Palmwag is normally a game rich area, so not much time was wasted after breakfast to get going. Unfortunately the past rain season 'passed' this area completely and it seemed as dry as a bone! This kudu bull was nibbling on the very poisonous Euphorbia Damarana. Kudu and black rhino seem impervious to the poison of this plant, although kudu only eat the flowers and the tips of the stems, while rhino will eat the whole thing! In the old days Bushmen used the milk from this plant to make poison for their arrows!

We did see a couple of nice things in the concession, but after a while I turned around and headed back home  as not much was to be seen. We did pass this herd of oryx on the way back and also spotted a few elephant in the background.

At the campsite this elephant bull waited for us... He tore through the reeds in search of the juiciest bits and the noise could be heard all over camp! That night he returned...and (according to Fred and Evelyne) was mere meters away from their tent! I slept like a baby, mainly because I knew that the elephants that come here frequently never bother campers...except when they take pictures of them at night with a flash!!

After breaking up camp, we headed for Otjitotongwe. We saw at least 2 herds of elephants soon after passing over Grootberg pass...and at Oppi Koppi in Kamanjab, this nosy ostrich was eying our lunch!

At Otjitotongwe it was time to get close and personal with the fasted animal on earth! The cheetah's purred and licked us clean. Tollie (the owner) explained that the cats like to clean their food before they eat!!!

Who's got the biggest spots??!!

Then it was time to get on the 'bakkies' (pick-ups) to witness the feeding of the wild cheetahs. Unfortunately the action is fast and furious and it is difficult to get a good shot of a cheetah grabbing a piece of meat in mid air and shooting off at a hundred kilometers per hour!

Fortunately Fred did manage a few good shots for the album!

The next day it was on to Etosha. We stayed outside the park at Mondjila campsite for 2 nights. Luckily we had enough time to go to the park in the afternoon as we struggled to find lions the rest of the time in Etosha. My choice to go to Okondeka was once more spot on, as we saw about 18 lions there. Unfortunately they were moving off in the wrong direction... In the photo there are about 13 lions. Try spotting them!

Oooohh!! Sooo cunning! The look of a jackal does not hide his find food any way possible!

This greater kestrel decided to pose for us!

The zebras where usual!

And I don't even want to guess what this springbok thought when he smelled his behind!

A scruffy looking crimson breasted shrike.

And we saw white elephants...also how they became white!

Swimming oryx...

Humm?? Isn't that the Mcdonalds sign?? 

The proud owner of the 'real' Mcdonalds franchise...the black faced impala!

The proud stature of the double banded courser.

Again...Elephants in the road...

A slender mongoose out on a raid...

Fred suddenly got 'smaller'! One can make very nice optical illusions on the vast Etosha pan!

We spotted this fish eagle at Goas. I have never seen one in Etosha before!

Some guys don't give a damn how they look...

Close to Springbok fontein (photo above), I noticed this heard of very tense herd of springbok. They were all looking in the same direction and some were even snorting their warning call. 

Upon closer inspection, I noticed a cheetah head above the grass quite a distance from us. Then she sat upright and we could even see that she had 3 cubs!

She started moving to some rocks closer to us and then climbed on top! This was great to see as she was obviously hunting. 

The cubs followed suit and also used their perch to 'spot' something, but they lost interest soon and started playing.

She kept moving closer to us, but by now several cars blocked the road and she finally lost her nerve and ran for cover, all 3 cubs following closely behind her.

At Ngobib we saw a few impala and this beautiful little violet cheeked waxbill...catching a midday snooze next to a red billed quelea.

At our lunch spot this blue waxbill got the camera clicking...

So too this white browed robin chat!

...and the banded mongoose was also scratching for attention!

After lunch we had a few giraffe pose for us...

...and also this yellow billed hornbill!

We spotted a rhino in the distance, but did not take any pics, but these zebra did catch the eye!

So too this beautiful sunset with a lone wildebeest in the background.

The next morning we noticed a few helmeted guinea fowl that was particularly afraid of something on the ground. My first thought was either a snake, or a african wild cat.

It was a bit difficult to spot the culprit, but Joyce managed to catch the culprit as it tried to sneak away!

These two warthogs were quenching their thirst and then started to roll in the mud...

...even the giraffe looked on!

Whilst watching them this martial eagle wooshed centimeters past the vehicle and nearly caught a guinea fowl. I think he just got a few feathers for all his trouble, but it was really exciting to see!! 

Next morning, while breaking up camp, this crimson breasted shrike 'caught' the eye! Joyce played it's call from her i-pad and he just sat there and gave us more then enough time to photograph it.

 From Fiume lodge we went for an early morning drive to the Bushmen where an elder explained in his 'click' language how they used to live. One of the younger ones then translated what he had said in English so guests understood what was told. 
Below guests could see how to make rope from a certain plant found in the area.

Then how to make a fire...

Once the fire was burning, the pipes got lit...also form locally found 'tabak'!

Then it was time to show guests where to find food...

They showed how to set a bird trap, and then it was onto hunting..., but first check wind direction!

Back at the village the women were busy making all kinds of 'stuff' tourists would want to buy...

,,,while grandma watches over the children!

The following morning we drove past Rundu and on to Nunda where we were going to camp on the banks of the Kavango river.
These skulls are at the entrance of Mahangu National park...

Fortunately there are still live animals in the park as we saw this male Roan antelope soon afterwards!

Fred finally got a great picture of this lilac breasted roller!

These are common impala, as they lack the black facial markings of the black faced impala found in Etosha.

The first buffalo... Now a leopard was needed to complete the 'big 5' sightings!

Another crimson breasted shrike...

Meves's starling...notice the beautiful bars across the tail.

A little bee-eater.

And a chacma baboon trying to get his teeth into the bark of this tree.

The tsessebe is one of Africas fasted antelopes.

There are also giraffe... 

...and vultures...

This lovely elephant bull gave us a bit of a warning...

...and then proceeded to cross the road at the allocated spot!!

Normally bushbuck are very nice to look at, but this was not the case with this female.

In the afternoon we crossed the river for a drive on Buffalo side and saw this emerald spotted dove on a branch next to the road.

Unfortunately this was the only good picture of a sable antelope. They did not give us much chance this time!

Fortunately this croc did not rush to get into the water, as it was also their first crocodile!

This beautiful fish eagle watched us for a while before it decided to go look for a fish!

This swimming buffalo had a oxpecker decided it was better to ride the buffalo accross then to fly!

Elephants on the savanna in the setting sunlight.

 This kudu ran for cover, but Fred got him in action!

Then some more buffalo...

And finally a smiling hippo..., just kidding! These guys are always foul mooded and just wait for the right opportunity to snap at an unsuspecting tourist.

Next morning Fred got up early and 'explored' the campsite for possible suspects to photograph..., and was rewarded with this laughing dove!

And this nice shot of a grey backed camaroptera!

Next on the agenda was Nambwa...while still busy making camp this crested barbet came calling.

...and so too a herd of elephants. The calf also got a drink in while his mum was feeding!

Fortunately this one fancied river water more than our wine!!

Next morning the crested barbet was back...inspecting my car as a possible source of food!

His nephew also came to have a look! This collard barbet seriously eyed our breakfast!

While this brown firefinch was scratching in the undergrowth for a tasty morsel!

A male and female pied kingfisher had their lookout strategically above the water and was ready for breakfast too!!

So too this african wattled plover...

Red lechwe are commonly found close to water in this area. 

This kudu bull was feeding on a tree close to us.

We then drove on for a while and I opted for a road further from the water as most animals come to the water around midday. I spotted these lions lying not far from the road.

They showed interest in us and started walking around the vehicle!

And sometimes even looked straight at us!

They were six altogether. Three males and three females, but it was the males that realy posed for us!

Finnaly they grew tired of us and went back to what lions do best...'lion' around!!

Then came the we left them in peace.

Unfortunately this waterbuck did not want to look at us. 

These two bird were having a chat...probably about the lack of food!!

This gorgeous female kudu could not stop looking at us!!

And so, on the last drive of their trip, we 'happened' upon this female leopard. This made their 'big 5' experience complete! I spotted her sitting under a tree not too far from the road, but I'm very sure that if she did not want us to see her, she would have just 'melted' away into the bush surrounding her!!

We stayed with her for a while, until she had enough of us and disappeared into the bush. We drove on and saw our first 'nambwa' zebras!

And this magnificent kudu.

And ended with a 'go-away' bird! It was funny in a way as our end of the trip with Fred and Evelyne was now finished. All that was left was to bring them to the 'Pride of Zambezi' (a floating lodge on the Chobe river) where they would spend the next 2 nights. After that they were taken by transfer to Livingstone for their last 2 nights before flying back to Holland.

In the end everything went really well! They saw stuff they did not even dream about, and had great pic's to prove it!

The following are just a few facts about their trip. 
5 tubs of peanut butter...

They saw the \Big 5.
We traveled 5800 km...

Both Joyce and me really enjoyed their company and enthusiasm and hope to see them back here in Namibia in the not too distant future!!