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Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..

The Guest Blog: Christian – Nam – Bot – Zim

November 17th, 2010

So it was to the soundtrack of Ian Dury and the Blockheads (the quality of which I had not before appreciated) on a 17 hour journey from London to Windhoek that I arrived after a bumpy landing to the baking emptiness of central Namibia.

I was at the International Airport as planned; my ride however, had taken themselves to the cargo airport 40km away on the other side of town. After realising the situation, the boys turned around although the Landie decided to overheat on the way as the fan gave up (melted fuse as the wiring had been incorrectly routed when the engine went back in). Not quite the start I might have hoped for, but having been close to the trip throughout, not one that should have been surprising. We fixed the fuses at the airport carpark, which presented my opening encounter with African Authority – “You cannot park there, this is a serious offence”. Carl, ever the diplomat, was duly dispatched to rectify the situation. The jokes that “Well you’ve fixed the fan, so you can go home now” were to set the tone for the rest of trip, fuelled by a never ending stream of silly banter, German accents (in Jan’s honour) and “Green Oval” based vitriolic attacks on any driver who would even contemplate driving a Japanese made 4×4 machine…

I had come bearing gifts from Steve at Allparts which were put to immediate use – thanks again Steve – so the musical surround sound theatre that is the cab was back in full effect. Windhoek itself is an uninspiring, if seemingly modern town; the real appeal of Namibia for me lies in it’s vast size, near emptiness and stunning natural sites. The beauty of the Sossusvlei sand sea at dawn, a vast landscape of undulating and ever shifting dunes, is quite breathtaking. The inaugural Desert Olympics, with events dreamt up on the dunes knife edge summit was received well by the participants although crowds were, understandably, not quite as large as the organisers might have hoped. Having been up at 04 30 to catch sunrise from the top of the dunes, we were on our way back to camp as the midday heat took hold and temperatures soared making dune climbing / jumping a less attractive prospect. The long road to the Skeleton Coast beckoned, but not before we had encountered an American chap who, having hit a rock and been diverted off course, had planted his rented car into piles of rocks at the side of the road. With two flats and a written off motor, we assisted in dragging the car out and sending him to the nearest lodge to call for help (in exchange he offered a generous donation to the charities). High speeds and gravel roads don’t always mix well but fortunately he walked away unscathed and we hope, had a good holiday afterwards.

Adventures continued n the Skeleton Coast, with a visit to one of the ships wrecked on the perilous coast yielding a happy meeting with two South African fishermen as the sun sank beneath the horizon. Their catch of Cob was just moments old and after brief introductions, they insisted on us leaving with more than a fish each to cook on the brai (wood fire or BBQ to us Pommies new to the African vernacular) that night – it just doesn’t get any better than fresh fish, filleted expertly by Tom and cooked within 100m of where it was caught just a few hours later. Another shipwreck in the morning, this one from 2008 and a large vessel, preceded an almighty three days of driving back to Windhoek and then onto Botswana.

Driving the outskirts of the Kalahari, North East towards Windhoek and Botswana, was a greener experience than I had been expecting – albeit impossibly hot. We made camp just short of the border and caught up on football and rugby news at the local sports bar – there is simply no escape from the Premier League on this planet (for this reason I wish I could have bought Liverpool, although Tom as a fan would surely protest otherwise). We arrived into Botswana with minimal ceremony, the next town after the border being some 200KM away. We made Maun, the entry point for the Okavango Delta, the same day. After settling into a new campsite in Maun we visited the local bar again where, Tom and Carl by the skin of their proverbial, retained British pride and despatched the locals on the pool table. A boat trip to the inner reaches of the Okavango Delta was on the cards, with the diverse bird and animal life that this stunning environment supports being the major attractions. Elephants in the water, fish eagles and a crocodile were just some of the natural highlights from a day spent with the wind in our hair amidst the long grass and fresh, warm waters of the delta.

The next few days involved us travelling North East through the country to Moremi Nature Reserve and into Chobe National Park. The roads are not easy going and have pushed the Landie, with several river crossings negotiated (Carl always looking for the Bow wave thanks to being well trained by the LRE guys back home), leading to deep sand for miles and miles interspersed, for the majority, with graded sun baked bone-shaking gravel tracks

While the camps out here are basic, the feeling of being in the bush is invigorating. In Moremi I camped in the ground tent while the boys Lorded it over me in the roof tent. There are no fences around campsites and much was made of the Lions and Hyenas who prowl the park and that were I to be eaten, the boys would enjoy seeing their first ‘kill’ of the safari. I slept to the wild choir with Hippos laughing, Monkey’s screaming, birds singing and insects buzzing at an impossible volume. I survived the night but we were all nearly eliminated the next day following an encounter with a grumpy and charging Hippo, whilst testing the depth of a water pool we needed to cross.

Chobe, as one of Africa’s premier parks, required some night driving to reach camp – we have adopted the animal timetable, rising before dawn to siesta throughout the middle and again go in search of wild beasts in the evening, when both the temperature and suns rays have mellowed. The park is packed with elephants but our only big cat encounter was in Moremi where we were treated to seeing a pregnant female and male companion relaxing in the shade for an hour in the early morning just a few metres away from us. Upon our arrival in Chobe the night air was filled with lions roaring and a distressed elephant trumpeting as conflict raged nearby – we heard that the local lions are famed for having taken down elephants in the past. Fortunately on this occasion there were no reports of a fatality, although we did come across a wounded male next morning and deeper into the park, a long dead elephant,

As I write from Kasane, Carl is replacing the bent steering arm we sustained in a collision with a palette of kerb stones, helpfully laid up in the middle of the road we were on the previous night; admittedly night driving is always a last resort, but we had little choice. Some force also passed through the ball joints meaning more significant repairs and replacing these will be required. The incident showed the first flash of frustration between the lads – amazing really that they deal with so many issues so positively and I feel we were unlucky on this occasion while taking greater risks driving at night. While the spot lamps would have given us ample warning, they were momentarily switched off as we were passing an oncoming car – sometimes being considerate can cost you more than is deserved. I insisted we leave setting up camp and head straight to the bar to laugh it off which with a few beers down, made my tent set-up much more fun, although slower than usual. Stories of “The Terminator” and near misses with the law in Kenya emerged, along with the usual refrain, “Have I told you how amazing Zanzibar is?”. Yes and yes again, I get it.

It has been an enlightening and fascinating visit to some of Africa’s many wonders and doing so as part of such a well equipped expedition, thanks to the generosity of so many who are mentioned in these blogs leaves me in no doubt as to the importance of the assistance that has been given throughout. Thanks go to the many.

So I came looking for an African mini-adventure and another taste of the open road far too long neglected due to the pressures of working life in the City. I found it and so much more – two fine young chaps with the spirit of African adventure coursing through their veins, sensitive to the locals, appreciative of the wonders they are lapping up but most definitely still Brits abroad (A good cup of tea is always on the agenda) and proud of their “Green Oval”. Keep up the great work, you’re making us all proud and green at the same time.

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