|Namibian road sign, warning of warthogs (they have very poor eyesight) We didn't see any splatted so the signs must work!|
Having gone to bed so early we were, not surprisingly, up very early too. The campsite was totally quiet as no other campers had arrived last night. It was a strange feeling to be out in the middle of nowhere, not really knowing what sort of animals may be browsing around looking for their next meal. All we saw though was a few birds. One side of the campsite backed on to the land from the lodge. Along the other side was a wide river bed, now totally dried out but with clear patterns in the sandy bottom to show which way the water coursed down and through.
We had our first breakfast out in the open air, a simple affair of cereals, juice and tea/coffee while we pondered our moves for the day. With slight trepidation I went off to explore the showers, glad that more people were not around. The washrooms were open to the elements and when we arrived yesterday had no water. About fifteen minutes after we had set up camp a chap arrived to turn on the water and electricity, lighting a fire to give us hot water. I don’t think I have ever before been to the loo or taken a shower in a bathroom made of bamboo canes where the “door” is simply a rope that you sling across the entrance to show it is occupied.
Considering that one of Namibia’s big issues seems to be a lack of water I was surprised to see a bath at the campsite. I opted not to use it, partly because it was pretty rusty but mainly due to the collection of bugs and insects that were still snoozing away in it. A quick scan of the showers showed which was the least bug infested and I was pleasantly surprised to get a good strong shower with lovely warm water. It was better than many of the showers we have had in the various hotels we’ve stayed at around the world and I felt very refreshed after it.
As we were packing our stuff up and getting ready to go a chap from the lodge was already out and about ready and waiting to clear up the campsite behind us. They seem to sweep the tracks every day as well as doing the obvious stuff like emptying the bins. We seemed to just click back into our Canada routine, diving tasks between us without even really discussing it. We’re still not in our new routine for this truck though but no doubt within a few days we will be.
Before heading further north we did another quick stop in Okahandja. With warnings that the shops would be likely to have little choice of food and to ensure that we had emergency fuel and water supplies with us still ringing in my ears I had finally persuaded Stef that we should also stock up with some emergency food rations. Whilst neither of us is a great fan of tinned and pre-packaged food it would see us through if we did get caught out somewhere and would also make for a quick dinner if we were too tired to have a braai. After an unsuccessful foray into the first shop we came to we headed further into town and found the Spar, which seemed to do quite a trade in stocking up people going off on camping trips. There were quite a few camping trucks outside and lots of people in waling gear and boots inside, all buying the same type of stuff. I wonder what the local population makes of it all!
From Okahandja we continued north on the B1 passing through more of the same countryside we had seen yesterday. Miles and miles of open land stretched away with little variation, except that we passed a few ostriches in a field along the way. Warnings about cows crossing the road were well and truly expected but we both chuckled when we saw a similar sign warning of warthogs crossing the road! Quite often we would see large black bugs on the road. We couldn’t really work out what they were but they looked like either a sort of cicada or a big beetle.
We had been told that we could do about 400km on a tank of petrol so I was keeping a close eye on our fuel gauge working out as we went how much further it was to the next petrol station. With our jerry cans currently empty I didn’t want us to get caught out. Our map showed that we should have passed a petrol station but none were evident. On closer inspection I realised that a black petrol pump symbol means there is a service station, a grey one means there might be!
Our planned destination for tonight was the Waterberg Plateau Park, again not a massive drive in terms of distance. It was a stop recommended to us by the engineer at Camping Car Hire as somewhere quite unusual to go. We turned off the main B1 onto the C22 which was still a good road with tarmac. About 40km further on though we turned off onto our first dirt road. Everyone you talk to warns you about how dangerous it can be on the gravel roads, to keep your speed low and to be wary for differing road conditions. I think if you listened to them all too carefully you would never go anywhere much in Namibia because most of the roads have no tarmac.
This dirt road was in pretty good condition although we soon found ourselves crossing water and going through muddy bits. Heeding the warnings we were ultra cautious and switched to 4x4 mode, probably not necessary but we did it anyway. Before long the plateau came into view. It is an enormous raised up section of land with steep rock sides leading up to the flat plateau. We have both recently read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Lost World and we were soon drawing comparisons between Waterberg and the plateau that the characters in the book had conquered. It looked like a very inhospitable place and from where we were it was difficult to see how there could be any route up to the top.
Unlike yesterday when we had driven with clear blue skies dotted with bright white clouds, today was overcast and dark clouds were building all around us. The plateau itself was almost shrouded in low hanging clouds and in the distance we could see what looked like heavy rain moving in our direction. We turned off onto a small muddy track to get to the park office and booked into the campsite for the night. It was still early afternoon and there was time to fit in a 4x4 jeep tour to the top of the plateau to see the wildlife. We booked up, aware that cancellation was likely if the rain came down.
The park campsite was large and although there were not many there were actually people here today. With the threat of rain very present we had again resisted the temptation of staying in a chalet and toured the campground to find what looked like a good site. We had time to set ourselves up before heading back to the park office to pick up our tour. It was a small group, just six of us, in a high sided jeep which gave everyone good views. The rain clouds were still threatening and whilst the woman at reception seemed doubtful that we would go the driver soon turned up and off we went.
Before we left we have grabbed our waterproofs and we were soon glad we had them, not so much because of rain but because the speed of the jeep created a cool wind blowing all around us. Fro the most part we managed to skirt the rain but did get the odd brief shower or two. As we drove along the plateau it looked more and more imposing creating a feeling that we were about to cross into some hidden landscape full of secrets and treasures.
A track led off and up the side of the hill and soon we were through the second control gate and into the park. A quick stop showed the extent of the valley below us. From the photo you almost can’t sense the height we are at, all you can see is green trees and a far distant horizon. While we had stopped Stef asked the guide how the plateau was formed, expecting to get some sort of explanation. All he said was “that is a very long story” in such a way that we thought we would get it later but we left the plateau still with no knowledge of its formation.
|On Waterberg plateau, with a ginormous Namibian landscape behind us (you simply can't get it on a picture)|
We spent about two hours up on the plateau following different tracks around in search of animals. A short way after the entrance a group of baboons were spread out across the road but they disappeared off into the rocks on either side before we could get a close look. With all the rain they have had recently the bush is very dense and water is in plentiful supply so there are few animals coming to the watering holes to drink. We stopped at several water holes, a couple of which were natural but most seemed to have been made by the park management. Two of these also had large hides so that you could watch protected from the heat of the sun (when it shined). Unfortunately though we were not lucky and our animal sightings were low.
We did get a fleeting glimpse of an Oryx, a roan deer and a few springbok. There were fresh rhino and elephant tracks skirting the road in a few places but the animals themselves were nowhere to be seen. The highlight was coming across a herd of buffalo. These are fierce looking animals, broad and strong with curly horns that look like they could probably do a fair amount of damage. Some of them stood in the road face on to us as if they were saying “come on then give it a go” but it was always the buffalo that backed down. We came across the herd a couple of times and had a relatively close shave when some of them decided to run across the road in front of us. All in all though it was a bit of a disappointing safari.
Although we had missed the rain the rain had not missed the road back to the campsite. What had been a dusty track on the way out was now a muddy road, a foretaste of what we could encounter for the next few weeks in Namibia. The sun had started to set and by the time we got back to camp it was already dark. What we had thought was a good site for the night turned out not to be such a good choice. We had no water and the electric hook up didn’t work either so we had little light to see what we were doing. Both of us were feeling tired and we soon also seemed cross and irritable with each other. We gave up on the idea of a braai and opted to fry our sausages in a pan and have them in sandwiches for tea. Amazing how a bottle of beer and a glass of wine can help things to not seem quite so bad.