Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sossusvlei, Namibia

We decided to head back to Windhoek but found that there was no Intercape bus running but met two Brits who were taking a shuttle bus. We asked the lodge owner about it but she felt it would be fully booked and we wouldn't get a seat. However, we rushed off to where we knew it started and got the last two seats but they had to put some bags inside the minivan because the trailer was full of bags.

We had booked a VW Chico hire car for 7 days and it had to be picked up in Windhoek. When John picked it up we had been fortunately upgraded to a bigger 1.6 Polo car in which we could fit everything in the boot and didn't have to pay any extra for. This time we stayed at a different backpackers called Chameleon close to the city centre. It was much quieter, more conservative and with more rules that the Cardboard Box but it was also cheaper, newer, and friendlier.

Managed to order some glasses from Spec Savers and were told they would be ready when we returned from our 7 day trip. This is the first time I have ever carried a spare pair of glasses with me as well as a script for my lenses. Hummmm!

There are warning signs on backpacker noticeboards, in guide books, and at tourist offices about ATM scams. We used an ATM machine in the street and while John is using the machine I stand in front of the screen and look away from the machine to keep lookout for anyone approaching. A man was in a queue behind John and he waited patiently but suddenly he and a second man as well as the security guard jostled around us. John had finished the transaction and I elbowed the men away and told them to go away. One man followed us a few paces up the street telling us we didn't cancel our account but we told him to go away. What he wanted was for us to return to the machine and put our card in and then he would tell us to put our pin in and then he would take the card and use it with memorised pin. To avoid this we try to use machines that are in malls where there are lots of people watching you. Later when we had dinner we noticed the same men following the tourists in the street waiting for some to use the ATMs. One of the men saw us watching him but didn't seem bothered by that.

We bought a whole lot of supplies for camping and headed for Sesriem. When we stopped for a bite to eat at a rest area on the side of the road we saw a traffic police man and asked him about the route we were taking. He was very knowledgeable about the roads to Sesriem and was able to give us advice on a shortcut to take as it was a 7+ hour trip.

Beside the main highway is a dirt trail where the locals race up and down with their donkey or horse carts carrying goods between places or transporting people from place to place.

These huge bird nests are made by tiny birds and they love to attach them to power pylons or telephone posts as well as trees. Some we saw were so huge they broke the tree branches. We still don't know what the birds are called but may find out in due course.

On the shortcut dirt road from Kalkrand to Maltahohe we only saw a grader, a truck and a couple of motorbikes. As we came out the other end we got to the Tsarishoogie Pass on sunset and saw several flashes of lightning. We had a small shower of rain that needed wipers but thankfully the dirt road didn't turn to mud.

We didn't make a booking at a camp ground but checked out a couple of places before settling on a brand new camp beside a petrol station. We had checked with the Namibia Wildlife Resorts office but were told that all the camps were fully booked as well as pretty expensive. However the Sossus Oasis camp was pretty reasonable and had a shelter, its own shower and toilet and a sink and bench area for cooking. It also had lighting and a electric switch that took a NZ power plug so we could use our water boiler. In the middle of the 14 or so sites was a swimming pool surrounded by soft green grass. There were no more than 6 sites occupied in the time we were there so it was pretty quiet.

The water was heated by a solar heater and in the evening the ranger came to tell us to put all food away and keep our shoes indoors as the jackals were apt to take them. We were able to see their paw prints around the tent in the morning.

We got up early and drove through the park to Dune 45 and climbed to the top along with several safari truck loads of Italians.

Namibia has the world's oldest and driest eco systems. We also did a 4km hike to Hidden Valley to look over a white salt pan. There was a part where we had to take a 4 wheel shuttle to look at the last part of the park but felt when we got there that it wasn't worth it after having walked the Hidden valley. Saw a few oryx, ostriches, jackals, and our first springboks.

Bumped into Teresa and Daisy at the dunes so had a good catch up with them. They were camped in the Namib-Naukluft National Park but found the people unfriendly, no electricity and no water in the bathrooms so they were not happy.

In the evening we walked through the Sesriem Canyon and watched the sunset then enjoyed a cool swim in the pool before cooking some camping food.

There are lots of thorn trees with pretty thick hard thorns and we had one in our tyre that needed to be repaired so the staff at the service station were able to do that for us. He pulled the thorn and then filled the hole with a rubber plug as the tyres were tubeless.

We drove back to Windhoek after a couple of days and picked up a couple of local lads who were working at the park lodge on the way. They had two weeks' holiday and they were going to Maltahohe to see their families. We cleaned our gear and restocked our camping supplies for the next journey north.