Rivers of calm and awe

Amanzi Trails was run by Coleen and Johan on the Orange River near Noordoewer in the south east part of Namibia. It was an oasis of calm, grass, relaxation and water compared to several weeks on the trail through the desert. It was a fantastically relaxing time to just chill, clean out the landy and be in one spot for a while.

We turned up and said we’d like to stay for a couple of days. Coleen said “Yes, but how many?”. Apparently a couple of days is a turn of phrase used by South Africans to mean ‘some’. Then it twigged we were Brits, so that did really mean two, so we paid up and headed to a riverside plot with plenty of shade – have we said before that shade comes a close second to water in Africa….?

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Not a bad view to wake up to in the morning…

The guys were both outdoory and birdy, so Ange was constantly probing for info on what we’d seen and what there was to see. Amongst these were Giant, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Purple Swamp Hens, Goliath Herons (huge and totally majestic birds according to Ange), Cormorants, Fish Eagles and African Hoopoes amongst others.

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African Hoopoe, brilliant little bird

We met a fellow Landy man named Mark from South Africa with his Defender in the next pitch and had several chats about squeaky brakes, dust ingress and driving around southern Africa.

Our “couple of days” in Brit speak turned in to “a couple of days” in SA speak and we stayed for 4. We could easily have stayed for longer. We worked on the car cleaning out the rear brakes to try and stop the squeal, swam in and canoed on the river, and talked with our hosts and neighbours. Eventually we needed  to move on but if there was a way to teleport the car we would come back here each time we needed a break. Magic.

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Swimming in and canoeing on the Orange River

We headed for the Fish River Canyon and, eventually (see our blog Waterin’ The Desert) got there. During our stop-over at Ai-Ais en-route, which is at the mouth of the canyon, we had cause to take up arms. After our encounter with the Spitting Cobra in South Africa we’d bought a couple of walking sticks which we carried with us to warn snakes of our presence and defend ourselves. This was a trick we’d picked up in Damaraland last year where, when the boys come of age, they are given a Leadwood stick which never leaves their side and which they use to protect themselves from snakes and lions (as you do). We obviously needed one too. We named them Snake Slasher and Baboon Basher. At Ai-Ais, we’d got up early to head to the Land Rover garage and were tidying up after a rushed breakfast. Gareth had gone to wash the dishes when Angela heard a crash and banging from behind. A large male Baboon, with very large and sharp teeth, had pulled over the rubbish bin opposite us and was trying to break into it. Angela shut the car doors to ensure he couldn’t get in the car, grabbing Slasher and Basher as she went, and decided to encourage it to stop. What could possibly go wrong? She shouted at it and rattled the sticks together. It worked. The Baboon climbed off the overturned bin….. and started to walk towards her and the Land Rover, with a very defiant “you and who’s army” look on its face. Oh s**t. Not quite what Angela had intended. The Baboon climbed up on the bonnet and started taking an interest in the tent, which was still up. We’ve heard Baboons described as the terrorists of the camp sites and could do without the tent being damaged. Ange circled round, keeping the huge expanse of the bonnet between them, shouting and rattling the sticks at him but actually feeling quite small, a bit scared and that her initial bravado was perhaps just a little bit stupid! He looked at her, for too long. For a minute she thought he was going to come towards her. But she had Slasher and Basher and he thought better of it. He slowly climbed down and headed off, looking back defiantly every now and then. Phew…

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Snake Slasher and Baboon Basher – our trusty new friends

The Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world (second only to Cheddar Gorge I think they said) and was breath-taking. The scale is hard to take in. There is a five day hikers trail that one walker described as “the hottest hike on earth”. Honestly, talk about exaggeration.  It’s only about 60km long, down a near-vertical rock face into the 1km deep gorge, then picking your way along a desert canyon filled with soft sand, boulders and of course the river with your tent, water, food etc. on your back. What’s so hard about that? We’d have done it in a couple a days if it wasn’t prohibited at this time of year….

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The awesome Fish River Canyon

From there we headed up to Seeheim. Once a town of some importance, Seeheim is now deserted except for a hotel which has been built from the ruins of the town. It had camping facilities, was a good place to stop on our way north and sounded interesting. We took what the map told us was the main road to the town. What we didn’t know was that the main road had been re-routed and we were on a gravel road that hadn’t been maintained in 2 years. You think government cut-backs have left UK roads in a bad state. Think again. What should have taken less than half an hour took about 3 or 4 times that. It was REALLY badly corrugated, so we were driving over continuous lines of ruts across the road which shook the car so badly we couldn’t drive faster than 20km/hour. Some sections were washed out completely. We came upon a row of rocks across the road which someone had laid out to tell you that there was a deep channel across the road where water had washed it away. We’d have trashed the car without the warning.

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Namibian version of hazi-tape

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It’s a wash-out

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There may be trouble ahead…

As we progressed the wind picked up and the clear blue skies behind were replaced by foreboding clouds of dust in front. We got to the hotel with the wind wailing round the camp site and buildings. Shall we get a room…? I think so. We got stuck into a beer and started chatting to the bar maid who was lovely; bubbly and full of information. She told us about the place and about the owner’s racist dog who always barked at black people, not white. Even members of staff that had been there for years. Quite ironic as it was black and white itself. We talked about where we were heading next. We were thinking of heading north, avoiding the 330km drive west to Luderitz on the coast. We’d thought and heard that there wasn’t much to see or do there so weren’t going to bother. She came from there and what she told us about the place, including some secret caves and pools to visit, convinced us to head there the next day. Our room was beautiful and I’d like to say we had a really good sleep but we didn’t. It was at the top of the hotel and sat perched in the baking sun. The thick walls were radiating heat and the room was like a slow-cook oven, even with all the windows open (which of course let the mossers in). We sweated our way through the long night. Hopefully the sheets and pillows are dry by now… Nice.

The manager was very helpful and suggested a place to stay in Luderitz and gave us his private mobile number in case we had any problems whilst in Namibia.

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