Kunene River

The Epupa Falls are on the Kunene River in the far north-west of Namibia. On the opposite bank lies Angola. Here the river widens across the top of the falls, producing a series of cascades amongst the steep rocks and the Baobab trees that cling to them.  Our camp site was right on the riverbank about 30 metres from the first and largest of the waterfalls, where the river drops down into a deep gorge. This gave us a great view but did mean we needed earplugs at night to block out the roaring of the plunging water!

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Epupa Falls – our camp site is on the upper rhs of the 2nd pic  

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Not a bad spot for a sun-downer…

From here we followed the river east. The map showed the road as a slow 4×4 route and the 90km trip was expected to take between 9 and 11 hours. But we were told that the route had been ‘improved’ and was now a good gravel road. Well, it had indeed been widened, although I’m not sure you could say it was improved. What must have been a beautiful if tricky track winding its way through the riverside landscape had been bulldozed so wide that it looked like the ground-works for a British dual carriageway, not a relatively low-usage local road. Despite the width, more than 20 metres in places, the surface was very uneven and rocky and vehicles were using a single, meandering track up the middle. To us it looked like government-sponsored vandalism. Granted, it took more than 6 hours off the journey and is therefore much better for locals. The wide verges also improve safety as they make animals – wild and domestic – easier to see at the sides of the road, and it will be a very long time before any work is needed to clear them back again. But it still looked awful to us, especially as most of the road wasn’t actually maintained in a usable state. We’d have much preferred the 4×4 track.

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A bit smoother and maybe you could land a 747 here?

Our destination was the Kunene River Lodge which was run by a British couple, Peter and HiIlary. The lodge had been recommended to us and we stayed for 3 days. It was a nice relaxing time. We took a river cruise up to some local rapids and saw lots of birds and a small Crocodile on the way – as the river was quite high many of the larger crocs had retreated to the back channels.

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This fella was only a metre long but the adults can reach 6 metres!

We swam in the pool and ate far too much in the restaurant – they make really good chips! There were Water Monitors living in the undergrowth next to our campsite. They were about the same size as the young croc but with far less potential for damage! Peter is a bit of a bird expert and they have a conservation area along the river next to the lodge, which was a real haven for birds so occupied some of Angela’s time while Gareth worked on the car, trying in vain to stop the squeaky rear brakes!

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Water Monitor on the move

We’d been warned about the Vervet Monkeys which live in the area and frequently cause disruption in camp, stealing what they can when you aren’t looking. We were very careful not to leave anything out. Then one afternoon Angela opened up the back to get something out. She saw a monkey on the edge of the camp and stopped to look at it, turning her back on the car. Gareth, who was at the front of the car, looked back to see a second monkey inside the car. He shouted out and shot round to the back, racing after the monkey who was making off with a loaf of bread. He just managed to grab the bread off the monkey before it climbed out of reach. The monkeys’ reaction was brilliant. They were absolutely furious. The thief was joined by his accomplice and rather than running off thinking they’d had a close call they turned and stood up on their hind legs, waving their arms above their heads and shouting at us in rage. They were totally affronted that we had taken their prize from them. It was really comical.

Peter uses a paintball gun to keep the Vervets at bay. (When I first saw the paintball gun I though this was a strange destination for a stag weekend…). He also uses it to deal with the more venomous snakes that happen about camp such as the Zebra snake – a black and white stripped spitting cobra that has a really nasty bite. All the lodges we’ve talked to kill the poisonous snakes they find, but leave the harmless ones to go about their business. They just aren’t prepared to take the risk of someone getting bitten. With the paintball gun he can deal with the snake easily if it gets behind the fridge or something, without endangering people moving a heavy object around with a venomous snake underneath it. Where he gets the paint balls from is anyone’s guess.

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Vervet Monkey. Very cute but very naughty

After a relaxing few days and no more monkey raids we packed up for the two-day trip south-east to Otjiwarongo, where we hope to get the awning and sides fixed.

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