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This is our first holiday message on planet ranger. Today (Sat 26 July 2014) we left Windhoek after a brief city tour to travel south across the Kalahari Desert. We've just been on a 'sundowner' Safari, which was really interesting but freezing cold and where we've seen many animals including springbox, wildebeest, ostrich and kudu. We're now just about to eat some springbox for our main meal at Anib Lodge in the middle of the Kalahari.

Diary Entries

Friday, 08 August 2014

8 Aug

Game drive starting at 07:00 in some archaic trucks that were ideal for viewing from. We definitely needed the cosy ponchos on offer, not taking them off for the whole trip, which was essentially a safari park owned by the hotel.

Animals: Baboon (single and troupe), Black Wildebeest and Blue Wildebeest, Sable, Kudu, Springbok, Plains Zebra, Banded Mongoose, >30 Giraffe, Impala, Hartmann's antelope, Black blaze and White blaze, Waterbuck, Dik-dik, Red hartebeest, Ground squirrel

Despite a 20 minute rush to see a rhino, our driver gave up when we got close because of the nature of the vegetation.

Birds: Leopard-faced vulture, Black-backed vulture, Yellow hornbill, Guinea-fowl, Lilac-breasted roller, Kori bustard, Pale-chanting goshawk, Ostrich (+ Flamingo, Heron, ducks and others at the lodge)

Thursday, 07 August 2014

7 Aug

Another early start: breakfast at 06:30 to leave at 07:30. 

Our first stop was in a mining town called Tsumeb, where we went to the local museum. It's quite small, but really interesting, especially for the German angle on events. There were various displays of artefacts and photographs of indigenous life from 100+ years ago. There was a major display on the events of the First World War, where South African forces clashed with German forces, until the Germans surrendered in 1915. Locals had managed to find and retrieve various armaments (esp field guns) that had been dumped in a lake.

As a mining town, there were various displays about the history of this industrial heritage, including several interesting mineral displays. Our guide told us that the locals twice forced the closure of the mine by striking for higher wages.

We moved on for lunch during a visit to the Africat Foundation near Okonjima. This organisation works for the rescue, release and conservation of big cats. We saw a group of five cheetahs resting in the afternoon shade and a leopard feeding on a piece of the cheapest meat available; donkey! We then had an overlong tour of the educational centre, which meant we had to hurry to our lodge down a 42km dirt track before it got to dark. This was slightly risky; we narrowly avoided running over a few warthogs and various groups of running birds.

Mt Etjo Safari Lodge looks to be an interesting place; we have a large room with a jacuzzi. However, some of our VJV colleagues were unhappy with the state of their rooms. The service at dinner was sufficiently poor that we had to share a beer! 
Another early night ahead; we leave for a game drive at 07:00 again.

Wednesday, 06 August 2014

6 Aug
Breakfast at 6 to leave at 6:30, to join our guided tour of Etosha NP at 7. On the way we saw a lion and lioness eating a kill, surrounded by many interfering jackals. We also saw another lion and separately some giraffe bones!

Some of the birds seen today: Egyptian Goose; African Fish Eagle; Kori Bustard; Leopard-faced vulture; Helmeted Guineafowl; Great Egret; Namaqua Sandgrouse; Common Ostrich; Lesser Grey Shrike; Pied Crow; Lilac-breasted Roller; Yellow-billed Hornbill; Cape Glossy Starling; Cape Turtle Dove.

Animals: Zebra; Kudu; Warthog; Springbok; Lion; Jackal; impala; Red Hartebeest Antelope; Oryx; Spotted Hyena; Blue Wildebeest; Giraffe; 2+2+1+12 elephants (all very close) + a herd of 22 crossing the road behind us + 2 + 3 at a distance; rhino (including 1 crossing the road right in front of us); dik-dik?

Oh, and don't forget the large spider that came into our safari truck, landing on the head of one of our fellow travellers, by accident!

We finished the safari at 17:30; quite a long day out.

Tuesday, 05 August 2014

5 Aug
Breakfast at 7 in time to leave at 8 (again)!

A long, fairly straightforward drive through mountains and plains. We stopped off at a Himba village along the way. Here the (topless) women spend 2.5 hours every morning getting ready. Due to the dry conditions, they don't wash, but use locally sourced materials to paint themselves. They also use smoke from their fires to keep their hair and bodies free of insects. They tried to sell us the usual jewellery, some of which included hand-decorated plastic bracelets!

On reaching Etosha, we had a quick tour of three water holes, with little luck. However, we did see many animals along the way, including many zebra, some of which were in close contact with each other. We also saw many impala and springbok, plus a few jackals and birds.

After a chaotic dinner, we went to a floodlit water-hole, where we saw more than 20 elephants arrive in two groups and drink together. They were at the water-hole for well over 30 minutes, leaving a few at a time. We also saw three rhino,a giraffe couple and two impala.

Early night; we have to meet at the bus at 6:30am!

Monday, 04 August 2014

4 Aug
Up in time for breakfast at 6am, then left for a 5-hour safari at 7am. It was cold and foggy at the start, but became brighter and hotter as the sun came up. 

We initially saw several Hartmann's mountain zebra, followed by several giraffe (including 5 together), a single hyena (very close) and four others together. We saw many springbok and oryx, and many groups of zebra. We also saw a few ostrich and an interesting well-camouflaged bird called Ruppell's korhaan. No lions today, although we did see an elephant at dusk, close to the Lodge. The mountain scenery during the safari was amazing.

Steak for dinner, during which we gave a card and sang 'Happy Birthday' to our guide, Don Ridley, on his 80th birthday.

Sunday, 03 August 2014

3 Aug
Our planned early start was thwarted by a puncture to one of the bus tyres, so we left around 45 mins late.

We stopped briefly at Burnt Mountain, a hill that had been subject to heating (contact metamorphism?) from an intrusion that didn't quite reach the surface.
We visited the locally famous 'organ pipes', hexagon-shaped basaltic columns, but these were nowhere close to Giant's Causeway! Unfortunately, tourists have in just 20 years literally destroyed a 20m part of an extended 'sweep' of the rocks through walking through them, rather than taking a short path into the valley contains the rocks. Even though there is now someone from the National Park on site, there are still no signs telling visitors where to walk - it's a real shame.

We also visited the Damara Living Museum, where barely dressed local Damara people told us about and showed us some of their traditional ways of doing things. We saw two young men create fire from two sticks, followed by some dancing and singing.

We soon arrived at Palmwag Lodge, with an afternoon's R & R to look forward to (so we had a snooze!).

Saturday, 02 August 2014

2 Aug
Another 8am start for a long travelling day with regular stops. We visited a local supermarket to buy something for lunch. The shop was fairly well stocked considering it was in a very small town in the middle of nowhere. Being a Saturday, it was totally chaotic, but we managed to buy some decent rolls (sharing fillings with others including peanut butter called Yum Yum) and a scrummy chocolate bar called Nosh.

We visited the Petrified Forest park where we saw some very large trunks (up to 1.5m across), which had been washed down by river a distance of around 700km. The guide spoke in her local 'click language' as well as English.

We were a little late arriving at a locally important site with animal rock engravings. Our guide (Grizelda) stayed late in exchange for a ride home - she would have walked around 5km or more in high temperatures.

We stayed at Twyfelfontein Lodge, centred on a massive thatched building with walls open to the air, so we had a gentle breeze to cool the air at dinner.

At 9pm, while Alison had an early night, Ian went on a 'stargazing' excursion with a guide who (having had a retina operation earlier in the week) was unable to use his telescopes! The small group proved to be really lucky, seeing a group of one young and six adult elephants on both legs of the journey. The guide showed the group how to find and identify the Southern Cross, plus several constellations. We specifically looked at the five Zodiac signs visible to us, with one other invisible due to the Moon's brightness. With binoculars, and with the aid of a laser pointer, we could find some interesting sights, including a cluster of 2 million stars in the constellation 'Centaurus'. We also saw a few shooting stars.

Friday, 01 August 2014

Early start following breakfast at the Hansa Hotel. We drove to Walvis Bay to go on a boat trip, only to find that (despite taking our money and confirming our booking in writing) VJV had not passed our names or money to the boat charter company. Worse still, they were full up and couldn't take us. Fortunately, our guide (Don Ridley) managed to find us space on another boat, although it had just left the jetty and had to do an about turn to pick us up!

We had to pay of course and so we will have to seek a refund from VJV when we return. Our guide suggests these types of error are not uncommon. On our return, we found our invoice dated 14 July, so there was no excuse for the mistake. Anyway, apart from missing going out with our fellow travellers, we saw much the same as they did. I think we saw a single Pygmy whale that the others didn't see. Apart from that, we saw a massive seal colony, a few dolphins and some pelicans and cormorants.

It was fairly cool and foggy out in the bay. The sherry, sparkling wine, tea and lunch (including oysters) helped pass the time.

In the afternoon, with a lot of waiting involved, we went on a light plane trip down the coast. Due to the heavy fog over the actual coast, we mostly saw sand dunes!, alongside a wrecked ship and some dry river beds.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Another fairly early start for a long morning drive to Swakopmund. We had breakfast on the terrace at Moon Mountain Lodge at 7am, overlooking the Namib Desert plains and mountains. We traveled along mainly dusty roads, picking up lunch early at a roadside place with old cars on display outside. We also saw several ground squirrels that have similar behaviour to meerkats. There were many birds around, including some iridescent blue Cape Starlings.

Our journey continued through ever drier desert terrain, with one photo stop at the Tropic of Capricorn and another inside a small range of hills to see an impressive dried-up river bed.

We reached Swakopmund via a salt and gypsum based road, that needs the regular moisture from the frequent coastal fog to stay hard and usable. We had a tour of the town, booked a 1.5 hour flight for the next day around the local area (not the Skeleton Coast), then walked round the town in cool foggy conditions, which are very common here. Swakopmund retains an old German charm.

Off to dinner soon at a local restaurant. Another 7am breakfast tomorrow, followed by a Walvis Bay cruise - we expect this to be very cold. Then we rush back for our flight!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

6 am start! Needed to be at Sossvlei sand dunes as early as poss before the temperature rose and "the colour of the dunes was bleached out". Walked to Dead Vlei (mud pan) where the trees died 800 years ago, lots are still standing. Sandy shoes. Difficult walking terrain. Ian climbed to the top of Sossvlei dune (the only one in the party to do so).

Visited Dune 45 and took photos on the dune.

Sessriem Canyon - formed over 30 million years, 30m deep, 3Kms long. Walked in the bottom of the canyon.

Returned via a lunch stop involving ice cream, beer and sandwiches. Returned to base for a few hours R & R before dinner.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Today was basically a quiet long travelling day. Much of the journey was on dusty dirt tracks, which can be bumpy. The scenery was varied, with lots of desert plains surrounded by mountains. Lunch was accompanied by ravenous ducks, geese and chickens after some bread.

We arrived late at Moon Mountain Lodge quite late, but in time to see a wonderful sunset. Our accommodation is a detached tent, with a bathroom annex. We have fantastic views over the plain. Our place comes with a plunge pool!

Dinner was an average buffet, with entertainment provided by singing staff. Very windy night, but still cosy and warm.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Today was sunny all day (again), with not a cloud in the sky. We started a little later as we were only staying locally. On our way to Fish River Canyon, we managed to buy Alison a new fleece. As it soon warmed up, Alison didn't wear it or two other layers for very long.

Fish River Canyon is quite impressive - certainly a highlight of the trip so far. It's a little like a small scale Grand Canyon. We walked around three miles visiting various vantage points. We saw some large black crickets and some interesting plants along the way.

On returning to base, we had lunch on a sunny terrace, played crazy golf on a rocky course and went for a walk round the site.

Our last event was a short 'sundowner walk' up a local hill, where we overlooked our lodge site and watched the sun go down on e distant horizon. We even had a drink from a large fridge that the hotel keeps up the hill, alongside a small bar!

Dinner started with cabbage soup (delicious), followed by oryx steak.

Early start tomorrow, breakfast at 7am . . .

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Location: Namibia

This morning there was ice on the bus windscreen apparently and -2 degrees! It had warmed up by the time we went for breakfast. Left at 8 and 3 hours later arrived at Quiver Tree Forest. Rock hyrax (dassie) sunbathing and darting around. Giants' Playground a dolerite intrusion that has become exposed. We eventually moved off metalled roads to dirt tracks, making our way to Canon Lodge. This lodge has individual thatched dwellings, many built using giant boulders as part of their walls - architecturally innovative. One guest even had rocks embedded into the wall of her shower!

Just had a three course buffet; lentil soup, pork chops and apple pudding. Is this really Namibia?

Looking forward to a slightly later start tomorrow, on our way to visit Fish River Canyon.

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