Day 15 –
S: We try to not see anything in a bad light, but trying to sleep last night was a real challenge. Our lodge seems to be in the middle of a crossroads and right next to the main road. So we were subjected to a lot of different disturbances throughout the night and early morning. Party music, squealing tyres, barking dogs, water sprinklers (they were quite soothing until the water was switched off at 21H30) , crowing cocks at midnight, factory hooter and then the kids going to school at six this morning to name a few.
After filling up and buying a loaf of bread at the bakery where you could have any bread as long as it is brown we headed out to Opuwo. The first stretch to Kamanjab was an excellent gravel road. At times it is four lanes wide and then a few times it narrows to a single lane bridge to cross a river course.
After Kamanjab the road is tar all the way. Only problem is there are a lot of cattle and goats grazing on the side of the road and they cross at random. Some of them even playing chicken till the last moment when they run off the road. Reminded me of the Trans-Kalahari road through Botswana, though there you have to watch out for just about any four legged livestock.
Our route took us right next to the Etosha fence and we looked in vain to see if we could spot any game. L: This is where Steve has a good laugh at my expense as I asked him to turn around as I thought I may have seen three Kudu cows…..yeah, you guessed it, they were cows, but a really pale shade of grey.
S: All through the area we were seeing the Herero women in their traditional dress and in contrast the Himba young women, sparsely clothed, their bodies and hair covered with dark brown clay and ornaments and bustles which seem to be made from Springbok skins.
We were waved through at two Animal Disease Control check-points on the way to Opuwo because we were traveling from south to north. They stop and confiscate any raw meat that people are transporting from north to south to avoid the spread of disease.
It was hot and the nearly 400 kms that we did seemed to take longer than normal. It was a relief to finally arrive at Opuwo. Nothing on the main roads looked like a good place to camp so we followed the signs and drove up, up, and up some more to Opuwo Country Lodge on the hill overlooking the whole valley. Wow, what a view…….
We booked in for the night, to camp, at N$280 and had a giggle at the “standard” room price of N$1 500 and buffet supper at R257 per person, breakfast buffet R140 each, ok, one day! Ha ha.
We set off to town to fill all the tanks (that is the car plus the three jerry-cans on the roof). We needed a few provisions for the off-roading of the next few days and although it only took half an hour, were exhausted with the many beggars and hawkers accosting us even taking produce off the shelf and shoving it at you to pay!!
Lovely to come back up the hill, about 1 200m above sea-level to our little site.
S: We walked along to the main building and went to watch the sun set over the mountains sipping a cocktail. Man, this over-landing life is tough. L: We messaged the girls with a pic of our cocktails and view while they are in cloudy and cold Cape Town, fighting rush-hour traffic.
What we haven’t mentioned so far is the proliferation of Ground Amoured Crickets which seem to be in abundance the more north we travel to such an extend that in some places the road seems to have two pink strips from the many crickets that have been crushed under the wheels of the vehicles. There are so many of them that you cannot avoid them. They climb onto and into everything in the campsite and apparently also chew holes in fabrics. L: The creepiest thing is turning on a tap and having them scurry to get water or a few of them joining you at each shower…..I am waiting for the time when one drops out of the spout of the tap into my washing-up bowl, eeeewwww. Oh, and if you are brave enough to move them, they squeak, loudly at you!!!
There are also grasshoppers that look like red butterflies when they jump as they have red under their wings.
Day 16 –
S: Today I started out feeling a little nervous as we were going to be attempting Van Zyl’s Pass on our way to Camp Synchro on the Kunene River…….The attraction is mainly the Marienfluss Mountains and valley. Van Zyl’s Pass was created by Mr Van Zyl who wanted to find a quicker route into the valley instead of driving around the mountain range all the time.
I had read a lot and also spoken to people about the difficulties around the pass and after much thought, decided to give it a go, by ourselves. L: Crazy as that was! S: I must admit that overall the pass is pretty negotiable as long as your vehicle has high clearance and that you take it very slowly. There are however, three or four very tricky sections which gets the adrenalin pumping a little L: or a lot!! S: Lesley did a fine job, standing outside the vehicle L: (in 50 degree weather) and guiding me over the obstacles, even packing stones to lessen some of the drops and moving stones out of the way and even managing to take some photos to boot!
We were planning to camp on the pass at the viewpoint, but the wind was blowing so much that we decided to carry on, but oh my, what a view.
Straight after that, the worst obstacle was on the way down off the mountain.
L: He is not kidding…..Known as the Steps, this is not funny. I nearly threw up my hands as I had no idea how I was going to direct him as the drop-off section down the side of the mountain is the clearer side with many jutting rocks on the wall side. There was a section that the car had to drop down about a foot or so. Someone had placed a really big flat rack to come down on. Steve smashed it into pieces. (The reason why is that the car is really loaded for our 5 month trip and I estimate that it weighs about 2 500kgs – and that is with me out of the car!!). That was pretty intense watching while holding my breath……I got some good shots, but somehow they never do the scene justice. It was an amazing experience, it is not for the faint-hearted and definitely not for someone wanting to keep their car in good condition or travel all the way to London afterwards.
Well, we made it. We had these 4 little children pop up every now and then and I am sure that they were running up and down the valley to see us at every stop. I would be curious to know how many people have the misfortune to get stuck, pop a tyre or breakdown completely. At the bottom of the pass there is a tree surrounded by stones with people’s names and comments on.
I wrote “Funny Zyl” and our names as I think he had rather a sadistic sense of humour 😕
We needed to get going, fast, to make it the 57 kms before it got dark. It was a lovely drive though really difficult in the sandy pathways that are so rutted as people take their vehicles out of 4-wheel drive or travel with trailers from the other road. Steve was a bit put out when I asked him to stop and do a 360 degree turn so that I could take a photo of the vista in the north, east, south and west, but once done, he saw my point. S: Not really, she could have just got out of the car to take the photos. The setting sun on the Marienfluss mountains was an absolute privilege to see though. L: I had also been lucky enough to see a few Violet-Wood Hoopoes as well as Lilac-Breasted Rollers and a lone Bradfield’s Hornbill which is only found in and around this area.
It is lovely being in the Marienfluss area. We arrived at Camp Synchro near the settlement of Otjinhungwa just before dark and having been on the road for longer than 8 hours for the 225 kms that we covered averaging out at about 28 km/hour to give you an idea of the really bad terrain.
What a welcome we received from Ryan and Sarah who own/run the camp, a young couple who left beautiful Switzerland (who knows why??) to come to this area…… S: They are the new owners from the beginning of the year and are slowly getting the place back on track after the fire here four years ago which burned down a lot of the buildings.
The fees are N$100 per person.
One of the other campers, while scouring the campsite for her hubbies keys, welcomed us too and after chatting for a while, very kindly offered us to come and join her and her husband and another couple at their fire. We sorted things out for supper while zipping-and-flipping the tent and ambled over to join them and the owners for a true South African braai. Annamarie, Theuns, Arenda and Kobus (who I offended by thinking that he had said, Koos) were the perfect hosts!!!! Hailing from Kimberley, they put on quite the spread and shared their “Oopsies” (little lamb sosaties), pap en sous (porridge and tomato gravy) with us and the hostess, Sarah had made Swiss bread too. We had a great time and lots of laughs and shared some of our beef fillet with them.
S: The cherry on the top was at the end of the evening when Sarah produced a homemade Swiss chocolate cake that she had baked for Theuns’s birthday. Wow. Tonight was the latest we had gone to bed, close to midnight, since we had started our trip. No light pollution here means the night sky is bright with stars and Ryan says that when the moon is full it is so bright that you can read a newspaper with it.