April 23, 2011

Happy (Belated) Easter!

Author note:  This post should have gone up on Easter Sunday but apparently setting a post for future publication still isn't working on Blogger!

Suffice it to say, we made the trip as planned.  It was great and just a darned good thing we were in a four wheel drive!  Full post about this trip will be upcoming.

The camper with a roof tent has been rented and we’re headed to Sossusvlei for the Easter weekend. Word has it the vlei is filled with water (it was!) due to 2011's record breaking rainy season. It’s rare to have that happen so hold thumbs, as they say here, that we get to see it. (You will too, once we're back and can post photos!).

Easter in Namibia is a time for church and family. The grocery stores have been positively thronged with people buying lots and lots of food for family gatherings. I imagine the number of braais this weekend will be too numerous to ever count. It’s a religion unto itself here….everything is celebrated with a braai.

If you aren’t lighting your barbeque this weekend, I hope you are celebrating the Easter season of rebirth with friends and family in whatever ways bring you joy.

Happy, Happy Easter!

April 22, 2011

Camping Safari Rolls to an End

Once back in Windhoek, there was a two day whirlwind of unloading and putting away all the gear from the camper (no small feat); downloading everyone’s photos onto laptops and notebook computers; laundering stacks of clothes to pack for flights home; sightseeing in Windhoek which included the Namibian Craft Center; walking around in downtown Windhoek; a short drive through Katutura and the township areas of Windhoek; a trip to Penduka to see the textile operation run by former and current tuberculosis patients; and a visit to Heroes’ Acre which commemorates the sacrifices of Namibia’s freedom fighters in their struggles to gain independence from German and later, South African rule.

We squeezed in a couple of lovely dinners at La Marmite

(which serves traditional African cuisine and where, dang it, there were no photos taken of the plate of mopane worms one of us was bound and determined to try and subsequently coerce his other family members to try as well);

and at O Portuga

(Portuguese/Angolan cuisine which was also delicious but also not commemorated with photos).

I think at this final juncture of the trip, I just didn’t want to be distracted by a camera; I wanted to be with the kids, hear their voices and laughter, and re-memorize their faces before we had to put them back on a plane home.

All too soon, the 17th of January had arrived. The pre-dawn sky glowed gentle orangey pink before the sun broke the horizon.

The airport shuttle we ran that day began with pre-dawn trip to get our our son-in-law onto his early flight to Johannesburg.

Then, at late morning, we made a second trip to the airport for our son and daughter’s early afternoon flight.

We told ourselves on the drive back from the airport, six months wasn’t so long to wait to be with them again, and since Polytechnic began the new school year the following day, we had lots of activity to throw ourselves into.

True, but it didn’t ease the wrenching ache we felt to part with them.

We arrived back to find that the wind, an imp unburdened by any psychological distresses whatsoever, had had a fun field day in our flat, blowing in through the bathroom window, unrolling the toilet tissue completely and stacking it into a neat pile on our bedroom floor

then exiting through the bedroom windows, but not before having its way with the curtains on the way out.

That sight did evoke a couple of smiles, forcing us out of our self-absorbed reverie and back into the present where we belonged.

At the very end of the day, we drove back to the airport under threatening but beautiful skies

 to pick up friends arriving back from their holidays.

The next day would bring a return to routine which would likely be a comforting psychological salve.

It was, but we still missed the kids.

After packing in 5000+ km of travel into three short weeks, it had been the very best vacation ever.

April 17, 2011

Camping Safari – the last two days heading back to Windhoek

The morning of January 13, leaving the Caprivi to head back to Windhoek, we had a big drive ahead – from Kongola 620 km west back across the Caprivi Strip to Rundu, then southwest toward Grootfontein for the night. We had a final cup of coffee at the Lodge that morning

and with the truck packed up and our low tire situation rectified by the Lodge grounds manager who graciously let us use his tire gauge (ours was faulty) and compressor (while I admired his amazing bonsai collection growing in pots throughout his yard), we headed back down the road to Kongola.

Everyone gets up and at it early in Namibia. The store at Kongola was already bustling with business as we turned west onto the B8 toward Rundu.

 The morning was overcast with rain threatening all around. The road toward Grootfontein was long and with rain around most of the day, I took only a few photos.

Again, elephants eluded us throughout the 80 km per hour zone where they frequently cross the highway. I think everyone’s thoughts were turned toward the fast approaching end to the adventure. My own thoughts were bittersweet -– we had just had the best vacation the professor and I could remember with all our kids-- but we would have to see them off and back to their regular lives in a short two days.

By late afternoon, we had arrived at Roy’s Place, our stop for the night. Roy’s has its own unusual style and is a popular location for overnight campers.

One of those campers described to me the huge herds of elephants she had seen on the same stretch of highway where we saw none!

The next day, January 14, we made the 510 km drive from Roy’s back to Windhoek.

As we got closer to Windhoek, we could tell that since December 29 when we left, there had been lots of rain. Enough to turn normally sun bleached fields to verdant green and shrubby grasses to giants, taller than some men!

 We got back to Windhoek by late afternoon with gigabytes of photos to offload to laptops, all of them images of memories to last a lifetime.

April 07, 2011

Camping Safari Days Fourteen and Fifteen – Divundu to Kongola

We didn’t have as far to drive this day so took our time leaving Nunda River Lodge, taking more photos to remember it by.

Morning dew on varied grasses at Nunda

Very tiny frog near swimming pool at Nunda
Gray Go Away Birds

Meve's starling

Meve's starling

Yellow-bellied greenbul

Nunda River Lodge deck over the Kavango River

Once underway from Divundu, we encountered a pretty long stretch of highway through the Bwabwata National Park with reduced speed limits to protect motorists and elephants alike.

I talked to several people who had seen large herds crossing in this area, but unfortunately, we didn’t see a one.

We arrived at Namushasha Country Lodge in late afternoon and set up camp before afternoon rains arrived.

Just off to the left in this photo, and beyond the shorter fence, the ground sloped down to the Kwando River where we could hear hippos in the water at night.

The sign on the ablution block reads: “CAUTION Hippo & Elephant Movement At Night”. Getting up in the middle of the night for the bathroom gave us definite pause for thought.

Donkey heating water and warning sign re: hippos and elephants
But despite a real likelihood, our no-luck scenario prevailed and we had yet to see a single elephant on this trip. if there were elephants and hippos roaming at night, they were amazingly quiet moving through the camp.

Just before we left for dinner at the Lodge, the sun was going down over the river. While I’m now used to seeing vivid pink in Namibian sunsets, this was the pinkest sunset I’ve seen since we’ve been here.

Sunset, January 11, 2011 at Namashasha Country Lodge

Kwando River

Kwando River at Sunset January 11, 2011

The next morning, we took off for Mudumu National Park, not far away from the Lodge.  This is another pretty riverine area, bordering the Kwando River. 

The park roads were packed gravel/sand and only navigable by 4x4 vehicles.  The grass in some areas was above the hood of the truck.

 It turned out to be a great day for seeing animals.
Male vervet monkey with serious injury to his left front leg
At about 9AM that morning, a young herd of very wet elephants who had been bathing in the river, suddenly came out of tall grass to the right of the truck running across the road into more tall grass on the other side.  We were so surprised by their sudden appearance and they were in view for such a short time, that this is the only photo we were able to capture.  This young bull stopped briefly in the middle of the road to stare us down for a quick second or two before turning and following the rest of the herd to the grass. 

Young vervet monkeys at play
Impalas practicing their mirror image tricks again

Wart hog
Mother and baby baboon
another wart hog

Rain was imminent by early afternoon so with worries about having to re-cross the miniature lakes disguised as puddles again on our way out, we thought it best to head back to the Lodge rather than risk being flooded out where we were. By 3:30 PM when we arrived back at the Lodge, tropical rains had already moved in.

Since the soaked patio wasn't available,

we moved into the lounge area inside to wait out the rain.

When we asked if we could get coffees for everyone, we were delighted to find a full afternoon tea was already set up in the dining room. Tea, coffee, spiral cakes, rusks, muffins,

and sumptious architectural cake constructions were on offer.

What a delightful way to wait out a rain!

We happily waited out the rain for a good hour and a half or so before getting back to our campsite to re-set camp for the night.

The only negative about roof tents, is you must take them with you wherever you go, so you need to set them up again each night. On a positive note, however, they go up (and down) very easily.

With so many clouds still overhead, there was no real color in the night’s sunset. After enjoying a beautiful buffet dinner at the Lodge, we retired for the night with somewhat wistful mindsets. The next day would begin our trip back to Windhoek and most sadly for the professor and me, the fast-approaching time to have to say good-bye to the kids. Oh well, there was still potential excitement to be had — maybe hippos or elephants would make it into our camp overnight.

Unfortunately, they didn’t.