May 27th: Here we are, the last stretch. I hate Angola, I hate it because it's so beautiful, I hate it because I want to see more, but because the systems so totally screwed up I'm only allowed to see what passes by my backseat window over 5 days. I hate the ignorance, not just my own... and I hate this feeling that seems to be affecting everybody, the feeling that this is essentially the end of our journey, as a group, and individually.
Sadly, there is nothing we can do about it so... Up at the crack of dawn. The driving went relatively well with most of the roads being semi-decent. We did encounter the typical truck breakdown a couple times on the day and... Dum dum dum, we had our first flat of the trip! Our last day in Angola and she wasn't letting us off! It was around 10am when it happened and we still had a fair distance to cover, so we moved quickly. We ushered the other vehicles on and said we would catch up. It didn't take us long and we had the tyre changed and were off again. The anxiety was palpable, I think everybody just wanted to get the long stretch of driving over with. Talk of getting horribly slaughtered this evening started early (Alex will probably start well before the rest of us).
Miraculously we made it! It was around 2pm when we finally pulled in at the border crossing. It was an absolute wreck. Chaos everywhere with absolutely no indication of where a person should go. We wondered around aimlessly for at least half an hour before we were pointed in the right direction. We all got our passports stamped while the drivers sorted out the car issues and then we crossed into Namibia with just enough time to spare to get the process completed on this side. Crossing that border was a perfect lesson in contrasts - the Angolan side: absolute chaos; The Namibian side: perfect order. It was a blessing, everything was stamped and in order in no time.
And then we were in Namibia, and what do we find as soon as we enter the country, A Spar!! We went crazy on purchases, especially the beer. Once essentials were organised we continued driving and managed to reach Ondangwa where we found a brilliant (if somewhat smelly due to the leaking sewerage) rest camp. We had drinks at the bar, then we had supper, and then some more drinks. The mood was jovial for a lack of better words. People were in such high spirits that I believe there was some "flanning" being done, I have no idea what that is. People got nicely sozzled before gradually, one by one, falling by the wayside - and totally being a bunch of faders.
May 28th: Today we decided to take it easy at the Ondangwa rest camp. While I lazed, read and wrote the diary, Pat and Sarah went to get the cars allignment and tyres sorted out. Once everything had been organised we were just preparing to leave when who rocks up? The Dutch couple that we met in Brazzaville. They have been stalking us throughout this final stretch of the trip, we just can't seem to lose them - I blame the truck. We chatted with them for a while and they told us about how their starter motor stuffed out and since then they've been having to push start the car. We were all travelling in the same general direction so we told them to drive until Etosha game reserve with us and we'd help them push start their car. All sorted we were off. It was a short two hour drive and we had reached the game reserve where we broke off from the couple and went our seperate ways. They continued on to Windhoek as we turned off into Sachsenheim, a guest lodge just outside the Etosha reserves northern gate.
Sachsenheim was beautiful. An idyllic game farm that has only recently begun business. We booked in and arranged to eat at the restaurant, and am I glad that we did. The buffet has to be one of the best yet, I think they basically just kull the game on their farm and from the reserve and serve it here for supper. I ate antelope, hartebeest and ostrich. It was fantastic, I'm beginning to love Namibia already. The Canadians, on their pauper like budget, didn't join in but rather ate their favourite - spaghetti and tomatoe sauce.
May 29th: We parted ways with Kees and his truckload of trouble today. It was a sad seperation, but we’ll see them again soon in Windhoek for one last ripper. The group now going to Etosha will be us in team SA; Ben, Alex (Australia) and Brianna.
We entered the park and began driving around looking for game and I must say we were a little dissapointed. We drove for around three hours and managed to see mainly giraffe, zebra and various buck breeds. At midday we entered the campsite area and set up camp (after buying drinks at the local shop). The plan of action is to have some drinks, chow and then to head out again at around three to see if we have any better luck. So at 3pm, and somewhat more jovial, we went looking for game again,and were again a bit dissapointed.
The campsite is well organised, each site has lighting and an electrical connection, as well as other facilities – and to top it all of they have Brilliant HOT showers! And possibly the biggest highlighting feature of the site is that it’s a five minute walk to the nearest hide, where you can sit all night and watch animals come to drink. So, we had supper and inevitably our pack went and drank at the hide. While I was there nothing of much consequence arrived, so I left, and just my luck, as I’m leaving 3 rhino come to drink, bugger!
May 30th: Today was another rather uneventful viewing day. We returned at lunch and proceeded to have drinks around the pool. We had planned to go out at 3pm again to look for animals, but by the time 3pm came we were in no condition to go driving, so we stayed at the pool and drank some more, listened to music and tried to catch up with diaries. Pat and Sarah did go out though, which was a bit weird, but hey. When they returned they looked to be in quite high spirits – spirits that were a little bit too high for two people who “supposedly” just went looking at animals. I wonder what they’ve been up to?
In the evening we returned to the hide for drinks again. Once again I didn’t see anything, got bored and left. And, once again, just my luck, as I get back to camp I hear a huge ruckas coming from the drinking hole, trumpets and squeals were sounding loudly and people all over went bolting for the hide! Elephants! Bloody Elephants! A whole herd! And I missed them! Bugger it!
May 31st: On our way out today. We took our time leaving Etosha because we wanted to take full advantage of the little time we have hear. The viewing was the same again, the day was devoid of animals, my eyelids were starting to get heavy, and then, just as we are about to leave, we see a pride of lions! the adrenalin was cool, i was awake immediately and wrapped up in the experience of seeing this animal. The effect wore of after about 5 minutes though. After ten minutes I was beginning to take note of what the other animals were doing, after 20 minutes I was fidgeting, after 40 minutes I was bored, and after an hour I was asleep. People just seemed riveted by these lions. They weren't moving, completely immobile, they might as well have been stuffed and put there, but yet! people are still like...: "LOOK! Its going to move!! oh my F#@$! It's really gonna do it" and then it yawned, and we were trapped for a further hour. It was so bad that we couldn't even go to the toilet! it takes 2 minutes to drive a safe distance - BUT NO! we must just all hold it, every single person was cringing, and at one point pat cracked open his door and took a slash while still seated in the driving seat!! I mean come on!!! if we had taken a day to construct a safe toilet we could have still done it and come back to see the lion doing absolutely NOTHING!!
Fortunately we were very near the Southern gate, and our stop for the night was just after that - the Etosha safari camp. It's just being built but the place is stunning and the service absolutely amazing. we sipped windhoek draughts around the pool until supper time at which we ate a scrumptious buffet.I Slept like baby.
May 1st: We took it easy getting going this morning. we only had to travel 300 kms from here to Windhoek where we would be meeting up with the truck crew one last time at the cardboard box. The drive was easy and we made good time arriving at the box around midday. We settled in, got our things together, said hi to everybody and started drinking. We had a brilliant braai, the first proper “South African” style braai in ages.
May 2nd: We had a chilled day. I went shopping at the local Mall (which is huge), got some new shoes, and perused the local merchants wares. In the evening we went to a place for supper called Joe's Beerhouse the meat portions were insane! only a true dutchman could eat meat like that. I swear, the game eisbein that Patrick had was the size of my head and then some!
May 3rd: We left Windhoek this morning. It was a touching goodbye, hugs were shared and tears shed, and we all promised to see each other again.Then we were off on the final stretch. today we gunned it to the Sesriem place, and I must say, some of the scenery on the drive there was absolutely stunning. Long stretches where there were just expanses of nothingness and desert that suddenly drops away and transforms into towering canyons and stretches of barren hillsides.we arrived there just after five and were unable to drive down to see the dunes. so we paid to camp. This place has tourists by the bollocks, I say this because it’s out in the middle of nowhere and there are no other options for camping but theirs, so they charge an extortionate amount for their services. It’s quite a sneaky set-up. We had another braai tonight (it’s so great being back to the all meat braai!). It’s beginning to get really cold now.
May 4th: we were up before 5am and waiting at the entrance gate. we had to get there before the sunrise, and we did. The drive there became an offroad rally between us and three tourist busses who were also moving at speeds of up to 120 kms per hour on a single lane road, in the pitch dark. We broke so many laws to get there in time. We drove past doodvlei and went to Sossusvlei where we climbed a monstrous dune to watch the sunrise (I don’t want to see a dune again any time soon). Once up there we learnt that if we had climbed up from the back end it would have been a much simpler climb, practically horizontal.When I realised this I turned around and slid back down.We then went to doodvlei. It was amazing. There were just rows of dead, fossilised trees, in a type of dried salt pan in the middle of nowhere, atop the dunes, it was stunning. we stayed for quite some time, taking pictures of ourselves posed as dead trees amongst the real dead trees, before heading off.
We then gunned it to fish river canyon which we just took a brief passing glimpse at, before continuing on what is now, truly, the final stretch home. we drove long and hard and in the evening found accomodation in a cute new caravan park on the outskirts of Keetmanshoop called the Lafenis game lodge (nestled behind a shell). we ate supper at the wimpy and had drinks at the quiant bar.
5th - We crossed the border today. Bit of a mission, but not too bad. I honestly expected worse, knowing the state of South African administrations. The bridge that you cross into SA at this ass end corner of the country is called the DF malan bridge (I found that quite funny). We stayed in Springbok for the night at the Springbok caravan park. Springbok is really an ass end town. We ate pizza tonight at a place called Titbits pizza, mmmmmn.
BACK IN NAMIBIA!!!...........
Sept 14th ; Was rudely awoken by Patrick shouted at me to get up and come see the sunrise, I rolled over in the tent and looked out of window to see the most stunning sunrise over the river. The whole river was reds, oranges and yellows.
Patrick spent his morning making a shelf for the small laptop to sit on in the front of the car - Gerty is now plugged into it as Patrick's old eyes can't cope with the small GPS screen!!
Other than that we had a very lazy day reading books in the shade on the sundeck.
Much to our horror when we showered this evening we both have very patchy red splodges all over us even though we spent all day in the shade!!
Sept 15th ; Up early to get everyhting packed away and ready to head off, we planned to drive though Mudumu Game Reserve and into Zambia.
Went to settle the bill, only to find that we had been charged for water we didn't order. Patrick spoke to the the barman who removed it from the bill, so he handed over the money. Got to the car and realsied that we had been short changed to the amount of the bottle of water!!!!!
Get stopped at 2 Foot and Mouth Control Veterianry Gates where the tyres were sprayed in Vircon, and we had to stand in a foot-bath of Vircon (Vircon is a nasty strong smelling pink disinfectant which dries to form a white crusty covering on everything it touches!!!)
All white and crusty we take the turn off at Kongola onto a gravel road which goes to Mudumu. Gerty the GPS says that we should be at Katima Mulilo around 4pm, where we would decide if we stay the night there or push on into Zambia. So cameras at the ready we enter the Reserve.
There was the cutest Zebra foal and his mother just by the gate followed by a large herd of Impapla, I'm now hopeful that we should see lots of game.
How cruel life can be, that was it, we did not see another living creature until we got to Nakatwa and the Reserve Ranger wanted us to pay an entrance fee!! Patrick went into the office and paid whilst I had a look at all of the skulls that had been nailed to the walls of the office, a bit macabre!!!
Fees paid we were off again.
There is evidence of Ellies all round "we are going to go around a corner and drive straight into them" I said - well me and my big mouth - as we come around a blind corner there are around 40 Ellies at the edge of the river drinking and playing!!! Now we are stuck as they are blocking the track through the park. After what feels like hours but is really only 10mins they meander off into the bush out of sight.
5km's along the track we come across a rather large Bull elephant ambling along in the track. At a safe distance we follow him for 3km's after which he has had enough, he turns around ears flapping and trunk up and starts to walk back towards the car. Patrick throws the camera at me and reverses as quickly as possible. The Bull stops after 3 steps turns around and carries on his ambling!
In his own time he turns off the track into the bush.
The track slowly becomes wetter and wetter until we are driving through patches which are swamp, the car copes well so we carry on.
A we turn a sharp corner there is another swampy bit, in we go thinking it will be a short stretch, 1km, 2km, 3km...... by now the water is up to the running boards and we are both starting to worry, suddenly we stop going fowards. Patrick puts her into reverse and goes back out of the frying pan into the fire! We manage to slip off the track and into the very soft swamp next to it, where the car stops moving all together.
After a few choice words I would not like to repeat as my parents will probably read this, Patrick gets out and has a look. There is water lapping over the running boards determined to get into the car, the exhaust is completly submerged so turning the car off is not an option, and the mud is soft soft soft!! More choice words from both of us, now what?!
Off come the sand ladders and we try and get them under the back wheels, that done, all avalible gagets are engaged / turned on and we try........ NOTHING the wheels do not move and inch.
OK this is now very serious, we are in the middle of nowhere, just the 2 of us and a 3.5 ton car (with everything we own in her!) which Patrick has just informed me is sinking, a few more choice words are said very loudly!!!
After talking it through we make a plan, jack her up, put branches down, the sand ladders over them and try again. So off we go into the Linyanti swamp looking for branches, both of us aware that our whole life in slowly sinking into it!!!
So we jack, pack and lower the car. Patrick tries again, this time she move 1cm forwards then the wheels start spinning, which helps her to sink that bit quicker!!!
Now I am very worried, Patrick is getting tired quickly and we have move 1cm forwards and 5cm down!!!
I grab the Sat phone and Lonley Planet book and start looking for emergancy numbers to ring. Lonley Planet does not have a single emergancy number listed for Namibia - F@&K we are going to be stuck here forever!!!
Then I remember there was a number on the fees reciept we got at the Rangers Office, grab that and type in the number "your call can not be connected please check the number and try again". OK remain calm, I forgot to but the international dialling code in, back to Lonely Planet, get the code and try again "your call can not be connected please check the number and try again". By now I am shaking all over, I can't breath, I feel sick and feel like I am about to pass out (I know reaslise it was a panic attack - my first ever!!).
OK patrick says we need to do this all over again but with more branches under all 4 wheels and unpack the car. As Patrick starts to jack up the back I go off into the swamp again to get more branches. I find a very dead tree and apoligising to the tree start pulling it apart to get it back to the car.
When I get back Patrick had finished the back left tyre and was starting on the right. As she goes up we see that the diff's have become very bogged down and the chasis was in the mud. In Patrick goes on all 4's with the spade and starts to dig her out.
I started the job of emptying the car onto a dry patch about 15m away (yes a hard dry patch only 15M from the car!!!). Good job we had packed everything into Wollfe boxes made life a bit easier.
That done I go back to help Patrick, who by now is at the front of the car on all fours looking for the jacking point - there is none!! We had no choice we had to jack her up using the bumper! So up she goes, the bumper making a lot of load protests on the way. The front tyres are packed with branches and she is lowered.
We are now ready to try again.
I have never really believed in God before but now I am willing to pray to any God that will help us get out!
Patrick tries agian and OMG she moves and keeps moving until she is back on the track and onto the hard stuff!! Patrick puts her in reverse and back up, I keep my hand on the back to stop her from going back along the track she has just made ( not sure if it helped but it made me feel better :) ) and backs up out of the mess to the track behind.
WE ARE OUT OF THE HOLE!!!!!!!
However we now have to repack the car, retrieve the sand ladders and try and get out of swamp.
Car re-packed with everything and we are have to reverse back 3kms to get to the dry track - breath held and in scilence we slowly reverse back out of the swamp and onto dry land. It had taken us 4 hours to rescue our home and belongings from the suction of the Linyanti Swamp!!!
We head for the closest exit gate and get the hell out of there asap.
Back on the gravel road we ask Gerty how far it is to Zambezi River Lodge, she says 120kms but would take us 2 1/2 hours with an arrival time of 8.30pm. So we went for it.
I was on kamikaze animal watch whilst Patrick got us to the lodge in one piece.
We both showered the Swamp off of us, reheated left overs and went to bed.
What a day!!!!!!
Sept 16th ; Both woke up around 7, which is late for us. Patrick could not move, his whole body had siezed overnight and he was now in a lot of pain!! I made coffee and filled him with pain killers whilst thought about the daunting task of re-packing the car that lay ahead of me!
Today was filled with Patrick moaning he is sore and can't move whist I emptied the car and slowly put everything back in its place after the mad "just throw it in the car and lets get the hell out of here" packing yesterday.
Went to the bar for a drink after everything was done and watched the sun set over a cold beer.