Shakawe Lodge and campsite is nestled in Northen Botswana just a stones throw from Popa Falls (Namibia) and on the Okavango River. A beautiful and peaceful place to kick up your feet and watch the river and sunbirds go by.
Or take a evening boat cruise with the clear water but a boat ripple away from perfect reflection.
Watch the crocs sunbathing and the wee ones swimming.
Get stared down by Jack the hippo. The local lawn mower.
But for me it’ll be the biker dozen that I will remember when I think back to Shakawe. An exceptional group of gentleman. 12 friends from 3 different countries on bikes for Tour de Africa II. They embraced me into their group instantly and allowed me to join them on their river boat cruise, and even partake in their nightly court dishing out skulls. The debauchery and shenanigans were kept PG for me, sadly ;p. I have yet to feel so welcome so quickly by a group of complete strangers whom I now happily call friends. And you all deserve a skull from me. Thank you! I owe you and I do hope we meet again. I’d love to hear how stiflers birthday session went. Safe travel boys!
Etosha, at last! Etosha is a massive national park in the northern aspect of Namibia, it crosses about 2/3 thirds of the country heading east. And that is how I travelled, headed east.
When you enter Etosha you are struck, almost immediately, by the reality of driving in a vehicle amongst the world of the beasts, hairies and scaries. Just you, the car and them. But oh how lovely they are. You travel waterhole to waterhole looking for anything with a pulse and spot everything in between. You sit, windows down to let the cool winter breeze cross over you as the heat of the African sun rises. It brings the dry dust with a fine salt mix from the pans. You breath in Africa. Dry, brittle and fragrant in pockets. Almost passion fruit like to the kind of wild jasmine-ish scents. And then the waft of dry leather with dust as the elephants saunter joyfully for a drink and a dip. The continuous belches of Springbok calls and bleats from Zebra, birds fluttering around. You sit watching as row upon row of Zebra, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Impala and Springbok spring to the waterhole. The young, full of the joy of life, bounding and chasing one another. And as quickly as they came they dissipate into the heat until the next group appears… Giraffes, Ostrich and Jackals. You glance at the time and hours have passed. On to the next waterhole to see what that may bring. Days are spent unhurried, meandering, wondering from point to point staring out the window in awe of it all. Giraffe and Zebra road blocks. At my favourite waterhole (Moringa at Halali Camp) I had the immense pleasure and privilege to silently watch alone as over 50 elephants with numerous babies ran to the waterhole. They proceeded to play, splashing in almost toddler like joy, for half hour before getting to the business of drinking. As part of the group left another bounded up. By the end of 2 hours I had seen over 100 elephants. Alone, just me and them. It was epic! Yes I have a video clip. Not sure how to upload it but I will do so (Excuse the commentary I may have been a bit excited and reached octaves I didn’t now I could). In one 24 hour period I have spent numerous hours with 4 lions, 3 cheetah, 2 battling rhino’s in the night and 1 amazing elephant pool party. It has been beyond anything I imagined. Sadly, the sly and elusive Leopard was unseen.
Now for the long line of photos. Please enjoy.
Let’s start with the birds…
Aside from the animals Springbok underwent his first tire change and I learned of tire snot. Buffalo Thorn!
I mustn’t forget Mary and Corbit (sorry if I misspelled it) who not only invited me to a true SA braai, which was so good, they also had indispensable knowledge to pass on about my future travels and great bird spots and Kgalagadi advice you can’t find in bookstores. Lions that use car tires as chew toys and enjoy smacking side mirrors. Thank you!
Bid farewell to Etosha and off to Popa Falls before crossing into Botswana for a whole new adventure. Self-Drive Namibia, honestly, it needs to be on your bucket list. Call me if you need a travel buddy, I’ll happily go back.
I did get my desert elephants after all. 3 of a large herd that rather not be on camera. The crux is you off-road with a guide in your car. So all the gadgets and gizmos on Springbok have now all been thoroughly tested. Difflock for those crazy deep sand ruts, low range, high range and even the shovel. Yes, I got stuck going up a small sand dune, let’s call it a dunette. Digging transpired and a free Springbok retreated as the elephants had moved on in the meantime. I was not the only one to get stuck in the caravan, just saying. Brandberg Mountain also introduced me to yet more wonderful people, Sandra and Roger. Great conversation and dancing to the local song of “I don’t want to dance”. Lol!
En route to Terrace Bay is Twyfelfontein. It’s known for petroglyphs dated about 5-8000 years ago. Carved by the Sun People.
The last one is the most famous of all the carvings. It’s called Lion-man. It depicts a lion with a six fingered hand for a tail representing a Shaman who has transformed into a lion. It is uncertain how many carvings there are as the volcanic seismic activity, years ago, have toppled, cracked or destroyed many. More research is being done. At last count it is believed over 2000 such carvings.
The drive to Terrace Bay takes you through The Skeleton Coast. Reddish hills turn to dunes as you approach the ocean side. Chasing the setting sun the drive appeared to go on forever until reaching Terrace Bay. A gem really. Kind and friendly people amongst the desolate landscape dotted with a lone jackal.
The morning brought the thick mist which enveloped the landscape. It was hard seeing more than 5-10 meters in front of the car. It rolled in, in sections, as the drive back to the inland went on. Eventually the sun won and dissipated the mist.
The drive to Epupa Falls was spotted with animals until Opuwo, what seemed like a hub of activity especially for the local Himba people. Now the road from Opuwa to Epupa Falls well that’s a whole new category. This is a rainy region and many rivers cross the road so creating valleys or drainage lines. The undulating road with each river crossing, thankfully dry, was different from the last. Some short and stout, others deceptively sharp and easily can easily land you head first into the opposing side if you go too fast. Then came the ruts. Regardless the road condition Epupa Falls was well worth it. Midst the desert an oasis appears. Although it’s the dry season, it is still spectacular to behold. At first the short walk from the campsite had me impressed only to find out up the hill, as there is always an up, you can take in the whole spectacle and stand with left foot in Angola and right foot in Namibia. It’s like Niagra Falls, you pick which side is better.
Above: Namibia Side
Above: Angola Side
The whole thing
The river side campsite is wonderful, you fall asleep to the rushing water of the falls. As fun as the road was getting to Epupa it was oh so much more going back the same way to get to Etosha National Park.
Hi all, it’s been a bit. Sorry about that but internet and the Namibian desert aren’t always at good odds with each other.
What can I say about Namibia, it’s beautiful, breath taking and beyond words. The roads on the other hand, well…you have paved which is wonderful and rare. Then you have your degrees of gravel roads; decent, martini tumbler and jack-hammer. Any arteriosclerosis that may have existed in any of my vessels has now been cleanly shaken loose. If I had fillings those too would be out. The other thing about Namibia is you must come to terms with the sand/dust. There is a fine layer of dust on everything. No matter how hermetically sealed you think things are it will find a way in. The cleanest you will ever be is when you’re in the shower. Inevitably, as soon as you step out the wind picks up and you have a new sprinkling of dust. Like pixie dust minus the fairies or the magical powers, so nothing like pixie dust. Apart from that it’s been amazing.
Fish River Canyon lead to Klein-Aus Vista, beautiful mountain setting just a short drive from the wild horses. The road to Sossusvlei and its famous dunes is of the Martini Tumbler variety with intermittent jack-hammer. The mountains give way to desert and eventually dunes. Here is where I met Karen and Nigel. A wonderful couple whom I got to travel with for a couple days. We ventured to the Dunes and climbed Big Daddy. Climbing dunes is not an easy task, it’s like elliptical meets stair master plus a wind machine. But the view was worth it. Too windy to whip out the camera but the iphone was eagerly sacrificed. The heart wrenching moment of the dunes is that in less then 10 minutes down you undo all that effort, over an hour, to get to the top. Sheesh!
Sossuvlei to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. We were fortunate enough to make it to the bay for sunset and flamingos coming in for the night. En route there is a little place called Solitaire famous for it’s apple strudel. More of a apple cake then strudel but great nonetheless. The bird audience was a little daunting. It was like eating in a prison yard. You had to cover your food at all times or they came in for a peck. The coffee was beyond!
Co-pilots are important whilst driving in Namibia. The suicidal animal watch is much needed. I’ve had suicidal Gemsbok, Springbok, Steenbok, Baboons, donkey’s, goats, cows and ostriches. The ostrich is the funniest of them all. They saunter onto the road. Hey Bob, Ed you hear anything? Nah, you? Eventually one will turn around and spot the vehicle and make off like the road runner only to end on the other side looking perplexed as to why he ran in the first place.
Next morning, I ventured solo again to Spitzkopp and the bushmen paintings. They think they are 2000-4000 years old, but were discovered only 50 years ago. And tonight, is spent in the Brandberg Mountain Range. Perhaps I’ll be fortunate enough to catch a desert elephant. One can hope! Saving a rock agama from a watery toilet death ought to count for some karmic brownie points. Then it’s off to Terrace Bay, Epupa falls before venturing into Etosha National Park and hopefully have a mini reunion with Karen and Nigel.