Saturday, June 23, 2012

We left you in Grootfontein although we did not actually post the blog until we reached Rundu. We’ve added a number of photos to the photo page [it should show the last photo we took first] and updated the map so that you can see exactly where we went.

The journey from Grootfontein to Rundu was simply a 300km dash along a straight road which looked as if it would be quite uneventful. In most respects it was; we had to pass through a quarantine gate, which was straight forward, but on the other side it was as if we had passed into another country all together. All the way along the road, on either side were small villages and farmsteads of mud huts and thatched roofs. The farms were surrounded by a reed wall and everywhere was tidy. Cattle were being herded about the place by young boys and the cattle looked extremely well. This surprised us as we had been told that the cattle in this area were very poor and that was why they needed the quarantine fence to keep these beasts away from the prime stock to the south.

There were some anomalies. In one place we saw a large group of people waiting for a water-tanker to bring in drinking water. All of them seemed to be equipped with one large bucket and a mobile phone. Waiting seemed not to be a problem as they simply spent their time texting and talking to friends! Very strange!

Wild camping is not permitted in Namibia so each night we have to find an official campsite. This is not really a problem as there are many and they are not expensive. We had been told of one at the western end of the Caprivi Strip that we should stay at if possible. After 4km along an off road track we arrived beside a large river and Ngepi Campsite. It was very picturesque with solar heated showers and “loos with a view” – no doors but a lovely view. There was also a bath with a view, but you had to buy wood and light a fire to get the hot water.

Its difficult to describe the wildlife in the area; its just there, everywhere you look, elephants, hippos, baboons, warthogs, birds of all description. The list goes on and on and this is before you get into a National Park. This is just “the countryside”.

We were fortunate, however, to camp, purely by chance, in Mudumu National Park. This Park is undeveloped and the campsite comprised of a flat piece of ground and a long drop toilet with two walls and half a roof! Throughout the day we watched hippo in the river right in front of us [and listened to them tromping around the truck during the night]. Elephants in large numbers came down to the river to drink, fortunately not exactly where we were camped, but the passed within 50 yards on their way to and from. It was a glorious day and such a contrast to the organisation and regulation that we had experienced in Etosha.

An attempt to go to the neighbouring National Park ended with our bending a few bits of the truck. Fortunately, nothing serious and nothing that we were not able to sort out ourselves. However, not our best day; particularly as we decided to drive to a campsite close to the border with Botswana, only to discover that we were too large to get in. There’s bound to be a campsite just inside Botswana, we said, so let’s just cross now even though it is almost 6:00pm.

Mistake number 2 of the day.

Crossing the border was easy but by the time we had it was after 6 and the gates on the Transit Road across the park were closed. You can guess where the campsite was. In conversation with a local man we discovered that wild camping is allowed in Botswana, but not in or close to a National Park. Drive 35 Km down the road away from the gates and we would find a place. We did, arriving at 7:15 in the dark and tired. At least we knew that tomorrow would be a better day.

Sure enough it was. We drove to Kasane, which is a tourist centre with lots of facilities and stayed for a couple of nights in the very smart Chobe Safari Lodge [campsite – not quite as smart as the Lodge]. The downside was that they did not have a TV, unless you had a room in the Lodge, so we were unable to see the rugby.

On Monday we had another small setback when we discovered that the entry fees for vehicles to Botswana’s National Parks are based on weight. So we decided to move to another campsite at the other end of Kasane [and at the other end of camping fee charges] and go on an organised trip into Chobe NP.

This was one of our good decisions! We had a fabulous time, starting with baby crocs on the riverbank and finishing with the most glorious African sunset!! Elephants of all sizes came down to the river to drink, splash and play…we were only a few yards from them! Crocodiles opened their mouths so we could look right down their throats…what HUGE teeth they have! They are not the greatest predator on man. Apparently the Hippo takes that honour, causing 75% of all the injuries each year!

The hippos we saw were basking in the sun when we first arrived, but gradually they began to move a little, then they stretched [as much as you can when you are rotund and sleepy !] and finally they yawned!!! What huge mouths they have!!!! The small ones looked really cute, but no doubt can still do a lot of harm. We often hear them during the night grunting and splashing around in the river!! We are separated from them by an electric fence, and we are quite high off the ground!!
Water buffalo were munching on grass and gazing sleepily at us as we passed, they were accompanied by lots of birds that wandered about looking for insects and hovered overhead too. Our trip ended with the boat stopping by an island with trees so that we could all take the same picture of the sun setting ….I wonder how many thousands of similar pictures to ours are being seen in all the countries of the world!!!

This has worked out very well and we are still here [Saturday]. This campsite has a bar with a very, very large TV screen and is where all the locals, it seems, come to watch sport. Any sport. We’ve had football from Europe, horse racing with Clare Balding and Willy Carson, Junior World Cup Rugby. Saturday we hope will see England at their best.

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