A long & not so winding road (part 1)

On of our group consultants, Liz Shaw, recently went on a private holiday trip through Namibia. She and her father were kind enough to write a little review about their trip and all the fantastic experiences they had. From their stunning sunsets at the waterwoles to their travels through Namibias sandy (and dusty!) roads and being followed at night by Jackals while being lost in the wild… Read on for part one of Liz’ very interesting article!

14 days self drive Cape Town to Windhoek – November 2010

I have only been to Namibia once before on an overland tour and it was this trip that encouraged me to return, this time with my parents and partner.
This is a short (ish) account of our adventure written by my father (Michael) and me (Elizabeth/Liz)

Day 1: Cape Town to Gecko Creek, Cedarberg

We departed Kapstadt late on the Sunday morning – our rental Nissan Tilda fully loaded with everything we may need for the next 2 weeks in the Namibian desert – sun-screen, plenty of water and a cool box of beer – ready for anything! As today was my father’s 62nd birthday, I had booked us into ‘Die Strandloper’ beach camp restaurant in Laangebaan. 10 seafood courses and 4 hours later we were ready to continue our journey to Cedarberg – suitably replete and the cool box a little lighter. We began our 2-hour journey to our first nights stop at Gecko Creek.
Gecko Creek is beautifully set nestled in the Cedarberg Mountains on a private concession with a variety of buck, small mammals, a resident wolf and a bird watchers delight!

On arrival at Gecko Creek, we were greeted by the resident wolf – Hoka, who immediately marked his territory by peeing on each of the car wheels. At first, we were a tad intimidated, however our fears were unfounded and Hoka took an instant liking to Chris (my wife) who stroked it repeatedly. As Ingrid – the onsite manager – showed us around the camp we were warned about it being the beginning of snake season, as we neared the ablution block we actually saw a Coral snake slither across the track in front of us!

Elizabeth and Doug set up their tent as we were shown to our cabin set beautifully on the side of a hill with wonderful views down the valley. We then encountered more wildlife when we were literally attacked by a startling who happened to be nesting in our cabin eaves! A night to the somewhat distant toilet block was filled with apprehension as we anticipated attacks from Starlings, Coral Snakes or indeed a wolf! The adventure begins!

Day 2: Gecko Creek to Felix Unite, Orange River

After a beautiful sunrise over the Cedarberg Mountains, we bid our farewells to Ingrid, Hoka and the tranquil Gecko Creek camp onwards to the Namibian border. After a stunning 4-hour drive and a brief stop at Springbok to pick up supplies we arrived at Vioolsdrift, the Namibian border crossing. After we had completed the necessary paperwork we drove into Namibia and onto Felix Unite campsite on the Orange River, a mere 10kms from the border.

Felix Unite is set on the banks of the Orange River, accommodation and campsites all elegantly situated. Doug and myself set up camp under a tree next to a braai block and quickly set off for the pool to cool down after the mornings long and hot drive – the Namibian heat already overwhelming us. (Being English means my parents and I are ill equipped when it comes to the intense African sun!)

As Elizabeth & Doug set up their campsite, Chris & I were assigned a thatched Cabana, well equipped with en-suite facilities and magnificent views down to the river. After a swim and a few drinks at the poolside bar – most welcome as we had experienced the first section of Namibia’s dusty gravel roads! – We had a Braai at the campsite followed by a sound nights sleep. We were awakened by the plaintive sounds of a baby crying which turned out to be a little kid goat lost on the riverbank – the management were informed and the goat rescued. We set off on our next stage.

Day 3: Felix Unite to Canon Roadhouse, Fish River Canyon

Today we drove a mix of tarred/gravel roads. In the morning we visited (a somewhat deserted) Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa Resort where we relaxed in the rather too warm swimming pool (fed by the local hot spring) before continuing the hot & dusty (soon to be common theme!) drive to Canon Roadhouse – a veritable oasis in the desert. Tent was pitched and lodge room occupied, with a little time for a rest by the pool before we set off to experience the sunset over the Fish River Canyon.

After lying by the pool and sampling some of Namibia’s finest beer we left the haven of Canon Roadhouse. We arrived at the Fish river Canyon in time for ‘sundowners’ in front of the spectacular canyon- magical! We happened to bump into a Jenman tour that were also taking in the beautiful sunset and stunning backdrop. With the sun set, we promptly returned to Springbok steaks served at the Canon Roadhouse restaurant then a short stroll for Doug and me to the camp as the starry sky washed over us – stunning.

Day 4: Canon Roadhouse to Hammerstein Lodge – Sossusvlei
After a hearty breakfast in the restaurant we headed off in the direction of Sossusvlei marvelling at the apparent barrenness of the surrounding countryside (little knowing we ain’t seen nothing yet!) & gritting our teeth at the dustiness & bumpiness of the gravel tracks we were travelling on. En-route we came across nothing much but dusty sandy landscapes – the odd excitement of a tree ensued and even more thrill when we discovered weaver birds nests nestled high in the branches. We were started to understand the naming – The Skeleton Coast! We stopped for supplies, petrol and an ATM in Keetmanshoop – a small old-fashioned town – feeling as if we had gone back in time. After a long journey, we came across another oasis in the form of Hammerstein Lodge.

We eagerly signed up for the ‘Cat Walk’ and quickly dropped our luggage off at our chalets before heading on the walk. The lodge runs daily ‘cat walks’ to meet their resident Caracals, Cheetah and Lisa the Leopard – we even got to pet Max the Cheetah! On the walk back to our room rather excited after our big cat exposure we were greeted by a Springbok (I felt a little guilty for enjoying the previous nights dinner so much) and the resident Zebra which came up for a nose rub. We bumped into another Jenman truck doing a similar route yet much further– The Northern Experience, Cape Town to Victoria Falls. We swapped stories of our adventures and I was given some great tips on how to handle the Namibian roads – thanks Jorge!

Check back on Thursday to read the second part of Liz’ adventures

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