Mucking about in a little runabout with outboard. Fun going through the locks!
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We parted ways with the rest of the Malan family at the Namib Desert Lodge and headed south towards Aus. Mountains and desert dunes; oryx and springbok, zebras and wildebeest. (Yes! We’ve done the ‘look there’s a zebra crossing’ line to bits – but it still makes me smile). And you could see that there were clearly game farmers out here; signs to lodges that were another 15, 25, 30kms off the already empty, isolated desert sandy road. What lives these people lead. How tough must they be? The closest supermarket is hours and hours drive away across desert. Africa (and in particular farmers and residents of the Namib desert) is definitely not for sissies!
We arrived in Aus – closed and deserted on a Saturday afternoon. However, the hotel which has been there in various forms since the early 1900s cooked excellent fare and we enjoyed a late lunch / early dinner. We went on to our campsite and set up camp – as the light was fading and the wind came up – and blew through the rocky-canyon-located campsite. Tempers were a little frayed (!) and there was a total loss of sense of humour on a number of faces ….so we all tucked up early to bed to stay warm and start the next day refreshed.
Next morning as we prepared breakfast Oscar decided to venture up the nearest slope – armed with camping chair, iPhone (for ‘selfies’), hat and walking stick and chocolate provisions. He kept going – further than either if us had imagined and cheerily called to us from the summit. Hating to miss out (& from our perspective in need of exercise) Hugo was sent off up after Oscar. We could hear jolly chatter from a far and they returned to camp with big smiles and a ‘great sense of achievement’ (Oscar).
We drove off towards Luderitz on the coast, looking for the famed wild horses on the way (..read not very wild looking horses), the old diamond mining town left to be overtaken by the ravages of wind and sand (..a fascinating tourist opportunity left lacking and stuff all information or site maps and a bit of a let down in all honesty). On to another old German colonial town which was quiet, and foggy and chilly and closed! Clear water but it looked a tad chilly and the signposted beach not very inviting (neatly located adjacent to the fish processing plant). We found some stunning houses with what we presumed had fabulous bay views…if only we could have seen them but for the sea fog!
We returned to our camp at Aus, scrambled very quickly up to ‘Oscar’s mount’, drank mojitos (not the boys – obviously!), ate snacks and watched the sun down. It wasn’t exactly the most relaxing experience as the boys seemed intent on precariously balancing their camp chairs on dodgy rocks and dropping their drink cups constantly – but hey ho, it was memorable, as was the braai later that evening: lamb chops, toasties, marshmallows and silly games.
From Aus came Fish River Canyon and a camp at Hobas …including a very large baboon which we were warned about. The boys were not phased by this – although I was never sure Hugo’s baboon impersonations were not a potential goad from a baboons point of view. Anyway, no harm done other than the unfortunate incident if the baboon stealing a packet of marshmallows.
The Fish River Canyon is the largest in Africa and was a spectacular sight. We drove and walked to various view points, which was sometimes a bit hairy if you have a child that wanders. Typically there are no handrails or signs about safety – this is Africa – survival of the fittest; if you can’t think for yourself and look after yourself, then tough luck!
The boys and I left Gerhard to take his ‘sunset shots’ from a ridiculously dangerous (I thought) vantage point. Hugo and I were too nervous to watch and so we went back to watch the sunset from a safer more family-friendly spot!
Erindi Game Reserve: the most impressive campsite ever! From there we saw game, African Wild Dogs, elephant and hippos and searched for lions (I found lion when in desperation I went on a game drive one afternoon). And then by chance we headed to the San Village for a tour one morning – fascinated with this nomadic tribes way of life. By chance the big storm came later that morning as we drank coffee at the Lodge and watched hippo and crocodile move through the water and respond to the massive electric storm overhead – and then by chance we were entertained by three elephants who arrived at the watering hole – an experience for us all. The elephants knocked crocodiles out of the way and into the water. Then the elephants pushed each other into the water and continued in some ritual which was either playful or in order to decide the pecking order – we were never sure which.
The rain poured that night, with lightning everywhere around us – so much so we pulled the boys out of their damp tent and popped them in the back of the land cruiser to sleep – which really pleased them – another ‘first’ on the list of experiences. Gerhard and Fanie attempted to keep the braai burning so that we could cook the meat for dinner (fuelled by alcohol to keep warm); we ate dinner perched on chairs in the shower and toilet (with plenty of wine!).
From Erindi we headed into the desert and onto Swakopmund – which despite clearly being a significant town (second largest in Namibia) I found it rather odd. There’s a constant cloud/mist that hangs over Swakopmund. It’s on the edge of the desert with the most fabulous dunes (including the infamous Dune 7 – well done Hugo for scrambling up that hot one bright sunny morning).
Swakopmund was very German (as per colonisation) and so many of the houses have a very German look and there are some fabulous restaurants serving humongous size portions of delicious food (put off the diet for another week then…and let the belt out another hole!). But it all looks a bit dishevelled and in need of some tlc. I was assured that it shines during the summer months when it ‘buzzes’ during the holiday season …it is Namibia’s only coastal resort….but I still felt a bit intrigued by the place.
However, the boys found friends to play with in the play park and ate well. We rode camels and quad bikes.
Hugo (who I wondered if he would struggle with the height of dunes ) travelled on board with his Uncle Fanie. My fears came to nought! Hugo had hold of the throttle and wasn’t giving it up.
Oscar rode with his Dad – and had to hold on with his knees as Gerhard had him holding the camera in order to capture the descents and ascents on video.
They had such a ball that they returned two days later – for a ‘boys ride’. Gerhard assured the gorgeous guide that he could take them wherever he wanted (no cautious Gilli along with them this time). Apparently the guide grew horns and took them on the wildest ride ever – so steep where some of the slopes that Oscar kept hitting his head/helmet on the front of the quad bike. All four boys came back with huge grins!
The camel riding was less eventful and we weren’t sure we really liked riding the camels – they didn’t look particularly happy. However despite the expense and the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the adults the boys had a ball and thought it was brilliant – so what more can you ask for?!