Private School Swakopmund – 4 Day Naukluft trail

The 4 day Naukluft trail is 60 kilometre of mountains and undulations.  A group of 11 Grade 9 pupils of Swakopmund, 4 parents and their teacher tackled this trail from the 5th of October to the 8th of October and was led by Kobus Alberts, member of Wild at Heart Safaris.

This is the story of their trials and tribulations:

The boys: Matthias, Lukas, Morne, Dieter, Bozidar and Vincent. The girls in the group were Diana, Jasmin, Carmon, Ashleigh and Adriana. The adult group consisted out of Werner, Bres, Ilse Lichti, and me. Ian and Glenn were the parents that would stay in camp and acted as back up should anything go wrong.

Arriving at the Naukluft camp, the group sorted themselves and their bags for the following days of hiking.  A male baboon quickly taught us to be observant at all times, by stealing some of the food.

The next day the group left, and spirits were high.  Following a river system the hiking was nice and easy.  Very soon that would change, when the first hill was approached. “Hamburger Hill” as it was named later, is a hill of stature. It does not look high or big, but once you start climbing it, you suddenly realised it is a hill of note.  Resting on top, the views to the South were spectacular.  Following contours towards Fonteinkloof, the walking continued at a good steady pace.  Arriving at 11:10, we decided to have a lunch break in the shade of the big Fig trees at the fountain.  Heartbreak Pass was to be our next obstacle after lunch.  Usually the group walked in the following formation:  I followed by all the boys and then the girls and the rest of the adults.  After reaching the top of heartbreak pass, the boys showed some true gentlemen manners by going back and assisting the girls with the back packs up heartbreak pass.  This was to be repeated later in the day as well, but at this stage we did not know it.

Towards the end of the day, the mountain where the shelter is situated was sighted, but it was still a long distance away.  At this stage Dieter was very tired, and was assisted by Bres and Ilse.  I took the rest of the boys on a fast walk to the shelter, so that I can return and help with rucksack carrying and morale boosting.  As it turned out the morale boosting was being applied heavily by Bres, Ilse and Werner already.  The whole group reached the Putte shelter at 18:15.  There were some very tired people around, and after having a meal, silence descended on the camp. After some coffee and a meal the adults also went to bed. Ilse, having a strong dislike of scorpions slept on the roof the shelter.  This strange habit of hers to pick strange places to sleep was to be repeated through the rest of the trip.

The next day saw the group heading to Bergpos. On the way an “Oryx dung spitting competition” were held, and Dieter came away as the champion.  At Bergpos there was no water, so everyone was reliant on their own water supply, which has become relatively hot by this stage.  Werner and I walked down to the Cathedral fountain, and even had a swim in some of the pools.  During this walk a formula of note were also invented by Werner. E=mc².  Very applicable and will be used on every hiking trail to come.

After lunch the hikers continued on their way to Adelhorst. On the previous day I have noted that the group really struggled to keep a good pace after lunch and this was to be repeated every day.  About an hour into the hike, the group’s rhythm would become better and then the pace could be picked up again.  Due to the heat and the altitude, there were several nosebleeds, but all under control.  Carmon, daughter of Bres had some problems, so the pair of them kept on walking while the rest of us were resting in shade on the route.  The two of them arrived at the shelter about 15:55, while the rest of the group arrived about 16:05.  Having some daylight available, the group used the opportunity to have a quick wash, and prepared their food in style.

After some more coffee and talking about life and undulations, the adults also went to bed. Ilse slept on a raised cement slab outside the shelter.  Hartmann’s mountain Zebra made a nuisance of them, but eventually left us alone for a good nights rest.

The last day was to be the longest as well.  The previous days we covered 18 and 17 kilometres respectively, while the distance for the last day would be 27 kilometre.  The terrain we walked through is known as “the plateau”, but very little of this area even remotely looks like a plateau. Undulations kept coming and had to be negotiated.

With little shade and no water en route, the group would walk for 1 hour and then rest for 10 minutes. This routine came in very handy, as the first 3 hours in the morning the total distance covered were about 11 kilometres.

After lunch the heat was well and truly with us, and the pace of the group also showed it.

After joining the Waterkoof trail, the going got even tougher.  There were serious hills to be climbed, and on the other side, some serious downhill’s to be negotiated.  All of this took some time, so we only reached the fountains at about 16:30.  What a joy these cold clear water pools are!  Everyone filled their water bottles and washed their faces, and you could feel the morale lifting as we set off on the last stretch of our journey back to base camp.

Morne and I arrived at the office at 18:45. (We started walking at 06:45 in the morning, so it was a long day in the veldt)

At 19:00 every single person of the group was present, and the last 500 metres were walked to Hikers Haven. In the meantime Glenn and Ian kindly sourced some meat and sausage, and were barbequing them as we arrived.  What a smell to welcome in the tired hikers.

It was tough.  There were blood and there were tears.  Every single person in this group of hikers learned something about themselves.  Every single person realised that hiking is like life, giving up is not an option.

Congratulations to all the pupils for surviving, and in the end, enjoying this hike. The area, game seen and just to feel the elements of nature upon their faces made this trip a memorable experience.  Every single person helped each other, Jasmin and Diana for their support, Ashleigh for pushing through the “barrier”, Dieter for getting up the next morning and hiking again.  Bozidar, always checking out the route, but always walking. Vincent the silent assassin.

To all the adults as well, without your support and utter patience at times, it would have been impossible to complete this trail.

 

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Angola: A beautiful country in Africa

Leaving Namibia at the Ruacana border post, the Angola trip is on it’s way.  The road leads over a low water bridge over the Kunene River, and then becomes a two-track road.  With Mopane scrubland encroaching on the road we travel parallel to the Kunene River towards Foz de Kunene.

Due to the condition of the roads, the group travels very slow, and the first couple of nights we camp in dry river beds next to the road.  Iona National Park is a big conservation area in the South of Angola that the group travels through in order to get to Foz de Kunene.

After 3 days of slow driving we reach the mouth of the Kunene River, as it flows into the Atlantic Ocean.  Camping on the rivers edge and waking up to the sound of Bank cormorants on their way to the ocean is truly a special experience.  The next 2 days will take us Northwards along the coast towards Flamingo.  About halfway the dunes get very close to the ocean, so one can only travel this area at low tide, and with a local guide that knows the area.

Flamingo lodge lies in a stunning area.  A big river has carved its way open to the Atlantic Ocean, and while doing this caused “canyon lands” to form.  The lodge is situated in and on these heights, and gives you an excellent view of the Ocean.  The building is not permanent, but good enough to keep the elements of nature away from your body.  With hot showers, and an open air restaurant with a view on the setting sun, one cannot really ask for any better settings.

Leaving Flamingo we travel to Namibe, the capital of the South West of Angola. Visiting the market place is a hectic and fun filled experience. Anything under the sun is available, and it is your typical African Market. Busy, loud and bustling with energy.  The beach at Raphael’s is our next destination.  What a stunning site. A beautiful bay with white sandy beaches.  Two days spending here, exploring a bit of the surrounding area, which is just as stunning.

Lubango were to be our next destination.  Travelling up the

Serra de Leba Pass at 40 kilometres per hour is a wonderful experience. Well built and maintained this is a highlight of the tour. After visiting the Dorsland Trekkers graves and memorial in Humpata, the group left for Lubango.  A bustling city, Lubango is the heart of the South of Angola.  Visiting different sites in and around Lubango takes about 2 days. One of these sites is the Cristo-Rei, a huge statue of Christ overlooking Lubango.

Leaving Lubango we head for the Namibian border at Santa Clara again.  On the way the road from Cahama to Xangongo must be driven.  It is one pothole after another, so this 75 kilometre takes about 4 hours to drive.  Really very bad, but at least one gets time to look around, due to the very slow pace.  After crossing the border, Namibia is a welcome sight to behold.

Angola is truly a spectacular country, very big, and with this trip which lasted 15 days in total, the group only got to see the Southern bit of Angola.  A lot of various and changing landscapes makes this a trip to remember. When next planning a trip to Angola, or a Namibia safari please visit our website.

Kobus Alberts

Kuiseb River exploration hike

With permission granted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia, the Kuiseb River, situated in the Namib Naukluft Park, was hiked and explored by Kobus Alberts and Mark Hannaford. The two man team has done several hikes and expeditions together over a large variety of terrains. (The Kuiseb River is the last ephemeral river that still reaches the Atlantic Ocean on occasion. It is also the only barrier between the sand sea of the Namib Desert in the South, and the gravel plains to the North.) The hike started on the 29th of February 2008 at the Kuiseb Bridge, approximately 14:00. It ended at Homeb on the 4th of March, approximately 18:15. Total distance covered on foot was 107,75 Km. Day 1. The Kuiseb River was flowing quite strongly when the hike commenced. About 200 metres downstream of the Kuiseb Bridge our walking boots had to be exchanged for sandals and sneakers, as we would be walking in and out of water all the time. (The original plan was that we would be walking in the riverbed, with no flowing water. The river bed was supposed to be wet and the sand compact, from previous floods, and this would have made walking even easier. As luck would have it, this was not to be the case.) The first day we walked from 14:00 to 18:00. After passing Carp cliff, the home of two (2) German geologists during the 2nd World War, we found a suitable campsite and made camp. The canyon is still relatively wide at this stage, about 50 to 70 metres in width on average. Walking was still easy, as the river was shallow and mainly consists of gravel river bed. Night fall occurs around 19:40, and usually by that time, dinner were already had. Usually at 20:15, when it is totally dark, nothing else was left, but to sleep. Total distance covered for that day was 9,71 Km. Day 2. The day started at 05:30. After the water has boiled, rusks were washed down with a cup of coffee. This constituted breakfast as well. As the canyon is very deep most of the time, the sun does not reach its corners until later in the day. First light, or light enough to see, were at 07:00, and that is also the time when the team started their walking again. This also helped a lot in covering as much distance as possible before it becomes too hot. Being on several adventures together before, Mark and me had a good repertoire, and this showed in the hike as well. We will walk for an hour and then rest for 10 minutes, and that is how it stayed for the rest of the adventure. Lunch consisted out of “Provita’s” and cheese wedges. Water was filtered during our lunch breaks as well. Lunch would start at 12:30 and end at 14:00. From 18:00 the team would start scouting for a suitable campsite, and when on was spotted, the day ended. Usually the days ended at about 18:30. No fires were made, and all our food was prepared on a gas stove. Water was taken from the river, and then filtered. As the water was extremely dirty, the filter pump had to be cleaned after each litre filtered. The distance covered on the second day was 23,6 Km. The canyon started narrowing, and the water in the river got deeper and deeper as we went. The canyon width was about 15 – 25 meters on average. Mountain Zebra and Klipspringer were seen very regularly. The Zebra’s sometimes did not notice us and came down to have a drink from the river. The Klipspringer was more alert however. Day 3. At 07:01 we were walking in the water. 2,41 Km from Camp 2, we found the Gaub river. It is quite a big tributary and showed a lot of flow where it enters the Kuiseb River. By this time the team realised they were falling behind in the distance department. We needed to cover at least 30 Km a day, but due to quicksand and mud, this did not materialise. The total distance covered during this day was 15,04Km. At one stage we covered 1,4 Km in one hour. This was really energy draining to say the least. Waist deep mud at places and fast flowing water slowed the team down considerably. Due to this situation, we had to resort to boulder scrambling, and was making use of Zebra trails whenever the opportunity presented itself. At times the trials will lead away from the river and then we had to make our own way back to the river only to find a drop of 20 meters. As there was nowhere else to go, these drops had to be negotiated. This usually meant that the rucksacks were taken off, one man would go down and the equipment passed down, and then only could the other man come down. Day 3 also saw us reaching the area where the Sand dunes of the Namib start appearing on the South bank of the Kuiseb River. This is an amazing sight, to see the stark red colours mixed with the grey of the cliffs and rocks. Game got less and less, as the cliffs became steeper. We camped in a big tributary on the south bank of the river. The original plan was the camp outside on top of the banks each night, but due to the immense height of the banks this did not materialise. I did however climb to the very top of the South bank, and could see Barrow berg, so knew we were not far from Zebra Pan. That night while preparing food we discussed the possibility of not finishing the route, due to the extreme confines and other obstacles we were facing. Plan B were to be that at 11:00 the next morning. If the Canyon did not become wider, the team will move out of the river and walk to Zebra Pan. There we will then make contact with our back team, and be picked up. It was with apprehension that we went to bed that night. Day 4. After the usual breakfast the team hit the trail again. The canyon was still very narrow, but I was very sure it will open up later in the day. At about 09:40 we caught sight of a sandbank again, and what a pretty sight it was. We could now see that slowly the canyon was becoming wider again. The quicksand and mud also became less frequent and that helped the team a lot. To aid us further in our progress we could also make use of “corner cutting” One could see where the river was flowing, and by using game trails cut big corners of the walk, instead of sticking to the riverbed the whole time. As the River opens up, the game numbers increase, especially the bird life. While I was walking in front I nearly stepped on a Horned Adder. Luckily it was a small one, and not too much bothered by us. It lazily moved away. Just around the next corner I once again walked right into a juvenile Western Banded Spitting Cobra. He was much more agitated and showed it y standing upright and showing his hood. Luckily he also moved away after a while. By now the team knew they could finish this adventure the next day, and this simple thought kept us going well into dusk that day. The team covered 27,17 Km during day 4. Day 5. The last coffee and breakfast were enjoyed with gusto and laughter. The team realised that the river will not become narrow again, thus the walking speed could be increased. And increase it did. Mark is a tall guy with long legs so he really stretched them, and I had to keep up. Also keep in mind that by this time most of our food was gone, so our rucksacks were much lighter than what we started with. The South bank of the Kuiseb was now mainly covered with the red sand of the Namib, and the North side, boasted gravel plains and mountains. To please the photographer in the team we climbed out of the river into the dunes, and once we had to get back we really struggled to find a pathway as the bank is totally hemmed in by plants and trees. The river widens and this leads to more plant life. The last 5 Kilometres we thought we will have a good walk to Homeb, but once again the “Lord of the Kuiseb” had other plans. Instead of quicksand or deep mud, our next obstacle was extremely slippery mud. To further fool us, this mud was covered in leaves and dry sand so it looked really good to walk on, until you step onto it. Slipping and sliding the last couple of kilometres were to be our destiny. The team reached the settlement of Homeb around 18:15 on the last day. The distance from Camp 4 to Homeb was 32,23 Km. Our back up team in the form of Andre van Niekerk, of Wild At heart Safaris, arrived with a cool box full of cold beer, and thus our adventure down the Kuiseb River ended.

Tari Kora – Khaudum National Park

Lion

Author: Andries Alberts, Game Warden of Bushmanland and the Nya Nya conservation area. To arrange your Namibia safari don’t hesitate to check our website.

Tari Kora is one of the many favoured watering holes in the Khaudum National Park. Situated in the northeastern corner of Namibia, the Great Khaudum is 386,400 hectares (nearly 955,000 acres) of unspoiled, unfenced, northern Kalahari, Savannah Woodland wilderness. It is the chosen home of Lion, Leopard, thousands of Elephants, Giraffe, Roan Antelope, Kudu, Oryx, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Steenbok, Hyaena and a host of bird life far too vast to list.

As the park is unfenced, these great creatures inhabit the Khaudum because they have chosen this place. In the four and a half years I’ve been privileged to reside in Tsumkwe, Tari Kora has provided me and many tourists from around the globe the opportunity to be part of their world, if only for a short while. Pictures capture memories, but it is the watching, waiting and listening in silence that yield the very best returns –

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Keeper of the Stars – Conservation in the far north of Namibia

It was January, 1999. As a Nature Conservation officer in the Nyae Nyae and Khaudum National Park areas in northeastern Namibia, I had been called out to Boebi post where Wild Dogs had killed three cattle.

About the Author: Andries Alberts, Game Warden of Bushmanland and the Nya Nya conservation area.   Find out more here.

!Xashe was a bushman belonging to the Ju’hoansi tribe, and it was him whom had suffered the loss.

!Xashe had seen many moons, his skin was rumpled with the years gone by. As we sat down together he explained to me what had happened.

Fourteen Cape Wild Dogs had killed three of !Xashe’s milking cows. Taking notes for my report, I explained to him that unfortunately there was no compensation for damages incurred by wildlife and that there was very little that we could do for him. His voice was soft and gentle as he told me that he understood.

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Memoirs of a Game Ranger

Tourism and Conservation in action

Author: Andries Alberts, Game Warden of Bushmanland and the Nya Nya conservation area.   Find out more here.

The Nyae Nyae Conservancy in northeastern Namibia is 9000 square kilometers in size and allow the local Ju’hoansi bushmen to utilize natural resources in the area, in an attempt from the Government to give ownership to indigenous communities.  A conservation effort that works well. (Local communities also benefit largely from safaris going throught these areas.)

Unfortunately, in January 2002, a local woman was killed by a rogue elephant bull.  She and three other young girls were collecting veld food a kilometer away from their village, !Auru, when they spotted three elephant bulls in front of them.  The girls fled, leaving the elderly woman hiding behind a big tree.  As they turned to call for her, they saw a fourth, one-tusked bull behind her.  But it was too late.  The elephant picked her up with his trunk and flung her into the air, braking her neck.  It then ripped off both her legs and crushed her chest.

Nature Conservation staff collected the remains and permission was granted to destroy the animal.  And so the hunt started.

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