There is Just No Good News

It started on the 7th of August 2010.  The team consisted of Johan Bakkes, Doc, Kallie, Kokkie, Bonte, Paul and I. Before the hike commenced there were several e-mails flying between the lot of us, and it boiled down to one specific point:  All had to be intensely aware that water will be the main problem once we start the hike.

The idea was to hike down the Kuiseb River, from the bridge to Homeb.  The main limiting factor would be water, or rather the lack of water.  At about 17:00 the team were dropped at the bridge, and camp was set up around the first bend in the river. Our very first sighting were a small herd of young kudu, and it is a good indication that there is water around.  So it was, an open pool of stagnant water, slightly brackish to taste.  Food was prepared and we still had 20 litres of clean water, and it was used to good effect.

That night I had a good look at the men that would join me on this hike, and to be blunt, some of them seemed a bit old, what a surprise I would later get!!

At 05:00 Kallie awoke the camp with a lively “Good morning friends”.  This was to be the wake call every day.  At 06:00 we were off, and what a flying start.  All of us carried at least 7 litres of water and more, as well as a variety of other tools like spades, pots and other camp gear.  The rucksacks were heavy to say the least.  We would walk, at a very good pace, for half an hour and then rest for a while.  The first 2 hours we hiked in the shade of the canyon, and then the sun started beating down on us. At the 3rd stop of the day, Kallie and I started comparing distances with our Global Positioning Systems, and since then there were not a lot of good news.  Our distances were totally different, and would stay that way until we hit the Gaub River.

Lunch started at 12:00 and ended at 14:00.  After lunch we will walk for another hour or until we get a good water source.  On that first day, we found a pool at around 15:00.  While I and Kallie and Paul were discussing the virtues of the pool, the rest of the gang arrived.  Death were seen in there eyes, and by that I mean, some of the big men were tired, really tired.  Camp was made not far from the pool, and a “gorra” was dig next to the pool, in order for water to slowly cipher through. The pool was slightly reddish in colour, with a strong taste of Rock Hyrax urine, and an after taste of Mountain Zebra dung.  The pool was thus aptly named “Rock Hyrax Urine fountain”.

Day 2 saw us heading further into the canyon.  Thus far we have seen Oryx, Mountain Zebra and even some Klipspringer, so game were quite plentiful.  Slowly the canyon started narrowing as we walked south.  Underfoot it was extremely deceiving.  Smallish pebbles covered most of the ground, but once you set foot onto them, they will give way, and you will end up in very soft sand.  To avoid the pebbles you could walk in clearly soft sand, so we were between the devil and the deep blue sea.  The pace did not drop however, and my respect for these men grew as the day draw on. Kallie was in the lead most of the time, followed by the rest of us.  As we neared a bend in the river I could hear Helmeted Guinea fowl making some noises and whistling a lot.  Suddenly I saw the guys ahead of me stop, and as I looked ahead of them, I saw a Leopard running away into an inlet branching off from the main river.  All the guys were stunned into silence, and one could see the awe and happiness in their faces about this sighting.

Lunch on day 2 was at a beautiful big pool, the best one we have found thus far.  There were even some small fish in the pool and it was really cold and clear.  Sadly that was not our camp for the evening.

Again at about 15:00 we found a relatively big pool, and decided to camp here.  By this time there have been several discussions about going on further down the Kuiseb or trying to take a detour via the Gaub River.  The main reason behind this was that as soon as we pass the Gaub river inlet, the Kuiseb River starts to open up, and the pools of water will disappear quickly.  We can still dig, but we would have to dig to a depth of 8 metres or more.  The decision was made to walk out via the Gaub River.

At this stage Kallie and I were very nearly agreeing on how far it still was to the Gaub and how far we have come thus far.  Several mathematical calculations were used, sometimes add 40 %, sometimes add 120 %, but in the end we came to the same conclusion.  Doc and Johan Bakkes are the really clever guys of the group and they doubted the distances severely, but kept walking, like true men.

08:00 the next day we reached the Gaub River inlet, and started hiking up with it.  The idea was to reach the Gaub fountain for the evening’s camp.  I have been to the fountain 11 years ago, and it would come back to haunt me badly during that day.  The Gaub canyon started very narrow and very spectacular.  At one bend we found a Zebra digging a “gorra”, totally oblivious of us.  For a while we stood there, watching nature unfold in front of our eyes.  The sun was in our faces and the wind in our hair, the beauty of the Gaub was in our eyes, and we could smell the bushes and grass in the river.  We were slowly becoming one with nature.

Later in the day we came upon a big herd of Zebra, and from there the wildlife increased dramatically in numbers.  Lunch was had in the shade of a high cliff, and yet no fountain was in sight.  We started of again, water running low in our water bottles, but still firm in the believe that the fountain is near.  Two rest stops later, still no good news, as there were still no fountain.  Baboons in the hills, and a lot of animal paths indicated that there must be open water somewhere, but we just could not find it.  Finally we decided that we would walk for another half an hour and then start digging for water.  At this stage we only found 1 pool of water, so water in the Gaub was even scarcer than in the Kuiseb River.  As we came around a bend, the fountain appeared.  What joy there was in my heart, because I was doubting myself immensely by that stage.

Open and cool water and a brilliant camp site we found.  I, Kallie, Bonte and Paul walked upstream to realise that the fountain is nearly 1 kilometre long, with very fresh water near the start of the fountain.  Birdlife in abundance, and Mountain Zebra coming down to drink, as we sat and watched the sun set.  That evening there were some song around the campfire, and one could sense that the mood was light and cheerful.

The next day we reached the low water bridge at about 07:30.  We walked a total of 60 kilometres during the 3 days.  Andre van Niekerk of Wild at Heart Safaris collected us from the bridge.

What a hike it was. It was hard, and the pace set by the team was never less than 4 km/hour, at times 6 km/hour.  Each member of the team contributed in his own way.  The banter taking place and also the serious chats around the campfire will always stay in my mind.  Johan Bakkes with all his stories of his travels, walking stronger every day.  Doc, a man that does not hike that often, yet was always there when we rested.  Bonte, the oldest of the group, walking with his easy pace, seemingly not sinking into the soft sand.  Paul, the nature lover, always walking by every pool to look for tracks, eyes always scanning the sky for birds, and then Kallie, the quickest of us all. A long stride and never seeming to tire, he led us most of the way. Kokkie got blisters on the first day, treated them, and never looked back.  I could see he was limping at one stage but never had I heard a word of self pity, he bit on his teeth and kept going.

Although the news was not always good, this group of men were hikers of extreme competence.  To be honest I think the best I have walked with thus far, and I already did some serious hiking in Namibia and elsewhere. It was a soul enriching experience for me, and I will use the memories to provide me with fuel for my mind when on long and lonely hikes in Namibia.

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.

Twelve Days with a Norseman

Climbing the Brandberg mountain in Damaraland Namibia

 

His name is Joakim Jonsson, a Swedish native now living in London, England. Joakim completed the 120 Kilometre Namibia Ultra Marathon in 22 hours 40 minutes during his first visit to Namibia.

 

Brandberg - Namibias highest peak

Brandberg - Namibias highest peak

 

So, the safari started at Sossusvlei, renowned for its very high sand dunes (as if we did not know that – but more on this later). Joakim is a professional photographer, meaning first light and last light is his favourite time, and the rest of the day can be used for other activities. After photographing the haunting beauty of Deadvlei, it was so decided that we would see what Witberg looks like. Though this track is only 5 km in a straight line, it took nearly seven hours until we reached our vehicle – tired, but totally satisfied. The experience was magical: entirely alone in the dunes, sitting on the high crest and looking over the “sand sea” , just dunes and more dunes as far as the eye can see. Witberg was the only rocky outcrop in this “sea of sand”…. That evening, sleep came easy.

The next leg of the journey was Damaraland, a wilderness with landscapes that take one’s breath away. First, of course, the highest mountain in Namibia, Brandberg had to be conquered. Konigstein, at 2573 meters, with a view of all the plains below, was in our sight. With our backpacks weighing about 20 Kg, mainly water, we began the journey. Stopping at several Bushmen paintings on the way, the mountain began its to cast its spell. Extremely rugged, but so utterly beautiful, we continued walking. We pitched camp at 1990 meters, and had our compulsory meal of dried food before going to bed. The blanket of stars above us is just too difficult to describe. As the last wood burned away, we fell asleep safe under southern skies.

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Exploring the Namibian Dune Sea

 

Unspoilt Namibia

Unspoilt Namibia

 

Recently, the Wild at Heart Safaris team was contacted by the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management Project (NACOMA) to lead an expedition into the sand sea of the Namib Desert. The aim of the visit was to familiarize the Hardap Regional Council with their coastline and to look at potential ways of generating funds for this region.

The expedition consisted of two Wild at Heart Safaris guides, three NACOMA members, one Fisheries and Marine Resources member, and seven Hardap Regional Council Members: the Honourable Governor, Me. K.M. Hansen, and Member of Parliament, the Honourable B. Namwandi (the two main figures on the trip).

The expedition started at Rooibank, on the south bank of the Kuiseb River. From here on in, driving in and on dunes would be the only option left. The Shawnee, a shipwreck near Conception Bay, was first on our list. We reached the Shawnee at 14:00. The next shipwreck to be visited was the Eduard Bohlen. The Bohlen ran aground in 1909, and is now laying 400 Meters inland. The night’s camp was pitched at the old customs office of times gone by.

The next day we traversed more dunes and visited the diamond towns of the area. Everyone was amazed at the determination of the diamond diggers of that time.Camp for the evening was 50 meters away from the cold Atlantic Ocean. That night, the fog came in, and it was cold and very wet the next morning. Not a good sign. As we travelled further south the fog increased in density, so much so, that the vehicle convoy had to stop for 2 hours to wait for the fog blanket to lift. At 11:00 that morning, we could start driving again, and reached Sylvia Hill at about 15:40.   We pitched camp at a lovely site perched high on the dunes overlooking St. Francis Bay.

The next morning was spent visiting the penguins that live in close proximity. From there, two more landmarks in the form of an old Ford and a bulldozer were visited before we had lunch in the dunes, just north of the Hauchab Mountains. Our plan was to reach Witberg that afternoon. It so happened and we made our camp in the shade of Witberg. Luckily the wind did not reach our campsite, as it was enclosed on three sides by the mountain. Slowly our time was running out, but everyone was in good spirits for the day that was ahead us.

The last day of our expedition also provided us with the largest dunes in the world. One slip face we went down measured 140 meters, which is quite high to say the least. After exiting near Dune 45, the whole team met up at Sossus Dune Lodge for a farewell lunch.

The sand sea of the Namib is brutal and merciless to those that enter without knowledge. Members of Wild at Heart Safaris know the area, respect the area and above all, have an intense love for this unspoiled wilderness. The undulating dunes, the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the strong wind that is ever present, and the sun in your face will always draw you back to this place deep in the heart of Namibia.

Author: Kobus Alberts | Find out more about Wild at Heart Safaris in Namibia. Wild at Heart Safaris is a young Namibian-owned and based Safari Company, that specialises in Adventure, Luxury Safaris  and specialised tours of Etosha National Park for small groups and families.

Fish River Canyon Hike

Fish River Canyon, Namibia – the second largest canyon in the world and one of the best treks in Africa.

The following is a little description of my adventures along the Fish River Canyon hike. Kobus Alberts, Director Wild at Heart Safaris – Namibia

The trip started at Okahanje Lodge, 70kms north of Windhoek, at 0430 on the 23rd august and we travelled more then 700kms south to reach Hobas at about 1530 and start the first part of the Canyon hike.

The food bags were organised, backpacks loaded up and we got a lift to the main look out which was also the start of our hike.It was an impressive awesome sight and i was bubbling with excitement. There were folks there admiring the views and i remember feeling how lucky i was to get the chance to go to the bottom and walk 85kms following the meandering course of the river to Ai-Ais.

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New look web for Adventure in Namibia

Wild at Heart launch new look website for adventures, safaris and family adventures in Namibia

Wild at Heart adventures | family adventures | safaris in Namibia

Wild at Heart adventures | family adventures | safaris in Namibia

After a lot of work behind the scenes Wild at Heart have just launched their new website – we are really excited about it and are over-the-moon with the look but have a look and let give us your feedback.

The backbone for site is the navigation engine which gives you the ability to search the Namibian site by different trip categories – for example you can now search by ‘activity‘ such as Driving Safaris or by ‘accommodation‘ like Safari Lodges and Hotels or by ‘themes‘ like Child Friendly or Adventure – the choice is yours.

Wild at Heart unparelled experience and eye for detail and competitively priced packages is making us the first stop for many people visiting Namibia with adventure in their hearts.

Wild at Heart your home for Adventure in Namibia

Climbing Namibia’s highest mountain

Namibias highest peak

Climbing the Brandberg 6 – 10 July 2008 by Wild at Heart Safaris

The Brandberg is Namibia’s highest mountain. Königstein is the highest peak at 2573 meters.

About the Author: Kobus Alberts is 34 years of age and is married with 2 children. He was born in Usakos, Namibia, and is currently living in Swakopmund. He holds a diploma in Nature Conservation and has spent 11 Years of his life living in most of the National Parks and Game Reserves of Namibia. He has most recently been heading up the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia in Swakopmund, a position he held for 5 years and is now a director of Wild at Heart Safaris and Namibian owned travel company unique is that it was established entirely by ex-game rangers with a love of thier country.  email: info@wildatheartsafaris.com

On the 6th of July I, Steffen Oesterle, Volker Mohrholz and Toralf Heene started the climb to Königstein.

We left at 14:00, with the aim to overnight in the area near to Springbokwasser. (Just to put the distances and height a bit into perspective, you need to know the following.  The vehicle was stopped at the foot of the Brandberg at a height of 700 meter. The total distance from the vehicle to Königstein, using a GPS, was 11 Kilometre)

Following a footpath it looked really easy, until the footpath disappeared. After some boulder scrambling, we found a trail again and this trail led us straight to camp.

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