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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Adventure in Namibia

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

After a lot of work behind the scenes wildatheartsafaris.com have 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 have unparalelled experience and an eye for detail and our competitively priced packages is making us the first stop for many people visiting Namibia with adventure in their hearts. Check out our Etosha National Park packages.

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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

Three Women and the Fish River Canyon

THREE WOMEN AND THE FISH RIVER CANYON

Three women, Frau Ulrike, Frau Elisabeth, Frau Gerlinde Pinter and myself as guide,  descended into the Fish River Canyon in Namibia during the morning of the 15th of July.  The descent is about 420 metres, and it was slow going.  The morning was chilly, but with the excitement in the air, everyone was warm and ready to get walking.

Initially the going was good, but soon the weight of the rucksacks started taking their toll.  Luckily for me all three ladies were in good shape and fit enough for the walk.  Gerlinde and Ulrike took the lead, while I and Liz kept up a steady pace as we went down into the 2nd biggest canyon in the world.  At about 13:00 we reached the bottom of the canyon, and once everyone had lunch we started the hike in all earnest.

Before I carry on with the tale of the hike I must just first mention the other hikers that would grace our walk.  As we descended several young men passed us, and they were part of a group of 7 hikers from South Africa.  In front of us were a group of three hikers, also from South Africa.  During our hike in the canyon we will get to know these people really well, and I could sense a real sense of camaraderie between hiking groups as we passed and overtook each other.

After lunch we walked for another 3 hours before we found a nice little beach where we pitched camp for the night.  After collecting some wood, water was filtered and collected and soon the pot was boiling for coffee and tea.  The spirit in the camp was slightly tense, as we discussed what lay ahead, and the pace that we were currently setting.  Liz was really struggling and looked tired after the descent.  I had to make a call, and after discussing the route and what lays ahead in detail with all three the ladies, the call was to carry on. (In the end it turned out to be the correct decision!)

Day 2 saw us heading off at 08:00 after a quick breakfast of Muesli and coffee.  The terrain underfoot was a mixture of sand and rock, and every now and again we had to cross the river to get to the other side.  A routine was set and the plan was that we would walk for an hour, and then rest for 10 minutes.  At first it did not work, as the ladies were still a bit tired and tried to drag out the rest periods.  Later in the week, this routine paid dividends.

Following the twists and turns of the Canyon is not always easy. As soon as you have a walking rhythm going, you have to negotiate boulders and the pace would drop to about 1 kilometre per hour.  I tried to keep a pace of at least 4 kilometres an hour going, but this proved to be quite difficult.  Our aim for the day was to pass the Sulphur Springs, or to camp nearby.  After a long lunch we set off again, and at 16:00 arrived at Sulphur Springs. The ladies dearly wanted to bath, so the decision was made to camp there.  Not the most scenic of campsites, but the hot water flowing from the spring into the Fish River, proved to mend body and soul.  The morale of the group clearly was much higher than the previous night.

The same ritual as the previous night was held again, collect fire wood, collect water, then some coffee and tea.  (The ladies clearly did not like the taste of the water on the first day, but at the end of the second day, they were much more used to it, and realised it a necessary ingredient, if they were to complete the 85 kilometres.)

The third day saw us leaving camp at 07:30, and that really lifted my spirit.  The group of students passed us again, and as before we will pass them again later in the day, stopping for a chat and some laughter, and that was to be the same every day.  Later we got to know them by their names, and it was very good fun to hear the banter between the groups.

It did seem like the canyon were become slightly wider at places, and crossing the river became easier as we slowly moved south in our quest.  Passing the sandy slopes we steadily made our way to a campsite about 3 kilometres before the first short cut.  Game and birdlife were not too abundant, but we did see a Fish Eagle and 3 Klipspringer that were quite tame, or rather used to people.

After a good nights rest, we were off again at 08:00.  (The ladies were getting used to sleeping under the stars, and although there was some snoring to be heard, they always slept well.)

As we started walking we came upon another group of 6 women that we did not previously knew of.  After a chat we found out that they were a day late already in their hike, and some of their group have lost a sleeping bag and they found the going very tough.  Of course it lifted our morale even higher, because the ladies realised they can do this hike.  (I just must add here that the youngest of the three women were 51 years of age and the oldest nearly 60, so they were a very mature group that I led.)

The first shortcut took us over a jutting rock outcrop, and saved us quite a lot of hiking in the river bed.  At this point I realised that the ladies, hailing from Austria, were much more used to the mountain trails than walking in the river bed.  Our pace drastically increased.  Descending into the river and straight into the next shortcut, we came to the German war grave, where we also had our lunch.  By this time we had passed  the group of three that were in front of us for the last 4 days, and that says a lot about our routine and keeping up the pace.  Late afternoon we found a lovely little beach right by the water.  All realised this will be our last camp of the hike, so spirits were high, and all four of us sat around the campfire until quite late for our standards.

The last day saw us leaving camp again at 08:00.  Before we left I had a final talk with the ladies, just emphasising that they need to keep concentrating.  Most accidents happen in the last 10% of a journey.

Today it was Geraldine’s turn to be tired.  All through the walk she was fine, but today I could sense that she was getting tired, and to know that the end goal is so close, yet so far was demoralising.  It was quite a mission to keep the ladies walking and at one stage I was about 1 kilometre ahead, just trying to keep them moving all the time.  After a rest at 11:00 I told them that if we can walk for 1 hour solid, we will be in Ai Ais at 12:00.

We walked into Ai Ais at 12:05  and officially completed hiking the Fish River Canyon. What a sight it was!  After drinking an ice cold beer the ladies headed for the hot water swimming pool to soothe sore limbs.  Not a single person developed blisters.  There were days when the going were slow, but by keeping a steady pace we succeeded in finishing the 85 kilometre in 4 and a half days.  In the process we left the group of students behind, overtook the group of 6 women, and also overtook the group of 3 that were ahead of us all the time.  Not that the hike was a race, but it just showed me again what routine and a steady pace can do.

So, to the ladies:

Liz, you were always in the back of the group, yet you kept on walking.  You felt bad and sick at times, yet you kept walking.  A strong and determined will kept you going.

Ulrike, the youngest of the group, your high spirit and always ready smile kept the tempers down, even in the heat of the day.  You helped your friends more than I could ever hope for.

Gerlinde, the eldest of the three ladies, your steady pace, not going faster or slower, just a steady pace, made this hike possible.  Your strong leadership qualities also proved to be a helpful tool at times.

Thanks to all of you and to Stefan van Deventer as well, for providing the cold beer at the finish line.

Kobus Alberts – Wild at Heart Safaris

Climbing Brandberg in June

Sunday the 14th of June I met Ingrid and Bob at Uis. They have been in Namibia for a couple of days already, and have already seen some of the amazing sights of the country whilst doing a selfdrive safari. Climbing Brandberg Mountain would be an exciting addition.

We left for the Hungorob gorge where the climb will commence. Under the shade of a big Camel thorn tree, the food and other hiking equipment were divided and packed in the rucksacks. At 12:10 we started walking.

The Brandberg complex received its fair share of rain during the course of the rainy season in Namibia. The footpath was partly overgrown, and at some place not even visible. We headed up in the gorge towards Springbok water and our camp nearby. After a rest stop at Springbok water fountain, we finished the day at 17:00.

We had climbed 440 metres, and covered about 3,4 kilometres in total.

Dinner consisted out of 2 minute noodles and some vegetables. (As luck would have it, I did not ask Bob and Ingrid if they had eating utensils with them before we started to hike, and in camp we realised we had 1 mug, 1 fork and 1 knife between the three of us.  Luckily we had 2 pots, and these will serve as both plates and cups from now on!)

Monday morning saw us leaving the camp at 07:30. After a quick stop to inspect some Bushmen paintings at the “Stone Circles” we continued the climb towards Konigstein, the highest point in Namibia. Contouring most of the way, we arrived at the next fountain at 09:30. Filling up with water, and taking a rest, we prepared for the next big climb. (By now I realised that both Bob and Ingrid are accomplished climbers, and that helped a lot to calm my nerves.) From here it is uphill all the way, until we get to the plateau. Our aim for the day was to reach “Snake Rock” and to camp in the vicinity.

12:30 we were at the “Waterfall” and decided to have lunch there. With plenty of Bushmen paintings around, lunch was a joyous affair. Although there was not a lot of water around, we could fill all our water containers. The climb to Snake Rock is spectacular and the vegetation also differs from what we have seen before. It is a pleasure to walk in this area, and at 15:00 we reached Snake Rock. Being the most beautiful of all the Bushmen paintings I have ever seen, we spent a considerable amount of time here.

That evening we camped nearby with a view of the plains below, and the blanket of stars above.

We have walked 3,8 kilometres in a straight line and ascended 1012 meters.

Up early today, as today is the day that we will reach Konigstein. The early rise might also be due to the fact that last night was much colder than the previous night. (Bob and Ingrid coming from Scotland did not feel the cold that much, but their Namibian companion did feel it.)

We left our camp at 07:20. We walked light as we are planning to return the same way, and then collect the rest of our gear. Walking through valleys and swamps at times, the hike was easy compared to what we have been through before. After the last hill was climbed we reached Konigstein at 09:35 on the 16th of June 2009. Ingrid is the first women client of Wild at Heart Safaris that has reached Konigstein. Well done!!

After big smiles and photos from all angles we started our descent again. We reached our equipment at 12:00. On the way there we did not rest at all, so while packing, we also used this opportunity to take a breather.

Lunch was had in the shade of some huge boulders on the plateau. After lunch would be the drop back to the stone circle camp.

We arrived that afternoon 16:00 at our destination. (I thought we would be arriving later, but once again Bob and Ingrid impressed me with their dogged approach to walking. One step at a time and repeat a million times, as easy as that)

Collected some water at the fountain, and everyone were in very good spirit around the camp fire.

The next morning we had a leisurely morning wake up. Started walking at 08:00 and arrived back at our vehicles around 10:20. What a hike to say the least. Ingrid and Bob were great company and determined hikers.

Thank you for hiking with Wild at Heart Safaris to the highest point in Namibia.

From Ingrid and Bob:

“We had a fantastic time on our hike, especially helped by excellent guiding from Kobus.  We certainly enjoyed ourselves and our hike was one of our highlights of our trip to Namibia.  Lying in our sleeping bags at night looking up at all the stars was simply amazing.  The whole scenery of the Brandberg Mountain, the rock paintings and feeling of remoteness really made our trip very special.  Thanks Kobus for a brilliant trek!”

Fredericks Foundation Charity Trek

During the morning of the 18th of September 2009, a group of 21 women arrived at the International Airport of Namibia. Their aim was to walk 100 kilometres in the desolate but ruggedly beautiful Damaraland. Funds raised by this ambitious trek will be used to assist less privileged people in the UK to gain economic independence by setting up their own businesses.

Following is an account of this walk as seen through the eyes of Kobus Alberts, guide of Wild at Heart Safaris.

One by one the women that would join us on the trek came through the sliding door at the International Airport of Namibia. Fiona and Lynne, the organisers of this event were known to me, so the greeting was full of smiles and happiness to see each other again. As the other ladies came to join the group I could see different reactions in each face. There was confidence, Kate comes to mind. There was bewilderment, Mel comes to mind, and so it continued.

All 21 ladies eventually got onto the coach and the journey towards the Ugab River started in all earnest. At about 16:00 the coach arrived at the designated meeting place. Faan Oosthuisen of Kaurimbi Expeditions was waiting for us. Disembarking from the coach everyone got into Faan’s truck, and the next part of the journey started. About 6 Kilometres from our first camp, everyone disembarked and walked into camp.

Crossing plains covered mostly in gravel the group made good time, and all arrived alive but tired after their long trip.

Camp consisted of pitched tents, bright green toilet tents, and the kitchen next to the truck.

Clifton and Kennedy were busy preparing dinner, while the ladies got a chance to acquaint themselves with their surroundings.

After a lovely dinner, a general discussion was held on the route and how it is laid out. Albert Hays, our esteemed medic for the trip, then had an in depth discussion about general health and hygiene in and around the camp.

As luck would have it, we were visited by a large Solifuge (Roman spider) as well as a splendid scorpion specimen, while sitting around the camp fire.

The first full day of walking started after a warm up session. The dune fields that lay ahead would be the first obstacle for this trek. As the group traversed the dune field, snakes and other interesting insects were found and discussed. Trees and other plant species were discussed as we came upon them.

At the first water break Faan left us a box with a Puff Adder inside. It was a very good specimen and very docile. Everyone got a good look at the Puff Adder before it was released into the wild again. As the day progressed the dunes became slightly higher and the day became slightly warmer. Walking to the top of the last high dune before lunch break, there was mostly silence in the group, as everyone was concentrating hard on their breathing and on keeping on walking.

Lunch was had under a canvas canopy and was a welcome relief for most of the ladies.

Leaving at 14:00 again, the heat was really on. At about 14:30 the temperature stood at 41 degrees Celsius. Due to the lack of any shade whatsoever, we had to keep walking, and eventually this heat took its toll.

Just below the next ridge the group found a tree with enough shade for about 8 ladies. Several ladies were not feeling too well, suffering from heat exhaustion so Albert decided to call in the roaming vehicle to assist us. “Mustang” Sally was one of several very strong walkers that had to bow her knees before the heat of Namibia.

The rest of the group continued walking, and found our camp for the night pitched under the shade of a huge Mopane tree.

That night Albert had his first “clinic” of the trip, which was well visited by the ladies. Slowly but surely blisters were appearing. Luckily the ladies that had been evacuated during the afternoon were now in much better shape after a rest and the chance to cool down, so they could carry on with the rest of the trek.

The 2nd day of walking started off by following a dry river course and then veering off into the mountains. A small hill was climbed to get a better view of the surrounding area. During this period several game species like ostrich, giraffe and oryx were spotted. The way to lunch would take us over a huge plain, which eventually will end in the hills before the Goantagab River.  Kate and Alex veered slightly off the designated route, but after realising they were totally alone in Namibia, eventually made it back to the group. Some believe they were just too keen and got lost others think that it was the guide’s little practical joke to send them in the wrong direction.  Who knows? (Laughter is food for the soul.)

After lunch we tackled the hill country. These “badlands” are very rugged and littered with sharp broken stones and rock. Luckily for us the weather played along, and a cool breeze from the West kept everyone cooler. On exiting the “badlands” we crossed a wide plain towards some granite outcrops on the horizon. The camp was splendidly hidden from view, so it came as quite a surprise when the ladies turned another corner and lo and behold, there was the most stunning camp they could ever have imagined.  The evening was overcast and a few rain drops were felt later in the night.

The last full day of walking lay ahead. The terrain would be the most challenging the group would experience so far. Contouring along mountain ridges, crossing dry river valleys was the order of the day. At one stage the group were slowly gaining height to a relatively high mountain ridge. Once on top of this “crocodile back ridge” the view was just spectacular. One could see for 360 degrees, yet see only the wildness of Damaraland. This was the time to take a few moments of stillness to reflect about the trip, reflect on the ones you love, and to reflect on life in general. For a few minutes every single person sat alone with his or her thoughts. The greyhounds of the soul were running free in this desolate, yet very beautiful place in Namibia. (Ironically the peace was rudely interrupted by 2 vehicles passing by, the only sign of other humans they had seen during the whole trek.)

Lunch was ready on our arrival, and everyone had a good meal. The last bit of the last full day started 13:45. Once again the weather was playing along, and it was overcast most of the day. After having an earnest talk to the group about what lies ahead, we set off. Following mountain ridges we slowly made our way towards the Ugab River. We went down a very steep incline, and every single one of the ladies made it down. For a couple of metres we walked in a river bed, and then we climbed the next ridge. In a straight line from where we started and once we were out of the river bed again, it was only 50 metres. In total we must have walked about 2 kilometres to gain those 50 metres, but that is what walking in Damaraland is all about.  Finally, way down below, we could see camp, but to get there we once again had to go down a very steep hill. Walking in front of the group I could only imagine the number of “daggers” that were thrown in my direction. There were several very loud utterances of despair, probably anger, but once again every one made it down, alive.  Once inside camp, there was a tangible feeling of relief. Everyone was laughing a lot, there was amazement on other faces, and the anger soon turned to delight and pride.  That night around the campfire, the adventure of the day was relived and told by everyone.

The last half day saw us covering 15 Kilometres to the finish line and the coach back to Swakopmund. That evening everyone was unrecognisably “scrubbed up” and all enjoyed the Gala evening and sharing stories and memories.

100 Kilometre in 3 days and 6 hours. Not too bad at all I must admit. To have seen and experienced this committed trek across Damaraland, made me realise how much life there is to be lived.

Well done to Lynne and Fiona for organising this amazing event, and keeping up morale when it was most needed. Congratulations to the 21 ladies who each embraced their own Namibian Challenge, all for the good cause of Fredericks Foundation and to make a difference to the lives of people less fortunate.

Sanctuaries of Namibia

Fiona Aris and Niki Akhurst decided to visit a couple of wildlife sanctuaries during their safari in Namibia.  With them went Kobus Alberts of Wild at Heart Safaris.

First on the list of wildlife sanctuaries were the Cheetah Conservation Foundation. Caring for injured animals, rehabilitating cheetah and educating people is the main aim of the CCF. Upon our arrival we visited their well renowned Educational Centre. This centre is packed with valuable information about that fastest of all land animals, the cheetah.

After the visit, we joined Steven, a CCF guide, for a “cheetah” drive. Of the seven cheetahs in that specific camp, six were seen. Both Fiona and Niki had their own favourite cheetah, and words like “beautiful, awesome, stunning” were uttered on a regular basis.

That evening we spent in the Frans Indongo lodge.

The next day saw us heading to Kavita Lion lodge. Like the name implies, the “king of the jungle” will be next to be seen. Kavita is also home of the Afri-Leo foundation, hence fit perfectly into the sanctuary safari mould. On the afternoon game drive a wild, or free roaming, cheetah was spotted. Dinner was a special affair with Tammy and Uwe Hoth joining us for dinner. Early the next morning we were taken on a game drive to the Education centre of Kavita. After this we were taken to see the lions feed. Sitting inside a hide, each lion coming in for his piece of meat were less than 20 metres away.  To see and hear such a mighty beast up close is surely an experience that will keep for life.

Okaukuejo were to be our next destination. Travelling through the Western part of Etosha, we came across a big area that had been burned down about 3 days ago.  Lightning caused the fire, and it lay to waste quite a large area.  Although no game was seen in this burnt area, both Niki and Fiona understood the raw power of nature.  They understood that it is part of Africa, and fires do happen.  Strangely enough there were other interesting sightings.  The heated soil created “dust devils” every now and again, and with all the ash laying on the ground, the dust devils were all pitch black as they twisted and turned in the air.

At Okaukuejo the waterhole were shown to the ladies, and later would be their main focal point. After dinner, the waterhole was visited, and later in the evening two black rhino came to visit.

On our way to Onguma, which would be our next overnight stop, we visited several waterholes in Etosha. We saw Zebra, Giraffe, Elephant, Blue wildebeest and then finally 2 young male lions as well.  After the Damara Dik Dik drive, where we saw 27 of these tiny antelope, we were on our way to Onguma. About 4 Kilometre before exiting Etosha, we found another Black rhino standing in the middle of the tarmac road.

Dinner at Onguma was another highlight of the safari.  While sitting down, shortly after our starters, we heard a lion roar. As the main course arrived, a male lion showed up at the waterhole, about 70 metres from where we were having dinner. Silence fell all around, and the night came alive with the sounds of Africa.

Our last sanctuary to be visited was Okonjima, home of Africat Namibia.

Africat has three different sections present. Welfare for animals that was injured and can no longer support themselves in the wild, Environmental Education and then a Rehabilitation section.

Game drives on Okonjima differ quite a lot from other game drives. We went on leopard tracking drive. Armed with an antenna the guide, Jacques, located a leopard and drove us there. Under a tree the most majestic of all the cats were lying, having a nap. What a sight it was. For more than 40 minutes the vehicle were parked and we could observe this animal in its natural environment.

After dinner the group were taken to the “night hide” Porcupines, honey badgers and the occasional hyena visits this hide. On that particular evening 5 porcupines were the guests of honour. The second largest rodent in the world, it was quite something to see them up close and personal.

And so our safari came to an end, or so we thought. We dropped in for a quick visit to Faan Oosthuisen on his farm Prelude. A sanctuary on its own, Faan and Anne his wife, cares for several species of animals. The most recent addition is a caracal called Felix. Very nice but the main attraction were Bandit, a Banded mongoose. Nikki in particular fell in love with this little rascal.

What a spectacular safari this was. So many things seen, so many things experienced. Many memories that will forever roam in our minds, especially the piglets seen and heard everywhere.