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.

 

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

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.

An English girl went up a hill and came down a mountain

It all started on the eighth day of January in the year 2010. Emma came to Namibia for a very worthwhile project, but also wanted to test her physical ability. This is the bit where I and the highest mountain in Namibia, Brandberg, come in.

With our rucksacks quite heavy we started the hike, by following the footpaths towards Springbok water.  The trail was not walked out, as we are the first group to climb Brandberg for this year.

As we started very late we only walked for 2 hours before finding a camp, and settled down for the night. Already the mountain was playing its magic on Emma, as she took photograph upon photograph of the sunset.

Early the next morning we were off again. Had a quick stop at the magnificent Springbuck painting and then onwards and upwards. Luckily the weather goddess was smiling down on us, as it was overcast and cool for most of the day.

Bushmen fountain still had some water, but if it does not rain soon, it will be dry in about 2 months from now. Now the really steep climbs start, but still Emma was in good spirit. Once we hit the granite slopes, Emma had her first taste of the physicality of Brandberg. Walking with a heavy rucksack on a clean granite slate with few handholds and quite an angle is not for the fainthearted.

Early afternoon we reached Snake rock, after a long visit at the “Wasserfall” paintings. Here we spend some time, as we arrived quite early, which showed me Emma is holding up very well.

Being 2140 meters high, the view was just stunning, as was the last rays of the sun as it went down over the horizon.

Our third day on the mountain will see us reaching the highest point in Namibia, Konigstein. After a brisk walk through the valleys we arrived on Konigstein at 09:40. Sadly the day was a bit windy so dust in the air obscured some of the view. Looking at Emma I realised that she enjoyed the hike so far and she truly appreciates the views all around her. With the wind in our hair and silence as the only noise, we sat and observed our surroundings for another 20 minutes.

Going downhill will provide another challenge in the sense that it needs more concentration, as when climbing. This Emma also found out on the way down.

After collecting our equipment which we left, we started the hike down. The sun was bright in the sky and it was heating up rapidly. Gone were the days when it was nice and cool, but at least we still had a breeze every now and again.

After lunch, we started with the mega downhill bits, and both of us were tired by the time we reached Bushman Fountain. While filling up my water bottle from the fountain, Emma were having a dehydration drink and checking on some potential blisters. The last section loomed ahead, but it really went quickly. Emma kept up, and kept concentrating.

Once we reached our camp near Springbuck water fountain, we really felt the downhill on our leg muscles.

After a nice dinner we sat around the campfire discussing the physical aspect of Brandberg, and Emma noted that she was well and truly challenged. Of course I was very glad to hear this; otherwise I would have had to invent another very tough route down to the vehicle.

Upon reaching the vehicle, congratulations all around, we left for Swakopmund. As if the Brandberg were saying goodbye to us, a herd of about 80 Springbuck appeared on the plains before us, and what a magnificent sight to see these majestic animals in the wild.

We were the first people up Brandberg in the year 2010. Emma was the youngest female member through Wild at Heart Safaris, to be taken up the Brandberg so far.

It was another spectacular hike, and one to be remembered for a while. Emma showed me how to immerse oneself in nature and how to fully appreciate and enjoy what nature provides.

Kobus Alberts – Wild at Heart Safaris

Namibia in 13 Days

Travelling in Namibia

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 and Luxury Safaris for small groups and families.

 

 

Lions in the wild

Lions in the wild

 

The safari started off in Windhoek, and would eventually end up there again. What happened between the start and the finish was a safari of great pleasure. I was joined on the trip by two (2) men hailing from Edinburgh, Mark and Stefan.   Visiting the Waterberg Game Reserve will and always is a delight. The majestic sandstone cliffs with the plains at your feet are a sight to behold. Sitting on top of the Waterberg Plateau and watching the sun paint brilliant colours all around you is difficult to describe.  Getting up the next morning and hearing the call of the Dassies and Baboons make you realise, you are in Africa.

Onguma were to be our next stop. One of the “Jewels of Namibia” Onguma offers tranquillity and peace of mind. Pitching camp under a Leadwood tree and starting the fire for dinner is one of the many pleasures of a camping safari. After dinner all of us would just sit around the fire and listen to the night music that Namibia has to offer. This became the trend for the rest of the safari.   Entering Etosha National Park at Namutoni, another adventure began. Wildlife of different shapes and sizes, everywhere to see. Stopping at different water holes to observe, and to enjoy this spectacle of nature in its full glory. At Halali lunch was had. After lunch we took the road that would eventually bring us to Okaukuejo, and from there we would leave Etosha via the Anderson gate. Around 14:10 we spotted two lions lying under the shade of a Camel thorn tree. We really thought that this was a very good sighting, not knowing what lay ahead.

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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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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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