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!”

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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.

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

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.

Tari Kora – Khaudum National Park

Lion

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

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

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

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Memoirs of a Game Ranger

Tourism and Conservation in action

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

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

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

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

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