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

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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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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The valley of the grey ghosts

Walking in Namibia

A story from a man that loves to walk

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

Namibia is a country with many faces. If you are so lucky to see only one of these faces you will lead a happy and fulfilled life.

On a Namibian safari I came across this valley. At first it was just this green stretch of trees in the middle of these vast open plains. To compliment this picture further, there was the massive Brandberg in all its glory.
As we followed the two track road towards the river the flat plains gradually became low hills dotted with round boulders. Entering the valley the scenery changes to that of green trees and low shrubs. The campsite is nestled under the trees. Like all camping safaris, the camp has first priority and is pitched as soon as possible.

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