S: Etosha National Park, Namibia and Okavango Delta, Botswana
Apr 8, 2004
So it's been awhile since our last update but we've seen and done all sorts of fabuloso things. Seems the way the world works is the most interesting photos are taken in places with the poorest quality internet connections. Thus, probably not many photos to share with you on this installment.
We're in Lusaka, Zambia which is the capital and largest city in Zambia.
But I must catch you up on the stories thus far...
Southern Namibia is flat, flat, flat with plenty of sand and heat to go around. But it is quite scenic due to the mountains often visible in the infinite distance. The roads are generally grated sand which stretch straight into the distance and are actually quite smooth though very dusty at times. It is definitely a place where you want to travel in multiple vehicles in a group if possible with plenty of extra gas. We saw several 4x4 groups traveling north from South Africa for their vacation. They haul extra containers of fuel on top of their SUVs and it's generally families or groups of men off on a "4x4 holiday" in the dunes of Namibia.
We camped one eve at Spitzkoppe which is a bit north of Swakopmund as we headed towards the Etosha park in northern Namibia. Spitzkoppe is quite a dramatic rock formation in the middle of the flat desert plains. We arrived early enough to get in some good hiking/climbing over the rocks, take plenty of scenic photos, and see the cave paintings done by the Bushmen (?). The highlight was definitely sitting back with a cold one in hand at the top of the climb, admiring the vista as the red sun set behind the mountains in the distance. We could see forever. The locals run the "park" and sell semi precious stones they've mined from the local rock as a means of supporting themselves in addition to camping fees.
Etosha National Park (Northern Namibia):
This was our first serious game viewing and was exciting for me but perhaps less so for Dana who's visited Africa previously. For me, seeing zebra herds crossing the road in front of me was a kick. We went on several game drives which amount to photo safaris within the park. The cars/trucks within the park must stay on the dirt roads which often connect the various watering holes. The theory is the animals congregate at the watering holes however Etosha has had tremendous rains recently (as has the whole northern Namibia and Botswana region) so there weren't as many thirsty animals at the local watering hole. We did see lots of: zebra, springbok, giraffe, hyena, jackal, wildebeest, hartebeest, oryx, kudu and a handful of lions. Snowden's 1-minute guide to African safari animal names: If you don't have a clue what some of the above animals are, they are probably something a novice like myself would call a "deer-like-thing-o-another-with-a-bit-o-antelope". Take an antelope, vary the size, vary the size/shape of the horns and you come up with these beautiful, graceful creatures. My apologies to the wildlife enthusiasts out there for this "Safaris for Dummies" summary.
Overall, I give Etosha a thumbs up. Nothing like free roaming animals just wandering around, lazily looking at you in your truck and not caring one bit that you have the largest zoom lens you could afford pointing right at them.
The Okavango Delta:
Perhaps the most authentic and neatest things we've done yet was our 3-day adventure into the Okavango Delta of northern Botswana. The delta is formed from several rivers flowing south out of Angola to the north and flooding the northern part of Botswana. To get in, we parked our overland truck, and switched to an ancient ex military 4x4 (think Caterpillar size wheels and something that looks like it was built 20-30 years ago), then we took a motorboat to the camp. The motoboat ride winding through all the reeds of the delta flood plains water was really fun. The guide knew how to whiz us through the labyrinth of reeds while stopping occassionally for the photo opp.
The first camp site, called "Fly Site" because it moves daily based on flooding, had a lion paw print in the mood, and elephant prints the following day. We saw elephants off on the next island across the flood plain. For the following night, we went to another island via mokoro. A mokoro is a canoe made from a hallowed out sausage tree. It is propelled by a "poler" which is a local villager who stands at the back with a long pole and pushes the boat along through the water which is generally less than 3-4 ft. deep. Our mokoros looked like the real thing but were actually fiberglass since real wood mokoros often split in less than 5 years and sink. Crazy to have fiberglass boats but no electric, no toilets, and no modern conveniences whatsoever. This was real bush camping with animals audible and visible in the distance.
While traveling via mokoro, a herd of ~40 elephants crossed the flood plain water from one island to the next maybe 75 yds in front of us! It was a powerful, breathtaking site as the elephants crashed across the water with their babies in tow. We all snapped loads of pictures, all of which are looking into the sun so won't be appearing in National Geographic. Nevertheless, it was awesome. The mokoros, the poler villagers as guides, the elephants. It all adds up the real Africa outback.
I also have to mention that we had a pair of warthogs in our camp. They couldn't have cared less that we were camping there. Came into the camp to graze for a while and then wandered off. Also saw our first monkeys here in the trees but didn't get a very close look.
On a game walk with K-K, our native guide, we tracked a lioness and a cub for awhile (prints in the sand/mud) but never got to see them. We were often obsessed with keeping the stinging ants from crawling up inside our pants.
The tech update:
For those of you wondering how all our gadgets are fairing, so far so good. We've been able to charge our camera and mp3 player at the campsites most nights and have had good luck transferring our digital photos from Compact Flash memory cards to CD-ROM. We were absolutely amazed by the computer lab in Rundu, Namibia. We drove all day looking at phone and power lines which had fallen and ran along the ground a while before the poles began to be righted and stand vertically again. Didn't have high hopes for the Internet in Rundu. But right in the middle of a little rural town, the computers were all 6 months old desk tops and we had a computer with a CD burner where we burned our photos to CD using Windows XP.
Our overland truck radio allows me to plug in my ipod mp3 player so we had "comfort" music from time to time. Though the young crowd on the truck probably thought 99% of my music was "retro". Odd to think of the early 90s as "retro" music.
More to come later.
We've now ended our Nomad Overland trip and joined a new group/tour company/truck/guides, etc. This switch happened in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border.
We hope to have a really colorful photo-filled update from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania which will probably be another week from now.