We are pleased that you have found the travelogue from our trip to Namibia 2011. We spent two wonderful weeks in the Kalahari and Namib deserts.
It had already been eight years since we last travelled through Namibia and we now wanted to re-visit some of the most beautiful parts of this amazing country again.
We visited the following areas during our trip from 29th April 2011 until 14th May 2011 and drove 2200 kilometer:
- Kalahari Farmhouse/Anib Lodge
- Namib Rand Nature Reserve Family Hideout
- Sossusvlei Desert Camp
- Swakopmund Sam’s Giardino
- Ameib Ranch Campsite
- Guestfarm Eileen im Erongo
Like in previous years, we rented our car, a Toyota Hilux 4×4 through Frank Krystofiak, the owner of Nambozi 4×4 Car Hire Nambozi 4×4 Car Hire – Windhoek
If you like to see more photos, then please visit our Namibia 2011 photo galleries. Single galleries are also linked in the daily reports below. If you would like to keep updated, feel free to subscribe to our photoblog at SA*GA Photography Photoblog to get informed automatically about new galleries.
We adored the colours of the Namib so much that we designed a photo calender with photos of Namib Rand and Sossusvlei that you can preview and order here: Namibia Photo Calendar
We welcome your comments in our Photoblog if you enjoyed reading the travelogue.
We now hope you enjoy reading about our African experience and we also hope that it will evoke some Africa feeling and dreams.
Sandra Schaenzer & Gerhard Schoening
Finally Africa again!
It has already been two years since we last visited Africa which is the continent where we feel the most comfortable. So it was definitely time for another trip and we decided for Namibia this time.
We just had 15 days and Namibia is a vast country so we concentrated on traveling in Kalahari and Namib deserts as well as on visiting some old friends that we met in 2002 and 2003.
We took the train from Basel to Frankfurt Airport early on Friday afternoon. We wanted to be in the airporte on time because we wished to buy an upgrade to Air Namibia´s Premium Economy Class and tickets are limited.
On arrival, all Check-in counters were already open and after just 10 minutes we had our upgrade and boarding passes. We were now looking forward to a relaxing flight and had a small dinner before we passed security control and went to the gate.
Boarding started on time and we took off at 8:10 pm towards Namibia. Well, sunset was a bit more appealing than Air Namibia´s dinner and service! But we did not care about it as we enjoyed the comfortable seats and we slept almost the whole time of the flight.
Highlight of the day: The upgrade to Premium Economy Class
We landed on time at 05:10 am in Windhoek and it was still pitch dark. Thanks to our Premium Class Upgrade, we were among the first people to queue at the immigration counter and did not have to wait long for our permit. Luggage was delivered quickly and we still had half an hour until Frank of Nambozi 4×4 Car Hire would pick us up.
Sandra found an MTC Shop and purchased a SIM card with data tariff for her smartphone that she fondly calls Désirée; the name is derived from the phone’s model name. Finally connected to the world again
Frank showed up at 06:15 am and we headed towards Windhoek. We finished the formalities in his office and took over our Toyota Hilux Doublecab.
We are going to camp about half of our time in Namibia and so the equipment included a roof tent and complete camping gear beside the normal kit like a cooling box with second battery, a blade, compressor, repair tools, spare tyres and water canisters.
Frank gave us a quick introduction in how to set up the roof tent and how to use the Hilux in deep sand conditions. Well, it has been eight years since Sandra had driven in deep sand the last time!
Frank had already organised all our previous Namibia travels and so we had a lot to chat before we drove the short way to Casa Piccolo where we would stay one night. Again, we received a very friendly and warm welcome and our room was clean and very nice.
We drove to Melua Mall for food shopping after a short break and a shower. Unfortunately, the activation of Sandra’s data tariff has not fully worked and we had to see the MTC people. The shop was jam-packed with people! We had to draw a number from a machine and to our big surprise and relieve we were called after just two minutes! The young man was friendly and able to fix the the missing activation within three minutes. Sandra was happy now…
We started our supermarket trip and bought all food that we would need for the following 11 days: Barbecue meat as well as the unavoidable wine in 5-liter-boxes with “tapping” functionalityIt is indeed handy while camping and the quality is really good nowadays. We could get anything we needed in Windhoek including fresh bread, eggs, bacon and beans for breakfast and potatoes, onions and can vegetables to go with the meat. Needless to say, we bought 20 liters of water to be on the safe side.
We spent two well deserved relaxing hours in the courtyard of Casa Piccolo after this shopping marathon. I continued reading “Hummdeldumm” by Tommy Jaud who tells the story of eight different characters traveling in a mini bus through Namibia (the individual traveller´s nightmare!). Well, Sandra could easily find herself in technology freak Matze but we were so happy not having to go through his experience! Traveling individually is so much more fun.
We only had a light snack of salad for Sandra and (really!) young herring salad for Gerd that was accompanied by a bottle of good Bellingham Premier Grand Cru.
We organised our bags and photo rucksacks for the following days and relaxed the rest of the evening.
Highlight des Tages: the successful activation of Sandra´s MTC SIM card!
We slept well and had a nice long breakfast before we started our 300 km drive to Stampriet where we had a reservation for three nights on the campsite.
There was hardly any traffic on the B1 so we arrived around 12:00 pm at our destination where we were greeted by a nice young Lady and an orange juice. However, we were very disappointed that Sundowner drives were only possible from Kalahari Anib Lodge about 30km away. If we had known this before, we would have tried for a reservation at Anib Lodge campsite instead.
Well, we could not change it anymore and so we chose a shady campsite at Kalahari Farmhouse. There were seven campsites and each was equipped with a Braai fireplace, an electric lamp and an electricity plug. The bathroom facilities were spacious and very clean. A really nice campsite but unfortunately limited from a photographic point of view.
So we settled at the campsite and tried setting up our roof tent for the first time. We managed well but the rain coat looked somehow strange…
Gerd lighted the charcoal at the braai but somehow it won’t produce enough heat. Gerd frustrated gave up and fried our meat in a pan on the gas cooker instead. However, we still enjoyed our first steaks and the white wine very much! There were about forty beautiful cattle egrets in the fields around us as well as bulbuls and some curiously looking weaver birds.
It was dark very early and we tried star trail photos the first time which was lots of fun. We were very tired and settled for the night in our roof tent around nine o´clock already.
Highlight of the day: the cattle egrets
We both did not sleep well during our first night in the roof tent. We woke up frequently because we got used to sleeping in a sleeping bag again slowly. We anyway felt fresh and prepared our breakfast having beans in tomato sauce, fried eggs and bacon. Soon the sun was strong enough to warm us up and removed the dewdrops of the night.
We decided to stay one night in Kalahari Anib Lodge to join the Sundowner Game Drive through the red Kalahari dunes. Unfortunately, there were no options to drive individually with our car.
The Lady in the farmhouse arranged the switch of accommodation for one night which was easy because both the farm and the lodge belong to Gondwana Collection. We put the camping equipment in the car and folded up the roof tent which took us almost 15 minutes to complete. Well, there is some room for improvement!
We arrived at half past nine at Kalahari Anib Lodge and were accompanied to our room. The Anib Lodge is a typical tourist lodge where groups usually stay one night only. We were lucky and no big groups were expected for this day.
The Lodge people prepared walking trails and we soon started for a hike. The grass was very high due to much rain in the past months and the whole environment was more green than the yellow that we remembered from our previous visits to Namibia. We spotted Springboks crossing the pad quickly after they saw us. There was a lot of water in the valley and we came across water birds like Blacksmith Plovers and Sandpipers. We enjoyed our lunch break and were passed to the right and to the left by two groups of Red hartebeests. Beautiful antelopes!
Shortly after the break, we met our personal Carlos. Carlos is the Ground squirrel with a sad end in the book “Hummeldumm” by Tommy Jaud. Our Carlos was having lunch and posed for us nicely while chewing roots. What a cute little chap he was! And he was luckier than Carlos because he definitely would not share Carlos’ destiny.
We spotted a group of wildebeest in the plain in front of us and they were not concerned about us at all so we could easily pass by. We were delighted by the many birds, huge groups of Springbok and the numerous blooming flowers like Tripteris microcarpa from the family of asters. We saw geckos on the ground from time to time and finally we found a patient one that was willing to be Gerd’s photo model. We met Gernot and his wife Ingrid on the way back to the Lodge and they turned out to be a very nice couple from Germany. Time passed quickly while we walked back chatting and it was soon time for the Sundowner Game Drive after a quick shower.
Each open Landrover had space for 10 people but as the Lodge was not fully booked we had only 8 people in our car and enough space. Our guide was Deon and he first stopped next to a camel thorn tree with a huge nest of weaver birds. We were all very fascinated to make out a Yellow Cape Cobra making its way through the nest looking for eggs and chicks. But we felt very pity for the cute little birds!
Nevertheless, we all admired this very toxic snake before we continued our drive. It was sunny now and the warm afternoon sunlight bathed the Kalahari landscape in a very nice soft light. Springboks and Oryx antelopes passed by and observed us carefully. What a peaceful atmosphere!
There is only one place to find giraffes in this area and it was exactly there where another Landrover got stuck in the mud. The other guides laughed at him first but were very helpful to get him out. Deon took an old plastic hose and used it as a rope between the two cars. We were all quite surprised that none of the cars had a tow rope as getting stuck is quite likely due to the recent rainfalls.
In the end, Deon tore the Landrover out of the mud with the help of the plastic hose and we continued our drive to the sundowner dune. Deon stopped once again to give us more information about the Kalahari desert. Sandra found it hard to pay attention as there was a pair of green bee-eaters flying around Deon. What nice little gems they are!
One of the other guides had already set up a small bar on top of the sundowner dune and we were looking for a nice location to take some photos in this beautiful light. It was quite difficult and so we just took a couple of snapshots and enjoyed a glass of white wine. It was almost “Hummeldumm” funny how the other people were lined up on the dune filming or taking photos of the sun that slowly disappeared behind a distant hill
The drivers quickly stored all bottles, cans and cups in their boxes and we drove back to the Lodge. The grass was even higher and pollen flew directly into Sandra’s face. Well, this was no good and she had a heavy allergy attack soon after we arrived at the Lodge. She took two capsules of black cumin that eased the worst pain and we could go for dinner.
We shared a table with Gernot and Ingrid and spent a very nice evening chatting while enjoying the delicious four-course menu. We exchanged Email addresses and had another drink at the bar before we went to bed. It has been a long but very interesting day.
Highlight of the day:the Oryx antelopes and the pair of bee-eaters
Photo gallery Namibia General: Photo gallery Namibia – General
We slept very well this night and intended to get up early to take some photos in the nice morning light. The alarm clock rang at 05:15 am and Sandra took a look outside: it was completely overcast and looked like a foggy morning in Basel! So we returned to bed rather disappointed and Sandra used the time to fight down the last signs of the allergy.
We had breakfast at around eight together with Gernot and Ingrid. We were wondering if we would meet again at Sossusvlei because our time frame was similar while having a different route. We waved goodbye and wished them all the best before we got our stuff ready and checked out.
We were allowed to leave the Hilux in the car park and started for another hike. It was sunny and hot in the meantime so we took lots of water and our hats with us. We did not see any animals during the first stretch but we very happy to find our Carlos having lunch at the same place as yesterday! He decided to pose willingly again for us and we spent some nice 20 minutes together.
We did not trust our eyes a couple of minutes later when we spotted a leopard turtle slowly moving between the mud holes. The turtle was not so excited to see us and kept moving so we left it alone and the turtle moved on further deeper in the mud.
We came across groups of Red hartebeests and Springboks and we stopped to take some close-up shots of the nice yellow asters that grew between the grass. There was not a single cloud in the sky and it was very hot so we were relieved to reach the Lodge soon after.
We had a cold drink at the bar before we drove back to Kalahari Farmhouse Campsite, where we chose the same campsite that we left yesterday. It looked as if it would be going to rain so we first set up our roof tent. And yes… we finally understood how to attach the rain coat correctly! Our roof tent now looked dead professional!
Gerd was not willing to accept the first barbecue disaster and put the charcoal on fire once again. He was successful this time and had enough heat to grill the steaks after almost 45 minutes. Sandra prepared fried potatoes with bacon and we enjoyed our first real barbecue. Being camping beginners, we were a bit proud of ourselves
More and more dark clouds were coming in and we tidied up the place and got everything ready for the night. It started to rain slightly shortly after we were finished and we took a bottle of wine and two glasses inside of the car. The Hilux is spacious and sort of cosy but as it kept on raining, we went up into the tent to get some sleep.
Highlight of the day: to meet Carlos the second time
Photo gallery Wildlife: Photo gallery Namibia – Fauna
The second night in the roof tent was much better than the first – so there is hope that we will eventually become real campers! Anyway, Sandra woke up way too early around 4:30 am and was happy that she had bought the data tariff for Désirée. She spent the time until sunrise surfing the news without waking up Gerd.
We started towards Namib Desert after our usual breakfast with beans in tomato sauce, fried eggs and bacon. Our travel distance to the Namib Rand Nature Reserve was 350 km and we stopped in Mariental where we bought all fresh food we would need the next couple of days.
There is no supermarket nor village near the Family Hideout so we had to make sure that we don´t forget anything substantial. Well, barbecue meat obviously was on top of our our shopping list!
The tarmac road ended in Maltahöhe and we slowly cruised on the gravel roads towards Namib Rand. We came across a rock leguan twice but they both were shy and disappeared in the grass once we stopped the car. The further we drove west, the more clouds covered the sky and we started to have a bad sense of forboding…
We reached the gate of the Family Hideout / Tok Tokkie premises around 01:00 pm and slowly completed the last 16 km farm pad to the house. Ricardo, the housekeeper and guide, was in the last stages of cleaning the house and we walked around to explore the area.
Some things have clearly changed since we had been here the first time in 2003. Grass now covers the sand of the whole area and there are many birds around like martins and finches. It was absolutely amazing to see green grass in the Namib desert!
In the house we haves a large living room with eating table, cosy cane chairs, a small playroom corner, a spacious kitchen with gas cooker, fridge and freezer, two bathrooms and three sleeping rooms for a total of 10 people. There is a table with comfortable chairs on the veranda with cosy storm lamps and certainly a Braai fireplace.
We talked a bit with Ricardo after he finished cleaning, released the tire pressure of our Hilux to 1.5 bar and attached the pollen net to the radiator grill of the car. he owners of the Hideout have set up an authorized 4×4 track that guests can use if they buy a permit. Ricardo was so kind to accompany us on our first short trip into the dunes which calmed down Sandra’s nerves enormously. Well, it has been eight years since she drove in deep sand the last time and some support sounded like a good idea.
However, the feeling and fun for driving in deep sand returned quickly after the first couple of meters and Sandra drove enthusiastically along the 4×4 track over the dunes. She finally managed this challenge very well after eight years!
We returned to the house very happily, thanked Ricardo and waved him good-bye until tomorrow before we settled in the house.
The sky remained overcast and we could already see the first thunderstorms in the distance. After dinner, thunderstorms were all around us with very strong rain and we were already aware that we won’t get any nice morning light. We breathlessly watched the thunderstorms around us with lightning and thunder every couple of seconds – none of us has ever seen anything like this before!
We enjoyed a delicious meal with marinated chicken, fried potatoes with onions and white wine while observing the exciting spectacle that nature had on the plate. Nevertheless, we started to feel concerned about the huge amounts of rain that was falling.
Highlight of the day: driving over the high dunes in deep sand and the thunderstorms
Photo gallery wild flowers: Photo gallery Namibia – Flora
It has been a very turbulent night as the thunderstorms persisted the whole night. We got up frequently to marvel at this amazing nature spectacle around us.
Indeed, there was no beautiful morning light and we starred shocked at the lake in front of our house. The pads were full of water, too, and they looked as if we could take a canoe instead of our Hilux.
In the meantime, it was 10:00 am and it had been raining continuously for 15 hours – in the desert! It would not make sense to go hiking or to take the 4×4 for a drive so Sandra worked on this travelogue and Gerd relaxed. Ricardo came to visit us and we could watch his car sliding through the water and mud. So driving was possible but not really fun and it was also quite likely that the car would get stuck. We had a small chat while drinking milk coffee and Ricardo told us about the local birds and that he has never experienced so much rain before in this area. He had checked the rain gauge when he came and it measured 60mm!! When he left, he promised that the sun will be shining at 01:00 pm! Okay…?
Ricardo continued to the Campsite where a small group of campers was expected and we prepared our lunch. Braai was not possible (this time owing to the rain!) and so the steaks were fried in the pan once again.
There was no sunshine at 01:00 pm but it eventually stopped raining – after 18 hours of continous rain! It cleared up quickly and we left the house for an afternoon drive on the 4×4 track two hours later.
The water surprisingly quickly drained away in the sand and the pads and dunes were easy to drive on. The panoramic view from the highest dune over all the other dunes and into the plain up to the Tiras mountains further away was just breathtaking!We admired the sea of red dunes covered with green grass as well as the green colour that dominates the plains – so unusual! It was still partially cloudy but the sun spread little patches of light onto the dunes and mountains and the sand dunes were shining deeply red in the sun. Just incredible!
We were now approaching the big dune to cross and Sandra mastered this challenge without any problems. Yes, made it – result! The certain uncertainness has now disappeared completely but surely without losing the respect for those conditions we are not used to.
We watched the sunset and its beautiful colours on top of one of the dunes that are closer to the house and we even managed to take some moody photos in this wonderful atmosphere after the rain. Namib desert looks great in its green suit and we simply couldn’t get enough of the colours. A real flush of colours!
It was quickly getting dark after sunset and we drove the short 1,5 km track back to the house where Gerd prepared a small dinner with sausages, potatoes and some bread while Sandra was writing the travelogue.
All clouds have been disappeared and the sky was clear except for some lightning in the east. Perfect conditions for taking star trails! We used one of the trees as a foreground and exposed for 40 minutes. The result looks great and we had lots of fun. You can see the result in the first thread on top of this travelogue.
We went to bed early as we intended to get up very early for the morning light.
Highlight of the day: No rain anymore and the beautiful evening light of the Namib desert
More photos of Namib Rand: Namib Rand gallery Part I
The alarm clock rang at 05:30 am and a short glimpse outside promised a good day: it was perfectly clear without any clouds.
Just a quick catlick and we jumped into the Hilux to drive the 1,5 km long way to the big dune. The delicate morning light shortly before sunrise is simply amazing and we started taking photos as if we were in a land of plenty for photographers. The sun peered over the mountains in the east and a moment later the mountains in the west were bathed in a golden glow. The whole dune landscape was subsequently a photographer’s dream of orange and red. It is such a joy being outside in the quietness of the desert in this gorgeous light! We almost forgot taking photos as we were overwhelmed by this mood and the explosion of colours was almost an overkill for the eyes and senses.
We went back to the car when the light became brighter and continued a couple of kilometers along the track to park the Hilux for a short walk into the dunes. We found wonderful landscape photo opportunities as well as blooming flowers like the beautiful Crotalaria damarensis. We were still captivated of how amazingly green the desert was and how the landscape has changed during the last eight years. The grass was very dry and yellow and just a couple of centimeters high during the dry period in 2003. Now it is lush green and about half a meter high.
We returned to the house around eight o’clock for a hearty breakfast. We had the full program today with fried eggs, bacon, sausages, beans and fried mushrooms. Yummy and just appropriate after this amazing early morning! Ricardo came at 10 o’clock for a chat and milk coffee and we bought two T-Shirts and a cap from the Hideout collection. The light was very harsh now and we used the time for cleaning up and relaxing.
We again slowly drove the 4×4 track in the afternoon and found many photo subjects. It was interesting to see how the landscape has changed and compared it to what we remembered from 2003. We spotted both male Oryx antelopes that never leave this area. The other groups of Oryx are only around during summer and leave for Namib Naukluft over winter time. The male Oryx posed close to us in best light just before the big dune we had to cross.
We parked the Hilux in the middle of the dune and spent the last hour before sunset in the surrounding dunes. We concentrated on sand structures and tracks in the sand that are made by wind and animals. The warm colours were once again a treat for the eyes.
Preparing the barbecue fire after we returned again was a challenge. We had bought firewood in Mariental but it did not burn properly and produced a lot of smoke instead. Gerd became upset and refused to give up. He threw more and more firelighters and even fire accelerant into the fire but it did not help at all. The fire burnt for a moment and went out again without producing any glow. It seems as if someone did not want us to have a nice barbecue!
So Gerd finally gave up and went completely frustrated into the kitchen to fry the meat – once again! – in a pan on the gas cooker.
But, oops… what was this? Obviously the gas bottle for the cooker and fridge has run empty and so he could not fry the steaks on the cooker. Well, we got our own little gas cooker from the Hilux and finally had dinner – only after two hours since we started.
Camping is stressful!
We escaped the camping stress by watching the magnificient star sky and taking some star trail photos along with a glass of wine.
Highlight of the day: the beautiful morning light in the dunes.
More photos of Namib Rand: Namib Rand gallery Part II
We again got up at 5:30 am as we could see another colourful morning sky looming in the east. We drove to the dune and walked around looking for subjects. This delicate light and the blaze of colour in the red dunes under a steel blue sky is really hard to describe. Well, this is why we take photos – to capture the light and to share it with you
Time flew way too quickly and we saw more and more details like animal tracks in the dunes from birds, death watch beetles, foxes and antelopes. Dead sure enough, Sandra spottet some – for her – very ugly big Orb spiders (Argiope australis) that Gerd found very beautiful and he had a hard time trying to photograph them in the blowing wind.
We returned to the house around 8 o’clock and Gerd pumped up the tyres up to 2.1 bar while Sandra packed our stuff and prepared breakfast on the gas cooker. We took our time for breakfast and heard Ricardo coming soon after. It was already time to wave goodbye to the Hideout! What a pity, it has been a wonderful time as always and saying farewell was hard as ever – it is simply a magical place for us.
We hit the road after a final chat with Ricardo and he was happy about the tip we left him. He really deserved it, he is doing a really good job. We had just 110 km to go to Sesriem which was a nice short drive.
The farm pad back to the gravel road was slightly muddy but well drivable and we easily and quickly reached the C19 road. We came across a herd of zebras on our way to Sesriem and the first glimpse of the huge red dunes when approaching Sesriem region was breathtaking as ever. We stopped every now and then to take some snapshots of this dream in red, green and blue. We found a huge blooming flower called Wilde Sesame (Sesamum capense) during one stop that was very difficult to photograph because of the strong wind. A blooming desert – just gorgeous!
We took our time and reached Sesriem at 01:30 pm. We passed by the reception to buy our permits for today and tomorrow so that we won’t have to queue tomorrow morning as the gate does not open before sunrise at 06:15 am. Time is short enough and we would miss the first most beautiful light anyway.
We continued the last three kilometer to our accommodation at Desert Camp where we would stay two nights. The Desert Camp belongs to Sossusvlei Lodge and is a very charming self-catering accommodation. Each unit consists of a big tent with double bed, sofa and cupboard and a spacious solid bathroom. There is a kitchenette in a seperate tent outside on the veranda where we had a braai fireplace and a table with a bench. The Desert Camp is supposed to be for self-catering guests and they don’t provide any cutlery, crockery nor pots and pans which was not a problem for us. Guests always have the opportunity to make a reservation for breakfast or dinner in Sossusvlei Lodge though.
We put our food into the fridge and drove into Sossusvlei park. This is our third visit to Sossusvlei but our fascination for these huge 150m to 200m high deep red dunes remains unwaned. There is nothing more exiting and beautiful for Sandra than to be in this special dune landscape!
We reached the river crossing of Tsauchab river, that was still running, after 21 kilometers. We spent some time there because running water in Tsauchab river is something very special and occurs very randomnly. There must have been come down an enormous amount of rain three days ago!
The light became less harsh around 04:00 pm when we reached the famous (or infamous…) Dune 45. This is the most busiest place in the morning as all tourist busses usually stop here first and people climb up the dune like little ants. Contrary to the morning, there are hardly any people in the afternoon, we had the dune for ourselves and the foot tracks of the morning were blown away by the wind. We climbed up the dune which is quite hard in the deep sand and against the strong wind but the view from the top of the dune is worth every effort. We spent a while up there enjoying the breathtaking view over the high dunes before we slided down one less steep part of the dune – what a fun that was!
We drove back very slowly and stopped frequently to photograph the dunes in the nice warm light of the late afternoon. The light and shadow play on the dunes never becomes boring and we fully enjoyed this last golden hour. The gate unfortunately closes at sunset at 5:30 pm already so we had to drive back very rapidly when we left the last dunes behind.
We started yet another try to barbecue our meat after our return to Desert Camp. Gerd used the charcoal again this time and the pyramid burnt well. After just one hour we had enough glow to barbecue the meat. My goodness, this was a completely new camping experience!! We had ordered Oryx and Kudu meat before we left in the afternoon and we absolutely enjoyed our perfectly barbecued dinner. Is there hope that we will ever become good campers…?
We went to bed dead tired and very early as there was another early morning already waiting for us.
Highlight of the day: Dunes, dunes, dunes!
More photos of Sossusvlei: Sossusvlei gallery Part I
The alarm clock rang as usually at 05:30 am and we drove to the gate after we freshed up quickly. Six cars were already waiting in front of us, the gate opened on time at 06:15 am and most surprisingly all cars except one turned right to park at the reception to buy a permit while we proceeded to the second gate and showed our permit for registration.
Sunrise began shortly after we started driving and we saw that the high dunes far in the distance were bathed in the most beautiful morning light – Sandra’s photographer’s heart was heavily bleeding but we continued bravely. We passed the Tsauchab river and noticed that the river was not flowing anymore. However, as the warden at the gate told us, the last five kilometer into Sossusvlei on the 4×4 track were still closed because down there the river was still flowing and not drained away. We were disappointed on one side that we could not drive the track but it was a good reason to return once again on the other side! You have to take what you get and we would try to make the best out of this situation. And not to forget that water in Sossusvlei is a rare occurance!
We passed the hustle and bustle at Dune 45 and continued slowly with lots of photo stops until we finally reached the 2×4 parking place. The river was indeed running and the ground was deep and muddy so that driving was impossible. We had a quick breakfast and decided to walk to Sossusvlei to see the water inside. It was a pretty interesting walk with unusual and stunning sights. Normally the 4×4 track runs through the riverbed and now there was water inside and blooming flowers everywhere. The hike was exhausting but fun. The area around the 4×4 parking area was flooded so we had to make our way around it. Well, we have never ever before returned from Sossusvlei with muddy hiking boots
It was an amazing experience walking through this dune landscape with the water everywhere and our hearts got carried away completely when we caught the first glimpse of Sossusvlei filled with water! Every time we had read about water in Sossusvlei we wished to be there and now finally, with a bit of luck, we were standing breathlessly and fascinated just in front of this awesome sight. There was so much water that even the picnic areas were flooded and the river must have had its peak at about half a meter as we could tell from the rims of the river bank.
As soon as we settled down for photos and a well-earned swallow of lemon water, the little cape sparrows came to see if we had something on offer for them. Needless to say that we brought sunflower seeds with us that they happily picked up. We stayed quite a while, fully enjoyed this experience and took some photos. It was already 10 o’clock and the light way too harsh for good photos but in this case, it was more the experience that counted and not the photo result. The Namib desert is one of the driest deserts in the world and the Tsauchab river reaches Sossusvlei very rarely so we appreciated very much what we had in front of us. However, it has been the second time this year that Sossusvlei had water because there have been a lot of thunderstorms with massive rainfalls in March already. Climate change or just coincidence? We can’t tell..
We walked back to the 2×4 parking place across the dunes which was possible because we always had a huge distinctive dune with lots of footsteps in front of us. This was a very welcome shortcut and we enjoyed walking through the dunes a lot. We reached the river bank quickly and were very surprised to find no water flowing anymore. Within four hours all the water has disappeared in the sand! So we were able to cross the river with dry feet and made a rest under a shady tree on the other side. Sandra could not believe her eyes when she saw a young man coming around the tree: it was Gernot!
Ingrid turned up, too and there was a big shouting and cheering. What a huge coincidence in the middle of the desert! We had known that we would be in Sossusvlei area approximately about the same time but meeting in the desert at the same time using the same path really was luck! We chatted half an hour about our rain experiences and adventures and arranged for a drink after dinner in Sossusvlei Lodge where they stayed.
While Ingrid and Gernot walked towards Sossusvlei, we slowly wandered back through the river bed taking photos of the unusual looking landscape and blooming flowers like Caltrops (Tribulus terrestris) until we finally reached the 2×4 parking place again.
Back at the car, we had a short lunch break and drove back to Desert Camp. It was just enough time for a refreshing shower and the time of the golden hour began. We did not have to drive as there were beautiful mountains around us that were bathed in orange light and we found a big weaver bird nest in an attractive tree that made a good background. In front of the Camp were some very good looking rock formations that looked great in the evening light. What a gorgeous end to this wonderful day!
Our weaver birds were already waiting for their sunflower seeds that we served with a cup of water. What a crowd there was – we just love happy birdsGerd started yet another try with charcoal on the Braai fireplace. Wow, this time it worked perfectly fine and we had Kudu and Oryx steak on our plates after just one hour! Well done – Sandra was very proud of Gerd!
We drove over to Sossuvlei Lodge after this delicious meal to meet Gernot and Ingrid. We spent a lovely evening and laughed a lot so it was hard waving good-bye for the rest of the journey. What a nice couple they are!
Highlight of the day: Sossusvlei with water
More photos of Sossusvlei: Sossusvlei gallery Part II
Sandra was up and running early again and found some nice photo opportunities in the morning light. The mountains as well as the rock formations near the entrance looked fantastic in the soft light.
We served our thankful birds breakfast with sunflower seeds and water that they happily and busily picked up. They also had young birds and it was lovely to watch them chasing their parents for their portion of the food. Just like our little sparrows at home in Basel! We also had beakfast, packed our stuff once again and Gernot and Ingrid came along to see the accommodation and waved us goodbye.
Our tank was more than half full but we filled in another 20 liters just to be on the safe side for the 350 km to Swakopmund. This turned out to be a very wise decision as we would find out a couple of hours later…
We planned to stay one night in Swakopmund to buy food for the last two days of camping. We don’t like Swakopmund in particular because it is foggy very often and reminds us more of a foggy November morning in Basel. We simply cannot share the common enthusiasm for Swakopmund! We enjoyed the last views towards the red dunes in the green grass that stretched up to the horizon. We suddenly couldn’t believe our eyes when we spotted a group of five giraffes ready to cross the pad some kilometers before Solitaire. We have never seen giraffes in this area and we were rather excited. We watched them quietly for over half an hour until they felt comfortable enough to cross the pad slowly and gracilely. Once again one of those typical and unexpected Namibia experiences!
We passed Gaub Pass and quickly reached the curvy Kuiseb Pass where another highlight was waiting: Kuiseb River was flowing heavily and so much water in this moon landscape was an amazing and very unusual look. After this lush valley, the landscape changed dramatically to a plain desert with hardly any vegetation.
This is definitely the ugly side of the desert! We intended to stop at Vogelfederberg, which is an interesting rock formation, but it was midday and the light ultra harsh so we decided to drive on. The D1984 to Swakopmund diverges from C14 ten kilometers before Walvis Bay and passes Dune 7. Our tank was almost empty and we happily drove towards our destination of the day. Our happiness turned into horror after we reached the junction to C28 and saw signposts that the road to Swakopmund was closed! Shortly after the junction we could clearly see the reason: Swakop river had high water and was impassable. It remained a riddle why it was possible to place “Closed road” signposts at the junction to Spreetshooge Pass in the middle of the Namib and why the same should be impossible just ten kilometers away from Walvis Bay! So we had to drive back all the 25 kilometers and the petrol level in our tank sank to the Empty indicator. We only just made it to the petrol station in Walvis Bay with a red flashing warning light! We learned later that the petrol meter only shows the level of the regular integrated tank which is 70 liters but not the total of the extra tank (that usually is a custom built-in tank by the rental company) plus regular tank which would make 150 liters! This lesson was learned and all’s well that ends well.
We did not feel like camping anymore after this experience and drove directly to Sam´s Giardino hotel to ask for a room. We have stayed there in 2002 and both accommodation and food plus the owner’s Saint Bernard dog had always remained in good memory. We got a room, brought our stuff upstairs, booked dinner and went into the city center of Swakopmund which was just ten minutes away. Dead sure, it was foggy.
Dinner was a fantastic 5-course menu that Gerd enjoyed fully and Sandra just partially. The menu consisted of salmon with Swiss roesti, tomato creme soup, salad, beef filet with porcino risotto and self-made vanilla ice-cream as dessert. Sam is Swiss, a very talented cook and oenophile with his own good wine cellar. He spent some time at our table and we had an interesting conversation about life in Namibia and Switzerland.
We fell into our beds very tired but happy, even if it was foggy!
Highlight of the day: the giraffes and the petrol station in Walvis Bay
Photos “Colour & shapes” of Sossusvlei: Sossusvlei Colour & shapes
Most surprsingly (?), Sandra woke up very early in spite of the good bed and quietly read the news in the internet while Gerd was still deeply asleep. She got some coffee from Sam at half past six and continued writing the travelogue until Gerd turned up for breakfast. The breakfast table offered everything that the heart desires from cheese to cold cuts, Nutella, scrambled eggs, jam, Bircher-Muesli, joghurt and frest fruits. A very welcome change to eggs, bacon and beans!
Sam joined us for a chat and time just flew. We said goodbye, changed some money in the city centre and finally left this foggy little town on the B2 towards Usakos. We only had to drive 140 km to Ameib Ranch where we would stay on the campsite for two nights. The river shortly after Usakos was still running and we had to cross it twice which was fun for Gerd and nerve-racking for Sandra. But it was not very much water and underground was solid so we crossed without any issues – the Hilux is a very reliable car.
We arrived at the farm and were greeted by Waltraud Kögl. She is an elderly Lady who has lived all her live on the farm and is running the business on her own since her husband died some years ago. However, the farm has been taken over by a hunter and future is uncertain but for now she had everything under her strict control. We got a map of the rock formation area and drove over to the campsite where we chose a nice shady place. There was a seating area and a Braai fireplace but no light nor electricity like at Kalahari Farmhouse campsite. We had lunch and as the light was harsh and temperatures quite high, we relaxed in the shade until we drove five kilometers to the famous rock formations of Bull’s Party. One of the rocks resembles exactly an elephant’s head and we were fascinated by this look and the perfectly rounded rocks that were created by Wollsack erosion. It is the same type of granite stone as Spitzkoppe mountains and the whole area reminded us of Bushman’s Paradise although yet different. Water was still flowing and created little pools so we were able to achieve photos that are different from the mainstream as the rocks reflected perfectly in the pools. Almost kitschy! What a nice photo playground this was and we happily enjoyed our time until the sun disappeared behind a mountain. Staying at Ameib was worth while and we happily returned to the campsite.
We set up our roof tent, arranged sleeping bags and light inside and Gerd once again produced a perfect barbecue fire. We had bought game meat in Swakopmund that we enjoyed with fried potatoes and white wine.
Hightlight of the day: the rock formations around Bull’s Party
Panorama photos Sossusvlei: Photo gallery Namibia – Sossusvlei Panoramas
We both slept very badly this night. We could not fall asleep until about 03:00 am but still got up at sunrise, folded down the roof tent and drove to the rock formations of Bull’s Party.
Unfortunately, it was rather cloudy and the sun does not illuminate the rocks until one hour after sunrise. So we climbed up the rocks and enjoyed the view over the wide plain until the rocks were bathed in acceptable warm light. We found some nice photo subjects of rocks reflecting in the little pools. The water was still flowing attractively but a bit less than yesterday. We observed a bunch of beautiful Rosy-faced lovebirds taking a bath in a water poodle on our way back to the campsite. What cute little busy birds!
We had coffee and prepared breakfast on the gas cooker. It was hot again and we spent a relaxing time until 02:00 pm at the pool. We drove slowly to Bull’s Party and were blessed once again with a beautiful afternoon light. Rock formations never become boring and the longer we stayed, the more subjects we found. We spotted a pair of snake eagles lazing in a tree very high in the rocks. We were happy to see them and took some photos although they were very far away. It is the experience that counts in these cases and not the photo.
This was our last camping evening and we had no charcoal left so we prepared the meat in the pan on the cooker and enjoyed our last camping dinner. How quickly time flies! We felt as if we had just arrived! We went over to the bar and met a group of photographers who were on a round trip organized by a Swiss photo tour operator. We talked a while, mainly photographic topics, and had a lot to laugh about. In the course of the discussions, Gerd mentioned that we once sold a photo of electricity poles taken in Albula pass region to a power supplier through our stock agency. One of the guys works for a Swiss power supplier and said he knows the Albula area well and that he is almost sure that this photo is in the annual report publication of the company he is a member of the board of directors! We simply were speechless about this coincidence!
We went to bed in our roof tent dead tired and hoped to sleep better this night.
Highlight of the day: the reflections of the rock formations in the poodles
Photo gallery Ameib: Photo gallery Namibia – Ameib Ranch – Bull’s Party – Elephant’s head
We indeed slept much better and it has actually been the only night that we slept well in the roof tent. However, it took us a lot of time to fold up the tent before sunrise today. We find the roof tent not to be ideal if we need to drive to a location for morning light photography. You pay for the quietness and idyll of camping with a lof of time effort and work.
We eventually drove to Bull’s Party, where we already found the other group of photographers and we all waited for the sun that was hidden once again behind thick clouds. It was worse than yesterday but we managed to take at least one nice photo of the rocks glowing in the warm light when the sun came out for a brief moment. We drove slowly back and watched the lovebirds feeding their young in the now well-known location on the drive back. So cute!
Back at the campsite, we prepared our last camping breakfast; most surprisingly we had scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms and beans in tomato sauce. We packed our stuff and drove off towards our final destination, guestfarm Eileen. It was just a short drive to the farm that is located at the edge of the Erongo crater and we were very much looking forward to meet Rita and Frederick van Alphen again.
We had to drive around half of the Erongo massif to reach Eileen as there is no path across. There is a pad on each Namibia map but people told us that this road has not been used since about 1940!! We admired the high mountain of Hohenstein with its interesting rock structures that are actually the remains of a volcona and finally spotted a Lilac-breasted roller sitting on an electricity pole! Sandra just loves these colourful birds and was very happy.
We reached the diversion to farm Eileen quickly and the farm pad was in excellent condition. Namibian authorities decided to stop maintenance for D1926, removed all road signs and the road was in worse shape than the farm pad. Eileen’s farm pad has a bad reputation in German Namibia forums but we cannot confirm this. It is a 2×4 track and people definitely do not need a 4×4 to reach the farm. Frederick improved the pad very much since our last visit in 2003 when there were a lot of large stones to drive over in river beds. Now the whole pad is almost like a farm motorway! There were 7 km left on the farm pad to the guest farm that we reached after 15 minutes. Rita awaited us at the terrace and greeted us happily. Soon after, Fredrick came out of the house and there was a very warm welcome from both sides. We were all very delighted to meet again after such a long time and most amazingly we have never lost contact! We settled around the large table and talked about our trip and the last eight years. Another two guests arrived and we went to our little bungalow. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated and have a large bathroom. Our bungalow had a second little room with a small table and chairs. We felt comfortable as always and enjoyed a refreshing shower after two days of camping. We had coffee and cookies with our hosts and all other guests before we left for a short afternoon walk up to a small hill not far from the house. The view around the long-extinct volcano in the warm light was gorgeous! We enjoyed the atmosphere, took a couple of photos and went back to the farm after all sunlight had been gone.
Rita cooks very well and had prepared a perfect dinner that we had altogether at the large table on the terrace. We had bread, mushroom soup, tomato-cucumber salad, rice, pasta, vegetables and goat meat. We all found the goat meat very tasty although some of us were a bit skeptical when we had talked about goat meat earlier. Frederick explained that goat meat tastes differently in Namibia because the goats are bred for meat production and not for milk production like in Europe. Time flew, it was a very nice dinner that we enjoyed with a bottle of South african Sauvignon Blanc.
Frederick’s narration about life on the farm and in Namibia was amusing and refreshing as always and there was a lot of laughter around the table. It had been a wonderful evening and we hit the pillows very tired but happy.
Highlight of the day: to meet Rita and Frederick again after eight years
We slept very well, actually the first night that we slept perfectly well. We went off for a walk in the first morning light along a farm pad and enjoyed the soft and delicate light. The small streams were still running and we found fresh leopard tracks in the sand of the banks – the size of the paws of this beautiful cats is quite impressive! We did not see any leopards as they are very shy and we learned from Frederick later that they are currently in the middle of their mating season.
We had a chat with Frederick before breakfast until the other guests joined us. Rita dished up everything that our hearts desired: cereals, cold cuts, cheese, smoked meat, scrambled eggs, joghurt, jam and even freshly baked rolls.
We all took our time to fully enjoy this fabulous breakfast and Frederick gave us an overview about the geology and history of the Erongo crater before we set off for a 2 1/2 hour long trip around the farm. Frederick still uses his 60 year old Landrover, that he calls Amalia, for the farm trips. What a contrast it was to 2003 when the landscape was yellow and dry! Now all streams are running, the landscape was lush and green. We jolted along the farm pads up to a hill where we had a fantastic view over the whole range of the Erongo and Frederick explained some medical plants used by the bushmen to us. Most of them have a calming effect on the gastrointestinal tract
We continued to drive through the magnificent landscape until Frederick stopped and explained to us how to use a dowsing rod. People do not dowse for water; they look for underground cleats where usually – but not always – water is found. Frederick found all his locations for water boreholes using a dowsing rod, never failed and now we should try how sensitive we are. We had tried this in 2003 and Sandra had been more successful than Gerd so we were eager to know if this has changed. Frederick showed us how to hold the rectangular dowsing rod and Gerd walked off. And yes, the rod moved slightly to the right when he passed the cleat. He was happy that it worked for him now! Now it was Sandra’s turn and the rod almost turned around when she passed the cleat. It was an enormously strong effect and Frederick said that some people are more sensitive to dowsing than others. Sandra was rather proud and tried it once again with the same result – just an amazing feeling if you are not able to control movements that happen in your hand!
It was time now to return slowly to the farm and we spotted a group of female Kudus with their calves and a pair of large eagles was sailing in the deep blue sky. We reached the farm at lunchtime and had a tuna sandwich. We relaxed an hour, Sandra wrote the travelogue and looked through the photos we have taken so far while Gerd arranged our traveling bags. Yes, unfortunately we would fly back to Switzerland tomorrow!
But the day had not been over yet and Frederick took us up to a hill over the farm where we were looking for tourmalines like we did in 2003. At that time, we found a very nice piece of tourmaline embedded in quartz and Gerd had a pendant made out of it by a goldsmith. We had a lot of fun looking for nice pieces or working on big pieces with a hammer and we eventually found some good-looking tourmalines! Evening light was beautiful and Frederick stopped on a rock high above the farm. The sun bathed the whole crater in warm light and created interesting light and shadow structures. This eventually was the very last sunset in Namibia for us at the end of our holiday. We wistfully returned to the farm.
We took a shower and were ready for dinner. Rita and Frederick had prepared everything for a cosy barbecue in their custom-built grotto. Frederick lighted a big and bright fire that Gerd admired with wide-open eyes and he looked rather flabbergasted… Sausages and large pieces of Zebra meat were barbecued quickly and Rita brought tomato soup, stuffed squash, vegetabels and potatoes. The zebra meat was perfectly tender and very, very delicious so we all enjoyed food and even more Frederick’s stories.
Our last evening in Namibia passed way too fast and we went back to our bungalow for our last night in Namibia.
Highlight of the day: the farm trip and looking for tourmalines
Photo gallery Erongo: Photo gallery Namibia – Erongo – Guest Farm Eileen
The last morning dawned and Sandra went up the plateau alone for the last sunrise of this holiday; Gerd was too tired to join. She met Bambi, a Kudu cow, with her little calf on the way up. Bambi has been living around the farm for almost seven years now and never joined a wild Kudu group. Bambi watched Sandra carefully but her calf was not so brave, vanished into the bush and Bambi followed slowly.
Sunrise was colourful and Sandra took the last photos of this holiday. She wistfully enjoyed the quiet morning mood before walking back to the farm. There was already a hustle and bustle as two other guests were about to depart today, too and we all met for a first cup of coffee on the veranda. Breakfast was ready soon after and we fully enjoyed Rita’s lovingly prepared delicious tidbits.
We packed the rest of our stuff and it was time to say farewell to Rita and Frederick which was hard for each of us. We had never lost contact over all those years and we really took them and their farm to our hearts. It is just a very idyllic and beautiful place! Frederick described how to by-pass the running and silted up river near Omaruru where many cars have already been stuck and now it was really time to wave goodbye. We left the farm for a 250 km ride back to Windhoek after a warm goodbye.
It seemed as if the animals of Eileen were ready for a farewell parade when we were on the farm pad: we met a Kudu bull with his queen of hearts and two little cute Dik-Dik’s looked at us curiously. Finally two Yellow-billed hornbills joined us for a while next to the car. We quickly came across the by-pass over the river and reached the tarmac road near Omaruru soon after. We just had a short lunch break and passed the rest of the stretch to Windhoek smoothly so we reached Frank’s gate at 02:30 pm already. Our trip has reached the full circle and Frank drove us to the airport after we returned the car and a friendly chat.
We again were successful in purchasing an upgrade to Premium Economy Class as we arrived very early but the price of 3000 NAD was much higher than in Frankfurt at 275 Euro. We did not care as we really appreciated to spend the fligh on comfortable seats. We passed security control and surfed the internet while sharing a bottle of wine in the waiting hall.
It was already dark when the Air Namibia plane took off towards Frankfurt and our holidays have come to their truly final end. We slept very well and landed on time and fully rested in Frankfurt. We got our luggage quickly, passed passport control and were on the train to Basel just 50 minutes later.
It has been wonderful and eventful two weeks in Namibia’s nature that we greatly enjoyed. Our main conclusion is that camping remains a sort of love-hate relationship for us. We absolutely appreciated the freedom and independence of camping but it is a lot of work and very time consuming on the other side. The roof tent was a nuisance in the morning when we needed to drive to a photo location but sleeping in a roof tent was alright. Well, the next time we most probably prefer a ground tent just to save time.
Highlight of the day: the last sunrise in Erongo crater
We hope you liked reading our travelogue and we thank you for your interest.
Please visit our photoblog for current photos and information about our work: SA*GA Photography – Photoblog of Sandra Schaenzer