Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Maori Camp?

From Maun we headed north-west to the Tsodilo Hills. These hills stick out of the vast flat expanse of the Kalahari and, due to the presence of ancient rock paintings, are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There is a small museum where you can arrange guided walks around the area to see the paintings. We had a bit of a walk around in the afternoon and saw a few paintings, but decided to go on a guided walk the following morning. Just as well we did, because we saw so much more than we otherwise would have. The guide was one of the local bushmen (bearing a striking resemblance to the star of ‘The Gods Must be Crazy’), and told us all sorts of stories about the paintings and his ancestors’ way of life. It was well worth it. Also, this was the first place we had been in Africa where they didn’t try to fleece you at every opportunity. There was no charge to enter the site or the museum, there was no pressure to take a guided walk and the fee was reasonable, and they provided campsites with toilets and hot showers for free. We liked it so much we stayed for two nights.

After the hills it was off to Namibia. After going through Botswanan Customs and Immigration, we fronted at the Namibian office only to be told that we needed N$160 for a vehicle cross border permit. US dollars were no good, and for the first time there were no touts changing money at the border posts. Unfortunately we didn’t have the cash, so had to go back into Botswana to the bank at the last town and get more money out. This was a few days after our game of search the ATM in Maun, and now started a game of search the debit card… Not to be found anywhere, possibly still sticking out of the machine in Maun. In addition, HSBC have been extremely diligent in their attempts to stop credit card fraud, and having noticed a few withdrawals from places they have never heard of, placed a stop on my card. This is despite us having informed them in advance and numerous times that we would be travelling through Africa and would be using our cards. In the end, we had to dig deep into our dwindling supply of US dollars. We are still not sure if this has been sorted out.

We entered Namibia at the western end of the Caprivi Strip, a very lush area as it has water all year round. In Rundu we met a group of four big hairy Norwegians in a Land Cruiser, applying for visas for Angola. They had bought their vehicle off another Norwegian in Cape Town and were driving it home. Up the west coast of Africa. And they want to be back in Norway by 1 April. This year. Good Luck. Good looking car though.

Namibian Roads are very good, but very straight. From Rundu we headed to Grootfontein, were we planned to stop for a couple of days and attempt to repair the brake vacuum pump, which was leaking more oil again after an earlier attempt at a temporary solution in Maun. Just before town we saw a sign for ‘Maori Camp’, so thought we would have to stay there. The owner was a bit mad, and spoke in a mixture of German and Afrikaans, with a small amount of English thrown in. Neither of us could really understand him at all, so although we asked, are none the wiser as to why it is called Maori Camp. He muttered something about Maori being an ‘Australian bushman’ so we tried to set him straight on this important point. The repair job, so far, has worked. If anyone is interested in boring detail, like I am, I have updated our Camel Riders Preparation page with more on our running repairs. See the link to the right.

The day we left Maori Camp it was raining heavily. Namibia is meant to be arid!
Nearby Grootfontein is the site of the Hoba meteorite, the largest known meteorite in the world. They reckon it weighs about 50 tonne, and landed about 80,000 years ago.

Later that day we made it to Etosha National Park, allegedly stacked with game surrounding the watering holes. Luckily, we had a tip from our friend Bren to head to the campsite at the far end of the park. The watering holes at the campsites are set up like theatres, with fenced off seating for the spectators to watch the procession of animals as they take turns to come and drink. Unfortunately for us, the first rain in a year had arrived just four days before we did, and after it has rained the animals don’t bother with the watering hole anymore. We did see loads though on our drive there and back, which we would have missed if we had gone to either of the closer campsites.

We met a Mongolian backpacker Amai at the campsite who asked if we could give him a lift out of the park. You should have seen his face when Catkin greeted him in Mongolian. We had a great day talking about Mongolia.

Now we are heading further north in search of the Epupa Falls.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Happy birthday Ma Bowley. Hope the day is bright and sunny. Raining here in Namibia. All going well with us. Next post coming soon... Love G&C