Namibia – Pans and the pox……………

February 22, 2009

14th Feb – 21st February

We had another super speedy border check in/out and entered Namibia at the western end of the Caprivi Strip.  I was busy scooting along the gravel road at about 100kph when I noticed something on the road ahead.  Elephants! I hadn’t realised we were in a game reserve….

Namibian road hazards

Namibian road hazards

The second thing we noticed about Namibia is that the Romans heavily influenced their road building techniques, and the Victorians their cattle herding.  The roads are dead straight and the cows, instead of wandering about willy-nilly and getting run over, have to be attended by a man with a red flag, or in one instance a warning triangle.  Not sure the Victorian AA insisted on those.

We decided to make a longish drive and head for Grootfontein.  Which turned out to be an absolute hole.  Foolishly I had expectations, and naturally they were cruelly dashed.  Although it’s a largeish dot on the map Grootfontein was totally shut on a Saturday afternoon, the tidy streets were deserted apart from some glue-sniffing kids, (the first we’ve seen in the whole six months).  The whole place had a kind of abandoned, desperate air about it.  I’ve no idea where everyone was, as there didn’t seem to be anywhere for them to go.

Your partner in hard times - cheerful marketing

Your partner in tough times - cheerful marketing

We headed a few k’s back out of town to Die Kraal Steakhouse and Campsite, where the chatty, helpful owner was the first person I’ve heard refer to black Africans as Kaffirs. There was nowhere else to go.  As soon as the sun went down I started feeling really feverish so went to bed while Sean had a romantic Valentine Kudu steak all on his own.

As I woke up feeling OK we stuck to our plans and made it to Etosha National Park by early afternoon on Sunday and checked into Namutoni Camp, which is based around a restored German fort.  Etosha is an amazing place; at its centre is the enormous pan which in the rainy season becomes a vast shallow expanse of water which reflects the huge sky.  The sense of space is extraordinary. 

Big Etosha skies

Big Etosha skies

The rains have turned the roads into chalky sludge and very soon Elsie looked like she’d had a very bad all over respray.

In the evening I started to feel rough again so Sean cooked and we ate listening to a lion which we could just hear over the racket from a budget safari group camping next door.

In spite of my feeling poorly the SF was unrelenting, and the next morning he had us waiting at the camp gates 10 minutes before they opened! 

Two Bulls.  It's a private joke....

Two Bulls. It's a private joke....

After the usual extensive morning game drive I did insist on some respite and was even allowed to enjoy an afternoon swim before we set off again.  Sat by a waterhole late in the afternoon we could hear a lion nearby but time was pressing on and we had to get back to camp before sunset, so we set off and round the next corner found this gorgeous specimen waiting for the sun to set.  He looked very hungry. We watched him for a while as he threw shapes for us, but then we had to scarper back to camp or risk getting a stern telling off.

Get a load of me!!

Get a load of me!!

In the morning I was still feeling very feverish and achey, and beginning to think I might have malaria so we decided to head for Windhoek and get my blood screened.  On the way I amused myself by reading the Health section of all of our guide books and manage to narrow my malady down to Malaria, Dengue or Typhus!! 

As well as me we also need to get the power supply problem sorted in Windhoek.  I had contacted the Dell dealer earlier in the week and they have the right one in stock, so at least I now have an electric computer again.  There’s meant to be a clinic nearby but it’s shut so we have a late lunch instead. 

On the way out to our chosen campsite Sean inadvertently drives through a Police checkpoint and after reversing back to it manages to be incoherent and slur at the very cross policeman who wants to fine us.  Fortunately we get off by claiming we’ve got no money.  We ended up having to drive back through the same checkpoint as the campsite was shut but fortunately they must be bored by us second time round.  We end up camped by a dual carriageway next to an airport, at a lodge claiming to offer ‘natural surroundings’.

At the hospital in the morning I have blood taken and the pee scared out of me by a huge Germanic nurse frau who, in spite of the sickly religious poetry adorning her walls was one of the least reassuring medics I’ve encountered.  Four hours later the test results came back negative for anything, so at least I don’t have malaria.   

Windhoek is tiny, and strangely hilly after being in so many flat places for such a long time.  It’s extremely neat, clean and orderly, it’s attractions however escape me.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not feeling good, or perhaps it’s because it’s the least African feeling city I’ve ever been in.  So we decide to leave and camp at a secluded reservoir, the Von Bach Dam, about 75k away and have a lovely quiet evening until the thunder and torrential rain start!  Morning arrives with me still feeling pants and now with a new symptom – little spots. 

Swakopmund is Uber Germanic

Swakopmund is Uber Germanic

We decide to set off forthwith and see if the doctors at the seaside resort of Swakopmund can do any better than their Windhoek counterparts.  By the way – the indigenous Nama people named the river Swakop – it means ‘bottom-poo’!  The silly German colonists then named their seaside idyll ‘bottom poo mouth’.

The charming doctor Van Wyck at the Bismark Medical Centre (really!) takes one look at me and declares that I have chickenpox.  When I announce this to Sean he nearly snorts his brain out laughing. 

Swakopmund Rest Camp or Stalag 13?

Swakopmund Rest Camp or Stalag 13?

So that I can rest and recuperate we have spent the last 3 nights holed up at this bizarre butlins/stalag 13 holiday camp surrounded by an 8ft electric fence.  I don’t know what it’s like outside but Sean has been out on various forays and brought back evidence of Swakopmund’s charms.  By the way is it just me or does this look strangely familiar to you denizens of Henley on Thames??

I'm sure I've seen this before somewhere.........

I'm sure I've seen this before somewhere.........

Anyhoo, the good news is I’m now feeling almost fully restored and we’re heading South again today to Sossusvlei to look at some big sandpit or other and from there to Fish River Canyon, which I’m given to believe is a great big hole in the ground.  If you haven’t seen my other recent posts on S. African and Botswana scroll down!  If you have I apologies and get on with what you were doing…

2 Responses to “Namibia – Pans and the pox……………”

  1. Ingrid said


    Fantastic reading again you guys and what beautiful photography, too! Especially favoured the elephants roaming freely on the open road after reading today (online news) of the re-emergence of performing circus pachyderms in Nottingham this very afternoon. They are on a different road, of course… touring for eight months with two shows a day. How sad.

    Hope your expoits continue to thrill you as much as they do us back home!

    Love & hugs,
    Ingrid X

  2. Hi Guys,

    Finally worked out how to do this!! You guys are having the most fantastic time, go girl and Sean. We hate those lodgers of yours – do you think they have worked it out yet? All’s well this end. Really enjoy your last couple of weeks and we look forward to seeing you soon.


    Kate, Ade & Muchkins

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