Ground hog day?

Ruacana has a dam, a big dam that sits in the middle of the Kunene river and controls the flow.

Ruacana has something else as well, tarmac! Lovely, smooth, black tarmac on which we gently cruised back down towards Opuwo and the Kaoko Mopane Lodge.

The owner of the lodge had sent our hydraulic hose off and we were due to pick up it up and fit it again so we could lift the cabin again when needed. I was truly happy for all the help from the lodge owner and quite frankly, it was nice to be back in a familiar spot. Opuwo is a place you do not want to be found dead in, but Kaoko Mopane Lodge is a good place for a stopover.

Zev spent his time with the free wifi in the bar and the discovered fanta orange as well as appletizer! We were happy to have access to the supermarkets again to restock for our next little adventure and it was good to see the staff’s kids as well.

It was however time for adventure again!!

Kunene, the end of it!

We had a good stay at Camp Cornie and made our way along the river towards the Kunene River Lodge, a well known place for anyone who has travelled the area and we were looking forward to it.

The road got better as we came closer and close to the Kunene River Lodge and towards Ruacana where we were due to hit tarmac again. The D3700 along the river had been graded quite recently so it was a lovely drive with the river and palm trees to our left and the hills on our right hand side. Smoothly cruising towards the lodge where we had a big surprise!

Huge mining trucks were moving up and down the D3700, clearing and cleaning the tracks and roads around the lodge and it all too sudden became apparant why the road had improved so much, mining in the area!

It turned it that it was more then mining as the mining company had bought the lodge and the adjacent lands and where busy building their base around the lodge…

Luckily there were no big trucks on the lodge itself and we were assigned a lovely little spot under the trees. The ablutions left a little to be desired and the staff didnt seem to be very motivated anymore, expect for the local Namibian people who seemed to have been ordered to rake every little leaf and leave no footprints on the freshly raked dirt…

The river was a little deeper here then at camp Cornie and no way to directly access it let alone enter the water, it was too deep and dark to try that and we heard of quite big crocodiles in the area, best to keep your distance from the edge.

We did do a bit of fishing from the bank and got lucky quite a few times!! Initially we threw back all the fish we caught, as the proper ‘sport vissers’ that we are, until one of the local staff approached us to see if we wanted to share our catch with them.. Some much needed protein I guess when your diet normal consists of maize ‘pap’, maize ‘pap’ with sugar and more maize ‘pap’ for dinner.

Zev was all too happy to hand over some of the catch and share a little of our ‘wealth’.

I think we spent 2 nights at the campsite where just an afternoon would have been enough, but there isn’t much choice in the area and ofcourse, it is passed its hay days since a mining started in the area.

Corny or Cornie?

We had a few lovely days in Epupa and now where making our way east, along the Kunene river on one of the most famous roads as far as I can tell, the infamous D3700.

This little road follows the Kunene river on one site and the rocky outcrops of some hills on the other hand, quite often the road is ‘interrupted’ by small washouts or larger rivers in the wet season, when all the water has come down from the hills and flows into the Kunene.

The river is hidden from time to time by beautiful palm trees and there is hardly a village you will pass, so best stock up in Opuwo if you are heading east.

The road has had many washouts over time and a bad name because of it! But we were very surpised to find out that the road had been graded and alltough still tough from time to time due to the washouts, still relatively easy, even in a 10 tonne truck 🙂 I dont think we ever used low range or diff locks and just gently crawled our way out the riverbeds when needed.

Our destination for the day was Camp Cornie!

With a name like that I was expecting quite a big campsite but in true Africa fashion, I think there were only a few spots to camp on the lovely white sand, overlooking the river and gazing into Angola in the distance.

We were greeted by the young caretaker, as the owner had recently passed and his wife needed a break from looking after the campsite. This young man did a great job and had us parked up and into the bar for a cold beer in no time!! Our son loved playing with the dog and before long we were walking along the river, fishing rod in hand! The river ran very low this time of year and there wasn’t a crocodile insite so we waded in halfway and planted ourselves onto a huge boulder in the stream and started to catch fish quite quickly!

Before long it was ‘sandcastle building time’ and we sat in front of the truck while Nadia practised here yoga a few yard up, under one of the great coconut trees, when something caught my eye….

A small little snake was crawling over a fallen tree and making it’s way towards Zev and myself!!!

We got up quickly and shouted for Nadia to get her camera out, not knowing what was going on the caretaker came running our way as well and the poor little snake was surrounded on 3 sides and had only 1 way out!!

With the upmost haste it slithered and climbed over some of the coconut trees and it was gone in seconds!! Psammophis subtaeniatus , the speediest little sand snake in the world and luckily not thread to us!

Speedy Gonzalez

Looking back, Camp Cornie must have been one of my favourite campsite of all the one we have visited (>100 campsites), pristine, not too big, lovely little bar and good ablutions. Access to the river and great views into Angola. Only downsite is perhaps the little motorbikes you hear in the evenings in Angola, but thats about it.

The campsite also serves as an impromptu medical center with the local himba people coming for help for whatever they might need. We got to help a Himba mother and child, the child hair was covered in lice and as we had brought ample supplies of anti lice Shampoo, Nadia made a small pack of whatever could be needed for the little baby and his mother. W left a few tabs of asperine and the likes, some plasters and what other things that might be needed before we left for the Kunene River Lodge

Falling falling falling…

Falling falling 

From Opuwo we took the C43 north, towards the ‘end of the world’, or at least the border with Angola. For us a new stretch and something we had been looking forward to as the Kunene river meant that there is water, and where there is water there should be green vegetation, something we hadn’t seen for some time! At one point the C43 has a turn off where it meets the D3701 and this truly nearly felt like the end of the world.

The currogations increased in height, intensity and quantity and we had to drop our speed to a snails pace, we didn’t even get overtaken by a rental car, well maybe one, but not many anyways. Towards the end of the road and coming into Epupa the landscape really changed and we saw palm trees and a lot more vegetation on the hills.

We had arrived at long last at Epupa Falls where we spent 3 or 4 nights at the Gondwana owned lodge and campsite. A great spot where we not only enjoyed the fishing but also nearly caught a water monitor lizard but also spotted our first (baby) crocodile! T.I.A. as they say, this is Africa. The water levels were not really high but still enough for the falls to be a spectacular sight and we spent a fair few hours beside the falls as well as ‘below’ the falls as we hiked to the little beaches further down the river. A few lovely spots with great viewpoints across the river and into Angola. The waterfalls are ofcourse small when compared to Victoria Falls or Niagara Falls but the remoteness makes up for it! 

Opuwo

Kaoko Mopane is the name of the lodge and campsite we stayed at while in Opuwo. Opuwo feels like a gateway town, a bit rough and ready. We saw many Himba men and women while driving into town and the contrast was stark, modern supermarkets and gasstation mixed with the half clothed Himba women in town. Strange place but lovely to see how people keep their traditions in place, the Himba men do wear more ‘western’ style clothing but a lot of the women prefer their traditional clothes. Happy to see! 

The lodge was nice and we stayed a few extra days before heading of to Epupa falls, the campsites all have private ablutions and come with a little kitchenette for the grown ups but also a little play area for the little ones, so our son was loving it! We enjoyed the lodge and it’s free WiFi and the nice bar as well as the help from the lodge manager. The thing was, that we had another minor repair to be done, while raising the cabin, as we wanted to put some sound insulation under the cabin, a hydraulic line burst and the cabin came down a lot speedier then it went up… luckily nobody got injured and nothing was damaged but a few liter of atf fluid were spilt as well as the broken hose ofcourse. The lodge manager was very kind and helpful and sourced us a new line that we would collect in a weeks time. Sorted! Now it was time to continue north and visit the famous Epupa falls in the Kunene river, along the border with Angola. 

The camp with a view!

Camp Aussicht, one of the campsites that were not on our original list but one that i was looking forward to as the reviews on iOverlander were pretty good and extensive. There was one little thing though, some reviews spoke of the northern route towards the campsite and other reports about the southern track towards the campsite. But first things first, we had to leave Ongongo falls and head back down… Luckily enough this went a little easier then our way up and we were on our way!

I had looked at Google maps quite a few time to see if we should take the north or south entrance as the iOverland entries were not very clear, some people complained about the northern track, other about the south, some people had done it with a truck and others marked another track but didn’t state if you should or shouldn’t use it so we had to deceive there and then.

The southern track it was, and we slowly made our way through a nice, red sand, riverbed and eventually slowly climbed up the first hill when the track started to get narrower and the small trees closer and closer…After the hassle of getting to Ongongo we were not really in the mood to have a difficult track up a hill but couldn’t really turn back so continued up, we pulled in the mirrors and engaged low range to climb toward the next hill, and the next and the next until we eventually arrived at Camp Aussicht and were greeted by the owner he greeted us in a very friendly manner and stated that he found it impressive that we came via the southern route, as the northern route was easier…. Doh!!

Camp Aussicht is built around an old mine that is no longer being used and sits in a beautiful spot overlooking the hills in the area. Plenty of birds and wildlife in the area and the free WiFi was great as we could sent a few messages home. In the evening the local porcupines came by and were fed with the left overs from that days dinner which was of course a great sight, but also a bit strange as we found some of the workmen from the area eating from our bin….

We stayed a few nights and shared some of our food with the men (like how we donated Antal’s shoes to the night watch at Ongongo) and enjoyed the walks around the area. The site has minimal water supply but the rains earlier in the year had provided much needed rain water for the year ahead but also washed away part of the northern route. Luckily this was now being repaired and we had a much easier and gentle drive downhill and onto Opuwo we went!!

African words!

Ongongo, sounded like a proper African word 😜!

The drive from Palmwag to Ongongo just outside Warmquelle brought us a couple of Giraf, 3 Zebra’s and a lovely stretch of gravel road too! The initial plan had been to go to Puros and explore that area before heading further north towards to Kunene river, but we changed this plan as we didn’t feel

comfortable crossing via the northern routes to Opuwo which would have meant tracking back south again before heading north via the ‘main’ road. The gravel roads into Warmquelle were nice and we quickly found the way to the campsite via the south side of the village. This road was very bouncy and crossed into and out of a dry and rocky river bed and although we could easily cross the riverbed, the climb out of the riverbed and into the bank was via a small and angled path and we wouldn’t be able to make the turn. So unfortunately we had to drive the bump road back towards to center of the village and make our way from there to the campsite. The track through the village and out into the hills became rocky and bouncy. At this we discussed turning back but now we were committed in getting to the campsite after having turned back at the river. The climb to the campsite wasn’t easy in our truck, I guess a car would easily fly up there but for us, with the angulation of the truck and cabin it just didn’t feel comfortable swaying around.

After what seemed like hours we made it to the campsite only to find out that the narrow track into the gorge were it was situated was to narrow us… unfortunately as this campsite is one of the prettiest campsites and neatest with private ablutions that we have seen so far! We were allowed to camp a few nights at the public parking spot above the waterfalls (which is the main attraction) and we enjoyed the waterfall and it’s small rock pool to the fullest. The temperature had been getting higher and higher in recent days so it was lovely to enjoy the cool water in the stream. Funnily enough we even ran into some Dutch people when arriving at the campsite that had ‘raced’ us through to village to try and make it to the waterfall before us and that would also be staying at the next campsite that we had booked! But that’s a story for another day… 

Palms!

9,10 and 11 September 2022

Sometimes it is hard to believe what we humans built in the middle of nowhere, right? I mean, Namibia, or at least the area around Palmwag, has had a 7 year drought and in the middle of this dry land there sits a beautiful lodge, at what feels like an oasis with 2 swimming pools and a small forest of palm trees and green grass. 

It was astounding to find this green and lush spot after all the dry terrain that we crossed and all the signs we have seen to save water and to be careful with what we use. The lodge and it’s staff were amazing though and this was one of the first campsites that even thought of the younger campers, the ones that like a swing and slide! Zev had a great time in the pool and on the jungle gym while we enjoyed the quality of the Gondwana owned campsite and lodge infrastructure. The lodge offers the option to go out with the Rhino 🦏rangers on a foot patrol and we heard mixed feedback from the people that went, nice to see a rhino in real life ofcourse but from quite a distance away and also after a very long drive. It seems to area can only support so many animals due to the ongoing drought. Looking back now we start to realise that it is time for lodges and Safari companies to rethink and redesign their offerings as the world and environment are changing rapidly. Only a few years back there was plenty of game around while you now hardly spot a gemsbok or two…. 

Madisa Camp

8&9 September 2022

It says 8 and 9 September but actually we only stayed one night in Madisa camp. Arriving there after driving only 100km’s from the White Lady Lodge. 

It was good to be rolling again and hitting some smooth tarmac from time to time. It really felt as if we had hit the ‘middle of nowhere’ in Namibia, traveling via D roads to Madisa we came across a few smaller villages to finally hit the final turn off to the campsite itself. The gps showed a small shop at the turn off but this wasn’t there anymore. Any way, not to worry as the campsites tend to have small restaurants and the option to buy a loaf of bread or two. The arrival at Madisa was very ‘rustic’, it looked like a quaint campsite and well situated across a dry riverbed. We checked in and had a short wander around the place, a funky round (donut shaped) but greenish swimming pool and a few nice seats on the shade around it and across the dry river bed the campsites, I think about 10 orso, all nicely situated with private ablutions built on stilts along the rocks. This campsite unfortunately was ‘haunted’ by fly’s! We have never had so many fly’s as here and the local lizard population was living the high life because of it. We found it less appealing and it drove us crazy from time to time. We did however invent the ‘game’ of ‘fly fishing’, tying a dead fly to Zev’s fishing road and dangling the fly in front of the ever present lizards in the hope of catching one. The lizards seemed to enjoy hunting our fly’s but ofcourse we didn’t hook one 😂. Late in the day the Dassie’s arrived in force and we realized the big population of Dassie’s meant plenty of Dassie poop 💩 and therefore the fly’s!

We decided to just stay a single night and continued our journey early in the morning. 

Ellies


From 5 to 7 September 2022 we stayed at the White Lady Lodge at Brandberg, a famous area to spot desert elephants!

Leaving Spitzkoppe meant we had to cross back over the corrugated local road but we made good time and enjoyed the scenery. The roads and gravel tracks were in good order so it looked like we would be in the lodge quite early. We spotted some nice birds along the gravel road and stopped to take pictures when the truck wouldn’t restart. 

Troubleshooting the reason for this took a while and we found out that the main relay to switch the batteries power on and off wasn’t working. We checked and fixed some of the wiring but still no luck. Further troubleshooting showed that one of our 2 12v batteries had died and we didn’t have 24v anymore but closer to 20v. This meant the battery wasn’t working anymore nor that we had enough power to start the truck. We tried to charge the dead battery but it wouldn’t hold any charge at all.wouldn’t hold a charge and showed 16v during the charge.. 

A few tourist and local cars had stopped and we thought of the different options. The small town of Uis was about 40k’s out and our best bet for a new battery. Some nice Swiss tourists stopped in town for us and asked around for a mechanic and kept us updated via sms. 

Then an overland truck with 20 orso French pensioners stopped for us and with the battery from their fridge we jumped started the truck! Hurray!

Gerrit from the local lodge just arrived too, he had gotten our messages via the Swiss people and had come our way too. He escorted us into town and offered a few options. We decided to head for the white lady lodge as planned and make a plan there. The lodge is located in a great spot, next to the Brandberg mountains and in a river bed. The gardens were beautifully crafted and the campsites private and spacious, perfect!

We quickly settled in and spent some time with Mia and Jack, the 2 almost tame Meerkats of the lodge. Sweet little creatures that enjoyed the attention that all visitors gave them. The gardens are amazingly crafted and are fertilised with elephant poop! A sweet sight!

We had our usual appletizer and first rock shandy for the trip before heading back to the truck where we were stopped by a guide who told us that a large herd of elephants was only a few kilometres from the campsite and 2 lone bulls approaching the campsite from the other side too.

Shortly after dark we heard the elephants distinct trompeting sound but as darkness had set in we couldn’t spot them between the bushes yet.

Then all of a sudden they were all there and passing in front and behind our truck, within centimeters off our front and back bumper. Standing outside and watching them quietly pass by and head for the bins was amazing 😂. 18 elephants we counted in total that passed by our camp that evening. 

What a gift after such a bad day!!