November 12, 2014

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED

Hello readers and visitors,

This blog has moved to my personal website. Please visit my new blog at http://www.martageorge.com/blog. Come checkout my new travels and updates. Don't forget to update your feed.

See you there and thanks for reading.

Marta

September 27, 2005

Dusted Out

Dust, Dust, Dust. Everywhere! After 4 days of travel on gravel roads, it is everywhere. In the car trunk, in your hair, gritting in your mouth. You slam the car door and Poof - another cloud.

But this is the small price you have to pay to see the wonders here in the Namibian desert. We left Etosha and spent a luxury night in the rocky area of Erongo. We went on sundowner hike and had a glass a wine up on the rocks. Then it was off to the cool coastline in Swapkomund. A holiday resort town.

Then it was off to the desert. We wanted to see this prehistoric plant, Welwitchias and went searching in the Namib National Park. We found them and boy are they ugly. Six dusty hours later, we arrived at Sesreim and our home for the next two nights at Desert Homestead. The bungalows were really nice. But our main objective were the dunes of Sousselvlei. The next morning we were up at 5:30 to grab some coffee and drive to queue up for the park to open at 7:00. The light is good only for two hours and it is a made dash into the park to see the shadows on the red sand dunes. Unreal. Like something from the movie "Dune".... hmmmm I wonder what did inspire Herbert?

We stopped at Dune 45 and we had to climb it. The sand was still cool and the view awesome. But the light quickly changed so we returned for a sleepy afternoon.

Today, we have returned to Windhoek. I'm in the 'largest internet cafe in Africa' according to the sign. Seems like it. Tomorrow we leave for home. Do we have to? There is so much more to see and it has been great. We will definitely come back.

September 22, 2005

Search for Elephants

Greetings from Etosha. We have spent two amazing days in this wonderful paradise for wildlife. Here the people are in cages (cars and restcamps) and the animals are free.

Wednesday we arrived in Namibia. It feels very similar to SA but yet different. We got money at the airport and we were given SA Rands instead of Namibian Dollars. The currancy is interchangeable with namibian. We picked up our car. Boy, what was I thinking when I went with the lower cost class without A/C. and no Radio or CD. Oh well, roll down the windows and prepare for a hot dusty week.

We headed for our first stop in Waterburg National Park. Along the way, we stopped in a grocery store (Spar, same as SA) It was very clean and well stocked. The people are very friendly but there is a protocol. First, you say hello and ask them how they are doing. They will say fine and ask you back. Then you start your transaction. If you don't, they are quiet and reserved. It is actually a very nice and polite way to do business.

The road stretched through dry leafless thorn trees that seemed to go forever in the distance. Very few cars and trucks which isn't surprising since there are about 2 million in population and many do not have cars.

After about 3 hours, we reached the plateau. The bungalows were simple but very clean. We did a few of the trails at sundown and then had a good sit down dinner. It was not at night and we didn't sleep much.

After breakfast, we headed on. The terrain was similar and rather boring. After about 3 hours we reached the Etosha gates. The terrain had changed to stark white ground and car high black thorn trees. The sky was gray-blue from the dust. We signed in and headed out. We hadn't gone 10k when we saw our first springbok and zebra. We headed towards Okandeka, a water hole along the Etosha Pan. The pan is a huge dry salt encrusted lake bed. It shimmers in the heat. Along the shore and inland are several natural and man made water holes which attract animals. Okondeka was spectacular. We started seeing lines of Zebras and Springboks heading towards the shore but the best were the firaffes. In the distance, they looked like creatures from Star Wars in the heat and dust. They lumbered slowly on the horizon. At the water hole, there were hundreds of different animals; giraffe, springbok, zebra, secretary birds, wildebeestsn oryx, vultures and wild dogs. It was meserizing and spectacular.

We headed on to Halali, the middle camp. Unfortunately, it was midday and the animals were not that active although we did see a pair of lions sleeping and a wide variety of different antelope.

We arrived at Halali and checked in. We had a "VIP" bungalow which was great. Two bedrooms, full bath, kitchen and even satelite TV and air conditioning. There are only 2 VIP cottages. The rest of the cottages are more simple and basic. I wish I had known it had a fully equiped kitchen - I would have brought stuff to cook. There is a small store in camp with a lo of tinned goods and frozen meat. There is a braai (BBQ) which we could have used if we both ate meat.

We showered and relaxed before heading to dinner. A buffet which was so-so. We also checked out the water hole in camp but saw nothing.

The next morning we had breakfast and headed towards Namutomi hoping to see elephants. We hadn't seen any the day before. It was several hours before we hit it lucky at Kalkheuwel water hole and found one drinking. We sat and ate lunch. Soon two more arrived. We think they were three male elephants.

But the day was topped off later that evening. After dinner, we walked to the lighted camp water hole. A black rhino family came down to drink. But out of the darkness came a spectular site; a herd of elephants led by the Matriarch and included two baby elephants. Outnumbered, the rhinos backed off and the elephants drank noisily. Just as quickly as they appeared, they left into the darkness. The rhinos had waited and came back for a second drink. We even saw the baby rhino nursing.

We have seen many of the different antelopes; oryx, hartebeest, impalas, bontebok, kudu and eland. The most common animals are sebras, springbok and wildebeest. You actually start to get 'bored' with the zebras although they are great to photograph. They are also always crossing the road. A whole new meaning to 'zebra crossing'.

Time to move on. Next up Erongo and then the coast. After that the sand dunds of Namib desert. Still more to come before our return in less than a week.

September 17, 2005

Wine and Flowers

We have returned to Cape Town (Kaapstad in Afrikaans). We have definitely put our little Dutch knowledge to use. We even had to use it to find a garden (Tuin) yesterday.

I am sitting here in the Internet Cafe in Stellenbosch after a nice fish lunch. I love the calamari! We also saw the Vergelegen wine estate with lovely gardens. Just don't ask me how to pronounce it. We're heading on to Fransehhoek later this afternoon.

We have seen and experienced so much, I don't know where to start. A week ago we were still in Springbok. We spent a day in the Skilpad area of Namaqua National Park. Yes, it does mean tortoise and we actually did see one. We have seen several crossing the road both in Namaqualand and the West Coast National Park. It brings a whole new meaning to speed bump. To get to Skilpad, we traveled about an hour to Kamiskroon and then headed on a red dirt road for about 30km. We came over the hill and it was a carpet of gold. The area consisted of two 6KM trails and a circular 'Tourist road' for driving. We spent hours just meandering amid the flowers. There was a slight breeze and it was dizzying to watch the flowers swaying in the wind. We spent most of the day enjoying the vistas.

The next day we got up at the crack of dawn to met Piet, our guide and driver for a very long day trip to the Richtersveld National Park. We met him at 7am and climbed into his trusty Toyota Land Rover. The Richtersveld is located in the far Northestern board of South Africal along the Orange River bording Namibia. It is a series of Mountains with a unique landscape. A wide variety of plants grow only in this area. It is also a place of mystery and solitude. It took us 3 1/2 hours by tarred and dirt road to reach the park gate. Along the way we passed small villages and nomadic huts while flying along the dirt roads at 60mph.

Once in the park, the roads became rougher and Piet had to shift into 4-wheel drive. I was certain I'd be sore the next day from bumpy road but I wasn't. Soon we came across one of the rarest plants in SA, the halfman or Pachypodium namaquanum. These spiny tree-like succulents are topped with a rosette of leaves and eerily, they bend towards the north. They look like men in the shadows. The road got even rougher and rougher at times the Land Rover slowly crawled over the rocks. Around 2pm we made it to the Orange River and stopped. Piet provided a tasty lunch for us. We relaxed before heading on. Along the way, we saw huge clumps of Hoodia and Euphorbia succulents along the steep cliffs. It was also very hot and dry - in the mid 90's. As the shadows lengthened, the vistas became magical. We exited out over Helsgoot Pass (spelling?) which meand Hell's Gate. It lived up to its name. It was covered with a unique aloe which was burnt red by the intense sun and they looked like flames of fire in the setting sun. At 5:30 we left the park and started the long drive back to Springbok where we stumbled into bed after thanking Piet for a wonderful day.

Next we moved on to our next stop; Nieuwoudtville - the bulb capital of the world. Over 35-40% of the worlds geophytes (bulbs) are found in the area on the Bokkeveld plateau. We spent three nights at a wonderful farm guest house called De Lande. It is part of Papsuilsfontein Farm and it is run by Mariette Van Wyn who is a wonderful hostess. She made us feel so welcome and we quickly became friends. We spent the days searching for wild gladolias, sparaxis and other bulbs. Evenings were spent at dinner with the other guests. We also had a chance to get a tour by Neil MacGregor. He has become an ecological spokesperson and is very astute. Over the years he has been able to farm while respecting and conserving the natural flora. He is a true man of vision.

The weather turned and a hot dry wind blew from the North. It was over 90 degrees and we could see the flowers wilting fast.

Our time had come to an end and we headed back to Cape Town. The weather also changed and it was a rainy drive back. Quite a contrast from the day before. With George's good navigation, we found the Clarkia Guest Cottage; our home for the next 6 days.

Suzanne, the owner, gave us a quick tour. Then it was off to the Woolworth's, the local upscale supoermarket for supplies. We got breakfast makings and a pasta dinner. There were many prepacked meals similar to what can be found in Holland and England. The two different things are the supermarkets are often located in Malls and they don't seel beer or other liquor in the supermarket. You have to go to a liquor store for beer.

Our first day back in Cape Town was rainy. The streets in Cape Town and Newlands area are narrow and very stressful driving. Especially for someone not used to driving on the left. Add on wet streets and no ability to see the white line. But we made it out and drove to the Karoo Botanical Garden in sunny Worchester. We went through a tunnel and on the other side found baboons running across the freeway. Some just sat on the railings and looked at the mountains. We also stopped in Paarl for lunch and a wine tasting at Fairview. They are the makers of "Goats Do Roam" wines. They have several other labels and some very good wines. We also tasted some cheese also made at the winery including goat cheese. :)

Well, it is only a few more days in Cape Town. Tuesday we head for Namibia. We will be pulling out the shorts since the temps have been in the mid 30's (or upper 90 degrees!) in Windhoek. I'll try to check in but I'm not certain if I'll be able to get a chance in the desert. But who knows.

September 8, 2005

Namaqualand - Fields of Gold

I only have time for a quick update. I promise to upload more details when we return. We are doing outstandingly well. Everything is going as planned or better. No close calls except for one that I will describe later.

We are currently in Springbok and we have spent a wonderful day chasing the flowers. Okay, let's catch up - We left off after our arrival in Cape Town. We spent Sunday touring Kirstenbosch, one of the best botanical gardens in the Southern hemisphere. The gardens are on the slope of Table Mountain and the path takes you up through wonderful growths of proteas. There is also a wonderful succulent conservatory.

Monday, we picked up our car and hit the road. It is still hard for me to get used to driving on the left. "Now... where is that rear view mirror anyway?" We drove to Clanwilliam which is about 3 hours north of Cape Town. Here we saw a wonderful flower show staged in their old Dutch Reform church. Flowers (proteas, bulbs, succulents) had been gathered from the surrounding farms for display.

Then we were off for our luxury stay at Bushmans Kloof 35k away. We could definitely get used to this! We spent two nights being pampered and taken on flower/game safari drives. They are in the Cedarburg area which has a wealth of flowers. Also on the property are herds of hoofed animals such as Ostrich, Springbok, Bontebok, Gnu, other antelopes and Cape Zebras. We saw many babies since it is Spring. We also got to see ancient rock art painted by the San people over 2000 years ago. The food and service were wonderful as was our guide, James, who is also a botanical enthusiast.

But we did have our one close encounter here. We took a trail on our own one afternoon to explore some of the area. It was well marked but we were meandering along to check out the plants. Before we knew, it was almost time to be back for our afternoon sundowner drive. We rushed back and came quickly around a corner - face to face with a black spitting cobra! We surprised him and he reared up to strike displaying his hood. I was so shocked I could not get a picture before he backed down and slithered away. He was shiny jet black and over 6 feet long. Damn! I wish I had gotten his picture. What a way to celebrate our anniversay.

Soon it was time to leave the Kloof and we headed north to Springbok. The land became less and less inhabited and the terrain changed dramatically to desert.

Shortly before Springbok, we saw our first field of brillantly orange daisies. Acres and acres of Gazanias in the wild. Yipee! We weren't too late for the flowers.

Springbok is a small town with mining as one of the main industries. It feels very similar to Arizona with large red stacks of rocks called koppies that suround the town. Our B&B is very nice and overlooks the town.

Yesterday we drove to Nababeep. The tourist bureau recommended it and it was great. We came over the hill and gold covered the hillsides and lined the road. We wandered for hours and George even found a wild salvia in bloom. Next we headed to Goegap Nature Preserve. Here we saw fields of magenta succulents accented by large Aloe trees called Quiver Trees amid red rock koppies.

We did find the sun hot and intense. The temperatures are only in the mid- 70's but it is so dry.

We caught a bit of the news today. We don't have CNN here in Springbok but we do get the three South African stations, SABC 1, 2 and 3. The news is broadcast at different times in the different languages; English, Afrikaan and Xhosa. We did catch the morning English broadcast and saw the protests over the rescue efforts in New Orleans. They showed the Mexican humanitarian troops crossing the border in Texas and the Move On protesters. The world is watching.

Today we head for Skilpad and more fields of gold. These are considered the best in Namaqualand. We can't wait. TaTa for now.

About Me

I live in the suburbs of Seattle with my husband. I love traveling, photography, hiking, cooking and hunting for wildflowers. Read more

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