4 July 2012
Today we left for our midyear holiday to Namibia. Its the first time in several years that we are able to go away during this period due to work commitments. Looking forward to a fun time!
We decided to take it step-by-step as I am not sure how far I would be able to go in the car after the operation I had. Today we drove about halfway to Windhoek, from Pretoria to Kang in Botswana, 684km. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time for sightseeing, but we saw a large portion of the landscape.
We are staying over at the Kang Excel filling station. They have budget accommodation for tourists that is ideal for a stopover only. We had a lovely supper in their restaurant: I had a burger and Rolandi, my wife, had stir fry. A lovely cooked meal after a long day.
On our way there we saw a number of animals, including baboons, cattle and a variety of birds. I will post the list with tomorrows sitings.
At the border we had no complications. I had all my papers ready, so it didn't take long. The Botswana side had a long cue trying to apply for road permits. We had to exchange Rands for Pulas to pay the P110 to enable us to drive on their roads. You pay a bit of a premium for the luxury of exchanging there...
A long, slow drive, but quite exciting!
5 July 2012
Today we drive from Kang in Botswana to Windhoek in Namibia. We have to pass through 'Buitepos', the border post between the two countries on the A2. Its a total of 705 kilometres travel, but takes us the whole day. Though not without some adventure!
While driving from Kang to the border there are no other towns. You have to take a detour to Ghanzi if you need anything. The road is in mint condition, but you drive slowly due to the many animals next to it. We saw a herd of Oryx about 5 meter from the road, as well as many other animals, as per this list my wife kept by.
The landscape does not change much from before Kang to after Kang. This is the dry part of Botswana, almost desert like, with many trees at stages. A relaxing drive.
This time crossing the border was very fast. There were no ques and the officials were helpful. A pleasant experience. No one told us about the road permit you have to pay for until we reached the gate. They sent us back and we paid our R220 for it, no worries. We would later learn that my father-in-law also did not know, but could correct that.
The 100km from the border to Gobabis was very exciting. We saw plenty of animals, including warthog. As soon as they lift their tails, you better hit the breaks because that means they are running off, possibly in your direction!
We bought MTC simcards in Gobabis as it is much cheaper than roaming. That took us 5 minutes. They do not have the same stringent regulations as in the RSA. The best part is only certain people get that new number... Its another 209km to Windhoek where we sleep over, but first, time for lunch at Wimpy.
Its my first visit ever to Namibia and, as promised, I sleep over at Ruan, my flatmate from varsity's place. He promised to light a fire for a braai, and so we did. Namibia sell some of the largest chops, at a great price, thus I ate to much! A great way to finish the day. AND with a lot of anticipation for the next day!
6 July 2012
We left from Ruan's place at 7am, Namibian time. When crossing the border we had to adjust our watches back by 1 hour as Namibia, much like the UK, adjusts its time during winter. We had a few good laughs about this during our stay as some of the locals are opposed to this. What I found interesting is that the GPS adjusts automatically, thus we arrived an hour 'ealier' than anticipated!
I needed the GPS to leave Windhoek. Everytime I thought is was the end of the city, but soon realised it was just a hill and that the city continues. Big thanks to Garmin! We drove off to the north, through Okahandja and Otjiwarongo to Outjo where we would meet up with the rest of the family who left the RSA a few days earlier.
Okahandja is about 80 kilometres from Windhoek. Since we left early we had time for breakfast there. What a pleasant surprise that turned out to be. We stopped at the first open place, Dekkers Bachery, in the main street. I had bacon and eggs while my wife had a biltong brodchen. It was divine.
It was here that we first experienced the Namibian atmosphere in the true sense of the word. It seemed like all the locals popped in to get a fresh bread, as well as the latest gossip. People waited for their bread in order to ensure they get a hot one. Afterwards we took on the remaining 200-odd kilometres to Outjo, again with plenty of animals.
We met our parents at the farmhouse, a restaurant in town. The building previously hosted a clothing store back in the days my dad stayed there. It is owned by a Herero lady and is an amazing place. I had a chicken salad, coffee and carrot cake for about 70 Namibian dollars. We spent more than an hour eating and chatting before going on a 'guided tour' of Outjo, facilitated by dad.
He showed us a house that his dad build in the 1950's. Grandpa and I walked into the yard as it was now fully walled. The people were friendly and allowed us to look around. We also saw the primary and secondary schools where dad matriculated. Also the 2 hostels he stayed in. There are many old churches, as well as the building that hosted the cheese factory. The owners son attended school with dad.
At around 3pm we left to Ombinda Lodge 1km out of town. Here we met up with several of dads cousins and uncles. My wife knew some of them, but I met all of them for the first time. They told stories of the past and were very happy to see each other again after so many years. I also learned about the 'nefie-bond'...
It was time to go to dads best friends house on the farms about 50km out of town, towards Etosha. They stayed on the neighbouring farm where dad grew up. We got there around 6pm with the sun setting. Just in time for the fire to be lit. Uncle Dick, grandpa's youngest brother also came with for the weekend. He and dad grew up together as they are only 3 years apart.
Oom Piet started the fire and we had chops again, what a treat. Next to the fire I had a very special moment. Dad presented me with a kierie (cane) as was the tradition in my varsity hostel, Veritas. This proclaims that you can now be seen as a man. He did this as my father passed away when I was 5 years old. I appreciated it a lot and it filled me with pride. Words could not describe it.
Tannie Magda made pap with assistance from the ladies. We would get to now each other better around the dinner table that night with stories from past and present. Legendary people!
7 July 2012
Yesterday evening after the 'seremony' and great dinner the men stepped aside for an informal meeting. Only one thing was on the agenda, today's hunting safari. We had to decide who, when, where and what. Exciting times.
Oom Piet promised dad he can shoot a kudu if he comes to visit. Dad, in return, allowed me to try and shoot the kudu. It is my first ever attempt and one of the things on my bucket list. Oom Piet suggested that we go by daybreak. We would drive around on the back of the Land Cruiser and see if there was anything within range, but not before attempting some target shooting...
I got up just before 6am Namibian time, nervously excited. We all had coffee together and went outside to learn how to work Oom Piets .308. I was first up with an anxious crowd behind me including Dad, Rolandi, sis Melindri, Oom Dick, Oupa and Oom Piet. The target was set 25 metres aways with 4 crosses on it. When I pulled the trigger a deafening sound silenced everyone. I just saw dust behind the target and thought I shot right over the target. The men walked closer to inspect and I have to admit, I was anxious. I shot about 3cm right of the middle of the cross, not bad, I thought. I told Rolandi that I would not attempt another shot as I was happy with that one. Don't tempt your luck!
After some of the other men also shot at the target we jumped on the Cruiser to start driving around. We did this as it was very cold with the wind blowing. Oom Piet believed that, because of the wind the kudu's would be in the hills. They hide there from the wind. The drive also gave us a chance to see a bit of the farm. We stopped at Kentucky, the old farmhouse to give some feed to the workers there. We also saw some Blesbok very close to the house.
I spotted the first kudu of the day, about 200 metres from us. You could only see the head and I had to stand and shoot without a base to stabilise myself on. Before I could even take a shot it ran off. The guys gave me some flack for not attempting and later in the day I would wish that I did try! We drove around until 10am and then had a brunch back at the house on Tsobaas where we stayed.
Brunch took very long again as any meal results in storytelling and discussions. Very enjoyable, relaxing moments. We left again at about 1pm for our hunting expedition. This time Oom Dick would sit at the 'pos' on Kentucky, while Dad and I would go to a 'pos' on Tzaas. By doing this you would sit on a platform in a tree and wait for the animals to come and drink water. If they get close enough you are able to stabilise yourself and have a clear shot.
Dad and I took 2 bottles of water, some sweets and a lot of biltong and dry wors with us to the post. You have to be extremely quiet and sit still so that you don't scare the animals off. We discussed our strategy and waited. And waited, and waited. Nature was very quiet with just the wind blowing and the sound of the wind pump turning in our ears. Many birds were around so you could listen to every sound. Time was not a factor - true bliss! It felt like we were in paradise!
The first animal we saw was a warthog. Dad spotted it and we followed it with our eyes only. We couldn't afford to move. It drank water from the crip and ran off, I am not sure that it spotted us... A while later we saw another kudu. It was small and about 150m away. It came closer and closer, but was nervious. I was not used to the platform in the tree as it was new. When it was about 50m away it ran off. A pity, I thought, though it was small.
At about 17:00 I saw another kudu. i just indicated to dad, but he could not se it as he was obstructed by a branch. I got into position and fired a shot. My ears were ringing again and I just saw dust and how the kudu ran away. Dad said he could hear that the kudu was shot and that we must go and find it. He also saw it running off. I thought I missed it.
After about 30 minutes of searching we could not establish a trail, not did we see any blood. It was dark now and we undertook to come back in the early morning to find it. The veld was thick and we hoped that it would not get to far from the 'pos'. Oom Thys came to fetch us and we went back to the house on Tsobaas.
It was time for dinner again and the ladies prepared a feast. Kudu-steaks and some vegies with rice. Dinner was accompanied by stories again and we sat there till very late. Oom Dick did not have a shot since no kudu came to the 'pos'. We would go out again tomorrow. I did get a few comments for missing, or almost missing... but the experience was great and we still have tomorrow. Looking forward!
8 July 2012
Today, Sunday, me and dad got up early again to go and search for "the one that got away..." Oom Dick also got up to walk through another camp so that he could try and shoot his kudu. It was a cold morning and after coffee and rusks we drove with my car to Tzaas, where Oom Thys stays. He took us with his bakkie to the camp where dad and I sat yesterday. Three of the workers also came with.
We started walking around the camp in an "organised" fashion in order to try and spot either tracks or blood. The workers know about tracks, so they took the lead. I walked around the camp praying as it gave me some time alone. I could also sing a bit, something I don't do to much of in front of strangers...
We walked around searching for some 3 hours, with not even a trace of any blood: NOTHING. I was more convinced than ever that I missed and it hurts to type this here... ouch! I was about 500m away from the rest of the group when I started hearing shouts and hooters. As I walked closer I could hear dad whistling and calling my name. I thought, I hoped, that they found something, but alas, nothing. They waited for me to get on the bakkie and drive around the camp.
On our way back to my car dad had his gun loaded looking for another kudu, but we found nothing. I felt bad since, if I did shoot the kudu, I must be in some pain. Lets hope not. We got to the car and went back to the farmhouse. Oom dick was also back, but he again had no shot at a kudu. Not our day...
It was time for a real boere breakfast. The ladies exceeded themselves with the preparation and we had a feast. Oom Piets older sister, Tannie Sandra and her husband, Hennie, came from Otjiwarongo to join us for the day. Little did we know what a blessed brunch this would turn out to be!
As we sat listening to all the stories as was the habbit during meals, Melindri told everyone how afraid she was during their stay on the previous part of their trip, before we joined. One thing lead to another and soon it was stories about ghosts, witchcraft and the like. Things that some of us do not really believe in. Since dad is a pastor everyone wanted his opinion and soon we were in a bit of dialog. I call this destiny, some might call it chance.
Grandpa told his story about the comfort he received via a vision he had when his daughter, Mariaan, passed away at only about 18 months. Oom Piet and Tannie Magda's youngest son, Klein Piet, also passed away during 2006. The atmosphere was tangible. Devine intervention took place. There was no dry eye in the house. Thats how God works, through ordinary people being obedient to Him.
By the time that was finished it was time for lunch. It was around 4pm when we finished eating again. What a day, and it is still not finished! We all got onto 2 of the bakkies and were off to Taurus, grandpa's farm where dad grew up. It is now owned by a Herero family and all wanted to see what its like. The guns went with. just in case...
As "luck" would have it a herd of kudu appear at the 'pos' close to Oom Thys' house. Oom Dick to a shot and had it: A young kudu bull. Its throat was slit so that it would not be in pain and we drove on. Taurus was a bit of a shock. I didn't know it from before so it didn't hurt me as much, but Oom Dick was visibly upset. Dad saw it in 2004 so he knew what to expect. The degree of decay was indescribable. The camps had been overtaken by thick bush while the house practically fell apart. Years of hard work down the drain...
Little did I know that the best part of the day still lay ahead. When we got back to the kudu we loaded it on the back of the Cruiser and, before I could get away, I received a 'special' part of the kudu as gift. I had to swallow a part of the kudu-testicle raw, as was tradition. Although I did not shoot one, they consensus was that I just didn't find the one I shot. I did it without protesting, but struggled to get it down. Ask Oom Piet about that...
It was jokes and games the rest of the evening since everyone had their opinion about my "incident". The ladies thought it was barbaric, the men knew it had to be done. We took photos and put the skin of the kudu in salt to persevere it. We ate some freshly made kudu liver while Rolandi and Melindri had some of it up their noses: unpleasant!
In all, a greatly successful day!
9 July 2012
Today is our last on the farm. We had to prepare the meat from the kudu that was hunted down yesterday. I envisaged that this would take the whole day. It was my first time ever working meat and I looked forward to it.
The workers already cleaned up the kudu the previous night and all the blood ran out. Oom Piet showed us how to cut the carcass into smaller pieces so that it is more manageable. Its quite a process and requires some considerable power, as well as a sharp knife, which Oom Piet provided.
We placed it in the cooler so that we could go for Tannie Magda's brunch. What a treat! Brunch, lunch and dinner always takes longer here than anywhere as we sit down and chat like time stands still. At some stages it does...
We continued afterwards and Oom Piet showed me how he cuts all the relevant pieces of meat: Rump, fillet, silver-side, etc. It was my first time seeing all the different cuts. They make a lot of sense since its quite natural to cut it along the different folds in the leg. After a while I started cutting up the meat that was going to be used in the dry wors. It had to be in 50x50mm pieces. I also cut the fat (about 10kg) into smaller blocks. It seemed like the whole day and I chopped a part of my finger. No complaining as it was a great day!
After a while we spiced the wors and minced it. With the equipment Oom Piet owns it didn't take long and we could start with the stuffing of the wors. Tannie Magde came to help us with that, she is quite the expert! Its seemed like all day, but in reality it only took about 2 hours. Oom Piet also braaied a piece for us in the donkey. Great wors, although a bit salty. I reckon it's going to be super dry wors. The wors kept on breaking, but we pushed through and then took a break to: Go horse riding!
Melindri asked Oom Piet if she could go on a ride with one of his horses. Gentleman that he is he couldn't say no. At about 4pm he caught one of the horses after a long struggle. Melindri was VERY excited, but also afraid after she saw what the horse got up to in order to catch it. Her ride was very smooth. I also jumped on the horse but had a less perfect ride. Although it was fun!
Afterwards we finished the wors and prepared for the evenings fodd: A braai again! Oom Piet took ribs out of the freezer and spiced it perfectly. Perfect dinner for a perfect day.
Again the dinner table would be more like a church service than a supper. We all gave testimony of our experience of Oom Piet and Tannie Magda. Here what I had to say:
Today is one of the days I looked forward to the most before the trip: Driving through the great Etosha National Park.
We were up bright and early in order to get to the gate by the time it opens up. We had to pack everything so that Oom Piet and Tannie Magda could get the rooms ready for their other guests who were due to arrive back by the afternoon. We had some rusks and coffee and set off to the park by half past 6.
Its only about 50km from the farm to the park on a road that was previously un-tarred. The new road is in mint condition. On our way to the park we already saw Giraffe, Warthog and plenty of birds. It was destined to be a great day…
It the main entrance we signed in and took some photos. You have to drive to the first rest camp, Okaukeujo, to pay for the park entry. For foreigners it was about R60pp. We also bought some memorabilia and I took the chance to buy my customary Zebra. The day already seemed perfect! On your way to Okaukeujo we saw a jackal. We climbed the old tower that German soldiers build during the war. Oupa also climbed it despite his 82 year old body. Well done! At the rest camp there is a lookout point. It is floodlit by night and has several benches to sit on around the camped off area. I saw it in one of our local travel magazines, die WEG. I wanted to go and see what is like. When we got there an elephant was standing in the middle of the waterpond. What a sight! Barely into the park and we already saw an elephant…
We started our journey to the west. The locals gave us some tips for day-drives. Do not rush through it. Also, do not try and go to Halali if the time doesn’t allow. Rather turn around earlier and go back via the southerly route. We saw a whole list of animals:
Plenty of birds:
At a certain waterhole called Rietfontein, we stopped for a while. As we stopped 2 crows approached our vehicle. It is obvious that people fed these crows since they came begging for food. We also gave them breadcrumbs, unfortunately. People in the other cars told us that lions are close-by, so we waited quite a while. Some of the ladies needed to go, and they also wanted more food. So we went to the Halali camp. Not as impressive as Okaukeujo, but only because of the waterhole. We had our break and started the journey back.
Again we stopped at the Rietfontein water hole just in case the lions where there, but no such luck. To my surprise, and my wife’s dismay, hundreds of lions flooded the scene. I dubbed it Zebra Heaven! AAAAH, life’s good! We carries on south-east. At some point we saw Giraffe by the dozen. They were standing on the horizon and made a pretty picture. I know a few people who would have loved that! One of our last stops was at the Gemsbokvlakte water hole. Here we saw elephant, giraffe, springbok and zebra in one photo.
We went back to Okaukeujo for a last visit to the water hole and saw 8 elephants, and then our journey away began with a last stop on the farm. We said goodbey to 2 great new friends, oom Piet and Tannie Magda, as well as the farm, Tsobaas. While we were there the othjer visitors came. A sad goodbey, but not good riddens.
That night we slept in Outjo at Ombinda Lodge, a very nice place @ R300 per head including breakfast. For me, worth all the money and effort already!