Monday, June 9, 2008

South Africa by Truck: Cape Town, Swakopmund, Etosha and Chobe National Park, Harare (Week 1)

The Route

The route we followed in this Southern part of Africa was as follows. We started in Cape Town - South Africa, northwards via the town Springbok to the border of Namibia called Noordoewer along the river Orange. From the border via Fish River Canyon, Sesriem, Namib Naukluft park to the coastal town Swakopmund. Through Etosha National Park crossing the Caprivi Strip to the border of Botswana to visit Chobe National Park. Crossing the border of Zimbabwe to the Victoria Falls, via the city Bulawayo, Great Zimbabwe ruins to the capital city of Zimbabwe, Harare.

Day 1: Amsterdam via London to Cape Town

The journey started at Friday, the 15th of August from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam at 6 pm. From London the journey continued in a big Boeing 747-400. It was a boring 11 hour flight to Cape Town. Victoria WharfColonial building in the center of Cape TownBoring because it was dark and nothing to see but the reflection of the moon in the rivers of Africa. After this tiring flight I had to queue up before the customs before they let me enter South Africa. It was Saturday around 9:30 am and I had still a long day to go. After I dropped my luggage in the hotel I went together with some other group members visiting the "Victoria Wharf" in the bay area of Cape Town, a tourist harbor with a lot of shops and restaurants. We also went to the center of Cape Town where we saw a colonial building. In the evening we met the rest of the group and had diner.

Day 2: Cape Town, Cape The Good Hope

Cape of Good HopeThis morning of our first day we paid a visit to the most southern part of Africa, Cape of Good Hope. It was a beautiful trip along the coastline of this peninsula. At the Cape of Good Hope we had a nice view of this coastline. At this place we could view the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This place is well known about the rough and dangerous sea where in the past a lot of ships went down. After some sight seeing we went back to Cape Town where we had the whole afternoon to visit the city. The cable car to the top of Table Mountain was not operational so we couldn't enjoy the view from the top.

Day 3: Northwards through Elephants River Valley, Vanrhynsdorp

Today we left the city Cape Town behind us. After everybody managed to put their luggage into the truck we started to drive northwards through Elephants River Valley towards our first camp site in Vanrhynsdorp. Because it was the winter season the temperature was not that high so in the morning it was quite chilly, especially because we did not lower down the cover of the truck. But we survived. At the camp site we set up our tents for the first time and we split up the tasks like cooking, washing up, water care etc.

Day 4: Springbok, Noordoewer - border between South Africa & Namibia

Weather became betterThis morning we had to get up early, around 6:30 ( later we found out it could be much earlier ). The target was to leave at 8:00 and we managed that, not bad for the first time. After another chilly trip through Namaqualand we stopped at a city called Springbok. Here we did some shopping before we continued our journey towards the border of Namibia. One moment we drove through the cloudy and chilly mountains of South Africa, and the next moment the country was flat, the temperature was rising and the clouds were disappearing. It never rains in Namibia, they told us. And that was correct because after crossing the border of Namibia all the clouds had disappeared and the it became warm. We entered the desert country. We crossed the border, which is the Orange river, at the place Noordoewer. Our camp site, "Felix Unite", was situated along the Orange river.

Day 5: Namibia, Noordoewer, Ai-ais

Orange RiverAt 10 o'clock in the morning we were ready to go for a canoe trip on the Orange river. The owner of the campsite had a number of Canadian canoe's and he brought us by car a few kilometers upstream the river. From this place we started our canoe trip with the final destination the campsite. It was a very relaxed canoe trip with the blazing sun as only danger. It took us a vew hours to return to the campsite where a lunch was waiting for us.

Swimming pool in Ai-Ais campsite.After the lunch we left the Orange river for a 50 km trip to the next campsite at Fish River Canyon, called Ai-Ais. In this campsite there was a nice swimmingpool with water heated by a local Hot water spring. This means, water with a temperature of about 30' Celsius. Ai-Ais was situated in the shallow part the Fish River Canyon.

Day 6: Fish River Canyon

Quiver treeAt 10:30 we left Ai-Ais towards the deeper part of the Fish River Canyon. We drove constantly parallel to the canyon. Along the way we saw a number of Quiver trees. This tree can only be found in the southern part of Namibia.Fish River Canyon. At about 1:30 pm we reached a viewing site with splendid views of the deeper part of the Fish River Canyon. The Fish River Canyon has a length of about 161 km and a maximum depth of 550 meters. The impressive Fish River Canyon is only surpassed by the Grand Canyon in the United States of America. Only in the summer a river is flowing through the canyon. The rest of the year there are only pools of water left. A long time ago it must have been a mighty river.
The viewing site was also our starting point of the hike to the bottom of the canyon. The first part of the hike was pretty steep. There was no 'comfortable' footpath like in the Grand Canyon. Bottom of the Fish River Canyon.If was more like climbing down across big rocks. The second part of the descent it was less steep and this was the easier part of the hike. It was also partly in the shadow. At the bottom of the canyon there was a pool of water. The water was surprisingly cold. We had a bit of a swim and a small hour of rest before we started the way back. We did not have that much time left before it became dark. The way back was pretty hard, especially the last steep part was quite strenuous. But we all managed to get back where a nice cool beer waited for us. After watching the sunset we went back to our campsite.

Day 7: Duwisib Castle

Lunch in the desert.Today we had to travel a distance of about 500 kilometers. The first part the route would be across nice asphalt roads but the second part would be across gravel roads. The further we drove northwards the drier the landscape became. At lunchtime we stopped somewhere in the middle of the desert. It was very warm so everybody tried to find a place in the shadow of the truck. Along the way we saw the first two animals, two Oryx antelopes. Towards the end of the afternoon we reached our final destination of today. Campsite in the valley near Duwisib Casle.It was a small valley in the middle of nowhere, near Duwisib Castle. The place we were going to camp only had some elemental toilets. After diner we switched off all lights so it became very dark. After a vew minutes you get used to the dark and we had a magnificent view of the sky where we could see a lot of stars, even the Milky Way (galaxy) was visible. I have never seen such a clear sky with that many stars visible. In the Netherlands there is a lot of light pollution because of all the cities. Here, there isn't.

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