Journal - Part 30 - South Africa (Stephanie's comments)

Monday 3rd August

My plane from Dubai was a little late arriving at Cape Town as we'd had to wait for a new battery, but it was great as I walked over the bridge to see Ian waiting for me in the airport foyer, and then after collecting luggage etc. to jump into the familiar land rover which I hadn't seen since leaving it in Marrakech in January. Ian gave me a tour that included a huge shanty town, views of table mountain ( I did say "hello" to it from Margaret who is a long way from her native Cape Town working in Shrewsbury UK) the Waterfront and coastal views where an ominous front was clearly coming in. We then settled into our Formula I accommodation for the night.

Tuesday 4th August

Unfortunately my hectic schedule back home prior to leaving coupled with the journey, resulted in waking with a migraine. However, we set out and I was delighted to see the African Penguins at Boulders (shame we lost the photos the following week) enroute to Cape Point. The weather was pretty much what I'd left behind in the UK - rain ! For me I had my first sightings of Baboons and Ostriches. Later that afternoon it was lovely to meet Carina, wife of the shipping contact that Ian had been given, and we really appreciated her hospitality where I had my first experience of african rusks that you dip into your tea/coffee.

We then settled into Salty Crax Backpackers which was very pleasant and then treated ourselves to our only meal out for the whole of my trip.

Wednesday 5th August

Visited a huge shopping Mall in Cape Town. Had another night at Salty Crax and for me, I was quite glad to have an early night after eating in with some food we bought at a local shopping mall.

Thursday 6th August

Today we started to head north arriving at Gekko Backpackers at Citrusdal in the Cederburg mountains. The plan was to camp but it was clearly going to be a chilly night and as I sorted the bedding, discovered that some of it was suffering from effects of damp and wet. Luke lit a fire to help us dry some things out and then let us use the washing machine, as well as giving us the use of a dormitory for the night.

Friday 7th August

We left Gekko laden with citrus fruit - it is from here that outspan oranges arrive in our super markets - thank you Luke.

As we travelled north through the mountains it started to get hot, there was a huge glow of orange and yellow flowers on either sides of the roads. This was the first night camping at Springbok in the Northern Cape and I had my first sighting of the milky way.Not easy for Ian who has had months to finely tune his camping routine to then have me slowing the whole process up having not camped since January.

Saturday 8th August

Continued to travel through the Northern Cape until we reached the border with Namibia. Having crossed the border the landscape changed dramatically to semi desert. It was incredible that in the middle of this quite harsh desolation we came across a Camp Site very much geared up for 21st century tourists with western expectations. It was a pity that I hadn't packed a swimming costume as here at Ai Ais you could swim in an indoor pool fed by a hot spring. Despite the heat, we were still trying to get the washing done at Gekko, dried, so much of it was laid out on the hot rocks.

Sunday 9th August

Set off early for Fish River Canyon. Had my first sightings of impala deer and from a distance, Zebra.

After a long hot day, we set about trying to find somewhere to camp. Having been declined at one place due to storm damage, we arrived at Bethanie Hotel where we camped in the grounds but had use of a private bathroom. We were the only guests and joined the staff in the bar after cooking tea.Here a big steinway grand piano was revealed with an invitation for me to play it - arh, it was rather poorly as badly needed tuning, but I gave it a bit of an airing as Ian played snooker.

Monday 10th August

I am finally settling better into the camping routine and we are up at 5.30 a m. We visited Duwisib Castle built by a German. As we stopped en route at "Betta Camping" we discovered we had a puncture. As Ian was with the man attempting to repair it, I had the chance to observe the lives of the women going about their daily chores from the shade of the tree - it was a scene straight from a Wild West Movie.

Tonight was my first experience of Bush Camping in the Desert.

Tuesday 11th August

Up at 5.30 to join the queue for the sand dunes - they are seen at their best in the early morning light as the sun rises. This was an amazing experience. We climbed the 200 metres of the sand dune named "Sossusvlei" and climbed some of "Dead Vlei". I was grateful to the lad that recovered my hat (well Ian's hat) as it disappeared down the steep incline of Sossusvlei. As we then continued to head northwards I was rewarded with an increasing number of animal sightings. We stopped at Solitaire and sampled the apple pie that we had been told about. As it was now very hot, we decided to camp there. An Italian couple on honey moon on one of the trucks, showed interest in Ian's poster about his CD and subsequently requested to buy one. Unfortunately, for me a mild headache suddenly escalated into a monumental migraine so that rather ruined what was left of the afternoon and evening for both of us.

Wednesday 12th August

We set off across the desert crossing the Capricorn tropic into the tropics. It was quite a welcome reprieve initially to arrive on the coast where the heat of the afternoon was far less intense tempered by an atlantic breeze. We watched the flamingoes at Walvis Bay. Then headed to the next coastal town Swakopmund where we booked into a lovely camp site where each plot had its own lockable bathroom, which given what happened not long after, proved invaluable. Unfortunately what we had hoped to be a relaxing evening became anything but - I will let Ian explain.

Thursday 13th August

Today was dominated by dealing with the aftermath of our break in. On a funnier note, a carrier bag of mine that had a portable toilet and toilet roll in it was stolen - hope they enjoyed that one!

Friday 14th August

After another night at the Camp site at Swakopmund and farewells to people who had commiserated with us, we set off along the coast in the Sea Mist. We stopped at the Seal Colony where a Jackal had met its end - the smell we'd been warned about wasn't so bad being cooler but what an amazing number of Seals.From there we entered the Skeleton Coast National Park where I got excited as the information suggested we might see elephants, lions, whales etc. In reality we didn't see anything until we turned off the Skeleton Coast road, then there was impala, zebra, gemsbock and kudu. Another puncture on the gravel roads meant we didn't get as far as we'd hoped. After stopping at a garage in Khorixas we found a camp site near by.

Saturday 15th August

The camping routine was accomplished in record time since I'd arrived - 55 minutes so we set off at 6.55a m to get to Etosha National Park - the ultimate prize of my trip. We decided that as we'd not had an easy time getting to Etosha that we would treat ourselves by staying on site - we were allocated the camping space on the car park. We had  fantastic day sighting giraffes and elephants in the trees, wildebeest, zebra etc. At one waterhole an elephant was having a bath surrounded by a complete menagerie of animals. At sunset down at the Waterhole near the rest camp we watched as an elephant approached from the shadows framed by the setting sun, two rhino where one was out to pick a fight, an elephant noisily drinking, jackals always around.

Sunday 16th August

Up at 5 a m to see if any action at the Waterhole, however the animals were clearly still asleep and as the security guard pointed out - it was Sunday !!! We travelled around 100 miles of the park today, but that amounted to a tiny section of the whole. The real highlights were seeing two lionesses with their cubs walking through the long grass, then a lion snoozing under a tree and a further three lionesses also snoozing. Back at the rest camp waterhole that night we were treated to a scene of several giraffes with their young and rhino too also brought their young.

Monday 17th August

One last look at a waterhole before heading back down south to Windhoek. After stopping at Outjo to get provisions and where the aftermath of a fire at the Municipality building was still being played out, we had a straightforward journey to the city. That all changed when we got there, trying to find locations and then finding accommodation was full we made the decision to head towards the airport. We landed upon a farm that provided excellent bush camping and they had just one plot left. We had planned to eat out that evening but with our revised plans we purchased some game from the farm and had a good last evening around our log fire.

Tuesday 18th August

On leaving our bush camp we saw some Kudu - that was probably who I'd heard right outside our tent at dawn. We made the very short trip to the airport from where I was to travel back to Cape Town. We made our farewells, not quite as traumatic as in January as shouldn't be too long before we are reunited. The flight was fine and I had some shopping time at Cape Town Airport before getting my evening flight to Dubai. What a fantastic trip - Namibia is a very beautiful country with ever changing vistas, lots of wildlife and I am so grateful to Ian for giving me the opportunity to experience it and also a very contrasting experience to the one I had in Morocco.