Out of Africa

We’ve been home for about 10 days now and, obviously, we hit the coldest weather the country has had all year – even here in the south-west of Cornwall we’ve had thick frost on the ground and temperatures below zero 🥶

View from the train on the way down

It’s astonishing how quickly we have to get back into the normal routine, not least because our car has failed its MOT spectacularly and may have even died 😭😭 😭. On the plus side we have had lots of family down already and more coming for Christmas 🤶.

South Africa was a wonderful break after all the driving in Namibia – we knew we’d be tired and we were! It would be harsh to say that we are “Africa’d out” as there are many more countries we still want to visit in Africa – Morocco, Egypt, Senegal and The Gambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) to name just a few but we’ve both agreed that we’re craving a completely different culture so – watch this space!

I’m going back to work in January for a few months and Matt has some (more) renovations to do but the plan/hope is that we’ll be off again in June. Here’s a hint – 🚴‍♀️ 🚴‍♂️ 💶 – we have 5 months to get fit!!


Franschhoek, South Africa

When people asked us where we were going to after Swellendam and we said “Franschhoek”, the universal response was , “ooh, Franschhoek” – the implication being that it’s a lovely place (which it is). What no-one told us was just how spectacular the journey to Franschhoek is as well. South African road designers are very bad at providing view points but we did pull over a few times to try and catch the vast landscapes of ginormous wheat fields (recently cut) and big, blue skies:

We then drove around the dammed Sonderend River, which is surrounded by lush fruit farms and some very expensive holiday developments:

And then up and over the spectacular Franschhoek Pass, which reminded us very much of Glen Coe in Scotland:

And then over the top to the incredible view of Franschhoek itself, nestled in the valley:

Franschhoek is, indeed, lovely and clearly a very wealthy (wine producing) area. We are not exactly slumming it:

The plan was to have a picnic supper on the terrace but the braai was just too tempting!

I have to say, they were two of the best steaks we have EVER had 😋

When I looked up things to do in Franschhoek, everything seems to revolve around eating and drinking. That’s ok then because we’re good at both of those activities!

The load shedding situation in Franschhoek seems a bit extreme though – in the first 24 hours that we’ve been here, we’ve had “load shedding”, ie power cuts for 8 of them 😱. I’ve now found the timetable online so that we’re better prepared …..

I’m finishing this at Cape Town Airport as we wait for our flight tonight. We had two EXTREMELY relaxing days in Franschhoek, by which I mean we did very little indeed except lie in the sun, read and the aforementioned eating and drinking. I think this might be the prettiest Gin & Tonic I’ve ever been served:

Packing was a bit of a nightmare this morning, in no small part due to the extreme weather forecast on the BBC:

So every piece of warm weather clothing which I’ve been hoiking around for the last 2 months is now in my onboard bag for layering before we land tomorrow morning.

En route to the airport we stopped at the Drakenstein Lion Park, which is a sanctuary for rescued lions – most of them seemingly from Romania and Lebanon. Why anyone would think that keeping a pet lion on an apartment balcony in downtown Beirut is a good idea is beyond me but there you are. They also have a few white lions, two of whom were a it of a surprise when they arrived in 2015, five years after their father had been surgically neutered. I bet that was an interesting conversation with the vet!!

Apart from the really good work that they’re doing, it’s in a beautiful location and we got about as close to lions as any sane person would really want to get.

We’re off in a couple of hours so I’ll round everything off once we’re home in chilly Cornwall tomorrow ✈️

Swellendam, South Africa

First of all, apologies if you’ve been receiving random emails for posts which I’ve previously published. The internet at our current guest house (Aan de Eike) in Swellendam is awesome so I’ve been tidying up the blog a bit and re-categorising some items and accidentally trashed some of them (my fat fingers combined with WordPress’s ridiculous layout) and had to re-publish them. All done now and all good!

After seeing Bruce at Cape Agulhas we really had no plans so booked ourselves into the guest house for 3 nights with no further plans after that. The guest house is so lovely that we immediately extended our stay by another 2 nights – the only place we’ll stay for 5 nights on this entire trip!

View from our room:

Breakfast is included and it’s just £59 a night for the two of us – bargain!

To be honest, we’ve both been a bit under par and think we picked up some lurgy on the plane to Cape Town. Matt has been worse than me and is now coughing up filth, which is a good sign, isn’t it?! Not sure if it’s the dreaded C(ovid) word again and we have no way of checking but we’re on the mend, which is good, and a couple of days doing very little is just what we needed.

Swellendam is the third oldest town in South Africa and dates back to 1795 and has lots of beautiful Cape Dutch architecture, subsequently altered and added to by the British (who were keen on adding fireplaces which the Dutch had deemed unnecessary!). It was named after the first Dutch governor born in South Africa – Hendrik Swellengrebel and his wife Helena ten Damme.

The “Oefenings Huis” (opposite the Spar!) was built in 1838 as a church for the religious instruction of freed slaves. On the western gable there is a false clock with a real one underneath. The story is that when the moving hands matched the hands on the plaster clock, it was time to assemble for classes:

For 91 days, in 1795, Swellendam was declared an independent republic by settlers who were dissatisfied with the authority of the Dutch East India Company. The British came in after the 91 days and took back control of the town! There is an excellent restaurant called The Republic of Swellendam where the portions are so huge we haven’t dared go back!

Four miles south of Swellendam is Bontebok National Park, the smallest national park in the country, established in 1931 for the specific purpose of conserving the bontebok which, in the early 20th century, consisted of just 17 animals in the wild. Globally their numbers are now estimated to be between 2,500 and 3,000; all descendants of the original 17 – now that’s a conservation success story! The park itself has about 200 of them and we saw one in the bush and several loitering around the reception area, including one quite young baby:

There are no “nasties” in Bontebok National Park (well … apart from a few deadly snakes 🐍 😂) so we went for a walk on one of the 3 marked walking trails. Allegedly, the Aloe Hill Trail is 3.3km (just over 2 miles) long but we both agreed that they’ve got that wrong and it was considerably longer! It was beautiful but hot – damned hot – and when we got back to Ruby 🚗 it was no surprise to see the temperature gauge at 35 degrees 🥵 . Also no surprise that the weather broke last night with lashing rain and as I write this on Friday morning we are still getting intermittent downpours and the temperature has plummeted to 20!

Spot the Hopson on Tour in the aloes!:

On the snake front (because I know you’re interested 😂); having seen none in Namibia we have now seen two in quick succession. The first was sunning itself on the road (huge and black) and slithered off before we could take photos but Bruce (snake wrangler and volunteer snake remover) reckons is was a mole snake – completely harmless – unless you’re a mole, of course. The second one hissed at Matt on our final morning walk near Cape Agulhas and was most likely a puff adder – very definitely not harmless. Matt and I were certainly hyper-vigilant for the rest of the walk!! 🐍 🐍

After a drizzly Friday morning the sun came out and we visited the Drostdy museum, which is actually a series of old buildings very close to our guest house. Originally built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 as the seat of the magistrate, it was enlarged in 1813 and then occupied by the British magistrate until 1846. It was privately owned for nearly a century and then opened as a museum in 1943. I think it would be fair to say that it was a much better afternoon than Matt was expecting! It’s supposed to be very haunted so we did ask the ghosts to rock the rocking chair (one of their favourite tricks apparently) but they didn’t play 🙄

This area was – and still is – a very fertile farming area with, thanks to the nearby Langerberg (long) Mountains, plenty of rain. We reckon life for the colonialists was probably pretty comfortable although, having had a wander round the graveyard, life expectancy was low and many babies barely reached their first birthday 😢 I wonder what they would have made of this modern day behemoth:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was made an honorary citizen of Swellendam in 2013 and there was an exhibition of photos taken on the day. Possibly the best photobomb ever?!!:

Some of you may remember me talking about “load shedding” when we were here back in 2020 – this is the South African version of a good old power cut, which is done to relieve the pressure on the system as they battle to fix/maintain the power stations after years of neglect. Well – they are still continuing so, following the vast meal we are still digesting from the other night, we have had a couple of candlelit picnics on our terrace for the last couple of nights – dead romantic! Yesterday we bought “organic, wholewheat sourdough” from the Drostdy Museum shop “handmade by a local artisan baker”. We had to invoke the Swiss Army knife saw to cut it and the leftovers will make a fine doorstop:

Question: how do you know when “load shedding” starts at 3.00am?

Answer: when Matt shoots bolt upright, gasping for breath because his CPAP machine has stopped working!

Tomorrow we move onto our final place of this trip – can’t quite believe it! On the other hand, Mauritius does feel like a very, very long time ago!

Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa

The drive to the very bottom of Africa goes through some of the biggest wheat fields you will ever see – mile upon mile of rolling farmland:

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while may remember that we last visited here in February 2020, just before the world fell off its axis for a couple of years. For those of you who are new to the blog, I realised that at the end of my last post I said we were visiting family and there’s no electricity and you may have wondered if Matt’s family lives in a cave! In fact, we were staying in their incredible little holiday cottage about 12kms west of Cape Agulhas. It’s an extraordinary spot and really quite remote so no electricity but there are gas lights, hot water and a gas fridge so we’re not entirely off grid! Bruce also has a solar panel so Matt’s CPAP machine battery even got charged every day 🎉

Very sadly, since our last visit Matt’s cousin Jane has died so it was our first opportunity to spend time with her husband, Bruce, who was a very relaxed and generous host. The thing that always strikes me about this part of the world is the extraordinary colours – from the blue, blue sea (next stop Antarctica) to the greens of the coastal plants and the bright orange of the lichens. It’s absolutely stunning:

And the flowers are wonderful:

Obviously we had to go and visit the southernmost point of Africa. Again.

And Matt tried (and failed) to catch supper:

But, above all, it was a weekend of walking, talking and catching up – a wonderfully relaxing long weekend:

And, yes, far, far too much eating and drinking, obviously!

Cape Town, South Africa 🇿🇦

We did, indeed, get some amazing views as we left Namibia – dry river beds and a few tracks give a very good impression of how vast and empty Namibia is. In complete contrast, Cape Town is frenetic and loud! We picked up our latest car – Ruby the Opel Crossland – she’s red! 🚗 (FYI, Matt takes no part in the car naming ceremonies 😂) from the airport and were thrown straight into the maelstrom of Tuesday early evening traffic in Cape Town 😳. Ruby is automatic (our first this trip) so that makes things a little easier but the navigator made a fairly disastrous error as we were within spitting distance of our hotel and we ended up heading back out towards the airport 😫. The driver (me) remained admirably calm and we made it at the second attempt! The hotel car park guard (Mr Hepson – yes, really – from Malawi) took one look at Matt’s leg brace and directed us to the disabled parking bay – that’s a first!! Obviously, it’s the closest space next to the hotel so Matt has to limp even more than usual to justify our spot 🤣. Generally, Africans (including in Cape Verde) are intrigued by Matt’s leg brace and I think some of them think he’s got a false leg, in which case it’s a damn realistic one 😂🤣😂

Our hotel, the City Lodge at the V&A waterfront has the feel of a Travelodge/Premier Inn crossover but is incredibly central and (obvs) has a (free) car park. The current rack rate is just over £100 per night but we booked a few months ago so got it for £56 a night – bargain! It’s one of those bizarre designs where there’s a blind (in this case, electric) between the room and the bathroom. When we arrived the blind was up. What on earth were the designers thinking?!! The blind is now firmly down!

The best thing about the hotel is its location, within very easy walking distance of the V&A waterfront and our favourite restaurant in Cape Town (Quay Four) – we even got a prime table right on the water (that’s a small portion of ribs, by the way!). Meal for 2 with drinks – £30.

Table Mountain was closed on Wednesday due to high winds and zero visibility but luckily it was open again by Thursday..

We had an interesting first morning in Cape Town: as some of you may remember, Matt sleeps with a CPAP machine for severe sleep apnoea (yes, I know, he’s falling apart!) and he ran it when we were camping in Namibia through a big battery pack. It worked surprisingly well until our last night in Etosha when his mask fell apart, probably from the heat. This is a disaster for both of us! After some frantic googling Matt, somewhat incredibly, found a supplier in Cape Town and off we went and, lo, new mask and spares were acquired! They weren’t cheap but, hey, what price good sleep for us both? We ended up having a lovely chat with the staff there and they were amazed that CPAP machines are supplied free by the NHS. Sleep apnoea isn’t well known in South Africa so they are on a mission to educate. Evidently, some insurers here will pay towards machines but most are self-funded, which at between £500 – £1,000 a pop is beyond the means of a lot of people. We also discovered that South Africans have had 2 Covid jabs as opposed to Namibians who have all had 3. And we’ve had 4!

The plan had been to go up Table Mountain but, yup, it was covered in cloud and closed so we hit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden instead.

The Camphor Avenue was planted by Cecil Rhodes in 1898:

And Van Riebeeck’s Hedge (on the left) is the remnant of the hedge planted in 1660 s a boundary to the newly established settlement at the Cape:

The gardens are lovely but the very naughty guineafowls must be a nightmare – they’re worse than our chickens for digging up plants!:

The Bird of Paradise plant “Mandela’s Gold” was hand pollinated in 1970 at Kirstenbosch and was named after Nelson Mandela in 1996:

This is the third time we’ve been in Cape Town (Matt’s fourth if we’re being technical – he came here en route home from Tanzania as a boy) and we’ve never made it up Table Mountain so – third time lucky?! When we got our tickets we were told it was about a 1.5 hour wait for the cable car and Matt was all for leaving and going back – he hates queuing!

But I held firm! And the views were worth it:

That’s Robben Island to the left.

From the top we’d spotted the drive to Signal Hill from where there were fabulous views of Table Mountain itself (and very few people!):

Selfie of the Day:

Today we are moving on to visit some of Matt’ family – there is no internet because there is no electricity! See you in a few days x

Thoughts on Namibia 🇳🇦

First of all, Namibia is VAST.  As you’ll have seen in my posts, I’ve included maps to give you some idea of its size.  

We drove c3,230 miles (5,200kms) in 3 weeks and completely wore through a brand new set of off-road tyres, the back cab cracked from all the juddering so we had to duck tape the boot shut, Naomi’s back number plate is lost somewhere in Etosha National Park and, of course, we flooded the back with gin when the lid shook off- disaster!  We estimate that 80% of those miles were on gravel roads.

4×4’s aren’t a luxury in Namibia; they’re a necessity.  As the world grapples with climate change and, certainly in the UK, we’re being encouraged to switch to electric cars, this just isn’t an option in a country like Namibia where a gravel road of c200kms where you pass just one car all day isn’t unusual.

The Spar car park in Windhoek is wall to wall off road vehicles with a plethora of axes, spades, fuel and gas tanks strapped to their sides and every make of roof tent imaginable attached to the top.  

For us, certainly, the destinations were fantastic but the journeys were more than often the highlights.  The scenery changes constantly and the horizons are vast.  If you don’t like driving then this definitely isn’t the destination for you! 

Having said that you can, of course, be driven and stay in first class lodges and hotels but travelling by public transport isn’t really a viable option – we saw the occasional tourist bus but no obvious public transportation.  We really loved camping on Naomi’s roof, found it surprisingly comfortable, / and felt very safe at all times (I’m pleased to say that we never saw a snake {Matt wasn’t – he quite likes a snake!} but did share our showers with quite a few insects and spiders and, more often than not, a friendly lizard 🦎 or agama to eat said insects.).  The only downside of the roof tent is that once it’s up you really don’t want to take it down again until morning so a “quick trip” to the lodge (some of which were 2kms away) for a drink or dinner wasn’t an option.  We cooked on the braai more often than not and eating under the African star-filled sky was wonderful and a definite advantage of camping.

For such a huge country, the population is tiny (2.6 million), most of whom live in the cities, and they are universally welcoming, kind and incredibly polite – absolutely no conversation starts without a greeting and question of “how are you” – a real lesson for some other nationalities 😂.  It’s also impressively clean – like Mauritius, even the public toilets are immaculate and, unlike South Africa, the picnic spots by the side of the road (of which there are a LOT) are clean and tidy – so refreshing!  We bought a pack of 9 toilet rolls at the start of our trip and still have most of them left because most campsites and even some public conveniences provided it – amazing!

As you can tell, we can’t recommend Namibia highly enough!  In fact, we always used to recommend South Africa as the best introduction to Africa for people who are a bit anxious about launching into this amazing continent but now we’d definitely recommend Namibia!  

I’m writing this from South Africa so there is one final story that I can now tell you. As those of you who have read all my posts will know, for our final 2 nights in Etosha National Park we actually camped outside the park in a private reserve which is linked to Etosha so – technically – is still part of the National Park. In the morning before driving there we bought some frozen steak and sausages from the shop in Etosha for the braai and wrapped them up (well) and put them under the driver’s seat to defrost during the day. As we left Etosha for the night, we checked out at the gate and were asked – very specifically – if we had any raw meat in our fridge. Any lawyers reading this will love this as we both said, “no” – technically true, we had no meat in the fridge. The lady seemed quite surprised and asked to look in our fridge. We opened it up (full of booze, bread, cheese and chocolate). No meat. She still seemed surprised but let us go on our way. At the campsite, we retrieved the (now defrosted) meat from under the driver’s seat, cooked it on the braai and very nice it was too. Matt’s theory is that there is an excellent scam going on: in the shop we were asked where we were spending the night and no-one told us there would be a meat quarantine check. Our car was parked outside so they could easily see the registration. Clearly the lady at the gate was expecting us to have meat in our fridge and, presumably, if we had it would have been confiscated and shared amongst the various parties. If she’d asked if we had any meat we might have had to answer differently! TIA – two can play at their game!!! Of course, the policeman got his revenge the next day when he “helped himself” to two cold beers 😂🤣😂

And finally: do you remember the (almost) naked Himba lady in the Spar in Upuwo? Well, Benito told us yesterday that he has seen a Himba woman with such long, drooping breasts that she could sling one over her shoulder and feed the child on her back as she’s walking along 😂. Absolutely, genuinely true!

Man, we ❤️ Namibia!

… and so, back to Windhoek

This was my view when I put together the first half of the Etosha Park blog – not bad! – and kudu came and used the waterhole, which was a bonus:

Just FYI, the cake was as delicious as it looks!

Pub quiz question of the day: where in the world is the largest single metallic meteorite? 

Yup, you’ve guessed it!  Namibia!

The Hoba Meteorite weighs about 60 tonnes and was found in 1920 by the farmer and was declared a national monument in 1955, partly to deter people hacking bits off it for souvenirs (the evidence of which is clear to see).  It crashed to earth about 80,000 years ago and is made up of 82% iron and 16% nickel.  Our (slightly out of date book) – the excellent Bradt guide – said it was N$50 each to get in (about £2.50) but when we got there the price had gone up five fold 😱 – which I only calculated after we’d gone in 😩 – and they wonder why nobody’s there!

Matt was a bit horrified when I decided to lounge across it but, having worked out the cost, I’m glad I did.  Got to get your money’s worth!!

Once we hit the main road south we drove into a storm and it’s been pretty much raining every since.

Into the Storm

Our last night under canvas was spent at Okanjima Nature Reserve, home to the Africat Foundation.  As it was belting it down with rain and thunder and lightning was crashing and flashing around us when we arrived, we retreated to the lodge for much needed G&T’s and to use/abuse the WiFi.  I managed to publish the Etosha Park blog from there but when we left, in the dark, it was still raining with added occasional crashes and flashes.

Luckily we have a huge, covered sitting area with running water, gas hob etc so we parked Naomi as close to it as we could.  It wasn’t how we imagined our last night with Naomi but we certainly won’t forget it!  Looking on the positive side, thank God it was our last night and not our first.  If it had been our first I would have been sorely tempted to drive back to Windhoek and get the first flight back to Mauritius!

The “facilities” are open to the elements (loo with a view/shower with a view), which must be lovely when it’s hot and sunny.  Not so good when it’s pissing down with rain – Matt actually dug out his waterproof coat for the first time this trip!

There was also a small swimming pool for the exclusive use of the 5 campsites.  It goes without saying that we didn’t use it, having no desire to get any wetter!

Thank goodness we had all that space as it was time to dig all of our stuff out of Naomi and re-pack, ready for civilisation and to say goodbye to our home for the last 3 weeks 😢

Somewhere along the line I have lost my pink hat and there is the ongoing mystery as to what happened to a bag of apples which we definitely bought and then never saw again ….

Our final night was back at the gorgeous Weinberg Hotel – the bed is huge after our little tent!

Today (Tuesday) we fly to Cape Town in South Africa for the final country of our 2 month tour. The sun is out and the sky is blue so, hopefully, we might get some lovely views from the plane. See you in South Africa!

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Our itinerary from Namibia Tours and Safaris took us back to the frontier town of Opuwo and then down to the western entrance to Etosha National Park.  However, Andrew suggested that we drive the far more scenic route along the River Kunene, parallel to the Angolan border for about 3.5 hours and then due south on the tarmac C35 (the blue line on the map below).  Our book said that the first part of this route would be pretty rough going but Andrew assured us we’d be fine so off we went.

The road was, indeed, rough in parts but the views (in parts) were fabulous.  Matt wants me to tell you that he drove brilliantly, even through the sand – in low ratio – and we didn’t get stuck once!:

We were tempted but plugged on!

Some of the undulations were a bit excessive and, as you can see, it was quite cloudy all day:

94kms in, we reached Swartbooisdrift with its Dorslandtrek Monument, which marks the spot where a group of the original Dorslandtrekkers from South Africa crossed back over the border from Angola into what was then South West Africa in 1928.  There were a few graves – one of a one year old girl who died in 1928, obviously whilst they were crossing back 😢

Himba Village

These cows had absolutely no intention of getting out of our way!

Once we hit the main tarmac road south it was about 200 kms to the western gate (the Galton Gate) of Etosha National Park.  The C35 road is like driving the A1 in the UK (or A30 if you’re Cornish) but with the added excitement of no fences and quite a lot of wandering goats and cows.  More than once we had to stop to led a few straggling goats cross to be with their mates! 

Just before we entered the park we had to cross through the animal quarantine post (no raw meat can be transported south) and the (very charming) police officer agreed with me that it looked like rain, albeit a month earlier than usual, he told me.  As we entered the Park the sky was beautiful but very definitely “threatening”:

Etosha is about the same size as Wales and we would be here for the next 3 days. En route to camp we saw giraffe, red hartebeest, an ostrich sitting down, oryx and a herd of wildebeest lying down – like cows lying down in the UK, was this a sign that rain was coming?

The camp at Olifantsrus is in a great location but is pretty basic.  The lovely manageress told me that it was originally a park office and then they opened it up as a campsite.  It has a beautiful floodlit waterhole but only 2 showers for each sex and 3 toilets for women and 1 for men (Matt put on his leg brace and used the disabled one!!).

We enjoyed a quiet, cold beer/cider at the waterhole.  The game was very quiet, although we did see two quite unusual brown hyaena, which Matt spotted from miles off.  The sunset, though was spectacular and the light was incredible:

Back to camp and Matt was just starting to cook when the wind blew up out of nowhere and the rain came down.  And, when I say “wind” and “rain”, what I really mean is a howling gale and lashing, thunderous rain.  We retreated into Naomi.  It lasted for about half an hour and Naomi shook and the chairs were blown over and it was utter carnage.  About half way through Matt said, “you did shut the tent flaps completely, didn’t you” and I said, “yes, I think so” and he said, “well, if you didn’t then it’s too late now”.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

After half an hour of ferocious storm, the rain stopped and we got out to survey the damage.  Of course, I hadn’t shut the bloody tent flaps completely and our bedroom was akin to a large puddle or small lake.  Bugger.

Whilst I surveyed the damage, Matt carried on with the cooking. Priorities!

In the end, we turned the mattress over so only the bottom 6 inches was sodden and left the sleeping bags outside to dry out; Hoppy’s theory being that they were wet anyway and they would either dry or, if it rained some more, they’d just get wetter.

And, of course, yes, it rained all bloody night!!!

In the morning we cleared up the chaos and were the last to leave the campsite, with the sleeping bags drying on the back seats, but the hornbills had entertained us:

They say with game driving that you should be up early to catch the best viewing opportunities, which obviously we weren’t 🙄.  It didn’t matter one bit.  We had an incredible day.  What we loved about driving ourselves was that when we got to a good water hole we could stop for as long as we wanted and just watch the game.  

At our first water hole we saw a side striped jackal and some hartebeest and then the zebra turned up:

And then we saw our first Eli 🐘, who was walking away but such a thrill:

And then, at our lunch stop water hole, two Eli’s! 🐘🐘. The one actually in the water was obviously the boss and was having a lovely rest/siesta and occasionally drinking and spraying himself with water.  The other one made his way towards the water very, very slowly (he took about half an hour) and then started helping himself and spraying himself while the “boss” stayed put.  Once the second one had finished he wandered off and as we left the original one was still in the water – clearly a true water babe!  It was so wonderful to be able to just sit and observe them for as long as we wanted and, for most of the time, we were the only people there.  Best lunch hour ever!

At the next hole there were no less than three Eli’s!  🐘🐘🐘 Two were obviously very close (Mum and child maybe?) as they were literally hugging each other with their trunks 💕

This could only have been taken in Africa!

African road block!

The roads in western Etosha are pretty unforgiving with dreadful corrugation so we were shaken around like two peas in a maraca and there were a couple of disasters as a result.  Firstly, Naomi’s boot kept flying open so – in Matt’s ongoing series of 101 things to do with Duck Tape – number 89 – tape your car’s boot closed:

But the biggest disaster was that the lid of the gin bottle was, literally, rattled off 😱 😭 so our pillows now have the gentle aroma of delicious blackberry gin and I haven’t been able to find any more.  It appears that the drink of choice in Etosha is Scotch 🤢

Night two was spent at Okaukuejo Camp, which is at the administrative centre of the park so has shops and a restaurant and (thank goodness) a petrol station.  The campsite was good but, again, not nearly enough ablutions for all of us.  We enjoyed a visit from a rather pregnant ground squirrel who enjoyed the fruit and nuts in our trail mix (given that she was “with children” we thought it only fair to feed her up!).

Once again it poured in the night (we were better prepared this time!) but this time with added thunder and lightening.  I’m not sure how people feel about thunderstorms generally but a ferocious thunderstorm whilst lying  in a tent on top of a car isn’t the most comfortable of experiences.  The nearest it got was about 3 miles (yes, I was lying there counting the time between the lightening and thunder!) and if it got any closer I’d already decided to make a swift exit into Naomi, rather than on top of her!  My bodyguard (Matt) snored throughout the whole thing 😳 🙄.  It also (sadly) drowned out the lions roaring 🦁

Day two started spectacularly, literally about 10 minutes from camp:

She was panting heavily so we think had just had an unsuccessful hunt.  We had pulled over on a culvert, which she went in to and didn’t emerge from – presumably to have a well earned rest in the shade.

The middle of the day was a LOT of driving trying to find the elusive rhino (along the mis-named “rhino drive” – Matt is contemplating suing them under the Trades Descriptions Act), but we did see “my” bird – the Secretarybird, Steenbok (as opposed to Springbok), an elephant skull (sad but this is nature in the raw), a stunning spotted hyaena having a rest in the shade and giraffe drinking (I love the way they splay their legs!):

And then, as we were giving up and en route to leaving he park, Matt spotted a grey shape about a mile away.  We stopped and checked with binos and then drove round and, sure enough:

What an amazing spot, Hoppy (he was brought up in Tanzania, don’t you know, so is a brilliant game spotter).  We had him/her entirely to ourselves for about 15 minutes and then he/she lay down so we left him/her in peace.  Epic end to the day!

For our last two nights in Etosha we stayed at the private Onguma Tamboti Campsite, just outside the park gates but technically still in Etosha.   It was camping bliss!  Our own private ablution block with braai, washing up area and clothes washing area – we even had grass to sit on!

In the morning a little mongoose came round and had a little tidy up:

We had a gentle start to the day (clothes washing etc) and then headed into Etosha for our final game drive.  

Spot the Kudu on the left – I told you Hoppy was good!

We headed round the Etosha pan and then:

Spot the elephant in the tree!  He was HUGE; by far the biggest we’ve seen so far.  Amazing how such an enormous animal can hide so well just a few metres from the road.

Another mixed group at a waterhole – wildebeest and springbok:

And then this lone fellow quietly grazing by the side of the road.  He let us know when he’d had enough of us so we moved on:

A kaleidoscope of giraffe:

And, then, be still my beating heart – an entire family of elephant at a water hole, including some really quite small babies.  This was obviously a group of females with associated babies of various ages and, from what we could see, the matriarch was not the biggest in the herd.  They loved their splosh in the water:

What was amazing, though, was that we sat there for (probably) 20 minutes watching the interactions between the different members of the group; working out who the bosses were and watching the younger members protect the tiny babies.  Then 2 more cars turned up, took their photographs and after about 5 minutes they shot off for the next “must see”.  

We didn’t see the “big five” in Etosha but we loved driving ourselves and spending as much time at each spot as we wanted – such a privilege.

And then, finally, in the distance another rhino and her calf (a black rhino we believe, as opposed to yesterday’s which was a white rhino – although I am very happy to be corrected):

Etosha has been awesome and it’s been a fabulous few days.  At the exit gate we had to check out and then our fridge was checked for raw meat again (there’s a quarantine in place due to foot and mouth).  Matt took the policeman to the back and removed the duck tape round the boot and then showed him the fridge and said, “help yourself” – as in, have a look in the fridge for meat.  The copper said, “thank you very much” and helped himself to one cold beer for himself and another “for his colleague”.  Matt was speechless.  TIA!!!

Epupa Falls, Namibia


We high-fived each other when we read that the drive to Epupa Falls was “only” 100 miles or so but when I tell you that it took us 3 hours to drive that 100 or so miles it’ll give you an good indication of the road conditions!

Epupa Falls is as far north as you can go in north-west Namibia – across the (crocodile infested) river from where I am currently sitting is Angola – you can’t get further north without a visa.

The road is gravel (obviously) and bad gravel at that but the thing that slows you down is the endless, endless undulations – down to a (dry) river bed and then up again.  Some are lethal and unforgiving – poor Naomi bounces along!

This is Himba land, where most people live in either tin shacks or traditional round houses made from wood and mud.  It’s a tough existence and we were constantly being waved at by people wanting food or money (we had been told in advance not to stop and not to give them anything – it’s tough but tourists who give money are not helping the situation).  We were amazed by the number of schools and clinics on the road and most of the goats were being looked after by men which, hopefully, means that the children were at school.

Some of the riverbeds that we dropped down through were really beautiful and fertile; its’s hard to imagine what they must look like after the rains (when, presumably, our road is virtually impassable).

And, suddenly, after 3 hours, we dropped down into Epupa which is – literally – the definition of an oasis.  After hours of dry, arid, sparse land we came down to a band of palm trees and greenery with the hills of Angola behind:

We are camping at the Omarunga Epupa Falls Campsite and it is, quite literally, a little piece of paradise.  Andrew, the Manager, was telling us (in the bar with a cold beer, obvs 🙄) that during Covid they went round every room and every camping spot and cleaned and made sure that everything was working and as it should be.  And then they went round and did it again.  And it shows.  The campsite is perfect, the ablution block is immaculate and very well planned and the staff are delightful.  I was doing the (inevitable) laundry and chatting to Emily, who works here and was washing dishes (women of the world!).  She said that lots of people died of Covid here, which for such a remote place was really quite shocking.  I guess that once one person got it then it spread like wildfire.  Emily has 6 children – her “last born” is 1 and her “first born” is 25 and she’s hoping to have more!!!!!!!

Not a bad spot to blog from:

By the time we came back from the bar, the washing was dry (it’s hot here!)

I make no apologies for the photos taken as the sun set:

It was very windy when we went to bed but dawn was as calm as a mill pond – not a bad view from Naomi’s roof:

Question: have you ever been shat on from a great height by a vervet monkey?  

Matt has.  

Said monkey was trying to get close to our camp so Matt shooed him away and his revenge was to climb up the tree, line himself up absolutely perfectly and shit and pee over Matt and into his coffee.  After the initial shock, Matt had to admire the exactitude of his aim! This is the little bugger:

Note his blue balls!

The rest of the morning was very chilled and I gave myself a much needed pedicure as my feet were in a truly shocking state of repair.  A combination of the dust, sand and generally dry atmosphere, combined with wearing sandals all day, every day had not been kind!  I’m pleased to report that they’re now looking and feeling much better 👣👣👣

We spent the afternoon quietly, watching a variety of reptiles, including a very rock monitor which I stalked around the camp:

Churchill had a nap:

And then as the heat eased off we walked to the actual Epupa Falls, which are quite impressive so – you will be pleased to hear – have made the cut into my upcoming best seller “Great Waterfalls of the World’:

Tomorrow we move onto Etosha National Park for some serious game viewing so there will probably be radio silence until at least the weekend.

Epupa Falls has been sensational!

Opuwo, Namibia

On Sunday we decided to head straight up to Opuwo (c440kms) as we were tired and very much in need of a hot shower!

For the first bit we had to backtrack on the route we had done on Saturday but, overnight, some Devil’s Thorn had burst into flower and the views were spectacular:

And then we came across this:

And Matt said, “what does it mean when we see elephant poo” and I said, “it means that an elephant has been here and taken a shite”.

For the rest of the day we were elephant spotting but, very sadly, no joy.  We did see giraffe, ostrich, zebra, springbok and baboon (also lots of cows, sheep and goats) and the occasional dog.  Spot the giraffe when it’s hiding behind the tree and then playing peek-a-boo!:

The road was extraordinary (as ever):

And then we started to see the phallic termites’ nests, in a variety of colours, which entertained Matt enormously:

We are now in Opuwo and when we had to register through a “Disease Control Point” today and the guy asked where we were going and we said, “Opuwo” there was a sharp intake of breath!  We are now quite far north (but not as far north as we will be tomorrow) and Opuwo is an interesting town with a frontier feel.  We are camping at the Opuwo Campsite, part of the Opuwo Lodge (which is very smart indeed) but far enough away from the lodge that we won’t upset the posh guests.  We are neighbours to 2 French couples who are camping in two tents on one car (cosy) and 4 Germans who are travelling in a convoy of 2 cars.  So far, we haven’t heard any of them laugh once.  I wonder why they take their travelling so seriously?  Surely it’s supposed to be fun?  

Matt had to go to the shared ablution block for the “obvious” and the first time he went there there was an old German guy washing his smalls in the sink so Matt felt he couldn’t upset the peace with his (inevitable) explosion.  Twenty minutes later he went back and there was another German guy in the loo next to him so he let rip and exclaimed “scheisse” in the hope that the guy assumed he was German and not the only Brit in the campsite!

The reality of the blog in the bush!:

Matt got a bit cheesed off with the distance between the car and the braai so we decided to cook on the gas for the first time this trip – springbok steak 😋 – which turned out to be very tender but tasted like slightly gamey beef so, for the extra, cost I probably wouldn’t bother again.

Opuwo turned out to be exactly what we’d thought – a frontier town with the added frisson of two different ethnic groups – the Herero and the Himba – who live happily side by side.  Their appearance and dress couldn’t be more different – the Herero wear Victorian style, long flowing gowns and headdresses; a style which was introduced to them by the missionaries, who were appalled by their semi-nakedness.  In utter contrast, the Himba wear practically nothing and cover their hair and skin in red ochre powder.  However open minded one is (and I like to think I am!) it’s still a tad disconcerting to bump into an almost naked woman with breasts down to her waist (having clearly fed numerous offspring) at the meat counter in the local Spar!