From Dairy 6
15/12. We find the B4, heading for Keetmanshop. First some table mountains and Fish River. Then iIt is a boring bush savannah road for 110 kilometres, except for a field with giant Aloes. Most others we have seen have been on hill or mountain ridges, but these are on total flat ground.
In town, I have to make one important phone call: A birthday call for a good friend. Then to the internet cafe for half an hour to up-load. I leave my co-traveller there, and walk the streets of Keetmanshoop - yes; all of them.
I even found their famous building; the telegraph- and post office building from 1910. It the edge of town, a Mandela town can be found, and around that, some homemade huts. Then I spend an hour and a half more, waiting in the car, while two young boys try to make money on me somehow. The end up with a 50-øre coin each.
The town seems to be generally western dressed black people with a few, colonial elderly people, dressed in knee-socks or pale flowered dresses and sun umbrella. The majority of shops are cloths or shoes, but supermarkets, farmers spare part and mobile phones can also be found.
Fast shopping and gas refilling, and we are off at noon. fourteen kilometres out of town, we find the famous Kokerboomtree Forest. It is a national monument, but it is located on a private farm. We have to pay 50 N$ each, which seems a bit steep, the same as a campsite.
We have seen a lot Kokerbaum - Aloe dichotoma, and might be a bit hard to impress. But the nice toilets and showers are a welcome bonus! Additionally five kilometres out, we find The Giants Playground. Giant granite boulders are stacked like buildings blocs, up to five on each other - by nature. Amazing scenery, but we have fare to go.
By mistake, we get the M29, and try to corrugate by D3913 and D3911 to we get to the big B1. I'll bet they have never seen tourists out here! Small, black farms, buildings made of beaten out oil barrows. There are not a strew of grass to be found anywhere.
The landscape it still only open bush savannah, and while my co-pilot listens to his MP3-player, I keep trying to stay awake for the next, almost straight 370 kilometres. After Kalkrand, I make a left turn into the small gravel road of D1254, heading west.
We set up camp in the roadside like last night, and after we have cooked supper, a car comes bye, and stops. It is the local coloured farmer, his wife and daughter. The just wants to check if we are all right. I make excuses for our disturbance, and the returns out on a field.
There have been traces of rain the last part of the tour. Grass have been green, although only few centimetres high, and to the north, a massive thunder storm can be seen. While the farmers pray for rain, we hope for warm, dry nights.
Made a scary statistic: I have almost been taking a photo for each kilometre we have been driving. 7000 photos on 7200 kilometres. We have used 800 litres of gasoline, and that will be the be the biggest expense at all.
16/12. Except from the farmer, only one car in the evening and one in the morning passes. I find a few small Ledebouria which even thought they look like L. socialis, does not behave like that. I enjoy the silent, warm morning for half an hour, then I check tire pressure, oil and water, clean the windshield and listen to an other capture of Harry Potter before we leave.
We drive down to the farm to thank for hospitality, and they explain they were worried something had happened to us. There are a lot of snakes and bad people in the area, and we should not stay along the road. We could have stayed on their yard, if we had asked. Real nice people, like everybody else we have meet.
The landscape turns greener, and the farms smaller. Mainly black or coloured owners with small herds of cows. We still have a 150 kilometre transport route ahead, but stop oe time to admire a single outstanding rock in the else so flat landscape. On it sits a dense group of Aloe littoralis. They are in the middle of their flowering season, and I find it a very pretty sight. Strangely enough, some have small, white spots, other not.
We drive through a patchwork of rain pits from this night's rain. The road changes from M47 to C24, but the surroundings remain rather flat and green. We finally reaches the foothills of Remhoogte, which are the destination for to day. Here, a rare Cyphostemma is said to grow. We are no more than 25 kilometres from Solitaire, which we passed two weeks ago in heavy rain.
At our first stop, we find some astonishing Boophane haemanthoides of which some are flowering. Here are other bulbs like Ammocharis tinneana Hypoxis obtusa Eriospermum cooperi Ledebouria kirkii and Haemanthus coccineus,but we only succeed to find three Cyphostemma seitziana.
Here are flowering bushes of an Pelargonium, two Commiphoras, flowering Sansevieria, a chick leaved Asparagaceae, several flowering small Fabaceaes, two Cucurbitaceaes with small fruits and flowers, Stapelias with large buds, few Moringas and what I believe could be a Raphionacme procumbens and Lavrnia marlothii.
We make several long stops along the road, but I don't feel for it, and remains in the car. After three hours, and the pass of the pass, I finally feel the energy, and it is the right place. We find many of this little, fat and flowering Cyphostemma seitziana. Among those white rocks are other interesting plants as well. Beside from those already mentioned, here are several flowering Ornithogalums and more small, fat Commiphoras.
We have been among large mountains, covered in a thin layer of green vegetation, and some marvellous views. Some more checks, and we leave the rocked area for the flat plain. Some large Hoodia curorrii are flowering more than I would have imagined was possible. They are totally covered, if one sees them from the top.
Some black clouds are gathering in the fare distance, and although it is only five, we head for Solitaire. Here are, as fare as I can see, only one company: Solitaire Country Lodge, Solitaire General Dealer, Solitaire Camp Site and a few other activities which are not lone.
I set up camp, and start working while my co-adventurer wanders off to the unknown. The clouds thicken, and a fresh but warm wind raises. I set back the camping gear in the car, but remains out in the free. I am not alone: Five or six different species of finches are interested in my work - or would be, if in included something eatable.
More and more tourists arrivals. Some groups of young people, some families, most uses the bungalows. This is the first time we have been camping with more than one group of foreigners, South Africans excluded. We have been off-season so fare, which suits us fine!
The sky is once again spectacular. The red clouds mixes with dark grey and fine white against the deep blue sky. There are prays about rain all over. On the camp site they draws the other way than among the farms. It ends up in a few wind tears, not enough to force us into the car.
17/12. An other beautiful morning after a good night's sleep. The temperature did not get below 27C, and that is perfect for me. I'm up with the sun at six, and that gives me a couple of hours working time, until we are ready to leave camp.
Here are a abundance of insects, due to the rain. From the tiniest flies to huge beetles and praying mantas. While I worked on the PC last night, I was in a hailstorm of beetles, attracted by the screen's light. Many mornings, when I open it, there are dead insects all over the keyboard.
One of the common seen white tipped tail mongooses - or what ever they are called - patrol the huge camping ground. Here are at least 30 sites in this part, but there have only been three in use. Two young chaps on motorcycles left early, as quiet as one can.
We take the D1275 towards Rehoboth. When we reach Spreethoogte Pass, we make a short stop. The road have been really serpentining, and the view from the top are huge! We are in a cloud of butterflies, migrating to what I guess must be their summer domicile. If they play it right, they can make two generations a year.
As fare as the eye can see, here are green. Not only the bushes, but also the new grass underneath are as green as it can be. A quick research reveals some Cyphostemma seitziana, but these are just started growth.
As we enter the high plateau, the farms gets enormous and white. It seems like they never dry out, and can support large herds of cattle. Due to all this lush greenness, we can't find any of our favourites, except a big but unidentified bulb. When we meet with D1261, it turns more bushy, but remains all green.
After 160 kilometres, we reach Rehoboth, and I spend an hour and a half in company with Harry Potter and the Toyota. Then we head out on D1237 and C26 to find Gamsberg Pass. Not sure why, and we fails anyway. This plateau are around 1750 metres high, and a crossing mountain range on 18-1900 meters can not be seen. On top of that, the rock formations we look for can not be found here. They are loose gravel, and totally overgrown.
The highlight of the day is, when a little turtle crosses the road in front of us. Here should be turtles around, but this is the first I have seen. It is awful shy, and I give in fast. I send it off on the other side of the road. An other new found is a medium sized Aloe which are in flower. There are only on group on a little hill. In some of the flowers, I find huge colourful caterpillars.
We spend the rest of the day on this headless and fruitless action, along with 250 kilometres. We add 60 kilometres to find a place to sleep near Windhoek, even though it is more than a week before we have to go home from here. Misses the first place. The next is gone and the third closed for the season.
Bribe a police officer at a road-check with candy, and get instructions for the first place we looked for, Arebush Travel Lodge. It works, but although this should be the top rank campsite - and apparently the only one - for 70 kilometres, and it is 120 N$ a head in contrary to the usual 50-70 N$, it is right next to the biggest road in the country. A shitty ending on a shitty day.
18/12. After a rather cold night, and a slow start in the morning, we drive into towards Windhoek centum. We take a big de-tour to find a big hotel which, by mysterious reasons, should provide feather boas.
Then we spend two hours finding a laundry (I can stretch my cloths, but my co-traveller need some for the last week). Some laundries, we can't even find after several asking for directions. One is closed, one charges 18 N$ a T-shirt, one do only dry cleaning and on is full and closed tomorrow. The one we finally find can have our cloths finish at three o'clock.
I hoped that meant we could get out in the nature, but there are mails to be read. I do a bit of spam-cleaning, and returns to the car for an hour. Then we go to a public office "for a moment". I sit and wait in the hot car for two hours. Then he returns for a moment, but have to buy this bloody boa. An other hour in the car, and we can collect our clean cloths.
Finally, we head out of town. Try a unknown mountain route from C28. The first stop reveals lots of fine, green grass, plenty of used condoms and a stretch of river. Here, we find a Cucurbitaceae, a Vitidaceae, a "new" medium sized and very blue Aloe and a rest of the river with tadpoles in.
We try D1958, a small gravel road. Even though it leads close through the 2044 meter high Khomas Highlands, it looks just like big, flat and very green hills with nice grass and dense cover of bushes, all around us. We are on the central high plateau. We makes a few test-stops, but only to find a few of the known Boophane haemanthoides, and some nice views.
Head deeper in to the sparsely populated land. Here are only a single farm for each five or ten kilometres, but they look fine. Some vultures sits in a dead tree on the other side of a artificial pond. As suspected, they the off when I gets out of the car. Among the cows underneath them, there are also some elands.
But we only want to see plants, I'm told. Deeper into the hills, without warning, some giant Cyphostemma currori appears. They grow on a small, rocky hill and among the big Acacia bushes in the flat area.
While I climb up to the nearest, I find two Cucurbitaceae I haven't seen in Namibia and once again Obetia tenax. A giant Cyphostemma grown in front of some rocks. It is more than five metres high, and the canopy have a diameter of seven metres. The multi-stem a 180 centimetres on the widest.
While climbing closer to this monster of an plant, I discover a cave which seems to be used. Carefully, I take a picture around the corner from above. It reveals a warthog cranium with some attached bones and skin. I believe it take a big predator to kill a warthog, but a big predator would eventually separate the scull from the bones. My conclusion is; carcass retrieved by smaller predator, like bat eared fox. I approach careful, and pay a special attention to the black hole in the back of the cave.
It seems to be empty, and I possessions my selves to a better shot. I slide my selves on the belly, down the rock in front of the cave. Suddenly, a deep growl underneath me, and my sandal are torn of my foot. I'm off like a bat out of hell, but my curiosity - and lost sandal - lures me back.
After checking my co-adventure is no near, I approaches from the front. My sandal is lying in front of a second cave, right under the one I explored. After having checked the giant Cyphostemma for it's ability as a escape route, I retrieve my chewed sandal with a very long Obetia branch. An other hauling scream sends me up the Cyphostemma faster than thoughts.
While I sits up there, the adrenalin kicks in. It is a large, real grumpy warthog I have disturbed. If it had caught my foot and not the sandal, I would probably have been severe injured or even killed. No doubt I would have left the sandal, if I knew what I was up against.
My co-photographer is in sight and I warn him about the pig/warthog. He don't understand what a pig is, and finally make laugh of my pronunciation. I sit in a tree with a ferocious killer underneath, and are marked by a Frenchman for my English pronunciation?
I try to explain to him - in many ways, an animal that gladly will shredder him to French Fries, lures underneath me. He just walks away. The giant pig eventually returns to his den, and I sneak away behind the giant Cyphostemma. I wonder how many others that have been saved by climbing a succulent?
I find a canine from a warthog on the way out, and show it to co-driver along with my chewed sandal. While I sit shaking in the car, explaining how close to sudden death I was, he interrupts and say: "We can drive, the light is fating, and I have more photos to make!". It might not be nice what I told him, but I will gladly repeat it!
We head for Gross Barmen, which is a large warm bath centre, and they have camping ground. There are gemsboks, elands and even a pair of small warthogs along the road. When we reaches a more open area, two turtles are crossing the road. The air above the camp is filled with swallows, I have never seen that many, it is almost like the starlings Black Sun.
While I try to write in the evening, I am attacked by abundance of small flies. The are in my ears, and I get one in the eyes every 20 seconds. I am forces to retrieve to my tent. When I later visit the bathroom, I can find hundreds or larger insects and litres of the annoying small flies.
19/12. Not the best night of sleep. The near-death experience is in my thoughts, and my air madras seems to have a small hole, forcing me to inflate is during the night. I drive my co-explorer back to some mountains we passes yesterday, but remains in the car. I doubt here are anything, and at least not anything new, and I am working on a plant for the next days, revealing a few of the spots I would like to see, within 400 kilometres.
The route will involve bigger cities and mountains for my co-driver. I go for the nature in-between, and some of the more tourist-like sights like dino-footprints, worlds largest cave lake, world's largest meteorite and other nature wonders. The area is a bit difficult to plan: 95% of the places, settlements, villages and cities starts with O, and is long and impossible to understand and especially pronounce.
After the revisit, we head into Okahandja for an other office visit. On the way, we meet a snake lying on the sealed road for morning recharge. Not sure what is is, I keep my distance - around one meter. It is ten o'clock before we start on something new. We head out B1, heading north to we meet D2414. This fine gravel road leads us into a lush, green bush savannah.
A big screw of vultures can be seen in the distance, but we are no near it's epic. A short stop at a boulder pile reveals only some column Aloes, a Cucurbitaceae and a big bulb, besides from the more common plants. Next stop is some large, flowering bulbs along the road. They look like fireworks, could be another Boophane?
We reach Erindi Game Reserve. Never heard about it, and it is not mentioned on our maps. Never the less, it have the most impressing manned gate, suitable for for either a grand British mansion- or a Hollywood home. First, we only cut a corner, and out side, we meet some huge Cyphostemma currori growing in the almost forest-like dense bushes.
On a nearby rocky hill, we find some more and some real nice looking Moringa oleifera and some real dense Obetia ficifolia. We head bag, into the park, and right in front of us, a group of playful wildebeests fools around on the road.
Then some warthogs runs scared off - wisely - and four giraffes rest just next to the road. Elands runs scared into the thick bush, while springboks and baboons takes it easy - to we slow down. When we leave the park, the landscape opens up a bit. This is rich cattle land, with a few herds of goats.
On one field, a few, rather skinny Euphorbias stand. A few smaller bulbs are flowering, but this is not succulent country in general. We meet a huge, almost white - but overgrown - mountain, which invites to a bit closer inspection. Here are flowering Raphionacme, fat Sansevierias, giant Commiphoras, some small but fat Othonnas and a silver leaved Kalanechoe.
Over our heads, some baboons cry alert, a giant spider have webbed it's web across an open space and crab spiders are found in the grass. One plant that almost every time calls for attention is the ferocious "Stay a bit Longer". Not only does it have pointy spinney, they point backwards!
After 200 kilometres, we reach my main target: Dinosaur footprints. They was made 170-219 millions years ago on a sandy beach, one 28 meter long track by a Ceratosauria, a smaller set by a Syntarsus. While my co-driver remains in the car and save 20 N$, I really enjoy this meeting with a so long, but not forgotten world. The tracks are in fine condition, and I can't resist to walk in the footprints of a such long decedent creature.
On top of this great experience, there are several interesting plants in this rather special environment. While the large, smooth sandstone surfaces are baked dry, the cracks seems to contain water a good part of the year. Here are among others Drosera, one of my favourite carnivores plants. Here are giant, bluish and flowering Ipomoeas, small flowering Fabaceaes and much more. I hurry back to the car, and we drive on to C33 and then M63 to get to Outjo.
My co-botanist spends 45 minutes on a cloud covered Cyphostemma, before we push on to reach a campsite before dark. Have to make an other stop at some flowering Boophane haemanthoides and a bit later, some other giant flowering, flat bulbs.
Just before eight and dusk, we reach Outju. Right outside the town, a sign proclaims; Ombinda Country Lodge. Not the one I had in mind, but is seems very nice. Real quiet, nice thick grass and almost no insects at all! We are only two vehicles in the camping site. We have only been driving 300 kilometres today, but I feel, I have seen some really interesting things, animals and plants.
20/12. At two o'clock, I get wakened by some commotion. I hear someone/something running very fast, and someone shouting. Guess it must have been baboons or other wildlife, too close into the camp. Then I'm wakened by the skinny guard, but I simply can't understand a single word he says. I inflate my madras, which turned out to have a production error, and go back to sleep.
When I wake up in the morning, the other car is gone, but the German guy who drives it, stands where it was. It turns out someone smashed their window while they were sleeping on the roof. Stole his girlfriends backpack, and run. The guard would not call either police nor manager, and they spend the rest of the night parked somewhere else, "sleeping" in their sets. Once again, I experience a close call!
The first target for today is a pretty cave; Gamkarab with plenty of stalactites and stalagmites. We make a fast pit-stop in Uutjo to find some pearl-strings, and then out C39. It should be 50 kilometres out, but I simply don't see it. My co-driver is occupied by a half year old newspaper and his MP3-player,and not at much help.
I skip it and continues to Hoba Meteorite. We are in a very fertile part of the country. As long as we can see, it is dense bushes and trees. Along the road, hundreds of white plastic bags full of charcoal are waiting for a truck. It seems to be the product of local workers, and not an organised production.
When we reach Octavia, the landscape changes again, and vide fields under plough, covers the walley between two green ranges of mountains. I can only see corn, but most fields are just blood red soil. B8 towards Grootfontein, and into some small gravel roads. The meteor is easy to find, and I leave my co-adventure in the car, saving 15 N$.
A nice arboretum and garden leads to a hole in the ground. In the bottom a 3x3x1 meter large, partly polished metal block is found. It contains of 82% iron, 16% nickel, some cobalt and other metals. It is estimated to weight 54 tons, which makes it the biggest known meteor. It is believed to have impacted around 80.000 years ago - with a hell of a thump!
Although we hardly see the sun today, we head further up north to find a big baobab tree. It is a long drive on gravel roads, but it is well signed. As well as the meteor, it is a national monument. It have rained recently, and the trees are still dripping. When my co-explorer discovers the ground is wet, he decides to wait this one over in the car as well.
It is a rather long walk over a soaked field, but the vegetation is very interesting. A mix f bulbs, succulents and ordinary plants between few bushes. We have not seen a single baobab tree the last three or four weeks, but here I find a giant. It is actually two, and their total circumstance is nineteen meters. It is in full growth and even flowers a bit still. The light is not exactly what I wanted, but at least is doesn't rain. The way out is sealed with gates! One for each couple of hundred meters, and they seem to be closed, all of them.
Back-on south again to find the world's largest cave lake; Dragon's Breath Cave, which should be two-hectare in a giant chamber, 60 meters below the surface. 100 sight, and I can even dive in it! It should be on the C42, but I fails to find it. It might sound strange, but I have a feeling of, two of my sights today have sunken in the ground without leaving a trace!
We see quite some wildlife today. Mainly helmet guinea fouls, which seems to be plentiful in most parts of the more moist part of the country. They seems to have a death wish, and tend to decide to cross the road after all, just when it is too late. There are springboks, gemsboks, elands, warthogs, ostriches, baboons and some giant antelopes I can't recall the name on.
That way, we have saved a lot of time, and I have seen a few of the things I wanted to see. We turn round to get back to the fatplant quest around Windhoek. We just need information on where to look precisely. We take B2 towards Windhoek, but find a camp well south of Otjiwarongo.
Torched by this nights events, we prefers to stay well out of the bigger cities. Hoensfeld is a cosy farm fare out in the green bushes and fields, on the foothills of a little mountain. Nice small lawns, sun-warmed walls to keep warm with and - when the night occurs: Enormous amounts of beetles and moths and flies. The biggest beetles are on the same size as my thumb. You are not in doubt if they hit you or not!
There are black clouds around, and some tree frogs are giving concert. Quite little sound, like a drop or plop.
And now to Diary 8