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Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

Redmond, Washington
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Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

I recently returned from a 2 week driving trip organized by Gemma.Had a wonderful time,would love to return .The trip went off as planned and was executed flawlessly thanks to Gemma's help

We arrived in Windhoek to cooler temps and a bit of rain,quite surprised.Picked up by Advanced Car Hire at the airport and taken to the city office.We got upgraded to a Nissan double cab with a frig at no extra cost.Loved the frig.It took awhile for Carla the agent to give us the Come to Jesus Talk-no insurance coverage if we were going even 1km over the speed limit of 60km/hr on a gravel road even if it was posted higher and got into an accident.

It also had 3 spares tires!

The car was a monster and my husband had a hit of trouble getting used to it as a car like that isn’t very responsive so by the time we got to our B&B he needed a drink and we were in for the night

Terra Africa Guesthouse. Very nice and convenient to the B1 which we would be leaving on the next day. Nice selection of wines,pretty reasonably priced. We ordered pizza through a delivery service which fit the bill.Good breakfast

Next morning off to fill up the truck.They give it to you almost empty and ask you to return it that way.That was annoying as we probably left them with more gas as who wants to run the risk of running out?

We then went to the Superspar(the biggest supermarket in Namibia)and again my poor husband was frazzled finding the place and getting a parking space

I went to buy wine and beer,sent him off to start shopping.One thing I noticed that while wine was available everywhere if you want a good selection or are picky best to buy in Windhoek or Swakopmund. I came back to find him with one package of batteries in the small cart and a bewildered look on his face.He was still on edge from driving so I sent him back to the car to load up the beer and wine in the frig while I went to work

What a supermarket!!!!! Almost too much choice of yummy things.It was as nice as a Whole foods which we have here in the states

I got so into the whole experience- I ended up buying almost a kilo of biltong.What was I thinking???

Went to a phone store to buy a local phone and were off.Actually never used the phone but $25 was a good investment for peace of mind and when we go to other foreign countries can just put a local sim card in

We were the slowest people on the road going 60 km/hr that even the donkey carts passed us.Not really but you get the drift.Not much traffic.It took us 5 hours to get to Desert Camp from Windhoek.Four-five hrs was about the average amount of driving we did,I would not advise more than that in a day

Desert Camp- .Loved the place.Beautiful views all around us,nicely set up for self catering.You put a deposit on a big box of cooking equipment which you get back when you return it

Very comfortable room.We spent two nights there.We had bungalow #12 which had a tree with a huge sociable weavers nest in the back.They were endlessly amusing

We drove to Sossusvlei the next morning,amazing dunes.Left at 0700 as the gate is not open much before that.Did manage to see the dunes in good light for a bit The dunes were so big they looked like mountains. Took the 4x4 sand road from the main parking lot to Dead Vlei(other options are to walk 5km or wait for a shuttle)and got stuck in the first 5 minutes.Luckily a parks person got us out of our rut and we were off

Surreal landscape with all the dead trees .Not to be missed.It is about 1km round trip to get from the final parking area to all the dead tree It was early enough that the sand was cool and it was easier walking on the sand in bare feet

Coming back we were old hands ,enjoyed the bumps.Unfortunately our African Cream did not and there was a puddle of the stuff in the fridge along with all the broken class. Lesson learned we thought but broken bottles happened again,luckiiy not the wine just beer.At the end of the trip packed tighter and used cans

We took a sunset drive from Sossusvlie Lodge,one of the best drives on our trip.Again the landscape was awesome,we saw oryx for the first time and some bushman carvings.Reasonably priced with drinks included

We also had breakfast there and it was one of the nicest breakfasts on our trip.Home made donuts!!

Next stop Swakopmund. Stayed there 2 nights Like someone else said not best to arrive at 1pm on a Saturday.Not many stores open and there seemed to be lots of really interesting ones.A few tourist type stores were open Resisted buying a purse made out of different animal leathers including ostrich.Beautiful and half what it would cost in the states

Cornerstone Guesthouse- Really enjoyed this place.Very spacious room nicely appointed room with a plunger coffee maker.Being from the Seattle area coffee is important! Helpful friendly and efficient staff.Secure parking and close to everything so we didn’t have to move our car at all.Very attractive gardens

Took a combined quad/sandboard tour with Outback Orange.Very professional staff.Glad I listened to Gemma and didn’t do the longer sandboard trip.Three times up a sand dune was enough for me even though it was a bunny hill

I had only driven a quad once before in Mozambique and had a less than positive experience,so was nervous about going fast ,tipping over etc.Our guide,Ernst, let me take my time.Got a good introduction and a helmet.For non experienced drivers there is automatic transmission which makes it so much easier It was basically a private tour with just the 3 of us.That was a plus as some companies take large groups and that would have put pressure on me to go faster etc

It was wonderful being on the top of the dunes.We took minimal camera equipment and regretted it as there was secure storage to keep out the sand and protect the equipment

Later in the afternoon we took a plane ride down to Sossusvlei and back up the coast with Pleasure Flights. Pricey(about $800 for 2 pers) but oh so worth it and an experience I would have hated to miss.Seeing the different types and composition of the dunes from above was enlightening and passing over territory we had driven through gave us a whole different outlook Back in time for dinner at Kucis’s.Very popular, could not get in the night before.Good food but a slow kitchen.It took us one hour and 15 minutes to get our mains.The potatoes cooked in bacon(a side dish) are to die for

Next stop Camp Kipwe near Tyfelfontein.Hands down favorite camp.Stunning camp with the bungalows blending in with the rock outcrops.Very comfortable room,lovely outdoor bathroom Could have stayed there and done nothing but look at the view for days.Decided to do stuff on our own-passed on the 4-6 hour ride to see if maybe,perhaps,you can see desert elephants.I was underwhelmed by what was available on a sightseeing basis though.Spending a fair amount of time in Tucson AZ and having access to really interesting parks and rock formations in the American southwest probably influenced my perception.The tour at Tyfelfonteine was short,maybe 40 minutes, and there was no ability to walk around on ones own.The rock carvings were beautiful though,just wished we could have seen more

Organ pipes,petrified forest and burnt mountain elicited the same response from me

Next stop Huab Lodge a recent change in our itinerary due to the closure of Hobatere lodge

Very disappointing.Spent two nights there.Pricey for what it offered.It is the pride and joy of its owners who allowed farmland to revert back to its natural complex state.Learned quite a bit about the land and the trees,not many animals around.Some interesting birds. It was pretty slow, We were the only guests the first day.Meals are served family style and you sit with all the staff.It felt awkward at times

That might have been because we were the only guests the first night

Onward to Rustig Toko Lodge.Had absolutely no expectations and were pleasantly surprised as it was one of our least expensive lodges.Room was huge with a separate sitting area and bathroom.Nice decorator touches throughout with flowers.It was obvious they had pride in their establishment. Lovely gardens and pool area We were booked for dinner and breakfast,no lunch was offered since there was only 4 guests the day we were there.No problem as we had the frig in the truck but something to be aware about if the lodge is not fully booked

Took a sunset drive again with lowered expectations as we would be driving through farmland.The owners of the lodge owned lots of land around the lodge and used it for grazing cattle but rotated the pastures so that the land could recover in between

Saw a fair amount of animals(no cheetah although they occur commonly there)and birds.Beautiful sunset

Dinner was kudu steak,very well prepared.Kudu is my favorite of all the game animals I have ingested

Very interesting dinner conversation.I had noted on the map that there seemed to be a shortcut to Etosha which could cut out 100km or so.When i mentioned it to the manager she quickly shot me down.It might have been shorter in length but would take the same time or longer to drive and there were a dozen cattle gates to open and close.Coupled with the poor condition of the road we decided to take the better tar road

She told us a few tales of tourists getting stranded on those type of roads and that scared the **** out of us.One story was about a couple who decided not to fill up at Henties bay on their way to Damaraland even though there were plenty of options.They were running low but thought that since they only had 20km to go to their final destination that they could make it

They were stranded for a week The husband died,the wife barely made it

Etosha- Only a few hours from Rustig Toko,stopped at Outjo for internet at a lovely coffee shop where I got my cappuccino fix.

Check in was cumbersome.First you stop at the gate to register then you have to wait in two lines.One to pay entry fees another to check in.We were booked at Halali the first night but still had to stop at Okaukuejo

Halali was very nice,pleasantly surprised at the room.Two bedrooms(more surfaces to leave stuff!!) a separate sitting area and coffee station.Fantastic air con

No self catering options but there was a patio with a braii and picnic table

Restaurant was expensive(more than Okaukuejo) but satisfactory

Game viewing was excellent esp at the waterholes.Bought a book with descriptions of all the waterholes which was very helpful so we didn’t have to waste our time

Saw lions,cheetah ,hyena lots of game animals as well as some very interesting birds

Waterhole at Halali quite a bit further away from the bungalows but very close to the camping area

Saw black rhino,a first for me

Decided that since we didn’t have a lot of time would leave early from Halali,drive to Namutoni and then double back so we could see most of the park

Namutoni had an interesting layout,like a fort which it was.Parking is outside and you walk to the shops within the walls.Very pleasant courtyard but again few food options for snacks

Suffered and had a magnum bar for lunch!

On the way back saw lots of burned land with not a lot of animals. Having seen land like that in Kruger the past two years I visited in Sept did not surprise me.It did make me decide to come back and visit another time of year though Did see a European roller which was special

On the Halai plains was alerted by another car to a cheetah sitting under a tree,right by the side of the road

When he/she got up to walk my husband outdid himself by driving backwards!

Got great still shots and a short video resulted

Checked in at Okauhuejo,room nice but not as large as Halali.Really close to the waterhole though,a few minute walk. I did not stay at the waterhole chalets but based on my experience don’t see the point of the added expense.They were not as close to the waterhole as I thought they would be so you would still need binoculars to see details The waterhole changed depending on the time of day.It was packed with animals at high noon to come down to drink.Lions and black rhino were there right after sunset and at night

Food options almost as limited as Halai.We opted to eat lunch there the second day-it was cheaper and about the same type of food as dinner.We had a sandwich and beverages sitting at the waterhole at sunset for dinner

All in all Etosha would be a place I would return to and again stay inside the park

Next stop was Okonjima a place I had been looking forward to for months and actually the whole trip based on the reviews I had read

I was really disappointed as I felt there was not the value for the money we paid.We had the lowest level of accommodation,the garden room.It was adequate but nothing special.The lapa area was huge and nicely appointed,the staff friendly,the food good but not great

But the big disappointment was in the guiding.Our guide’s English was OK but not great and we both felt that little new info was imparted.I have a review up on TA where you can read all the details

Our perception was ,however,that because we were not in the higher priced room categories that we didn’t get the best guide

That could be bogus but that was how we felt

Anyway enough for now,hope you learned something or at the least I helped pass the time

Isle of Man, United...
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1. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

Great report and most interesting as to how different people view things. You obviously had a great time and had some great viewings. I was particularly interested in how your Husband got on with the car and driving. Obviously you are on the "wrong" side of the road from home but you coped OK.

Sorry to hear you were affected by the Hobatere closure. Not good news at all. We were also booked in there at first (one of our favourites in Namibia and a main reason to go.)

Huab is an aquired taste but the wine is good.

And good to see you enjoyed Etosha and stayed in the Park.

So now we need the reviews and some pictures please. Being a birder I want to see what you saw.

Thanks for an entertaining report. Loved it and I know someone else who will too.

Edited: 25 October 2011, 23:15
Stanley, Falkland...
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2. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

Yes - great report, thanks. I think the story about the couple getting stranded is true. Another mistake was that no-one was expecting them, so no-one realised they were stuck, and so no-one looked for them until they didn't show up for their flight home.

Redmond, Washington
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3. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

mfuwe- We both drive manual transmission and are pretty used to driving on the wrong side of the road ;o)

But the truck so big and not as responsive as the smaller cars we drive at home

No problem with no traffic

Look under my profile I do have some reviews up.Will try to put the photos in some sort of online album and provide a link.There was one bird that stumped us-some sort of really funny looking owl

Favorite sighting this trip was in Kruger at Punda Maria prior to Namibia.We were about 2 meters from a purple roller and he cooperated by sitting still for quite a long time

Second favorite was the Madagascar bee eater at Huab

Even when there are no animals there are always birds

peterscot- That could happen to anyone.The country is so big with so much empty spaces

sallylondonlondon
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4. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

What an interesting read. I, too, find it fascinating how eveyone's experiences vary so much. We loved Camp Kipwe too but really did not like Halali. I wonder how much the personal interactions at places affect our perceptions of them.

Your comments about the limited km/hr some car companies impose goes a long way to explain some of the cars we met on the road when we were there!

One point I will make is that there are lots of jackals that roam around within the fences at Okaukuejo, especially in the evening. There are warnings about rabid animals so I would not recommend taking any food to the waterhole after dark. I'm not sure if others think this is a concern or not.

Isle of Man, United...
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5. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

Now you are intriguing. A funny looking Owl. Large or small? Where?

A pair of Verreaux Eagle Owls nest in a tree just beyond Halali Water hole.

I don't mind folks taking food to the Waterhole at night as long as they don't make a noise eating or when the Honey Badger steals it.

Stanley, Falkland...
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6. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

judik - I agree it could happen to anyone. The usual advice is to have plenty of food and water in case of breakdowns, and let someone know your route.

Redmond, Washington
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7. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

sally-We were there at sunset and just after.it was pretty crowded I wouldn't think jackals would like to hang out with so many people around.Even at 10pm it was packed

Did talk a walk around camp around that time and saw a jackal scrounging in the trash near the restaurant.As soon as he heard us he shot off though

peterscot- We carried 2 5liter jugs of water as well as the assorted drinks in our frig though beer and wine wouldn't be much help in keeping one from getting dehydrated

mfuwe- I am putting a shutterfly album together(courtesy of trip advisor for my very valuable contributions!!) and will post a link when i am done

Still am stumped by the bird I saw.Really funny looking.Could have been a juvenile of some sort

Isle of Man, United...
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8. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

Describe It!

Redmond, Washington
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9. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

imageshack.us/photo/…

See if this link works.I am not good at this stuff!!

Isle of Man, United...
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10. Re: Another trip report *warning, a bit long*

It works. Thanks for slaking my curiosity. You are right. That is one funny looking "Owl!"

Shall I say what it really is or let someone else have a go?