11 July 2009

From Stuart's Journal - Days 6 to 12

Trip Day 6 - Cape Town
Up early for a run - ran for half an hour to Company's Gardens and back. The Gardens were pleasant but the run to and from was not so good on major roads - good job it was Sunday. Then back to prepare our kit (and the new underwater housing for the video camera) for the diving today. Got it all together and then set off by cab to the the Two Oceans Marina on the Waterfront. Got there very early but as we were the only people diving today we met up with the guide (Matt) and went and got ready. We booked two dives - one in the large Predator tank which had Ragged Tooth Sharks, Yellow Tails, Turtles and Rays, and one in the Kelp Forest tank, which had smaller sharks and other fish.We kitted up and I borrowed a 'chicken suit' - covering the chest with a built in hood, as we were told that the predator tank is kept at 18 degrees and the kelp forest at a chilly 14 degrees. We got into the predator tank and sank to the bottom. Immediately Merryl started filming with the video camera and Fiver started taking photos and small videos with the Sony stills camera. We spent around 30 minutes in the predator tank, looking at all the fish and at the humans the other side of the 27cm thick plastic walls. I was getting chilly towards the end of the dive and, after we got out, we had to clean the water from our kit and ourselves so had hot showers while still in our wetsuits. For the second dive the other two also got a chicken suit to keep warm. The kelp forest tank was much smaller and cramped and very cold. We fed the fish in this tank with cut up smaller fish (seems wrong somehow). That was fun but after that I was pretty cold and we all agreed (except Fiver) to get our after 20 minutes. Hot showers revived us and we then left our kit to dry in the sun as we went to have lunch in the aquarium cafe. We picked up the kit and took it back to the cafe where Fiver stayed and looked at the footage and write her diary while Merryl and I went off. She went to look round the shops while I got money out of the ATM to convert to USD for the remainder of the trip. Once all done we returned to the hotel by cab and hung up all our gear around the car and in the room. Then Fiver captured the footage while I had a short nap. After that we went out again to the Waterfront and had a pleasant dinner at a restaurant called 'Wang Thai'.
Trip Day 7 - Cape Town, Clanwilliam Up early to pack up the room and all the drying dive gear which had been hanging around since yesterday (Fiver and Merryl) and for me to catch up on emails and finances. We had planned to then go on the cable car to Table Mountain but it was raining with low cloud this morning so we did not bother. Did all this before 9:00 and headed to the Waterfront again for breakfast and find an Internet Cafe for Fiver to continue improving the website and blogs. Went to Mugg & Bean who have wifi in all their cafes. Fiver made good progress with her tasks but I failed miserably with mine. Yesterday I got out moneyto change into USD so we had some when we went to Zimbabwe and beyond. However, no one would change it as I could not prove how I came by it (seems you should keep your ATM receipts). Very frustrating.When we had done all our tasks we drove away from the Waterfront for the last time and headed onto the N7 and drove north. We had hoped to stay in the Cedeberg Wilderness Area but the campsite had been damaged by weather and was closed. Instead we found a site near Clanwilliam which had vacancies. The weather improved as we got away from Johannesburg and the sky was clear by the time we got to Clanwilliam. We found the site, on the edge of the river, and set up camp and had an early dinner. Place is pretty basic and the owner does not seem to be onsite to pay!
Trip Day 8 - Clanwilliam, Noordoewer (Namibia) Up at 7:00. Everything very wet from the heavy dew. Packed up and had breakfast slowly and did not get away very early. I was keen to get on as usual as wanted to get across the border today and to Fish River, which is over 100km beyond the border. The road (N7) was good and traffic light so we made good progress. We stopped for refuelling and comfort breaks, having a longer stop in the town of Springbok to use the Internet cafe, add more fuel (I also filled one of the jerry cans now we are in Namibia). We stopped for lunch a little outside the town on the roadside, next to an attractive rock outcrop. While there, we also dried out our towels and fly sheets, which dried very quickly in the hot sun. We arrived at the border post at Vioolsdrif at the same time as an overlander truck/bus, so it took a little time to get through. On the South African side we had to visit immigration, customs and police in that order. Once our passports were stamped by immigration, the rest was just the stamping of a form we were given but no checks of any sort. On the Namibian side (Noordower), there was passport control and a room for owners of vehicles. Once my passport was stamped I went in there, filled in a form and got a permit for ZAR180 which I have to give up when I leave the country.As it was getting late I did not want to drive on to Fish River as planned, but looked in the guide book and found a delightful place on the Orange River called Abiqua River Camp. We were given a lovely spot by the river and we had glorious colours on the rocks on the other side of the river as the sun was setting.
Merryl cooked a stir fry and we got drinks from the bar to have with desert. We have already decided to stay a second day rather than moving on to Fish River tomorrow. Spent rest of evening looking at stars and photographing night shots. Pleased with the results Trip Day 9 - Noordoewer Not travelling today after all the efforts of the last week. Merryl and I got up early and went for a nice run at dawn (half an hour - around 5km). Rest of day spent in camp, taking it easy, not doing much at all. Photographed some birds during breakfast time.
In the late afternoon, Fiver and I took a rubber boat out on the Orange River to take some photos. We could not paddle together for toffee so Fiver took over and I took photographs. Got pretty wet. Trip Day 10 - Noordoewer, Canon's Roadhouse, Fish River Canyon Again up early for a morning run - did same as yesterday but met Fiver on way back who was doing a walk. After cleaning up and breakfast we set off for the relatively short drive to Fish River Canyon. It was a pleasant drive on empty dirt roads, including one graded on the bed of the Gamkab River. We stopped at Ai-Ais to have a look at the resort but, as advised by the manager of Abiqua River Camp yesterday, it is currently being upgraded (by some New Zealanders - perhaps they know more about volcanic hot springs resorts than other people!). There were many fit but exhausted people about who had just finished the 5 day walk along the Fish River Canyon (Ai-Ais is where the walk finishes). We drove on and stopped for a pleasant lunch beside the road, before arriving at Canon's mid afternoon (our earliest stop yet). We set up camp (including us putting up the ground tent for a change) and then had rather early sundowners (G and T - we bought tonic from the bar of Abiqua River Camp.
Trip Day 11 - Canon's Roadhouse, Fish River Canyon
Up very early for our visit to the Fish River Canyon view point past Hobas Camp. We wanted to capture the place at dawn so left in the dark and arrived before the sun got up. There was already a party of French people there before us and more arrived later. It is impossible to capture in words the grandeur of the the sight of the 2nd largest canyon in Africa (the Blue Nile Canyon in Ethiopia is supposed to be larger - we will try to comparelater in the journey). However, we took many lovely photos.
Fiver cooked breakfast at the lookout (which was most welcome as it was very cold this morning). We then walked to a second look out a few km away (this replaced our morning run today!).
We returned for coffee at the Road House. We took the opportunity to have a planning session as we are getting rather confused and stressed (me from worrying about getting through the trip on time and Fiver not wanting to rush). Fiver pointed out that we had planned for a couple of weeks in Botswana and we probably do not need all of this time so we will take some of it to add a day or two to Namibia so we do not have to miss the main attractions of this glorious country.
Due to the early morning we then all had a rest before lunch, after which, Fiver and Merryl went off horse riding at Canon Lodge, which they had booked yesterday. I stayed around the camp and amused myself attempting to take photos of flying birds and identifying ones we had seen already. I was very pleased with the results I got, despite the fading light which meant I had to use a very high ISO number (but all in all a good revision of the relationship between ISO number, focal length and shutter speed}.
Fiver and Merryl had booked to go riding at 3:00pm for an hour, so I was expecting them back by 5:00 at the latest. They eventually turned up at 6:15 and I had been getting very agitated. Seems that we did not realise that Namibia was one hour behind South Africa and we had not adjusted our clocks! Also, the ride took longer than planned due to them being given rather wild horses and needing to change them a few times to get ones they were happy with. As it was Fiver had a fall and has a nasty graze on her side and bruise on her leg (in the shape of her camera which, surprisingly, still works!). We cleaned up the graze and put a dressing on it but it is going to be sore.
Merryl cooked dinner on an open fire we made on the braai and we spent some time tidying up so we could have a quick getaway tomorrow morning for the drive to Lüderitz.
Trip Day 12 - Canon's Roadhouse, Fish River Canyon, Lüderitz
Up at 5:00 (Namibian time). It surprisingly rained a bit in the night and the top of the car and tent were damp. We got away efficiently and had excellent dirt roads on which it was possible to drive at 110kph (once the light was better). Stopped on side of the road for a brew before we hit the B4 main road to Lüderitz. Fiver took over the driving from me then as a way of taking her mind off the pain from yesterday's fall. Long empty tarmac road.
We stopped at Aus. A very small place that had a tourist information centre that had a cafe but was very cold. We left after having a pee and went into town to the Banhof Hotel which had been recently renovated. We had a cooked breakfast there. Whilst there, Fiver called a couple of hotels and we got a room for Fiver and I, and a room in the owner's house for Merryl.
Continued on to Lüderitz, where we arrived at 11:30. Checked into the Haus Sandrose hotel which is beautifully built around a sunny courtyard. Walked around this strange town with its odd German colonial architecture and bought local Namibia SIM cards. Place was dead after 1:00pm on this Saturday afternoon (just like Germany). Merryl quipped that she thought we were visiting the ghost town tomorrow, not today!


  1. Reading this makes me think of a fabulously rubbish film Redgrave and I saw in the early 90s, called 'Dust Devil'. It involved a trenchcoat-wearing demonic hitch-hiker (obviously), and was filmed in Namibia, with all those endless roads built by Germans. The most memorable thing about it was the desert, particularly an abandoned town where all the houses have been invaded by sand dunes. I do hope that's the ghost town you're visiting!

  2. That sounds like just the place! The ghost town was called Kolmannskop and it absolutely is the perfect place for a movie. Sad love story would work, too. It was quite amazing and we got very moody footage.