6 October 2018
I woke up at 06:00 and got out of bed to photograph the glorious sunrise, but went back to sleep briefly until Ian also woke, and while he had a shower, I put on my running kit. I then procrastinated for nearly an hour, before booting myself out of the door and up the dirt track for two miles to The Viewpoint, a little shelter at the highest point of this particular mountain, with spectacular views. It was already over 30 degrees, but it is a dry heat, which made it much easier to cope with. I saw a strong looking antelope who was watching me huff and puff my way uphill, before disappearing down the hill out of sight. I had planned to turn around and retrace my steps, as the lady on reception yesterday had told me that the trails were too difficult to run (too many rocks and boulders to scramble over) but in my sweaty state of bravado, I decided to follow the yellow path leading me down past the Quiver Tree. And yes, the lady on reception was correct. It wasn’t really runnable although I had great fun scrambling over rocks! It ended up being nearly five miles of slow, sweaty, fabulous running and I was so glad to have gone, as always.
When I returned, Cornelia was awake, dressed, had eaten breakfast and was playing with her new Lego set. I quickly packed my stuff up for the van, and tried to cool off in the shower before it was time to leave. With one final look around, we checked out and set off for Namibia, country # 31!
First things first though. We decided to fill up with fuel. BigBell has two tanks with a long range capacity, which means we should get about 1000kms out of it, if needed. But the first tank doesn’t show up on the fuel gauge, so you only know that it’s empty when the fuel tank on the dashboard starts moving down. Despite being assured that our second tank had been filled completely, when we refilled in Springbok (the nearby town), BigBell managed to squeeze in over 100 litres, and by Ian’s calculations, there’s almost no way we could possibly have used that much fuel over our comparatively short journey. Anyway, there’s not much we can do about it, other than let Avis know when we return the vehicle in Jo’Berg early next month.
Ian then went off to find a cash machine, as we would need Rand for the border crossing into Namibia and the various National Park fees. He came back twenty minutes later empty-handed. He didn’t want to pay the 50 Rand charge (just under £3) to withdraw our money from an ATM, but I’m afraid I sent him back again to try again… we needed the cash, so he would just have to pay up! (£3 for goodness sake!!)
I carried on driving until we reached the South African / Namibian border. Our instructions from Drive Botswana were very helpful, so we knew we had to complete an immigration form first, and pay our vehicle fee, and hand over our “consent” form that meant we had permission to take the vehicle into other countries.
The South African side of the border was very smart, immaculately clean and air conditioned. By comparison, the Namibian side was run down and airless. But quick, thankfully!
Bugsy’s mood was pretty demanding, whining and refusing to come inside, and she remained annoying the whole time we were trying to get our papers and documentation sorted. Thankfully, the customs and border officials were all perfectly unbothered by her, which must have been quite unusual for her!
Once through the border, I drove on for another twenty minutes or so, before pulling over at a picnic table and stopping for lunch where I prepared sandwiches, apples and strawberries. Cornelia managed half of her sandwich before it had dried out so much it had become inedible. She had one piece of apple left, and I asked her if she wanted it. She said “No” and as I threw it in the bin, she changed her mind. Sigh….
Ian took over the driving and we were shortly on a gravel road, at which point we switched to 4WD. The van decided to go a bit nuts and started flashing up warning signs “Hill descent control malfunction”, “Hill start assist not available” and “ESC service required”. We have decided to ignore them, although I have sent Amos a message, just in case… We only saw a couple of cars over the 70kms of dirt track, and they were easily visible in the distance with the dust swirls behind them. Something we didn’t expect to see was a guy on a bicycle all kitted out for an adventure! I would’ve loved to have stopped to speak to him, but I wasn’t driving and so on we went, arriving at Hobas Campsite near Fish River Canyon around 16:30.
First, I needed to pay our vehicle fee. Our handbook had indicated that this would be NAD250, but we were charged NAD340. Apparently, the fee in the book is a daily rate, but Cornelia is free, so it sort of worked out in the end! Then, it was over to the campsite reception to check in, and once I’d completed all the paperwork, I was told that we could basically choose our pitch. We had to drive around twice, as we couldn’t find a decent spot that wasn’t already reserved by a camping table and chairs by campers out for the day, but on our second circle, we found one with a bit of shade. It had been over 40degrees while we’d been driving, but had cooled to a body temperature 38 at the time of setting up.
Astonishingly, the cyclist we had passed earlier cycled right by our pitch, so I waved at him and he stopped for a brief chat. Michel (from France) is taking “one or two years” to cycle through Africa by bike, on his own! What an extraordinary adventure!
And actually, we didn’t set up immediately. Cornelia played with her Lego, while Ian went to reception and bought us a couple of beers. I then wandered up to the restaurant to see if it was open and what the menu was like, but when I came back, Cornelia decided she would like pasta and tomato sauce to eat, and so I opened up the kitchen and produced a fine pasta supper. She burped and belched her way through her meal, gulping down two glasses of cold milk and my drinks bottle of warm water. With a full tummy, it was time to get her ready for bed. Ian took her off to brush her teeth etc while I made up her bed and did the dishes. She had a couple of bedtime stories and a Mumfi, before trying to settle down. But she was quite hot (understandably so!) and consequently rather restless, calling out for me a few times. Eventually, it was time for me to go to bed, so I gave her a cuddle before climbing up into the top tent and hoping that I would be able to get a good night’s rest.