The word “safari” can mean different things to different people.
To some it is an Internet browser or Open University tool, to others a tented camp in the bush or a four wheel drive adventure spying on animals in their natural habitat or even prematurely terminating the lives of wild animals, but it is a Swahili word that simply means “a journey”.
This is the story of a safari in the Swahili sense of the word, a safari of well over 10,000 Km through eight countries, starting in Nairobi and finishing in Cape Town, travelling overland with Dragoman.
The adventure begins at the Kivi Milimani Hotel in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, where we met our Dragoman leader, Cat (Paka in Swahili), for our 10.00 am briefing meeting having landed in Nairobi earlier that morning. Here we met our fellow Overlanders, an ecliptic mix of people with nearly half a century spanning the ages, but this was a great group and we were soon to gel as a cohesive unit. We were introduced to Lolly, out transport for our safari to Dar es Salaam, but we were not to travel in her for a little while yet. We sorted our baggage taking only what we needed for the next couple of days, boarded Toyota Land Cruisers and set of for the Maasai Mara.
12.00 noon and we were heading north out of Nairobi passing my old school on the Kyuna Estate and were soon winding our way down the escarpment to the floor of Africa’s Great Rift Valley then west passing between the volcanic cones of Suswa to the south and Longonot to the north. More than half a century had passed since I climbed Longonot as a schoolboy and I really did have a “coming home” feeling. We arrived at Acacia campsite in the Maasa Mara at 5.00 pm and made ourselves comfortable in the tented accommodation and enjoyed dinner at 8:30 pm prepared by Samson and Ramu (our wonderful cook and his apprentice). After dinner we were introduced to the art of “flapping”. This was the way we would dry our cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils through our safari and involved waving these items around in the warm African air to dry them avoiding having to use cloths, which would soon become unhygienic.
Next morning we were up at 5.00 am for 6.00 am breakfast and into the Land Cruisers for an amazing all day game drive. The Mara was teaming with game and the experience was enhanced by the landscape including the winding Mara River. In bed by 9.00 pm after a good dinner.
6:30 am and we were once again leaving the camp for an early game drive. Back in camp at 10.00 am for an excellent brunch then at 11.00 am we set off for the journey back to Nairobi where we arrived at 5.00 pm and were introduced to our tents at the Karen camp site in the Karen suburb of Nairobi, which was once Karen Blixen’s farm, which she wrote about in “Out of Africa”, some of which was filmed in my old school’s quadrangle. Dinner tonight was at “Predys”, which was just a short walk from the camp site.
Up at 5:00 am to pack up sleeping bags, mats and tents (the first of many to come!). I was on “kitchen duty” and reported to Samson at 5:45 am. Breakfast was at 6:00 am and at 7:00 am we left Karen camp for our first days drive in Lolly, but getting out of Nairobi took two hours because of the traffic.
We crossed the border into Tanzania at Namanga and were soon passing Longido, which is where we set off from to walk across the floor of Africa’s Great Rift Valley to Ol Doinyo Lengai in July 2004 with a British Exploring Society expedition. During our journey the shy mountain, Kilimanjaro, had remained hidden from view, but as we continued south the bulk of Meru emerged through the clouds and we arrived in Arusha at 3.00 pm where we stopped for supplies and cash from the ATM. We swapped Lolly for Land Rovers and headed west stopping for the night at the Snake Park, a dusty but interesting camp site.
Up at 5.00 am for 6.00 am breakfast and continued west passing through Mto Wa Mbu and climbing out of the Rift Valley via the Lake Manyara entrapment where we stopped at a large souvenir centre which had moved there from near Mombasa. We passed through the gate into the Ngorongoro conservation area driving round the south west part of the crater rim then west again passing Oldupai Gorge to the Serengeti where we had a short game drive before arriving at Tombili camp site at 6:30 pm to find that our tents had been set up for us. What a treat! This was an unfenced camp visited by animals during the night and Nat had left her flip flops outside the tent and woke to find one missing and the other chewed by a Hyena.
5:45 am and a wonderful sunrise with a “smiling” crescent moon. 6:30 am and we were in the Land Rovers heading into the Serengeti for a morning game drive. Four of our fellow travellers had opted for a balloon ride while the rest of us enjoyed close up views of the abundant wild life including elephants, lions, leopards and giraffe. At 10.00 am we all met up again and it was back to camp for a wonderful brunch cooked up by Samson and Ramu after which we had a leisurely afternoon to do some dhobi and relax before heading out again at 3.00 pm for another amazing game drive.
After a second night camping in the Serengeti we set off back east to enter the Ngorongoro Crater. We were on the rim by 9.00 am having had to stop to repair the breaks on one of the Land Rovers during which time I took the opportunity of demonstrating to my fellow Overlanders how the Maasai made string from the leaves of the Oldupai plant. Unfortunately our time in the crater was relatively short and was more of a drive through, but we managed to see many of the animals that make this place their home although I did not feel that this visit was as rewarding as that with the BES expedition in August 2004.
Our next stop was Twiga camp site at Mto Wa Mbu where some of us went on a cultural village walk which started with a “local” meal followed by a tour of the banana plantations and an introduction to the local beer then to see wood carving and painting. After dinner a small group of us enjoyed music, drumming and acrobatics in the bar.
Once more set off in Lolly to Arusha for supplies, shopping and the ATM. We stopped at the Snake Park on the way to visit the Maasai settlement. Just the briefest glimpse of Kibo as we travelled to our next camp site in the grounds of the Marangu Hotel on the slopes of Kilimanjaro below Mawenzi.
Up at 4.00 am for 5.00 am breakfast for an early start the next morning as we had a long drive to Dar es Salaam and its notorious traffic! As we navigated our way through its very busy streets we bought ice creams from a street vendor with his refrigerated tricycle. The camp site at Kipepeo Beach Village was on the beach and, as we were there for two nights, we took the opportunity to upgrade to a beach hut that Linda described as “like sleeping in a basket on the beach”. The Indian Ocean was a wonderful sight and a pleasure to swim in.
It was great just to tip out of bed in the morning and after breakfast it was all aboard Lolly to go to catch the Kigamboni ferry across the creek then by minibus to the main ferry terminal to board the ferry to Zanzibar where we checked into the Karibu Hotel in Stonetown. Six of us took a dhow to Prison Island with its ancient giant tortoises and did a bit of snorkelling off the island, but the visibility was poor and there was not a lot to see. At 6.00 pm we all met up at Africa House to watch the sunset then at 7.00 pm it was off to the night market for food (dinner).
At 9.00 am we were at the Museum before visiting the Slave area and Church where we learned abut the gruesome history of slavery. This was followed by a tour of a spice plantation where we learned about curry, kapok, cinnamon, cloves, spice tea and fruits among other things then a drive to Daniel’s house for lunch which was typically meat and beans. Daniel’s house was a local dwelling. That night we stayed at Amaan Bungalows Beach Resort at Nungwi where we had a wonderful room with a veranda where we could dry our dhobi. This place was pure luxury with a heated swimming pool where we enjoyed cocktails from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm in the pool, which was followed by a great dinner. Was this really overlanding?
The day at Nungwi beach started with a wonderful leisurely breakfast with fresh fruit and eggs then a walk along the beach before lunch. 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm was again cocktails in the pool sampling the local “After 8” which was made up with peppermint, chocolate, Kaluha and Amarula! At 7.00 pm we left the pool for a dinner party on the beach to celebrate Amy’s and Nat’s birthdays. This was accompanied by dancing and acrobatic displays and at 9:30 pm we crept away leaving the younger people to continue revelling.
7:30 am breakfast and it was raining! We boarded our mini bus back to Stonetown where it really was raining hard so it was into Memories, a lovely shop. The rain was now very heavy and we got soaked on the way back to the bus to go to the ferry back for Dar es Salaam. It was a long, wet and rough crossing. 3.00 pm and back at Kipepeo Beach Village do warm up and dry off. We upgraded to “a basket on the beach” again rather than to put up a tent after the luxury of Zanzibar. A wonderful lamb dinner, which had been cooking for four hours, and time to say goodbye to Cat, Steph, Freddie, Jo and Kai. It was an emotional evening as we completed the first leg of our safari and prepared for the second.
Day 15; up at 3.00 am. 4.00 am on the road, this time in Imani as Lolly was going back to Nairobi with Cat, but David, our Driver on Lolly, stayed with us to drive Imani to Cape Town. The very early start was to try and escape the Dar es Salaam traffic before it got too bad! It was great to tip out of bed and not have to take down a tent and roll up the sleeping bags, thermorests and sleeping mats. We stopped on route for breakfast and to make a packed lunch with our new Cook, Charles. It was a long journey to Iringa, arriving after 6pm. We were now in Imani and had different tents from those in Lolly, which just had 4 fiberglass poles. These were a little bigger, heavier and had 3 sectioned metal poles which always seemed to get tangled no matter how carefully they were put away. Untangling them in the gathering dusk was a challenge. The camp site had a “Kisolanza Farm Tanzanian boiler” for hot showers and “long drops” for the loos. We enjoyed an “authentic” meal in a rondarval, which we finished off with Amarula laced hot chocolate and chocolate brownies.
After crossing the border at Kaporo we were soon travelling down the western shore of Lake Malawi to Chitimba, where it was amazing to once again stand on the beach by this wonderful fresh water lake. The camp site was on the beach.
Leaving Chitimba the next morning we climbed the western edge of the rift valley stopping in Mzuzu for supplies and to purchase some rather ridiculous “fancy dress” garments which is apparently a Dragoman tradition. The Jacaranda was in bloom as we drove into Mzuzu. This was exciting for us as some 38 years had passed since we were last here and this is where eldest daughter was born. Mzuzu was now a buzzing metropolis with lots of shops. It was a nostalgic moment and once again there was a “coming home” feeling. From Mzuzu we wound our way back down to the lake shore along a road that we had travelled many times before, but a long time ago, and passed through Chintheche on our way to Kande Beach, where we again upgraded into a very comfortable room with on-suite. It was a pleasure to once again swim in this huge fresh water lake with its soft white sandy beaches. Dinner was the occasion for us to wear the “fancy dress” costumes chosen by our colleagues in Mzuzu.
Kande Beach is 30 Km south of Chintheche, where we lived in 1974 and 1975, so we took a local taxi to Chintheche and found that the houses were still there despite the fact that we were told in 1974 that they were to be demolished in a few months time. The visit was very nostalgic and we discovered that one of the Hibiscus plants we had planted all those years ago still survived. We also took the opportunity to visit the Scottish Missionary Church at Bandawe to see how it had fared and were pleased to see it was being well looked after and used although the graves of the Missionaries had been moved to a new site. We were made very welcome by the people who had created the site at Kande Beach and who would be celebrating 20 years there in just a few days time.
Up at 5.00 am and a last paddle in the lake as the sun rose. An amazing morning reminiscent of those we enjoyed nearly four decades before. 6.00 am breakfast then a long drive down the lake shore then west to Lilongwe where we stopped for supplies and shopping and enjoyed a good pizza and craft market. Unfortunately the camp site at Lilongwe was somewhat “shenzi” with dogs barking all night and hot and inundated with ants.
We were scheduled to rise at 4.00 am, but I gave up with the ants before 3.00 am and went up to a sofa by the the “bar” to doze. The ants were coming into the tent through the seams. 4.00 am and it was time to start packing up sleeping mats and tents (ants and all). As we left Lilongwe we passed the Malawi Sunbird Hotel where we had stayed when we first arrived in the country in 1974.
We crossed from Malawi into Zambia at Mchinji. At each border crossing we ran a sweepstake at $1 each on how long it would take from getting off the truck in the first country (Malawi) and getting our passports stamped for exit then getting our passports stamped for entry into the next country (Zambia) and crossing the border. At Mchinji Linda got the time right with 1 hour 23 minutes and won $22. In Zambia we stopped at Chipata for supplies then on to Croc Valley Camp in the South Luangwa National Park where we again upgraded to a comfortable tent with beds and what could be called an on-suite with some imagination.
At 4.00 am Linda woke to find an Elephant walking around the tent. 5:30 am and yet another amazing sunrise followed by an early morning game drive then back to the camp site for another of Charles’ amazing meals. Charles managed to produce great meals for 25 people with just two gas rings in primitive conditions. 4:30 pm and we set off on a rather amazing evening game drive where we witnessed the birth of a baby Puku and a Leopard hunting in the glare of our spot lights.
Another early start and long days drive as we headed south to the lower Zambezi camping at Bridge Camp on the Luangwa River where it is the border between Zambia and Mozambique and some 70 Km north of where the Luangwa meets the Zambezi.
Yet Another early start and long days drive as we headed south once more to our camp site at Zambezi Breezes on the banks of the Zambezi River 5 Km north east of Chirundu after stopping in Lusaka for supplies.
Day 24 and the start of another amazing adventure on this amazing safari. 6.00 am, up and packing up sleeping mats and tents. 7.00 am, breakfast. Linda chatted to the owner of Zambezi Breezes, Anna Marie, about the book she was reading to discover that the authors parents lived only four miles away! 10:30 am and we board our canoes to start our safari on the Zambezi River. 12:30 pm, stopped for lunch on the river bank (pasta and bacon) followed by a lovely sleep until 3.00 pm when we resumed our paddling. Later we stopped and pulled the canoes up onto a sand spit and swam in the river. We passed close to Hippo and Elephant as we paddled our way along with frequent instructions such as “Keep to the left, Hippo on the right”. Tonight we camped on a sand spit in the middle of the Zambezi River (15° 56.71S 28° 58.78E) having travelled some 12 Km downstream from Zambezi Breezes.
5:40 am, another beautiful sunrise. This was our second day canoeing down the Zambezi River. As we paddled along we spotted four Lions so we pulled the canoes up onto the bank and went in search of them on foot! Fortunately the Lions seemed more wary of us than we of them. Camped on another sand spit in the middle of the Zambezi (15° 50.35S 29° 29.07E) near Chapange having covered another 20 Km. This really was basic camping and in stark contrast to the luxuries of Zanzibar.
4.00 am, up and packing up sleeping mats and tents to wait for the boat to take us back to Zambezi Breezes, but it was a little late. 8.00 am, breakfast at Zambezi Breezes camp site. 9.00 am, all aboard Imani for the long drive to Livingstone stopping on route for supplies and a pizza lunch. We encountered some heavy rain on the journey but the camp site was cool and dry and we slept well.
This morning we woke to find an Elephant wandering around just a few metres from our tent, but fortunately there was a substantial fence between the Elephant and us. We walked the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, but there was little water because we were at the end of the dry season.
Crossed the border into Zimbabwe and walked on the Zimbabwe side of the falls where there was more water going over. At the Victoria Falls Camp Site and Lodge we upgraded to a “lodge” with two double rooms, kitchen and bathroom, which we shared with Pat and Doug. Our evening meal at Lola’s Tapas and Bar with great entertainment from singers and dancers. It was a really good evening and marked the end of the second leg of our adventure. Being in the lodge was another opportunity for dhobi.
10.00 am, Briefing meeting for the new arrivals who were joining us for the final leg to Cape Town. A group of us walked down to the Africa Café in the Elephant Shopping Mall for a good lunch then back to the “lodge” for a rest. 4.00 pm, joined the Sunset (Booze) Cruise with a local group singing songs such as “A Whim Away” on the jetty as we boarded. 7.00 pm, Dinner with the group at the Victoria Falls Camp Site and Lodge restaurant with local entertainment.
9.00 am, After a leisurely breakfast we congregated around Imani where the T shirt man arrived with our customised safari T shirts. A leisurely day swimming in the pool, writing Post Cards and more dhobi. In the afternoon we walked to Victoria Falls Hotel, where we had stayed in 1975 with our new baby, with Pat and Doug for High Tea ($30 for two). The hotel appeared to have hardly changed in four decades. 4:30.00 , Gary and Carolyn arrived at the Victoria Falls Hotel so we joined them for a beer whilst Pat and Doug set off for the falls. 6:45 pm, back to our lodge in the camp to pack our bags and get them onto Imani for an early start to the third and final leg of our safari tomorrow. Dinner at the Victoria Falls Camp Site and Lodge restaurant.
5:30 am breakfast then into Imani for the journey to Hwange. First stop was the Painted Dogs Conservation Programme at Dete where Graham met us at 10:20 am as he had spent lime with a local friend while we were at Victoria Falls. After the luxury of the “lodge” in Victoria Falls we were now back in the tent and pitched them with the fly sheets on as there was a possibility of rain. 2:30 pm, Into Land Rovers for a game drive with Ian, also known as Stretch because he is very tall. This was a very interesting evening game drive with the spot lights and different from those we had been on earlier on the safari. We saw a Porcupine which is apparently very rare to sight. We called in to the Hwange Game Lodge, which was previously the Southern Sun Safari Lodge, a posh hotel with a water hole, but unfortunately no nocturnal visitors to it. Although it had been a very hot for the afternoon game drive the night was cool for sleeping.
6.00 am, Early morning game drive with Ian in the Land Rovers then off to Bulawayo in Imani. A good roads for a change. 4.00 pm, arrived at he camp site run by Adam and Vicki, Burks’ Paradise, which was very comfortable with grass to pitch the tents on and good facilities with hot showers and dhobi, but we decided to upgraded to double room rather than pitch the tent as we were to be there for two nights.
8.00 am, Leisurely breakfast. 9.00 am, Ian arrived with his Land Rover and a 50 year old forward control Land Rover and we set off for Matobo National Park. 9:30 am, We left the the Land Rover and set off on foot to find some White Rhino which we got very close to. Poaching for Rhino horn is rife in the area so the Rhinos had had their horns removed about two weeks before our visit. Once more in the Land Rover we went on a scenic drive through the Motopas Hills and past Gordon Park operated by the Boy Scouts Association of Zimbabwe. 1pm and it was lunch time at Maleme dam. After lunch at 2:15 pm we started a climb up high rocks to a cave with Bushman paintings and magnificent views then on to World’s View with Rhodes Grave and more magnificent views where we arrived at 5.00 pm in time to enjoy the sunset. Matobo was Ian’s “back yard” and his knowledge was amazing. 7.00 pm, back in Burks’ Paradise for hot showers and dinner.
Crossed the border into Botswana and stopped in Francistown for supplies and pizza for lunch. It was hot. Camped at Planet Baobab, a hot sandy place.
Today, some went in search of Meerkats, but we chilled out in the bar as I was rather poorly having probably accidentally eaten something I should not have. Sarah and Graham were also under the weather. Set off in Imani when those who went in search of Meerkats returned and arrived in Maun at 3.00 pm, where we stopped so we could go to the pharmacist for medication. Unfortunately the Delta Rain Sitatunga Camp was run by a manager who we felt was rather arrogant, but we upgraded to a “superior” cabin with shower and loo as I was still suffering.
6:30 am start. Dhobi then Linda went into Maun with Nick for money and shopping and met up with Charles to help with purchasing supplies for our excursion into the delta. Some of our group went horse riding in the afternoon, but found it rather disappointing. A couple pulled out and demanded their money back because the times changed. Organised bags for tomorrows trip into the delta.
Day 36 started by packing all our equipment and belonging onto a huge open sided Delta Rain truck for the drive into the Okavango Delta. We arrived at our destination in the Okavango Delta at 9.00 am and we unloaded the gear from the truck into canoes. The local name for these canoes is mokoro. It was quite surreal as the sleeping mats were used as seats. Once the mokoros were loaded we were poled through the waterways and Hippo paths arriving at our camp site at 12:30 pm where we unloaded the mokoros, put up out tents, had lunch then a mid afternoon swim in “safe” location. 5.00 pm, Afternoon walk from the camp site and saw a lone giraffe and some zebra then back for dinner around the camp fire. Although the day was hot the night was cool so no problem sleeping except for one of the guides who was rather inebriated and insisted in talking loudly until midnight.
5.00 am, Cup of tea and a morning walk. 8.00 am breakfast after the walkers returned, after which we discovered that the next event was not until the evening sunset “cruise” through the Okavango. Most of us were very unhappy with this revelation as we had been told to bring the minimum with us and now had nothing to do for some eight hours. We passed the time by going swimming and trying out poling the mokoros. 5:45 pm, set off on the sunset cruise. If this part of the safari was beginning to feel like a low point this turned out to be an amazing experience and certainly compensation for the boring stay in camp all day. Back to camp for dinner followed by dancing and music and intriguing “frog dance” performed by our polers.
Another early morning walk, but we decided to opt out as we were not really in the right location for seeing lots of game. 6:30 am, Tea and toast. 8:15 am, The walking party returned for breakfast after which we packed up the camp, tents and equipment and at 9:30 am we started our journey back in the mokoros to the meeting point with the Delta Rain truck. 10:30 am, Left the delta area to return to Sitatunga Camp in the open sided truck and upgraded to chalet with separate facilities.
5:30 am, breakfast, but no Imani as Tanja had taken our driver, David, to the station so he could travel back to Victoria Falls to get some paperwork needed for Imani to enter Namibia. However Tanja and Imani soon returned and we set off on a hot journey with thunder but no rain travelling through rather flat uninteresting terrain arriving at Dqae Qare Game Reserve in the Kalahari at noon. At 3:30 pm some Bushmen arrived and demonstrated making fire and making necklaces from Ostrich egg shells. This was followed by a bush walk on which the Bushmen showed us how they made rope and trapped animals. 5.00 pm, back in camp, we walked up to main building where Linda swam in the pool then we enjoyed Stoneys (ginger beer) and talked to some other visitors. 7:30 pm, Dinner followed by storytelling by the Bushmen round a fire. There was lots of lightning and thunder then heavy drops of rain began to fall, but the Bushman kept on telling his story as if nothing was happening. Eventually the rain became really heavy so we sheltered under the mbate roof over the cooking area then made a dash to the tent when it eased off a bit, but the thunder, lightning and heavy rain continued well into the night but we were nice a dry in our wee tent.
5:30 am, Up and packing up sleeping mats and tents. 6.00 am breakfast then up to the main building to purchase an Ostrich egg necklace for a mere 50 Pula (= $6) which seemed a small amount to pay having witnessed the work that goes into making them.
Crossed the border into Namibia without any problem despite the fact that David had not yet caught up with us with the “important” paperwork. Stopped in Windhoek town centre, but the shops were all closed by the time we arrived. It was rather surreal as the the shops were decked out ready for Christmas. We could have been in any major town just about anywhere in the world, particularly Europe!
On our safari north from Windhoek to Etosha we stopped in Otjiwarongo for supplies and lunch. We arrived at the gates to Etosha National Park at 2.00 pm with the temperature topping 45°C. We set up our tents in the well equipped Okaukuejo camp site then went for a game drive in Imani. 7.00 pm, back at camp in time to catch the sunset from the top of the tower. After dinner we watched the animals at the water hole before retiring.
6.00 am, Breakfast at sunrise. 6:45 am, into Imani and off for a game drive arriving at Halali at 11:30 am and started preparing lunch. On the safari back to Okaukuejo camp we went out onto the Etosha Pan in Imani. 7:15 pm, Watched the sunset at the Okaukuejo water hole. 10.00 pm, Returned to the flood lit water hole after dinner.
6:15 am, As we drove out of the gates of the Okaukuejo camp site there was a Zebra carcass being devoured by Black Backed Jackals who became very nervous as a Lioness came to retrieve her kill for her cubs. At 9.00 am we passed through the gates of the Etosha National Park and headed south. 11.00 am, Stopped in Otjiwarongo for supplies and lunch. 6:30 pm, arrived at Spitzkoppe. After setting up the tents we enjoyed walking around the area and watching the sunset.
6.00 am, Watched the sun rise at Spitzkoppe after packing away the tents and equipment then travelled west to Cape Cross. 9:30 am, Arrived at the Cape Fur Seal Colony at Cape Cross. 11.00 am, on the journey back from Cape Cross we met the Dragoman truck Neema travelling from Cape Town to Nairobi. On our arrival in Swakopmund we checked in to the Hotel Gruner Krantz then went next door to book activities. We had a lovely room with on-suite, sheer luxury after the tent! At 4.00 pm we set off for a two hour Quad Bike experience in the sand dunes to the south of Swakopmund which was quite an adventure made even better by our guide Steve who spotted a Sidewinder for us to look at then 15 minutes later dug a nocturnal lizard out of the sand.
8.00 am and we were heading south for Walvis Bay in a mini bus and by 9:15 am we were out on the water with Ocean Adventures on a Dolphin Cruise where we saw lots of Pelicans and Seals as well as Dolphins and a Whale. At 11:30 am our host served champagne. We had already been welcomed aboard with a glass of sherry! An excellent lunch accompanied the drinks. Seals and Pelicans came aboard the boat for a free lunch. We returned to Swakopmund for shopping and lunch and enjoyed another night in the luxury of the Hotel Gruner Krantz.
Day 46 and we headed south from Swakopmund into the Namibian desert crossing the Tropic of Capricorn at 1:30 pm. At 2:30 pm we arrived in the surreal oasis of Solitaire with its wrecked vehicles and vibrant flowers. Camped in Sesriem.
At 5:50 am we started our climb up Dune 45 to watch the sun rise at 6:06 am from the top. 7.00 am and it was time for breakfast in the “shadow” of Dune 45. From Dune 45 we were “ferried” by local four wheel drive vehicles to Sossusvlie. It was now 8.00 am as we explored this desolate area and by 9:30 am we were heading south once more in Imani. 5:45 pm and the landscape was changing from desert to kopjes and mesas. A different geology and flora. Tonight we camped at a comfortable site near Bethanie.
6.00 am breakfast then south once more to a camp site, with good showers, near the Fish River.
6.00 pm and we were enjoying a walk along the rim of the Fish River Canyon.
6.00 am and back at the Fish River Canyon to watch the sun rise, then on through the rocky terrain arriving Ai Ais with its naturally heated indoor swimming pools at 9:30 am. That evening we enjoyed a great camp site on the banks of the Orange (Gariep) River with grass to pitch our tents on and great thatch covered cooking area, good showers and Internet access.
Crossed the border from Namibia into South Africa at Noordoewer at 7.00 am and Vickie won the border crossing time sweep stake. 12.00 noon, we stopped for lunch in a lay-by on the road and it was cold! We passed through some amazing scenery as we travelled towards Clanwilliam on the Olifants River and camped at Highlanders just south of Clanwilliam, pitching our tents on grass again! It was quite a climb up to the ablutions and even more to the bar. The wine tasting started at 6.00 pm. This was followed by a barbecue and dancing, but we slipped off to bet at 10.00 pm leaving the “youngsters” to party on!
Day 51 and the last drive in Imani as we headed south once more stopping in lay-by next to the Olifants River for lunch at 10.00 am. It was afternoon at 1.00 pm when we arrived in Cape Town at the Saasveld Lodge and by 2:30 pm we had checked in. The Saasveld Lodge had just been taken over by a new management (November 2013) and is now called Once in Cape Town. It was very comfortable with great views of Table Mountain from the room window.
This was the conclusion of our Dragoman adventure, but we still had a few days to enjoy Cape Town where an old school friend now lived. When I contacted John to let him know that we would be in Cape Town towards the end of November I had not seen him since I had left school in 1964, but the rich tapestry of life has many twists and John and Jackie were booked on a canal boat holiday near where we lived so we actually met up with them in a pub in Weedon, Northamptonshire, in the summer before starting our great safari. John and Jackie looked after us very well and gave us a wonderful tour of the fairest cape providing a brilliant conclusion to this wonderful safari.
Our stay in Cape Town, with John and Jackie as our guides included visiting Blaubergstrand, to look back at Table Mountain, Wellington, the Bains Kloof Pass to Tulbagh, Stellenbosch University with its statue of Statue of Danie Craven, the Rhodes Memorial, Simons Town with its statue of Just Nuisance, Groot Constantia, Boulders, home of the African Penguin, the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. We also enjoyed the Waterfront and going up Table Mountain where the last time we there together was with our new baby.
To remind us of one of the major highlights of this adventure Jackie presented us with a picture she had painted of Elephants at the Okaukuejo water hole at Etosha.