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Namibia 2017: firsttimers a bit rushed trip


garito01

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Hello, again.

 

After the morning visit to the Deadvlei we were back in the Sossus Dune Lodge. It was time to have some rest at first, then we had a light lunch that was followed by a siesta. The weather was great, not too hot not to cool, so we enjoyed it on our terrace sunbathing and absorbing all the sounds and smells that were pervading all around us. Especially one of the nearby bushes was spreading a nice redolence of some exotic note. It caught my interest and I jumped down from the terrace to the ground to check whether it was it. Indeed, it was. I almost stuck my nose into it and inhaled the aroma. It was just fantastic. Nothing close to what we know in our area where we live, but I was relishing smelling it like a finest perfume.

I took us probably about 3 hours of this lazy time while we were looking at the great landscape around or watching some guest dropping by:


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The glass wall of a chalet also makes it quite convenient to watch everything from the inside, but I think it's only good for those times when it rains. Barring some storm, I'd rather stay outside.


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After 2 pm. we decided to go and see the Dune 45. We were not rushing as we had plenty of time to get there and the sun was still pretty high up. We arrived at a parking lot shortly after 3 pm. There were perhaps 3 other cars there, but they must have been climbing the dune since there was no one at the foot of it. The weather has changed a bit in the meantime and although it was nice and warm and the sky was deep blue it started to blow. And it was like a gale-force wind. We started climbing as well but it was quite unpleasant with all the sand getting into our eyes, ears and what not. It was blasting us severely. We were doing the steepest part of our ascent when my wife and son decided to drop off. It was too much of sand and wind for them and they just turned around. However, me and my daughter we decided to continue.

I was really afraid of taking my camera out in order not to expose it to this sand blasting. We only were stopping from time to time to hydrate ourselves as the climb was pretty arduous in a soft sand. Half way up the wind calmed down unexpectedly which made us really happy and we were able to continue to the top of the dune. The views in the afternoon light were spectacular:

 

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We spent at the top something like a quarter of an hour and then started our descent. That we did doing a moonwalk through the slope. Great feeling and a much, much quicker way than a regular trip back. Obviously our boots were full of sand which we got rid of already at the bottom sitting on a tree trunk. As it was getting late we only had a short stroll again around the area before jumping into the car and heading to the camp.

 

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By the time we came back it was almost dark. That was a lovely day among the dunes !

 

tbc

Greg

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Hello,


Day 10

We were not rushing too much in the morning. We had a breakfast in SDL in a relaxed manner and right after that we packed up and left the lodge. Our next goal was to reach Klein Aus Vista before sunset. Altogether it was supposed to be about 350 km, but we knew it was gonna be a long day.

We started to move along the C27 road and the views were quite fine, but nothing that we would call stunning. Therefore, we virtually made only few stops until we reached Betta, but even there it was quite short.


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Road conditions on this leg were pretty decent, but at times the corrugation was kicking in and it was reducing our speed considerably. Although I had already a bit got used to driving those roads I still preferred to be rather on a safe side and tried to stay at low speed whenever challenged by what I saw on the road.

Finally we reached the point where we took the famous D707. Beforehand I was hesitating whether to go this way, but read so many things about it being one of the most picturesque roads in Namibia, that it would be a shame not to do that. And it was well worth it going on it as the views were really great. The road was more sandy but for me it was much more comfortable to drive on it. And the vistas all around were so rewarding! Despite the fact, that the first part of this way we were driving around midday and the light was not flattering, it still left quite an impression on us. Vast spaces mixed with sand and orange dunes in a distance and various rocks nearby were really catching our attention. Here we were stopping much more frequently taking our time to have a good look at a landscape.


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Back in Poland I arranged for a lunch at Kanaan Desert Retreat as it fitted to our day's schedule. And yes, around 1.30 pm we approached the gate of the camp. It still took us some more time to get to the camp itself. The camp looks really nice and the setting is gorgeous being a bit elevated compared to the area around. When we showed up at a reception and said we came for a lunch we were told they did not know about it (I agreed it between 1 and 2 pm). I showed them my mails, but it did not help. They also told us we were to late for lunch. Whaaat ? But I decided to stay cool and asked if we could have something really simple to eat. It paid off as they said they would do their best to host us. They called their cook and it did not take long before the cook appeared. Half an hour later were done eating.

They have some cheetahs there and we were offered to watch them being fed. I was ready to do that, but after a short discussion my kids concluded they'd rather not watch animals that are kept in enclosed area and are fed instead of hunting for their meal. Quite mature a behavior from them and I had no arguments not to succumb to that. All in all shortly before 3 pm we were leaving this lovely place and continued our way on D707.


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Obviously we were stopping too many times as by the time we reached the C13 it was already quite late. Still looking back in the car and seeing such views:


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it was hard to resist to jump out and grab a picture.

We entered B4 around half past 5 pm, so were able to go faster, yet still before we found the Desert Horse Inn it already got dark. After a quick check-in we were able to get to our room. The dinner this evening was absolutely phenomenal and so was the service – plain classy.


Tbc

Greg

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On your photos the landscape around C27 looks amazing; D707 is truly a magical route!

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@xelas, having seen the Deadvlei one day before makes anything extremely tough to fare against it. From the travel date perspective it was lacking something. Still, the views on C27 are great and now in hindsight I come to appreciate them quite a lot.

 

Greg

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Kitsafari

I hope you have made a full recovery from your illness and thank you for returning to complete your TR! Deadvlei looks amazing in your photos and incredible views along the C27. 

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@garito1 Your photos are bringing back my precious memories of Namibia. I can't wait to see the rest of your TR.

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@Kitsafari, @optig, thanks for your nice comments on the pictures.

It looks like I've overcome the health problems by now. And for sure I will continue this TR till the end.

 

Greg

 

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garito01

Hi all. I'm coming back with the next part of our story.

 

Day 11

With no rush, after the breakfast, the goal was to go and try to see the desert horses around Garub. After all, it was pretty close so definitely not something to be missed. Honestly, the very first idea was to go to Kolmanskop for its famous ghost town, but then with our our timing limitations this place eventually dropped from the itinerary. As in case of past missed opportunities that would be just another reason to once come back to Namibia.

By the time we reached the Garub waterhole there was no single animal there and we were a bit disappointed. Still, we decided to wait for something to happen. Again using my binos I was scanning horizon in search of something moving. Very far in a distance I spotted a team of horses, but to my feeling they were moving even further away. But much closer, which I omitted earlier, there were 6 of them apparently approaching the waterhole. They were coming in 3 groups by 2. It took good half an hour of waiting before they came along.

 

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The first two horses were later joined by the other two to quench their thirst. Even with 600 mm lens on a crop body the shed appeared to be really far from the waterhole to take good close ups. So, afterwards it involved quite some cropping to fill the frame.

 

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The first pair decided to leave and just after that a group of oryxes came from nowhere. They were fighting a bit with the two remaining horses as none of them wanted to share water. It was a successful feat but probably only because of the fact that the horses had already had their bout of drinking.

 

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When animals left and there was nothing coming in our direction we just left as well. The next stop was Fish River Lodge. Not a big distance to drive, but we wanted to be there earlier. After about 3 km of driving on B4, still before Aus, we saw horses on both sides of the road. I'm not sure if these were the desert horses, but as they were quite skinny I believe it could have been one of the scattered strings wandering about this area. There were like 10 of them altogether. In fact I found the location playing quite well as a backdrop for kind of an environmental portrait. Horses against some mountains with great colors were more appealing than those against the sand around the Garub waterhole.

 

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After that we continued our way on B4 until we reached the D462. As it was after 1 p.m. we decided to have a lunch. Within 2 km we had Alte Kalkofen Lodge which we decided to stop at. The place is really nice and so is the owner. He showed us to his premises and it turned out the place once served as a facility to burn lime. They still have an old shaft kiln there, but of course out of operation nowadays.

 

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The owner is also very fond of lithops and he has an amazing collection of them in a couple of shaded areas. We really enjoyed watching them before being served at a restaurant.

 

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The Kalkofen Lodge was empty with only us having lunch. The setting is quite nice and the decors all over the place are also very interesting. We had there an apple pie which we wanted to fare against what we had at Solitaire. It was very good, I would even say excellent, more sophisticated and refined in its form, but not as big.

 

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OK, it was time to finally go to FRL and we kept on driving on D462 which then we switched to D463. Closer to the Kalkofen lodge we saw a lot of rocks which were limestone rocks, but quite dark gray. It's amazing how such stone can be transferred into white lime.

 

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The last 20 km to the FRL were quite tough but not as difficult as we could have read beforehand. With some common sense and obeying by basic rules it should not be a problem to anyone going there. But that applies to 4x4 drive. I cannot imagine driving up there in a sedan type of a vehicle.

Upon arrival we were greeted with a welcome drink on a terrace overlooking the canyon. Nothing beats that view, period. In an afternoon light it looked gorgeous. We took our time and admired this vista for quite long. Then we dropped our stuff in our chalet and quickly decided to make a walk around the rim to the right of the lodge. All in all it was 1,5 hour back and forth with lots of stops on our way. Each viewpoint along the rim gives a different perspective over the canyon and each of them deserves some attention and taking some pictures. I took quite a lot of them but knew there more coming the next day.

 

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By the time we came back it was already pretty dark. Before leaving for a dinner I still had to snap a great evening view around the lodge with a quiver tree in a foreground.

 

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I do not have to tell you the dinner was excellent, right ?


Tbc

Greg

 

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Peter Connan

The last photo is truly beautiful.

 

Very interesting places visited in this last installment.

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xelas

Gorgeous landscape photos, Greg! The last one is simply amazing in "less is more" style.

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garito01

@Peter Connan They turned out to be interesting places, indeed.

@Peter Connan and @xelas thank you for nice words regarding pictures. Yes, I definitely like the minimalistic approach on the last one. The bands of colors also play nicely in it.

 

Greg

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garito01

Day 12


 

That was going to be the day in the FRC. I signed up for the FRC half day canyon tour well beforehand (couple of months) and got confirmation everything was booked. When we came to the FRL, indeed, this time everything was organized as it should be. On the evening before our guide told us at what time we were about to leave and at this moment we were the only ones to take on it!

We had our quick breakfast at 6.30 and right after this we were already leaving. In the meantime one more family took advantage of a free space in the vehicle, so we finally went in the company of 8 people plus Dessie, our guide. The descent down to the bottom of the canyon was going to last about 3 hours. And it did, but we did not feel at all it was taking too long. The ride itself was quite bumpy and in many points we had to slow down considerably as it was quite steep and low gears in our Toyota had to be engaged to cope with that.

A morning drive in such lovely landscape was really refreshing. And as on the preceding days it was full of great views. The vast space of the FRC was a joy to watch and we were stopping at times to grab some nice shots.

 

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Our fellow companion, a father of the family, turned out to be an avid photographer, so we both had a lot of chatting on the photography topics but also we exchanged impressions on our tours so far.

In the middle of our hot discussion on the SDL Dessie silently pointed to something that was moving ahead of us. When we approached a bit he first said these were Clipsringers. Wow ! We saw their droppings in the Bushmen Paradise at the Spitzkoppe but had no luck to spot the elusive creatures themselves. But what goes around comes around, right? Bad luck, though, as I did not take my long S150-600 with me on this tour as I had assumed there would be mostly landscapes to be taken and occasionally perhaps some portraits of sort. My fellow companion immediately grabbed his N300 f/2.8 and started firing away while I was waiting patiently with my N24-70 f/2.8 if the miracle happens. And it did. Firstly, there were perhaps for of the Clipspringers altogether and they did not seem to be skittish at all. So, Dessie was able to get quite close to them. Secondly, I've remembered I still had my N70-200 f/2.8 in my backpack. In a blink of an eye I swapped the lenses and joined my newly met colleague in making a harmonic play of our cameras' shutters. The Clipspringers were grecafully milling around a little and even with 200 mm I was able to get a decent close-up.

 

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Lesson learnt: always take everything with you, especially if you are given a lift and do not have to carry all the stuff on you.

Slowly the animals moved away and so did we. We continued our descent to the bottom, but before we reached that we came to a great vantage point with amazing view over a still flowing Fish River. It was very gusty there, so apart from few still shots I was quite unsuccessful with videos due to a massive shake caused by the wind.

 

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Shortly after 10 am we finally got out from the vehicle and walked few hundred meters to the real bottom of the FRC. The place was quiet, only a light breeze could be felt, otherwise an absolute serenity all around us. Just the 9 of us in the big canyon. Fantastic feeling once you realize that.

We wandered here and there between the rocks and admired every little bit of these surroundings.

 

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Then we had a lunch that we got in form of lunchpacks, but we did not mind it. All in all we spent there more than one hour and during that time Dessie managed even to take a nap. Half past 11 we started our trip back. Arduous it was, but for me not less interesting than the way down.

 

By the time we came back to the lodge it was already after 2 pm. We decided to take a walk along the rim of the canyon, but this time to the left of the lodge. We did not rush too much at first and just relished watching the canyon glowing in a golden sunlight and with not even remnants of the clouds rolling over it. Later it started blowing again which forced us to turn back. But the lighting was so great that I stopped for an hour closer to the lodge and took a nice timelapse of a sunset in the FRC.

 

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After I came back we were ready to go for a dinner.

 

Tbc

Greg

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Game Warden

Well done Greg, @garito01 for making the first post on the new Safaritalk :)

 

Matt

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garito01

Thanks Matt. Good timing, huh ?

 

Greg

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garito01

The last day

Although technically speaking we still had two days to go it was clear the day of our departure we would spend in the car trying to get everything on time to show up at the airport in one piece with some healthy time margin. Therefore, this last day we tried to maximize in all possible ways. We woke up quite early to let ourselves admire the canyon once again in a morning light. Also, we rushed then for breakfast to be able to leave earlier, but while filling our plates we were approached by one of the lodge staff who told us our right rear tire in the car needed to be checked as the pressure in it seemed quite low. Obviously we kindly asked this to be examined as we did not want any surprises on the way. It took good 40 minutes and in the meantime we sat at the swimming pool and were looking around at whatever was going on.

 

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At some point we spotted a group of rosy faced lovebirds landing o a nearby quiver tree. Surely, it was for me a great opportunity to reach out for a camera and snap away a couple of pictures of the birds as they did not seem to be skittish almost at all.

 

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Finally we were given a green light for our onward journey as the tire had been mended successfully. Indeed, it looked very good to me. So, off we went. We took exactly the same way on which we came to the lodge. We started on the D463 and continued until it was splitting to D462. We thought we had plenty of time, so we decided to go back to the Alte Kalkofen and once again try their apple pie. We therefore turned left and were on a home stretch to this nice lodge.

It was not far past the junction when we all heard a big boom from underneath our car. I was sure I was hitting a stone on the road that could have been loose and once picked up it smashed a suspension. But on the other hand I did not see any big rocks when I was passing by, so it was kind of strange. At the same time a loud rumbling noise started to be heard. Looking into my rearview mirror I could see clouds of sand and dust being thrown in the air, and it was much more than I used to see even on some poor roads. It soon became clear the culprit was the tire. I quickly decided to pull over and check it out. And yes, it was bad luck ! Flat tire on our last day. I hoped we could have avoided that throughout our trip, but it was not going to be the case. Well, things happen. And it was not the tire that was fixed this morning. We quickly repacked our luggage from the trunk to our seats in order to have access to our spare tire that was laying loose at the back. I took it out and then prepared a jack for a hard work. I could not find a wooden board I was given for cases like this, so I decided proceed without it. I dived under the car, removed some loose gravel and placed the jack. OK, let's go. At first it went fine, but the higher I was the more it was leaning to one side. Still I believed I would make it as not much height was missing. Unfortunately when I started pulling the wheel the jack fell over completely and the car went down. Sh...t! But at least I was not hurt. Yet I realized how reckless I was in my attempt to change the tire like this. Again working my way under the car I was trying to place the jack correctly and safely. Only this time it was much harder to do that. I successfully made it, however, and this time round all went smooth and I managed to get the new wheel on. All covered in the dust I was relieved to know we could continue further. I did not take any picture documenting my ordeal as I was so stressed to make it work. Suffice to say it was my first flat tire in my entire driving record.

It was nice to have some rest at the Kalkofen lodge after this event and have a yummy apple pie, but it was time to move to our next destination, which was the Mesosaurus Fossil Site. Leaving the Alte Kalkofen we continued on the B4 until Keetmanshoop which was for sure very convenient. Then we took C17 which took us directly to the Mesosaurus. On the way we were passing by the Giants' Playground and the Quiver Tree Forest, but we did not stop there as we knew that at our camp we would have similar views and attractions and we wanted to maximize our chances there. Last leg was really bad and bumpy and we saw the camp around 2.30 pm. We were greeted by Giel, who is a great, warm and welcoming personality. He explained to us all what was necessary and later he showed us to our tent. It was very basic but in my opinion really charming at the same time.


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We took on a tour with Giel, which started at 3.30 pm. On the tour Giel was explaining a history of the place, his ties with that as well as he showed us the famous fossils he found at his premises and kept secure for visits of both archeologists and tourists.

 

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He could continue for hours on end but we then moved to the quiver tree forest to finish up the tour. The setting is really, really nice with rocks and quiver trees making a magnificent background especially in an afternoon light and especially during golden hour.

 

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At the very end Giel performed his famous rock music on dolerite rocks: 

 

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It was Frere Jacques and right after this he wanted to play his other melody, but then I jumped in and asked him if can play on the rocks. He did not mind me doing this and then I played Nkosi Sikelel Iafrika that Giel is also know for. I learned that virtually watching youtube clips with Giel performing. Honestly it did not take me too much time to learn it properly, but when I was standing in front of those rocks almost all the notes skipped my memory. Nevertheless, I got a grip of myself, focused on and performed the melody with no major glitches. Giel was surprised as I dedicated this to him in recognition for all his efforts he was doing for all the tourist that visited his camp. Giel told us we could stay in the forest until sunset, but he himself went back to the camp. We spent another half an hour among the rocks with my kids trying to play rock music themselves and I was trying to find a nice place for a night timelapse I was going to have at this place. My idea was to come back here after the dinner and do a startrail shot with a dolerite rocks in a foreground. For a moment it even crossed my mind to leave a tripod with camera somewhere there but I was afraid an animal could have bumped into it and destroyed it. So, finally took all the equipment back with me.

It was getting dark when we left to the lodge. We slowly proceeded on a soft sound towards an inner gate and suddenly I heard a dreaded sound. Quick look to the rearview mirror and…................. not again !!!!! Nooooo !!!! Impossible :-( !!!!!!! My wife got outside and she confirmed this time it was the rear left tire. That was exactly the one they fixed at the FRL earlier in the morning. How come ???????????

Ok, now what? I had to take a decision – either I decide to fix it in this place or I continue on and do the fix at the camp. We had no phones with us, still no wooden board and therefore I decided to move on. It was quite a rough drive at a very low speed but we managed to get to the camp. This was done at the cost of the tire. It was almost completely destroyed. It was really great we were carrying two spare tires. After we came I started change the tire and again I was struggling, even more so in darkness, but I did not want to wait until morning. On the departure day I wanted to be all set and clear. Fortunately there were two neighbors coming to the rescue. They generously offered their help and brought the second jack. In a joint effort in flash lights we managed to change the tire relatively quickly. Thanks God! But that was a double bad luck! Two flat tires in one day. The last day! That was beyond my darkest dreams. But it all ended well.

Henrik, Giel's son, prepared a lovely dinner that we enjoyed quite a lot after all the stress of the day. The evening was very chilly, but I still managed to take some more night shots to call it a day.

 

Tbc

Greg

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xelas

@garito01 thanks so much for bringing back some lovely memories!  And for letting us know Giel (and Henrik) are still doing well. There could not be more different lodgings as Messosaurus and Fish River are but they are both, on their own account, a superb accommodations in that area.

Your 2-tires day shows why 2 spare tires are so importatnt! Better to bring them both untouched back to the garage then having only one ... and needing the second.

 

And I don't need to say extra how fantastic your photos are!

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garito01

Big thanks @xelas !

 

Now, in hindsight, this case with 2 tires makes for a good story and fires up some memories, but at that very moment in the past I was so scared we would not make it further.

I hope you do not mind if I paraphrase your topic title that would apply perfectly to this post: Two tires a day keep the doctor awa(y)ke :P

Appreciate your opinion on the pictures.

 

thx

Greg

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garito01

Hi All,


 

I placed Tbc at the end of last post just to be able to finish everything off in this one.

 

OK, so we woke up in the morning ready to set off. By the way, it was the coldest night during our entire stay in Namibia. I would say the Mesosaurus chalet was the least insulated of all we and it immediately showed. Some of us did not have a good sleep, but it's quite likely it could have been due to the previous day's stress or just emotions on our departure day.

Anyways, two completely shredded tires were resting in a trunk of the car, but at least we were ready to move on. I was so glad to have had those two extra tires from the very beginning. You know, luck wishes onlyready people. We had a quick breakfast, then settled things with Henrik and finally after packing things up we were ready to go. The biggest challenge to our vehicle was supposed to be a 40km distance on the C17 with plenty of potholes and loose material. Indeed, this was quite rough but we reached B1 and from that moment onwards we were only driving on a tarred road, which gave us a peace of mind. With each and every kilometer behind we were more and more relaxed as we knew we were closer to the airport and even if something happened on the way the chances for getting help were higher. But luckily nothing happened and after 533km of a ride we came to Windhoek.

I was a bit unsure how they would react at the car rental to my completely destroyed tires, but as it turned out they were quite forgiving and did not even blink. I had the tires insured, anyways. Then after all formalities we were given a lift to the airport. We were there around 5 pm. Our flight was at 8 pm, so still a healthy margin granted and we had some more time to make last minute purchases to spend the Rands we had still left.

That's it.

The End


 

Now, let me say I'm glad I was able to write this report and to finally complete it. Not but that I did not want to, just because it took me so much time to get it done. I would like to apologize for this somewhat lengthy process, but this was not my intention to carry on with this for almost a year.

This way or another, I would like to thank all of you collectively for all the kind words and a support I got from you. Either you were only lurking or actively participating to this thread it really kept me going. I also hope what I posted conjured up some lively memories with those who already have been to Namibia and successfully convinced to visit this country all those who still were pondering if it was worth it. I'm saying it definitely was worth it! Just be prepared for anything that my occur on the way starting from animals and ending with wear and tear B).

 

I do not know how the situation develops, but in our family we're all agreeing we would come back to Namibia in a heartbeat!


 

Thanks and cheers

Greg

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xelas

The lucky guys have all the fun :D! And we have a lot of fun reading your trip report, with amazing photos added. Mark my words: You'll be back!

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garito01

Thanks @xelas. Very much looking forward to doing that again.

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Peter Connan

Thank you for completing this beautiful trip report.

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Ritsgaai

I enjoyed your TR and excellent photos very much. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

 

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garito01

Hi again,

 

I just thought I might throw in a couple of bonus pictures that I like and which lend themselves quite well to BW. Starting with the dunes:

 

43005062931_af4d49a3bb_b.jpg

 

43005062351_ed95079454_b.jpg

 

42955227722_a8bd78ed90_b.jpg

 

42955226962_6a821ba1e5_b.jpg

 

43005061871_af607408a3_b.jpg

 

I will finish this with the single one of Spitzkoppe:

 

42955228492_2143ced636_b.jpg

 

cheers

Greg

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Peter Connan

Beautiful addendum!

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