Desert Adventure – Day 4

Somewhat astoundingly for everyone involved, things went relatively to plan on Day 4. We woke up at dawn and drove to Aub canyon over rocky dirt roads where we had a lovely breakfast overlooking a small canyon (more of a gorge or ravine but since they call it a canyon we’ll go with that). There was one interesting bit of driving on the way there that required some 4wd-low but we managed just fine without popping any tires or sliding off of any hillsides.

All in a morning’s drive

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Aub canyon.  I’ll let you decide for yourself whether it fully live up to its canyon name or not.

As per our plan we dashed up to Sesfontein on a relatively good gravel road. When waving hello we noticed, to our surprise, a small diesel station which had fuel so we decided to fill up. If we go all the way up to the north we don’t want diesel to be the limiting factor. And, with all the 4-low we are using, we are going through the precious fluid a bit more quickly than we originally expected.

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We had to watch out for these guys on the road.  There were no signs to warn us!

Full of fuel we headed off north of town. We decided to skip the traditional turn-off into the Hoanib river 6km out of town in order to use the Ganamub river and drive south down that back into the Hoanib. (I assume at this point you’ve all got Google maps out to follow our path…)

Just after the turn-off into the Ganamub I am super hungry and have to use the loo. We pull under the first big shady tree we find and as I open the door Cheryl blurts out: “There’s a lion!”

I didn’t get out of the car.

Right next to us was a lioness lying under the tree. Looking a bit closer though and she was a very sickly looking lion with little time left. We took our photos but became more and more uneasy looking at the animal. She really looked to be on her last legs. We also noticed a collar around her neck with a large white box on it. After debating what it could be we settled on it being a GPS tracking device for scientific study. Still, our hearts went out to the dying lion who looked so skinny and whose eyes were nowhere near as sharp as those we had seen in Etosha. Despite how sorry we felt for her, we decided not to get out of the car to share our lunch (or become lunch ourselves) and continued on to find the next shade (or the next, next shade, whichever was furthest from known lion locations.)

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A quick lunch (this time with ample searching around the car before getting out) and a bit of a drive later and we found ourselves camping once again in the wild in the Hoanib river valley. I took a moment to do some exercises after a few long days in the car and we even attempted to wash ourselves with a little soap rather than just baby wipes. We felt refreshed and almost like respectable human beings.

We had a great spot to camp just above the river bed, off to the side, where we could see anything that happened to walk past without getting in its way. It’s a good thing we did too. As we were sitting around the camp fire have a deep discussion about the merits of removing Pluto from the planet list vs. the sentimental value of thinking that there is a cartoon dog orbiting the sun (we were discussing something like that at least) we heard a few twigs breaking in the river bed off to our right. At first we couldn’t tell what it was. It looked like a ghost in the dim moonlight, slowly and silently making its way down the river. As it approached it was clearly an elephant. Slow, silent and massive. It had most likely come from a waterhole slightly further upstream (or at least what should have been upstream if there had been water in the riverbed.)

We aren’t in a national park here, we are in an unprotected area but game still roams wild. It is true wilderness and animals aren’t used to seeing humans here. Because of this we’ve heard that elephants are much more testy here then we got used to in Mana Pools or Etosha.

We got in the car. (Of course I forgot the keys outside of the car though and the tent was open so we weren’t going anywhere too quickly…)

Despite all of the warnings the elephant just sauntered past without merely a glance of recognition in our direction. No “Yo. What’s Up?” No customary bro-to-bro head nod. No trunk up. Nothing. He just walked past. It was eerie though. He was a ghost. And then he was gone.

Now back to Pluto…

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Sometimes you just need to work out after the long days in the car.  Gets the energy out after sitting for so long.

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After a workout I needed a beer. 

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Having a bit of fun with the shadows. 



Desert Adventure – Day 3

After driving past the lion tracks we decided to stay in the Huab river bed and continue exploring its sandy tracks. The scenery only got more and more phenomenal. Cutting through a dry and barren landscape of red clay, black rocks and deep sand is this oasis of green. Towering trees, lush reeds, chirping birds and plenty of mammal tracks. It’s amazing what some water can do.

Our road through the river bed.  Pretty different than the roads we had been on through the desert just the day before.  We knew that just over the ridge was desert again though.

We had gotten a bit delayed in the morning because our tent was soaking wet with dew from the night before so we stopped once the sun broke through the early morning fog to dry it out before it got too moldy smelling. Because of this, we decided to stay in the river bed until it met the main gravel road and follow that north to Palmwag rather than taking smaller dirt tracks all the way north. It was a great decision too. The riverbed was absolutely indescribable and I’m sure the pictures won’t do it justice. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any of the allusive desert elephants, lions or rhinos but we did see a bunch of relatively fresh tracks so we knew they were around (or at least that we were the first people to have gone that way in a long while. Also, there are only about 200 desert rhinos so we don’t really expect to see any, maybe because they are mostly nocturnal…)

We did see quite a few kudu even if we didn’t see the elephants, lions or rhinos.

Once in Plamwag, which we had thought was some sort of town but turned out to be a fuel station and a lodge next to a concession, we debated staying at the lodge campsite to have a shower and relax by the pool, beers in hand. After a quick wobble we regained our senses, thought better of it and headed into the concession for another night of wild camping. This will be the first night camping in an “official” campsite, i.e. we are told where we have to camp, but it is still completely wild. We are located in an elbow in the dry Aub riverbed with a cliff on one side and riverbed leading through to an open plain on the other. Unlike the previous few nights there are few trees around.

At camp for the evening.  In these photos you can see Cheryl demonstrating two important parts of camp life: 1) cleaning our feet with baby wipes before putting on socks and/or going to sleep – it’s the little things but this makes you feel oh, so much better. And 2) pouring wine.  Notice she is using a 5L water jug.  Only the classiest for us but our 5L box of wine started leaking so we used what we had! (That or Cheryl turned the water into wine but I’m pretty sure that one’s been done before.)

The Palmwag concession is a large privately-owned area. The ground is largely itself is a rocky landscape with small shrubs dotting the red sand and black rock mixture. The trees here are quite small, almost pigmy-esque. We’ve debated whether they are gigantic banzai trees or miniature baobabs. Jury is still out but either way they look really interesting.

This was pretty much the landscape in Palmwag.  Though to be fair there were a few more trees around than these pictures let on.

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I don’t know how these zebra didn’t break their legs running over all of these loose rocks but there were actually quite a few of them.  Notice this is Hartman’s Mountain zebra because the stripes go all the way down the legs and it doesn’t have the faint brown stripe between the black stripes like the Burchell’s Plains zebra.


Tomorrow we plan to set out for the Aub canyon for a view (described as a ‘must-see’ by our BF Goodrich guide to off-roading in Namibia so our hopes are high. Seriously, this short guide has been phenomenal in recommending where to go. Almost this whole desert adventure wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for that guide.) From the Aub we’ll continue out of Palmwag and up to Sesfontein. We only plan to stop here briefly and wave hello before continuing out of town as quickly as possible and into another riverbed where we hope to camp wild again tomorrow.

Today’s driving had everything from gravel road to deep sand to steep rocky inclines to tyre-shredding rocky declines.

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As an aside, after no showers for a while we will be very smelly by the end of these 7 days…