Thursday, June 06, 2019 | Namibia – Khomas Region, Windhoek | Petra
CROSSING SOUTH AFRICA
FROM THE COAST IN THE EAST TO THE DESERT IN THE WEST
With verve, we provide for our own contrast program. After spending refreshing days on the beautiful Dolphin Coast, we quickly ride over 1,500 kilometers to the West in just five days to reach the Kalahari. Our plan is again to experience wild animals in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park and then enter Namibia from there.
A GIANT HOLE
From Durban our way leads through lush green hills and across wide, quite flat farmland. Soon we enjoy beautiful views of the well-known Drakensberg and two days later we roll on dead straight tarred road hundreds of kilometers through the Green Kalahari. It’s a sparsely populated, dry and flat landscape, dotted with loose shrubbery landscape and only occasionally you can find a small settlement. But in the end, we get surprised with a hilly landscape and even with a wine growing route, the closer we get to the Oranje (Orange River).
To amuse ourselves we take a detour to Kimberley, the city that has become famous as Diamond City and is well known for its gigantic hole. Usually hole sightseeing is not one of our favorite pastimes, but “The Big Hole” turns out to be very interesting. It is probably the largest and deepest mine crater in the world dug for decades by humans. One of the largest diamond finds in the world in 1871 on the farm of the De Beers brothers caused the big diamond fever in Kimberley. In the following decades diamond miners digged 2,722 kilograms of diamonds to light. During the boom years up to 50,000 diggers were at work digging this huge 240 meter deep hole. Today, only a very small amount of diamonds is mined by the mining company Petra Diamonds (brilliant company name, by the way!) using more contemporary methods.
The exciting story of “The Big Hole” and the diamond rush, we learn on a guided tour with Jacky, who has a vivid and charming way to bring history back to life. We dive into Kimberley’s early years, when the inflow of countless luck knights enabled only a very hard life of harsh mores, anything else but comfortable. And we are experiencing the years of boom and prosperity. Some historic corrugated iron shacks and houses from the time Kimberley was a wealthy small town with street lighting were protected from decay and rebuilt a well-kept open-air museum. So we walk through a pretty little place, which at that time had everything it needed to live: a bank, a pub, a ladies’ clothing store, a menswear outfitter, the barber, a shoe store, a blacksmith shop, of course a church and a funeral home, the office of an authorized diamond dealer, a fully furnished home, even a tram and a whole lot more.
A famous man, who made an immense fortune in Kimberley with commercial skill and cunning, was the young Cecil Rhodes from England, who later became Prime Minister the Cape Colony (in present-day South Africa).
A FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE
Two days and around 660 kilometers later we reach our last big milestone before we leave South Africa to the West and enter Namibia. We are looking forward to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a 36,000 square kilometer park located on either side of the subterranean Nossob River in the borderlands of South Africa and Botswana. Red sand dunes and steppe landscape with desert grasses, umbrella thorn and wild animals characterise this nature park. Especially the black-maned Kalahari Lions attract many visitors year after year. Will we get one to see?
With wild animals it’s very much like the weather, a guarantee to see them never exists. This year, as so often, it has rained very little. There is a great deal of drought and many of the wildlife seem to have moved North hoping for more water and food. Animal wise, it is rather quiet, and yet we are rewarded on our game drives and at the water holes with the most fascinating creatures of nature. Some of them we’ve never seen in real before.
We’re lucky as we watch this magnificent specimen of Kalahari Lion for some time during his morning walk. Majestically he walks down the dune ridge to the dry plain and presents himself to us in all his impressive grace.
Not only do we have great animal encounters, we also meet lots of friendly people. There is always a reason for a little chat or a hearty laugh, as with Elna, Freddie, Gary and Rika, four friends from South Africa, who also are having an exciting expedition here.
After nine wonderful, very relaxing days in this beautiful environment, we finally leave the national park and South Africa at the border crossing Mata Mata. A stamp later, we are again guests for a while in Namibia. It’s our third time that we are visiting this beautiful country.
NAMIBIA HERE WE ARE
Before we drive to the big city of Windhoek, we settle for two days in the camp of Kalahari Game Lodge on the dry river bed of the subterranean Auob River only 20 kilometers behind Mata Mata. We enjoy the seclusion and spicy fragrance of Namib desert dust after it has rained a few drops. During the day it is wonderfully warm, but at night it can‘t be denied: it‘s winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
Here again we meet the nice couple Iris and Walter from Switzerland, who we met the day before in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park while chatting at the waterhole. They not only teach us an exciting board game, but also how to cook with the cast-iron potjie (read: Poikie) on the campfire. How wonderful such a very tasty vegetable stew and a convivial winter evening in Namibia is!
IN THE GREAT CITY
We feel right at home the next afternoon when we reach the southern outskirts of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Nestled between mountains, the city shines in the warm sunlight and welcomes us warmly.
The economic and political center of the country will help us to get some things done during the coming days. Mainly the economic part is of importance to us –shopping, buying material for our truck, car care, laundry etc. The Urban Camp in the middle of the city is the ideal spot for this and a very nice one. We like it here and we like Windhoek.
Our to-do list is of medium length and we can work it out quickly, so that we will be well prepared for our onward journey north to Caprivi. Our truck gets a shower for the first time within months to free it from sea salt and desert sand. We stop by Karin and Kola from KN Garage in the northern industrial area and order sturdy transport bags for our firewood, leveling wedges and small table top. We quickly can buy the spare valves for our tyres and at Superspar in the Maerua Mall we line up at the cash register with two (!) shopping carts full of groceries. While Win is very successful with his work on the vehicle, I finally repair our roll-up blind in the living room to death – excellent performance.
Good reasons to celebrate our success with braai and beer – cheers!