Having arrived in the capital of Namibia, Windhoek, yesterday, and been met by our tour leader, Louis, we were now rested and ready to begin the tour proper. Inevitably being in a new country, today was likely to be a collection of firsts for us.
Francine and I are 2 of 14 people on Explore!’s 12-day Namib Lodge Safari, which will be a series of 1- & 2-night stops. Our first challenge was to relearn the gentle art of living out a touring travel bag. I amateurishly rearranged the contents of my bag, which was loaded onto our tour truck, and my cargo vest, which was loaded onto me, and prepared for my first Namibian breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast. Nothing new there, then, but at least they understand breakfast which is more than can be said of the Greeks.
I’d had a quick squint at good ol’ Google prior to departure and knew that there might be some interesting habitat just behind our accommodation, the Klein Windhoek Guest House. As departure preparations continued, I checked it out on foot. Sure enough, though the river was mostly dry, the area was alive with my first view of Weaver Bird nests – there are many species – and a striking orangey-red creation which I had no clue about. Our leader, Louis, declared himself to be a bird specialist and told me these were Southern Red Bishops (Euplectes orix). Fabulous and we hadn’t gone anywhere yet. 🙂
We clambered aboard our tour bus/truck and headed south out of Windhoek on a tarmac road which put ours to shame. Refuelling stops can be far apart here so we stopped to fill the truck with diesel, just prior to turning right/west and into relative wilderness. As this was happening, we tourists all trooped off for our first supermarket shopping experience, mostly to buy flagons of water: 5 litres each @ N$31 (~£2). Security guards at the supermarket door checked the contents of your carrier bag to the items on your receipt which, fortunately, we’d kept. Lesson learned.
The social refuelling stop enabled me to check out the insect life at the fuel station, whose walls and plants were a haven for a significant moth collection. To my astonishment, however, several dragonflies cruised back and forth over the forecourt tirelessly. They seemed mainly yellow with a dorsal reddish flush. With their ceaseless flight and confused backgrounds, photos proved utterly impossible. I formed suspicions based on not much at all. Instead, here’s a moth, which I initially thought to be a butterfly, called a Cream Striped Owl (Cyligramma latona).
Shortly after our supply stop, we turned right and, in another 50 metres, the tarmac stopped and the dirt roads began. That would essentially be the last of the tarmac for the next nine days. We experienced our first African vibro-massage.
Our vibro-massage paused for lunch. Driver Tam pulled off the stones that constitute the road and parked on the stones that didn’t, right beside a kopje. The truck carried not only ourselves but also a couple of folding picnic tables and a supply of elderly canvas picnic chairs. Leader Louis, with a few willing volunteer helpers, set up lunch. Kopjes are a great habitat for various forms of wildlife and a few Namib Rock Agama (Agama planiceps) lizards entertained us for quite a while. [This one is a female.]
Our vibro-massage resumed, ensuring that lunch was well distributed. We’ve discovered that we are here in wet season. Not only that but this year Namibia is having a very wet wet season. Well, it would, wouldn’t it? We’re here, after all. Our continuing journey frequently took us over depressions in the road which were actually fords through occasional river gullies. They now all contained at least some water but would normally be dry.
Eventually we turned off the main dirt road onto a rougher, more minor dirt road, 19kms of which took us 30 minutes to cover. We’d crossed the course of “the mighty” Tsauchab river which last flowed about 1000 years ago. That gully was dry. I must say I was impressed by driver Tam’s care and consideration for his passengers when negotiating these challenging roads. Another turn got us onto a 5km dirt track which took 20 minutes to negotiate and led us to the delightful sight of Zebra River Lodge, which was seething with butterflies and moths. It even had two ponds which were home to some dragonflies. Together with a goodly supply of cold beer, I thought all my Christmases had come at once.
We’ll be at Zebra River Lodge for two nights, serving as our base from which to visit the famed vast sand dunes of Sossusvlei, probably Namibia’s most well known scenery. For now, several cold beers followed by a dinner of Oryx was calling. Chalk up another one for the antelope butcher. 🙂
After dinner, Leader Louis gave us a quick mini-tour of the southern hemisphere night sky with the aid of a laser pointer. The Milky Way is quite staggering down here, stronger than in the northern hemisphere for reasons which are too complex to go into now, and with nothing in the way of light pollution (there were no other buildings for many kilometres), the stars were dazzling.