Whilst I had no meat left, I still had a fair bit of Ladysmith cheddar cheese, carted all the way from Cape Town. I didn’t fancy the idea of losing it, and when two other Land Rover drivers at the border check point suggested I stick it anywhere other than in the fridge, I decided to follow their advice. They were right because the guy in leather jacket and dark shades ambushed me on my way to the vehicle: he wanted to search. I had a quiet chuckle to myself because he wasn’t tall enough to see inside the fridge, and had to climb up onto the tailgate to get a better look. Sure enough – no meat or dairy products inside and I was duly allowed to proceed.

The first thing you notice on the road south to Maun from Namib is the wildlife. Actually, not wild but rather domesticated cows and donkeys. You wonder who they belong to and how do they keep track of them? And then the potholes start. It makes for a hairy ride and you simply have to slow down. After a fashion, you recognise behaviours: goats are unpredictable, so you slow and poise for evasive action; cows are fine and you can tell when they’re ready to cross; donkeys don’t move, at all. In fact, I stopped alongside one who stubbornly refused to move out of the road, wound the window down and slapped him on his arse. Ever so slightly alarmed, he kicked into a trot and hobbled off into the grass.

At some stage, I told myself, I should stop and get the cheese out from under my seat and put it back in the fridge. However, I had 400km to cover in 4 hours and kept pushing. It was a good thing too, because an hour further on I ran into a “foot ‘n mouth” disease control point. This official too, wanted to look in my fridge and having done so and found nothing but beer, cider,wine and ice, he bade me safe passage. I arrive on the outskirts of Maun just before last light and select “Back to the Bridge Backpackers Lodge” on my list of lodgings from the GPS. It is one of the last on the North-eastern side of Maun and when I arrive, they have space. Situated on the edge of the river, the bar has the usual suspects congregated in their post-work positions. I would get to know this over the course of the next couple of days. ‘Rainer’, the offensive German, is already sloshed and being offensive, Tom the IT man is behaving with his normal antics that has everyone in stitches, the paramedic is buying ‘springbok’ shooters for unwary backpackers and the two bush pilots are doing their best to chat up any new potentials. Josh and another bush -guide do the same, but with more aplomb.

I meet ‘Mace’, a kiwi doing the ‘africa’ thing. Unlike me, he is carrying his belongings on his back and catching lifts or public transport wherever possible. He says it has been an interesting ride from Joburg to Maun, on buses packed with people that have luggage loaded on the roof that includes cages of chickens! Welcome to Africa. We do whiskey and converse a little, explaining our reasons for the time out to do the travelling, what we hope to achieve and experience. July can still be cold and inevitably we are drawn to the circle of fire, which is fed by the ‘Back to the Bridge’ staff, and meet others also on their treks.

The following day, Mace and I check out Maun, find a new sim card for the phone and eat chicken at Nando’s. The main road is packed with vehicles: 4x4s, of all types; lodge and motel people-carriers obviously fetching clients for safaris; safari vehicles packed with ‘germans’ and their cameras, new hi-tec boots and floppy hats. Unlike South Africa, where people just cross streets whenever, here in Maun they use the zebra crossings. It appears that motorists are quite disciplined and obey, duly allowing pedestrians over. In fact, so well established is this that even Maun’s goats line up to cross over to the other side of the road. And Maun’s motorists stop for them too. Makes you wonder about the dogs though. For all their supposed intelligence, they still cross willy nilly, causing drivers to brake heavily, and as the week passes by, so increases the number of dead dogs on the roadside.

Having got myself a new sim card, in order to have contact with one’s nearest and dearest, it didn’t work. The power in northern Botswana was down, and would be for days. I’d unfortunately bought the wrong service provider – Mascom – because Orange was still working. Terry was unamused. And so people congregated in the Bridge bar again because the generator was up and running, the food slightly behind and the beer flowing.

Having seen so much game recently, I opt for something else. The Netetwe Salt Pans just south of Gweta call – haven’t done any Salt Pans. I also realise that once Terry lands in Maun on the 16th, a two hour trip there would reduce travel time. So I pop into Gweta Lodge for a recce and provisional booking. I meet Terry (this time a man) who owns the place and Carol who manages it. I find myself eating breakfast and conversing with Terry about microlights! Terry is an englishman, who has been in africa 30 years and not lost a bit of his northern english accent. Travelling south to Chapmans Boabab, the roads become quite tough and I lower the tyre pressures by 25%. Works a treat. Eventually I make it out onto the salt pans where I bury the throttle and get up to 140 kph. Fantastic. I can’t help notice the elephant dung though, which raises a flag: Terry had talked about flying out onto the plains with a bed-roll and sleeping under the microlight’s wing- because no animals went out onto the salt pans. But here it was – elephant dung. And fresh.

A little further on, I catch up with the elles. I hadn’t expected to, but they were actually on the track, which you shouldn’t venture off for danger of getting stuck in the mud – literally. The elles are clearly unamused to find me intruding. They gather together and set off as fast as they can – which is surprisingly quick. I snap off a few shots with the Nikon, attempt to get round them to get head on shots but they evade me, changing direction. Conscious I am unsettling them, I drive off. Later, in the middle of the pans, where I can see nothing but white desert pans for miles, I sit on the RR bonet and drink an ice cold beer from my fridge. It is a great feeling. Back at the Bridge, I catch up with Terry – from Gweta – and tell him about the elles.








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B8 – Caprivi Strip Namibia…………

At Tsumeb, on saturday 9th July, I left the dogs just before sun-up and hit the road. I had to travel SE for 88 km until Grootfontein (Big fountain – I didn’t notice one in the town) before I could travel in the direction I wanted – NE, towards the Caprivi Strip. Here in this lush part of Namibia, north of Botswana, three rivers run: the Zambezi, Kwando and Okavango. The stretch between Rundu in the West and Katima Mulilo in the east, is linked by tar road -the B8. I’ve chosen the Okavango, because it runs into Botswana (Okavango Delta), which is my next destination. And because my RR drinks thirstily, I don’t plan on re-tracing steps.

On the subject of fuel economy, I’ve discovered there is hardly any difference in fuel consumption between speeds of 100 and 130kph, which is 2300 and 2700prm respectively. Naturally, I opt for the quicker speed but remain curious as to why this might be. With little else to do over the hundreds of kilometres, I ponder on this. All things considered, weight and drag vs thrust; something must be a factor. At 140kph the consumption is copious. It is the cruise control that lends me a helping hand. Any hill or incline and the RR changes down, the revs increase to over 3000, close to where the motor delivers it’s greatest torque and power. I realise it is the gearing on the auto-box. Those RR engineers are really clever. Obviously the motor’s optimal fuel burn is at around 2500rpm and in top gear the RR trundles along at 120 kph, which is a very comfortable cruising speed. And 20 km in the hour saving over a 600 km journey really does make a difference. Thank you to those RR engineers.

A couple of hundred kms into the journey and I detect a rattling from the rear end, and as I pull over to stop and check, my suspicions are confirmed: the tailgate clasp has become unstuck. The steel putty hasn’t worked: perhaps it is better suited to other jobs. In Rundu, I refuel and find a CYMOT (camping & 4×4 shop). See, girls go to Selfridges and I walk around Cymot. They have 8mm thread bolts and I quickly sort out the tailgate problem, in a car park. Rattling desists and dust remains outside the vehicle. I continue on.

Nunda Safari Camp, about 7 km south-east of Divundu along the C48. I ask for, and get a riverside campstand and after setting up, realise why it was vacant. I’ve pitched my tent on a path the hippos use when they sometimes come ashore at night! Oops. Well, I am not moving so I decide to keep the spotlight (a LED LENSER P17) in my deck chair pocket, next to car keys and mobile phone. Hopefully they don’t like fires and I light a big one. You can see the link to Nunda in a previous blog. So I indulge here for a few days. I drive into the Mahango Game Reserve, where I see all sorts: Rhoan antelope, sable, impala, kudu; the biggest troop of baboons I’ve ever seen (must have been over 120 of them) and witness a squabble in a tree where the big boy barks at all an sundry and the kids squeal and run for mum. Obviously, he has order to maintain. The elephant here are shy and head off into the thicket as soon as spotted. I take a boat cruise up the river to the Popa Falls and spend a pleasant 2 hours snapping phots of hippo, crocs, etc. The binoculars proving again to be awesome.

Meat cannot be taken across the border into Botswana, so what remains in the fridge is now metered out over the next 2 nights. Boereworse and steak rolls last night, tonight (11th) is lamb chop/pork chop and sadza with tomatoe and onion relish. Breakfast for both days consists of tea, with a shot of whiskey and some Bokomo rusks, and after a shower in what must be some of the best ablution facilities in a camp site, it is bacon and eggs, with espresso coffee.

This may be the last blog for a while, as I cross into Botswana and will need another set of sim/data cards. Furthermore, the data card doesn’t like uploading photos (IO Error is all I get) so go onto facebook for photos.

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Post Recovery…………

I say good bye to Swakopmund and head north to a Game Park, known as Etosha. The Etosha Pan……….the name kind of means relentless, like a woman that gives birth every year. It also means a ‘great white place’. I guess there’s a strenuous tenet between them? It is a long drive, and Depeche Mode and Black Eyed Peas both get a pasting on the Harmen Karden sound.

There’s something about game parks. It’s not that they’re full of game, as Etosha boasts. It’s that they’re full of people. And Toyotas. If it isn’t the Germans who’ve hired the Hilux bakkies, complete with rooftop tent, it the S Africans that have driven them up. I have opted to camp at Okaukuejo, but on arrival I see that half of SA and their kids, plus overlander trucks with Norwegians/Swedes, et al, are already there. Normally you see ‘clean me’ written on dusted vehicles, but on these trucks you find scripts like ‘party bus’. The chalets are only R400 more than the camping, and include breakfast so I stay in one of those. Quite neat actually. Chic little showers, fresh white linen with mosquito nets and a fridge, albeit nothing inside it. Supper is awesome – tasty onion soup, beef and eland steaks with pap, vegies and a relish, with desert and good coffee. Henry, next table over, only has a glass from his bottle of Leopard something or other and on finding I am from Cape Town en praat die taal – offers it up. Why thank you very much! He, his wife and 3 kids depart.

I head off, having only had a glass myself, before passing it to a table of elders,who are staring at the bottom of their empty glasses, wishing someone would re-order but aware it won’t happen. I then make for the waterhole, which is floodlit, but as I exit the restaurant, I catch a glimpse of happy elders each with a bit of red in their once empty glass: they seem happier. The waterhole, however, is empty. And remains so. Or to be clear, the water is there but there isn’t anything drinking it. I saunter back to the chalet, past the noisy bunch, wondering why no-one has slapped the guy snorting – and begin a lengthy write up for a blog……something Part 2 I think it was.

Sparrows fart next am and I’m there. Tripod – Nikon, berghaus mug of steaming tea, complete with dollop of whiskey and I settle in to watch the sun come up. The waterhole is floodlit, and this highlights the absence of living creatures, except for the other oiks like me that thought they’d get the good shots. My saunter gives way to a traipse and I decide a shower is therefore the next option. Too early for breakfast. After my shower, I walk on water that is now the lake in my bathroom. Which F*ckwit designed that? But it’s not something I dwell on and breakfast now seems like a good option, which it was. I even did the naughty – and made padkos (road food); little cakes, salami/ham/cheese sandwiches and nicked a large supply of 5 Roses tea!

In the Rangy, complete with map and Oregon 550 with T4A, I seek out the lions. Early morning is best and I duly find them, at Leeuonbrou! What a surprise. Five lioness. Unfortunately, they’re sleeping and even the V8 fails to rouse any of them (one just adjusts her ear, but carries on snoozing). Its clear ‘ze germans’ are less content! All occupants of both vehicles, already there, stare at me and I get the message, and switch off……………hate doing that – the dunes saga always returns! The lionesses carry on with their slumber and the germans get back to photographing – how did they get those lenses through the airport, let alone into their bags? After 5 minutes, I’m bored, so I start up. Ze Germans glare, in unison – so I drive off, and not quietly! But I think I probably did them a favour because the lionesses would have all sat up and though ‘ WTF – was that?’ at which point 15 german cameras would have gone off ten to the dozen. Vunderbar – the British causes a stir. Mine will be a Weiss beer when I get back chaps!!

From there, it goes downhill. Not the track, but the viewing. I can now report that Etosha is not short of Zebra! Maybe they should stop serving Eland and Kudu at supper – I mean the Belgians and French eat horse – why not try zebra! I watch the giraffe attempting to drink and decide they are definitely not from this planet. I enter camp again, once more to stares from everyone – is it just me, or is everyone surprised to see a Range Rover so far from a dealership? I make for the waterhole. Not empty – full of zebra. Zebra departing, having drunk, and zebra arriving, yet to drink. My  Nikon has a Zebra- Full warning light and I do a U-turn back to the chalet. The lake in my bathroom has been dried up by someone conscientious.

Supper night two – kudu, seems less good than the 1st night. No-one offers me free wine, but the same group of elders smiles as I walk by – I explain that Harry went back to Cape Town and they stare into their empty glasses. I visit the waterhole to find zebra and that is enough to send me back to my chalet. I know I should sit endlessly waiting in case a leopard decides to put a turn in for the books – but hey, M Palin’s diary awaits. And he is much more interesting.

Next day …………..I keep pushing east. Until I hit the picnic area. You’re allowed to get out of your vehicle here, which I do. Salami/ham/cheese (again) and then suddenly the world arrives. There I was enjoying an ice cold Windhoek lager and sandwich as ‘Mr Nobby-no mates’. One of the party even tries to engage in friendly conversation! I clearly gave the wrong impression, so to correct it, I gather my ‘monkeys and parrots’ and climb into the RR and head off, away from the Madding Crowd, as it were.

In Tsumeb, some distance from Etoshe, I book into a backpackers. I think I am alone and savour the idea – but life isn’t like that. And by 6 pm, ze Germans arrive. I ignore everybody and continue with skype to Terry in Dubai, after which I get the fire going so I can braai some lekker steak. The germans duly eat their pasta, with whatever sauce and I feed titbits to the dogs – who regard me as a much more rewarding encounter, especially when I offer up the fatty rind off pork chops and rump! With Teutonic efficiency, the germans wash dishes, shower and head for bed. I’ve made friends with the dogs, can’t be arsed to wash my hands and have had too much wino – so I settled down next to the dogs in my sleeping bag, knowing full well I’ll be awake at ‘sparows fart’. But that’s fine because I have a long way to go………………………………..

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Nunda Safari Camp on the Caprivi Strip, next to the Okavango River

I am here………

.  where I shall be writing up some blogs over the next couple of days, mainly concerning Etosha Park. I shall also sort out the photos so you get the best ones. Sun is lowering over the opposite bank, as I think about sundowners, and maybe getting the fire going. All I can hear are the birds, insects and a hippo, quite close……………and my tapping on the keyboards. So standby for updates in the next 24 hours.

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It could happen to any vehicle, even a Toyota…………………Part 2.

Kosie is off like a Jackel that just smelt a lion. I have loads of power, but my suspension setup is much softer than the bakkie, and it takes a while to adjust to the RR’s lollying. I do have the advantage of seeing when and where he brakes, or when his backside bounces into the air. Seeing that I keep up, he waxes it! After a while I’m laughing manically, as I drill the RR over the terrain. ‘Yeah baby – this is what I’m talking about’………and the RR beeps – ‘Gearbox Fault’ coming up in green on the dashboard! Now it remains in third and won’t change down for the uphill. I’m astounded that the engine is powerful enough to pull me through, but I’m worried. I reach for the radio – ‘Kosie!’

As ever the pragmatist – he tells me to engage low and give ‘high gear’ a rest, probably just got hot. I know I could stop, switch off and re-start –  everything would re-set. But that’s what got be into the current predicament, so without switching off, I engage lower range 4th (the highest I have) and set off after Kosie. We head through heavy sand and I’m happy to report the the RR pulls through sweetly: the V8 bellowing nicely at 3500 rpm. Oh, to have had it during the week. Onto a straight, smooth stretch, I go high and we bomb along at over 100km, making good time. I relax a little.

That’s when it happened. Just off the radio with Kosie, I’m checking temperatures and pressures on gauges and instruments dotted around the Rangy and conclude all good when,eyes back out the cockpit, I’ve strayed from the car in front’s ( aToyota) tracks. And by then it is too late. My track disappears and I drive off my dune into space. There isn’t time to react. Another dune about a meter below waits and the RR impacts. The only thing I have time to accept is that this is terminal – not for me – the vehicle. Bang. My head hits the roof, sunglasses dislodged to the very tip of my nose. We bounce out onto the opposite bank and I come off the power, but don’t brake: combination of broken suspension and burst tyres with hard deceleration would just entice a roll. My eyes swivel to the tyres pressures gauge anticipating massive drops and alarm going off.

Nothing happens. Pressures remain constant. RR drives in straight line. I apply power and of we go. I’m confused, but not complaining. A little blood drips from my forehead and I look up to the ceiling but there is no evidence of my brush with it. Using my middle finger on the bridge of my sunglasses (J Zuma style) I push them back up and shrug my shoulders: the distance between Kosie and I widens and I press on. Shortly we arrive at Rooibank, and stop to inflate tyres so we can dive the last 33 km to Walvis Baai at a reasonable speed without wrecking the tyres.

Kosie notices as I do: oil leaking from the RR. But from where? The front differential has a hairline crack on the bottom and the oil seeps from it, but not seriously enough to stop our journey. We’ll make to Walvis Baai. By the time we arrive though, the flow has almost dried up. That means 1.7lts. Out comes the sunlight soap, which we force into the crack. The leak stops: a temporary fix but I now understand why the tyres are still inflated and suspension works – the differential took the strain!

Saturday over after a bottle of red and a gemsbok steak nicely done. Sunday brings some headaches – the impact now reveals all sorts: front doors won’t open and close properly as the side front panels buckled, the fridge/drawer system retaining bolts sheared and various components in the engine bay hang loosely. You’ll see photos of the windscreen wiper washer bottle bracket shearing and my efforts to fix.  I also decide to strip the vehicle and lay out all the spares and tools. Slowly I replace bolts, catches and do some engineering in the engine bay: so glad I brought along that drill!

Monday in Walvis Baai reveals no-one can mend the crack in the diff. I must go to Swakopmund. However, I am not driving there until I have seen the fluid level. After buying a large socket square and taking out the plug, I discover the diff is empty. Enter 1.7 ltrs (in a carpark) and we are now good to go – sunlight soaps holds. I do the 33 km to Swak, with checks every 10 km, but all is good and by mid afternoon, I have bought a modem/datacard, found decent accom and a reputable guy to tac-weld the diff crack closed. An Irishman at the Desert Sky Lodge where I had just booked in looked perturbed and was waiting for a phone call from a garage: he was waiting of news of his car’s repair. So I offered him a lift to the garage. Andre was almost complete on the Irishman’s very old Mercedes and agreed to fix RR. ‘How’d you find him’ I’d asked, to which the Irishman replied ‘ all the pilots told me they have Andre do their cars’. Andre charged me N$150 (R150) and the diff hasn’t started leaking yet. The bolts holding the U-bracket that allows the rear hatch to close onto the tailgate, however, have disappeared after today’s game drive in Etosha Park. Nothing in my box with the right thread (what were those British engineers up to?) and I have had to resort to opening the ‘steel putty’. I watched all the Land Cruisers drive by as they watched the Englishman work on his British Range Rover. But I am not phased. Everything to date, could happen to any vehicle, even a Toyota.




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It could happen to any vehicle, even a Toyota…………………Part 1.

The group arrives in Walvis Baai mid friday afternoon, but are not scheduled to stay together. Jaque, Benny et al, shake hands and depart after radios have been collected. Nico/Sonya and the Italians, remain and decide a nice trip to Swakopmund is in order. Kosie and I must also go there,but gor a different reason – a Range Rover starter motor awaits. He and I set off to obtain it. Land Rover parts duly hand it over on our arrival, but it is payday and my Standard Bank card doesn’t work – on account of all the other Namibia Std bank users as well. I throw a googly and offer up a UK Credit Card, which is immediately accepted. Stage 1 complete. Both Kosie and I are pensive – what if it isn’t the starter motor? It’s the starter motor – what else could it be? And that’s what frightens me: the Range Rover has 9 computers and this has not been my IT year.

After a fish supper down on the wharf, we, the remaining crowd wish Johnny, Frans and Kosie farewell. Except for me of course – Saturday 2nd July involves work and I agree to meet Kosie outside at 0645 hrs. I’m there by 0635 and he duly arrives at 0640. The mood is somber and the Walvis mist is orals (everywhere). We hand over my GPS, with the vehicle co-ordinates and the starter motor to a mechanic at FORD/MAZDA/LAND ROVER dealership. His lunchbox, I notice, appears bigger than his toolbox.  My hopes are he will be bored by the time we arrive some 3 and bit hours later and show us a working vehicle, having eaten all his sandwiches. Kosie and I depart and head for the dunes, dropping into the Park at Rooibank, still some 122 km from the RR. The mist is heavy and Kosie concentrates. Little for me to say, so I brace against the floorboard on occasion and use the grab-handles when req’d. Kosie is pushing the Toyota 4 lt V6 bakkie hard: we must get in, retrieve the vehicle and get out – all in day light. Driving in dunes at night is like a suicide mission – drive in a circle to see what the options are; then as you drive up that is all you see and you don’t see what is on the other side until the front of the vehicle drops down on the other side of the dune. It may not be what you were expecting!

On arrival, some 4 hours later, at Kuiseb Canyon it is clear that the mechanic is not sitting on the bonnet eating sandwiches, looking at his watch and jovially asking where we’ve been. A pair of legs protrude from under the RR, followed closely by expletives not for this domain. Clearly, he isn’t having a good time! Kosie and I exchange glances………….Richard, the mechanic, hasn’t brought the right tools, and isn’t used to Range Rovers. You know what they say about bad workmen – they blame their tools. Richard doesn’t have that luxury, so he blames British Engineers. Fortunately my toolbox had the right allen keys,albeit not quite long enough – what were those British engineers thinking? Kosie, ever the optimist (and pragmatist) Q bonds one of my allen keys with another from his box and after a protracted silence of him under the vehicle (where his toes constantly flex) he pulls himself out with said motor. All we need now, is install the new one – they think. And I need the RR to actually start.

It turns out the new one goes in as easily as the old one came out and so I endure another lengthy period in which to understand a very long stream of afrikaans swear words – consecutive, of course. I find myself wandering off several hundred meters, in the vain hope I’ll hear the RR fire up, but that doesn’t materialise and I am always forced to returned. Finally the moment comes when Richard turns the key! Unfortunately, however, I am also close enough to witness the event and able to determine the success. If I was away on one of my walks, then I wouldn’t know. Richard turns the key in a clockwise direction and the Rangy fires into life – just like that! What follows could easily be a Monthy Python sketch as grown men leap up and down, running around in circles in the sand. I refrain from kissing either Kosie or Richard! I begin packing up, whilst they tighten final bolts. Then I realise the fiancée is waiting for news. Plus it is my daughter’s birthday. Why didn’t I deploy the sat phone and do this earlier? And that’s exactly what Kosie is thinking. Time to go.

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Still in the dunes…Day 4 and 5

I still had my ‘upward pointing’ red wine moustache as I exited my tent am on Day 4. Feeling fine, I did my babywipe/deodorant wash and ploughed into hot coffee and Bokomo rusks – courtesy Johnny and Frans. Great stuff boys. Breakfast was awesome and I have taken on Kosie’s style of dress: shorts and t-shirt. Barefoot. He and I agree it isn’t fair to drive Athel’s Fortuna all over the dunes and so once more I ride shotgun with Kosie, armed with my somewhat, by now, weathered Nikon D3100. When the Canon vs Nikon debate looked as though it was about to begin I raised my one eyebrow and gave the cold stair, which seemed enough to halt to conversation. 

Off we headed, westward. On the way we encountered the mining settlements of Holstatai established during the heyday of diamond mining, and eventually ran on into Conception Bay, where we encountered various shipping casualties such as the Eduard Bohlen, which was stranded in 1909.

Driving up the beach we surprised numerous seals, cormorants and others, although not the jackels. Interestingly, some hot legged it ages before you got there, and others stayed in the laid down ‘resting’ position, watching somewhat curiously as the convoy rolled by. 

 Eventually we made Sandwhich Bay before turning east into the dunes, where some roller coaster dunes and slip faces would test drivers and passengers – Big Time! For me in the photographer’s seat, I was enjoying it and fairly nonplussed. There was one stage, briefly, when Kosie stopped on the lip of a downhill and put his seatbelt on. ‘Ja – we can put seatbelts – we get a little bit fast on these’. Momentarily I gave him an inquisitive look – as if to say oui? But then I strapped in. Kosie gunned it over the edge (although he would proclaim he ‘waxed it’) and we accelerated to almost 130 km before climbing the other side. I reckon the G forces were almost 1G when bottoming out before the climb, but it has been a while since I carried a loop in a glider!  Check out the photos.

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‘You should have bought a Toyota…………’

……….an apparently unanimous verdict, with the exception of the owner of the now stricken Land Rover. So Kosie tows me off to a secluded spot in the Kuisab River Canyon and I slap a ban on photography, much to everyone’s delight. I’ve decided not to sit and wait with the vehicle, so mechanics can repair it. It is only Day 2 and there is so much more to see, so the RR is left as I grab minimal gear and hitch a ride with Kosie – see right below.

And so begins the banter – now that Kosie has a co-pilot the group want more commentary – in afrikaans. Ek se vir die manne – ‘ek is nie a co-pilot nie, ek is a photographer!’ Up front with Kosie isn’t so bad and I spend much time taking pics as Kosie coaches drivers through ever increasingly difficult slip faces – drivers (and passengers) confidence gains steadily, some even stopping for photo calls whilst stranded atop a dune!


That evening around the camp fire, the group really get a chance to have a go. ‘You should have bought a Toyota!’ – ‘ No Range Rover has ever done this trip’ – ‘ Range Rovers should always be near a Land Rover dealer’ and so on. Unabashed I explain that I am on an adventure: grannies are criss-crossing africa in their simple Defenders and boertjies use Toyota because they are not brave enough to take a Range Rover. I wanted something different!

The evening’s entertainment is good fun. To almal: Nico and Sonya (who by the end of the week would kick Nico if he even though of another quip); the Joburg italians, Masimo and Fabio (my avid supporter); Jaque and Benny; Rainer (Jaques son) and his two occupants, Tertiaus and Viljion.





Trouble arrives the next morning – Day 3. Shortly after setting off after breakfast, Athel in his Toyota Fortuna breaches the apogee of a dune too fast and slams the front end in on t’other side. Kosie and I turn around and are greeted with a scene of the stationary Fortuna with doors open. His partner is at his side and she is clearly worried: Athel has gone white with shock and in extreme pain. It doesn’t take long to arrive at the correct conclusion: his trip is over and he needs immediate evacuation, which is duly organised. Poor Athel stays seated for some 4 hours before the police helicopter from Windhoek arrives. We later find he fractured his spine in a number of places, but that he is now comfortable.

Fate has it’s own way; and I now find myself behind the wheel of Athel’s Toyota. It is a turbo-diesel and a manual gearbox. I mean, what do I want with a diesel – I am not a farmer. Now taunted by die manne over the 2 -way radio, I stick close to Kosie who has now ‘put foot’ in order to reach our next camp. Although I wouldn’t be able to prove it, I suspect surprise in the ‘manual gearbox camp’ as die engelsman jags after Kosie: it isn’t me holding up the convoy and I reach camp without hiccup. ‘Vat dit julle!’ and so begins yet another evening of Toyota vs Land Rover, all done to copious amounts of wine and scrumptious fare knocked up by the Uri team – Kosie, Johnny and Frans.

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Faces of Namib tour……..

I arrive ahead of schedule, at Solitaire Guest House on 26 June 2011. Once more, I can’t be bothered to drag out the tent: the roof will do. I let Terry know,via sat phone, I’m about to attend briefings at 1700 hrs sharp. She’s 2-3 hrs ahead on Dubai time and busy with her supper. And so an evening of meeting the ‘others’. Seven vehicles – 1 Land Rover, 1 Mistubishi, and remainder – Toyota! LR & Mits are english – remainder afrikaans. Eish! Or – Indians 1 – Japanese 6.Next morning ons is op-pad! Fuel tanks brimmed, wood bags on roof racks and 60 ltrs water for kitchen use and showers. 38km from Solitaire we turn left into the Nauklift Nat Park and shortly, we let down tyres as we sink deeper into sand.

The terrain changes constantly and becomes more sandy by the metre. The Range Rover (RR) handles obstacles with aplomb- I’ve yet to change from ‘Drive’ whislt the some of the lesser spotted Toyotas are being talked through sand pits, reversing toget a longer run at the sandy slopes – momentum, momentum. And if you don’t have that – then oodles of power. RR has both in abundance and therefore I’m longing to get some serious dunes in. RR looks good and even the Land Cruiser chaps comment on the range of her suspension articulation travel. After lunch in the field, we continue on, Kosie our guide doing his ‘naturalist’ thing.

One largish chameleon poses with Kosie – our lead guide. This is his final trip with Uri Adventures.

This photo below with the vehicles in single file is one of the last that includes Monster RR – 4th from right.

Beyond this, I switched off due to a low water level warning shrieking at me, which it did every time I went downhill at a steepish angle. Only this time the RR didn’t fire up from the re-start. Just a klak – from the solenoid.

I buzzed Nico who, from behind, pitched up to give me a jump start – silver Land Cruiser to silver RR. Eventually the radio call of ‘Kosie!’ went out and so unfolded a series of events which saw me being towed by Kosie – and an evening under a RR in the desert, after lengthy conversations by satellite phone to mechanics in CT. Bottom line – starter motor- Kosie and I had checked everything and all electrics – could only be starter motor.

The predicament here, for those of you less aware – one engelsman in a Land Rover and a majority of boers in Toyotas leads to total humiliation – notwithstanding comments of ‘ you shoulds have bought a Toyota’. So, on Day 1 the RR packs up and it dawns on me that I am in for a week of banter and jibes that will take a Rhino skin to get through!

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Early Namib days………

It has been a little while since my last blog, and no doubt many of you wondering what happened: getting a data card has actually been that difficult. When the T4A map shows a camp site and petrol – that’s all there is! So now, in Swakopmund, I bring you up-to-date.   I crossed into Namib without hassle and stopped to photograph the occasion on the Orange River. Between border posts, my daughter has now decided she will come to Africa in august and I spend my time at the first garage I see with a mobile pressed to my ear, being watched by the attendant who realises I ain’t buying petrol: this is the only place I can get reception, albeit a bar. Terry (fiancée) and Jordan (daughter) take it from there as I head further north. Ai Ais – Hot Springs 1st stop! On arrival, I’m given a camping berth and after setting up camp I head for the outdoor springs – a warm bath more like. The indoor one the next morning was better.   I strike out for Fish River Canyon and end up at the ‘Roadhouse’ Campsite. Another braai (BBQ) after w hich I head for the bar. After a few wee drams, I realise I’ve h’aad te much and weave my way to the Rangy, where I am due to sleep on the roof. The african skies are truly awesome with so little light proliferation! Fish River Canyon is spectacular, but I had expected it to take a couple of days to cover. By lunch I had seen enough and struck out north. Aus – a reasonably sized town. They’ll have data cards. The map showed fuel, camping, hospital, etc. But apart from Bratwurst and sauerkraut – there was fuel and germans. Sossus-vlei next, admittedly via a small farm campsite. Unfortunately all the bratwurst eaters from Aus beat me there so I got the front lawn. A lekker fire and potjie produced lamb Rhogan Josh. Morning was fog and everything frozen – I had to use a hammer to get the potjie (small cast iron pot on three legs) out of the bowl I left it to soak in!  Next Sossus vlei.

I set up camp under an acacia tree (in the NWR Sesriem Camp Site) and drove into the National Park. Dune 45 was the first climb. Can’t describe sitting on sand several hundred metres high, just listening to silence. Even the vehicles on the main track a km away can’t be heard. Nothing – just some occasional shifting of sands.  

The next day, I visited once more and took more photos. I’ve left some for you below:

  This is me on my way down on my backside – feet first………

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