Skeleton Coast and on

Skeleton Coast

Having left Etosha we decided to head for skeleton coast only the southern bit is accessible ,we arrived after driving though fantastic scenery ( bit like Arizona in USA flat topped mountains the remains of old lava flows this being one of the oldest geological areas in the world I believe) only to find we could not progress that dayas it was after 3 and there are safety concerns, camped overnight there – free site basic but OK very desert like and left early next day.

the beast

Park proper 150k is as you have seen on TV – not many wrecks as they break up quickly. You exit the park then enter another where recreation – fishing etc is allowed.

Stopped at cape cross seal reserve – as seen on TV 80, 000 plus seals and cubs but the smell and noise are unbelievable But so cute!! I am told I wanted to seen rare brown hyenas eating the poorly ones ( no joy) but Emma took about 3 million pictures!

 

some of them – there were lots!!!

Remind you Of Anyone?

Then on to Swakopmund bit odd very new, obviously booming stayed the night in very posh campsite – own shower, WC etc that would put most UK hotels to shame. Next day headed for top end of Namib national park this bits rocky big sand dunes etc are further south. Again fantastic geology -superlatives cannot be overused here.

Road to and from nowhere – marvelous!

Looked up a camping place called Rooiklip – well off beaten track (which is in fact not beaten at all) stayed on a plot , one of 3, essentially a semi cave with a view to die for and so quiet I cannot begin to describe it. So we booked another day. People running it were nicely batty, loved landrovers, were rearing a Gemsbok (oryx) serious horns already, kept 30 odd tortoises, a biting zebra , meerkats– just our cup of tea really.

Rooiklip miles from anywhere

The Flinstones ?

 

Road to Windhoek again nice ending on plains, instead of rabbits by roadside they have warthogs, found a garage that had some spares so got suspension back – travelling in comfort for first time in ages. Did some shopping – even me first time in nearly 30 years.

the next episode – lovely ! ahhghh!

 

Angolan Rally And Etosha

The Angolan Rally

 

Day 1

Got to the border for opening time at 8.00am very slow paperwork including them wanting a word for word copy of our entry visa for some reason, also our yellow fever certificates ,why when we were leaving the country I don’t know. Customs guy was so drunk( yes, at 8.00am) he did not notice we had no entry stamp on the carnet, it took him all his efforts and several dummy runs to line up and stamp the exit slip.

A few feet up the road then we were in Angola – all very smart and efficient, language a problem but thankfully everybody helped us. Then we sat and waited as our passports were passed round and round but not returned. Eventually we drove, with an immigration guy to the police station where it became clear they would not let us go on without a police escort – armed it transpired – to protect us from bandits. So we sat and waited and eventually,by late morning the escort arrived and off we go initially roads not too bad but we knew worse was to come, after a while we stopped at a police post and waited again.

Had a useful English/ Portuguese lesson with the officer in charge then the new escort x2 turned up. So we now had the equivalent of a small army all with AK47s or Uzi machine pistols and off we set at very high speed. Roads terrible going down a hill, as it was getting dark when the brakes failed completely – managed to stop ,found out brake pipe bracket was loose and pipe had sheared off. Hammered pipe flat to stop leak/ keep up pressure and off again into the gloom. Not long after, going up a steep hill we were horrified to see a red lorry speeding towards us on a road that was not wide enough for the two of us.

Emma -Its not going to stop !!!

Mike -No its bloody not !

Coming down hill we could only sit and wait as we had nowhere to go on our side – it increased speed as it came down and at at last minute he just veered off through the bush thankfully missing us. He had turned his engine off and was free-wheeling ( common here to save fuel) clearly without brakes. Hearts pounding we decided not to go to the enquiry some distance away in the bush ,so started off after our armed escort.

Last few miles were completed in the dark when we arrived at the police station we said we would stay there for the night as they still would not let us go alone.

Emma got lucky as one of the young guys fancied her – his chat up technique of jabbing her hard in the arm was not successful though.

 

 

Angola rally Day 2

Got up in the dark as the army assembled and off we went on a good tarred road – what joy, they finally left us in N’zeto but we had had an armed escort for about 300k by this point.

Local commander, who was very jolly instructed a policemen on a motorbike to help us get fuel – there was none in the garage,so he bought some off one of the smaller local dealers. These seem to be mainly women who anticipate shortages ,stock up ,then sell at a premium.

Landscape very nice, best described as Baobab forest, many trees still with large fruits.Road south was terrible for the most part, half way down the worst bit the brakes failed again this time the other front pipe had sheared off ,I then realised it was not loose bolts that had caused the problem but the fact that they had not been fixed back on by the guys who fixed the steering. Hammered that pipe flat and continued on with only back brakes. Not recommended on any road let alone rough tracks I can tell you.

Got to Luanda late afternoon, pleasant surprise as fuel was only 30p a litre and modern garages stocked essentials like beer and wine! Bush camped in a forest under a pylon clearing very peaceful

Angola rally Day 3

Travelled to Huambo about 390 miles, mountainous scenery , spectacular in parts, plenty of garages but no fuel. Wild camped in the bush and it was quite cold for first time since Europe.

Angola Day 4

 

Huambo to Xangongo about 425 miles Food supplies limited as shops did not have much, breakfast consisted of pineapple, biltong, peanut butter washed down with coke – tasty

Emma, tickled by the fact that little children seen to carry their own chairs to school so loads of kids walking along with brightly coloured chairs on their heads or quite elaborate hand carved versions in different styles.

Wild camped again as we sadly couldn’t make the border in time,before it closed for the night.

Day 5 The border

We made it ! On day 5 with several hours to spare,it had been a very stressful/hairy few days and we were so relieved,to finally arrive at the Namibian border

The last stretch of road in Angola had been great for a while. Quite a few shelled tanks etc still line the road – relics of the war. Quite warm during the day (30c) but locals dressed for Arctic conditions.

We are back to sleeping -bags again….and woolly socks for Emma.

The border crossing quite painless no real checks on Namibia side I walked out to go into a bank to pay vehicle tax and nobody batted an eyelid. There was the world again as we know it shops, supermarkets even a KFC (not that we like !) all quite surreal.

A Short journey later we were in Etosha National Park which on the first day indicated how fantastic it is , spotting 3 lionesses, 1 male and cubs having late lunch, zebra, giraffe, springbok everywhere, impala, Oryx, Steenbok, Red Hartebeest, Ostrich, Corey bustards ( huge) and plenty more besides………. Heavenly!

As we discovered on arrival, it is peak season here, hence the abundance of wildlife and as it is so dry all the animals congregate at the various waterholes,so you are guaranteed to see plenty of action (just like “The Lion King ”!!) We have seen Black Rhino, apparently extremely rare with only 3,000 wild in the whole of Africa and We’ve been fortunate enough to see 3 of those. Also a Cheetah mum and nearly fully grown cubs having lunch under a bush reasonably close but so well camoflaged hard to see and photograph.

cheetas having lunch

everthing got out of its way – grumpy old B -reminds me of someone

Black faced impala( local sub species that only live around here), 2 Lionesses in the middle of road,elephant holding up the traffic,Jackal,spotted Hyena,yellow Mongoose,Kudu and a wildcat, which are nocturnal,so once more pretty lucky to have spotted one.

yes we stopped

We were only going to stay for two or three nights,but ended up staying five as we couldn’t tear ourselves away!We Stayed at two different camp-sites within the park,both of which have fantastic facilities,hot showers and plenty of them,a huge area all to yourselves, numerous loo’s (I can’t tell you how good this is after nearly 5 months without one !!)

All this being the reason there’s been no action on “the blog”, we’ve been far too busy sitting at waterholes from dawn until dusk,but we have taken loads of photo’s,which I hope will speak for themselves…….wonderful

Have a look at our photos,it’s more than we can say

 

 

DRC Prison Camp

 

The Prison Camp

Twelve days have now passed and we are getting itchy feet!

The Beast is back after a week in the garage and is hopefully in tip-top condition for the next leg of our journey, several mechanics crawling all over him and they seemed very thorough,so fingers crossed,no more problems for a while.

Good news came yesterday by e-mail from Jim, the lovely man in the Angolan embassy(who has been pushing our visa applications forward) we have them at last and they have already been collected by DHL ,hopefully reaching us at the weekend.

We haven’t been very adventurous in Kinshasa,just catching up with e-mails,doing photo’s,washing,cleaning ,general fixing and re-organising things and as we haven’t had a vehicle we haven’t been out too much ,except for the odd trip to the most delicious pizza restaurant !

Being in a large city,means the people haven’t been quite as warm and friendly as we’ve been used to,plus the Landrover has always been a good conversation starter and we haven’t had it with us, although for some reason they don’t seem to understand our French………strange that !!

 

Hooray we have at last got our passports with Angola visa’s back in our hands,couriered safely from London via Brussels and Nigeria,to us in DRC,a really snazzy colourful visa too,so you can imagine our delight (despite having paid DHL 200 dollars for the privilege) what could possibly go wrong now?? !!

The Joy – release papers arrived

 

We set off for Angola the minute visa’s reached us. It took an hour or so to leave Kinshasa ,driving out through the markets etc , but when we finally hit the main road to Matardi ,the Blue beast started violently juddering again but this time not just at 45 mph,but anything from 20 mph on the slightest bump on smooth roads.

By now we were a long way from our so called expert Landrover garage which by now was shut for the weekend and we assumed it was something simple that was loose,we stopped had the wheels off,checked everything,including wheel bearings,couldn’t find anything obvious,so decided to continue very slowly another 100 km to next town,it was dark and we found a very strange little place to stay,much to my relief,as driving in the dark is quite horrendous here and to be avoided at all cost .We had some stale bread and a sweaty piece of Edam cheese which we shared with the young boy in charge of the Hotel.

Next day was spent at another garage basically a training school for student mechanics with everyone scratching their heads and us getting hassled by many people for food and money.

mechanics school

 

 

With the Beast still juddering we set of to Matardi where we found some guys who thought they knew what the problem was. They referred to it as “the shimmy”

They got to work using our borrowed tools and as things were progressing a guy turned up saying he was from immigration and his office was across the road and he wanted to check papers etc, no problems etc. Thats when the fun started – he with 5 mates with guns sitting around asked for passports then decided the visas had expired I pointed out they had not and we had checked with immigration in kinshasa and showed him the card a guy there had given me He took this and put that together with passports in a drawer. Insisting there now was a problem that $200 would resolve!

I kept arguing patiently, assisted by one of the guys who was helping us, this then turned into a full scale inquiry as to his job, parents, place of birth etc he made a crude statement as to our meeting etc which he signed but the immigration guy insisted he was the expert he had the uniform badge etc. At this point I decided to call his bluff as said that was it he could keep passports until the following day – Monday – when the big chef returned. He changed his tune a bit insisting he was right but that something still had to be paid. Eventually I gave him $50 dollars to get passports back as I did not fancy another day of arguing my case.

Checking the passports I realised the idiot “Expert” was in fact looking at the visas for the other Congo hence his insistence on expiry so he could not even identify his own visas. I went back and confronted him and pointed out his so called expertise involved not recognising his own countries visas – small beer but made me feel better and him look an idiot infront of his gun toting mates but he refused to hand back the money so I said I would be contacting head office the following day but decided I had pushed it enough.

 

Got back to the mechanics who said he had pulled the same trick on other tourists a month before and got lots of money, they were fed up as they felt it impacted on their business but theres not a lot they could do, The fact that he could not even recognise a DRC visa was appreciated though! Hopefully he will not be allowed to forget it

After the shimmy – no shake – smiles all round

 

Off for a test drive and bingo sorted!! the joy cannot be described – not sure what they did but one bit involved making a rubber bush/ washer on the steering arm. They said needed sorting properly in Namibia but that it would do the job.

Of to a posh hotel for final preparations for the Angolan rally the next day. Just before going down to eat Emma spotted a mouse come out from under the bed. So that started the great mouse hunt involving moving all the furniture several time and bashing wildly with the travel guide. Eventually an expert diving slam dunk did the job.

A succesful hunt – although a mouse is not really what we need to worry about