30 Sep 2013

World’s largest meteorite & Bushman tribe

Namibia: Tsumkwe

Today was a day of record breakers.  First up was the Hoba meterorite just outside Grootfontein.  This was discovered by a farmer in 1921 when he noticed something metallic looking protruding from the ground.  It turned out to be a 60 ton lump of near pure iron & nickel, making it both the largest and heaviest meteorite ever discovered.  Since then people have chipped and carved away at it but its record status seems safe for the moment. 

Next, was a living record breaker – the world’s largest baobab tree.  The area just outside Tsumkwe, not far from the Botswana border, is home to some behemoth specimens of this most portly of trees.  At this late stage in the dry season they are not looking their best, with only a few wizened leaves left on them.  But their scale is still impressive – the largest a whooping 30m around its base. 

27 Sep 2013

Etosha National Park & Celebrating Josi’s Birthday

Namibia: Etosha National Park.

Approaching the Etosha National Park we were already beginning to see some of the wildlife hanging out around the borders – we wondered whether they were wishing they could cross the border but the vast 22,000 square kilometres of park means all the animals have plenty of space to spread out!

We got our pass for the park and drove the long and very surprisingly tarred road to our first campsite.  We decided to stay at the main *Okaukuejo Camp* as we had heard about their floodlit waterhole just a few metres from a viewing platform – we were very excited.

Having gone through the long process of paying for the accommodation and the pass entrance fee we headed to our camp spot.  Camp 4 was to be a minor disappointment – what could have been made a special camp spot for the many tourists who book here felt more like a car park with a few ablution blocks.  Underwhelmed, we thought we would take a quick peak at the waterhole before heading to the human waterhole – the pool.

Walking towards the waterhole, towel in hand, I’m not sure what I was expecting but as we approached the fanned & poised crowd we were quite suddenly in the presence of a herd of 30 elephant, a rhino and some zebra just going about their business about 50m away.  


24 Sep 2013

A day in the life: Nystrom Adventures African Overland

Our days vary a lot, as you have seen, but we thought we would put this list together to give you an idea of a typical day…
  • Alarm 6.15
  • Get up 6.30
  • Pack inside of tent: sleeping bags (It’s cold at night!), fold sheets, water bottle, books, nightclothes, small lamp, close all windows.
  • Let tent air
  • Get chairs down from roof (animal safety zone)
  • Boil kettle on gas – make tea,
  • Make cereal, maybe bread roll with marmite (for John only!)
  • Take Anti-malarial
  • Washing up from last night & this morning
  • Remove pegs & rain cover pegs
  • Fold tent away
  • Zip cover on & straps down
  • Pack away stepladder
  • Wash face & brush teeth
  • Fill water bottles
  • Set off 8.00

23 Sep 2013

Bordering Angola - Epupa Falls & the drive to Etosha

Namibia: Kaokoveld: Epupa Falls, Kunene River, Kamanjab.

As dawn broke over our riverside campsite near Epupa Falls, the incessant sound of rushing water which we had heard all night was finally paired with a beautiful view of the rapids.  This was fringed by overhanging palms and trees and was a refreshing change from the desert scenery of the last two weeks.

22 Sep 2013

Himba Tribes & Three Wheel Driving in Kaokoveld

Namibia: Kaokoveld: Van Zyl’s Pass Campsite, Epupa.

The road to Etanga started off well and we quickly reached the village where we had planned to camp.  But this was a miserable looking place – ramshackle huts and beer bottles littered the dusty ground, and the locals looked more confused by our presence than welcoming.  So we decided to press on into the bush, aiming for *Van Zyl’s Pass Community Campsite* but prepared to wild camp if need be.  It was on this road that a Jeep Wrangler overtook us, the driver waving as he powered past, this was the only car we were to see for the next 2 days.  Very soon after Etanga, the road dwindled to a sandy track, before finally giving way to rocky gullies and riverbed trails.  Our speed slowed to an average 20km/h, but the reward was seeing numerous Himba settlements along the way.

The Himba tribe are a subgroup of the indigenous Herero people, who originated in Central Africa.  The Himba are elegant people, long limbed and proudly defensive of their traditional way of life.  They are also highly distinctive, with a number of symbolic hairstyles which denotes social status, for example: age & marital status.  Similarly the height of a woman’s ankle bracelets and the number of vertical stripes on it, indicated the number of children she had.  They also smear their bodies with a bright red pigment made by mixing animal fat (or, more commonly today, Vaseline) with ground ochre stone.  This is mainly decorative, but has the added bonus of giving a high degree of sun protection.  

21 Sep 2013

The road North towards Kaokoveld

Namibia: Kaokoveld: Opuwo

The route North from Twyfelfontein to Opuwo is a well graded gravel road, blissfully devoid of the 3 inch deep corrugations that had made the main road from Swakopmund so tiresome.  The problem with this road was that it was too good.  On the long straights our speed crept up to over 60MPH and after a while we were almost lulled into thinking we were driving a “normal” car.  Such delusions of grandeur came abruptly to a halt every time we came to a corner – Tonka’s primitive suspension and high centre of gravity had us drifting on the gravel more than once.  Further entertainment came from concealed dips and troughs in the road.  Hitting these at full pelt was too much for the springs and the axles banged hard up against the chassis – maybe our suspension modifications in Swakopmund had not been enough.  But using Tonka to travel fast is like asking Berlusconi to chair a woman’s rights conference - not recommended. 

After some hours as mile after mile of the huge landscape drifted past, Josi scanned the scrub for wildlife and wondered what would be our first big game sighting.  As if on cue, it was at that moment that she shouted “A giraffe!”

18 Sep 2013

Rock engravings & Damara tribes

Namibia: Damaraland: Twyfelfontein & Seisfontein

Our first port of call heading north was a campsite, *Aabadi Mountain Camp”, just outside the extremely arid town of Twyfelfontein.  Here it has not rained in over 3 years and the stunted trees stand leafless in limbo.  The earth was a parched grey dust and from here northwards Namibia is suffering one of its worst droughts in 30 years.  We hear of goat herds being decimated by 80% and cows dropping dead in their tracks.  And the wildlife is suffering too – three days ago the notoriously grumpy desert elephants of this region played havoc in the campsite.  A highly developed water-tracing instinct had lead them to the latrines where they had pulled out the water pipes, leaving toilets lying on their sides, before turning their attention to the staff accommodation.  They are expected to be regular visitors.


15 Sep 2013

Dawn, Desert & Dunes

Namibia: Sossusvlei

We arrived at Sesriem full of excitement to see the much celebrated and photographed desert dunes of Sossusvlei.  Sesriem is the gateway to the dunes and we obediently paid our entrance fee and expected to continue to camp until we were told that the closest campsite was just behind the building we were in – we had arrived – a little nearer and sooner than we had expected.

With camp no. 28 secured we assessed the possibility of a fire – but the wind was far too strong to get any fire going – and luckily, on this occasion, there was a restaurant…we indulged.  

As we crawled out of the tent for the pre-dawn drive to the dunes, the sky sparkled with a myriad of stars.  So abundant that we half expected Brian Cox to be sharing the next pitch.  It was an early and cold 4˚C start.  Camping inside the gate meant that we were allowed to head to the dunes, 50 minutes away, at 6am, so we were up early – and managed to get all ready to go, including packing the tent away, in a mere 40 minutes – we were pretty chuffed, being only on day four. 

14 Sep 2013

Wild-roads, Wildlife, Wilderness

Namibia: Namib-Naukluft National Park

About five kilometres inland from Walvis Bay the C14 deteriorates suddenly from smooth tarmac to the ubiquitous gravel which characterises most of Namibia’s roads.  Much of the time these gravel roads are in excellent condition, and allow us to maintain about 60mph – almost Tonka’s top speed at the best of times. 

But about two hours from Walvis Bay we had our first experience of Africa’s notorious corrugations.  These are ripples in the surface of the road and, as any skier will relate to, behave much like moguls on a piste – the more they are travelled over, the more pronounced they become.  The result on a gravel road can be a surface akin to driving on a corrugated iron roof – a bone shaking vibration that goes on for miles.  The secret is to try to find the elusive “sweet spot” speed at which the momentum of the vehicle is most in sync with the rhythm of the corrugations.  This is easier said than done however.  The best that can generally be hoped for is somewhere between a moderate shaking of the steering wheel and a full on dashboard detaching hissy-fit.  So far the door of our glove box has fallen off and our radio has tried to escape by retreating into the nether regions of the dashboard!  But these are minor annoyances and Tonka shows his pedigree by ploughing on dutifully.

By late afternoon, both the car and ourselves were covered in a layer of super-fine dust.  Dust that permeates every nook and cranny and heralds any approaching car, long before the vehicle itself is visible – a plume half a kilometre long and many metres high billows out behind before enveloping us as it passes.  So by 5pm, having just crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, a sign reading Rostock Ritz Camping was more than enough to lure us off the road and down an even dustier 6km trail.  


13 Sep 2013

A visit to Crazy Harry

Namibia: Swakopmund

While Swakopmund’s coastline may be skeletal, the waistline of most of its residents is not.  One of our first observations here is the prodigious appetite of the locals – an appetite fuelled by enormous (and delicious) plates of fried calamari, game steaks, boerwurst and heaps of French fries.  Vegans need not apply – this is proper red meat country.  As in Walvis Bay, we made the most of the beachfront restaurant.  “The Jetty” served great seafood and its wildcard signature dish, sirloin steak with chilli chocolate sauce – strange but good. 

Our reason for being in Swakopmund was to visit “crazy” Harry, a recommended local mechanic, to get Tonka’s suspension jacked up a bit.  After loading him in the UK with 230 litres of diesel and 120 litres of water, he was sagging a little on his haunches!  Harry, an eccentric moustachioed Frenchman, had a simple but effective solution – the rear suspension mounts were taken off, cut in half and then welded back together with a 2 inch steel spacer between them.  This worked superbly and Tonka now sits level again.

Our first campsite was the very orderly but rather boring *Alte Brucke Resort*.  The stiff Atlantic wind blew right across our pitch, although the novelty of our first night “under canvas” kept our spirits up.  Predictably, we headed to The Jetty for dinner.  Well, we had to ease into this camping thing gently.

After two nights in Swakopmund, and having stocked up on supplies, we pointed Tonka south back towards Walvis Bay, and then south-east on the C14 towards the Namib Naukluft National Park.

Days in Africa: 4
Km driven: 43

12 Sep 2013

“In to Africa”

Namibia: Walvis Bay to Swakopmund

After the debacle of our original attempt to get Tonka onboard the “Atacama” bound for Walvis Bay in Namibia back in July (which ended with him on the back of an AA lorry due to faulty service he had received at a garage just two days before!), he was finally shipped on 8th August on “Amber Lagoon”.  And so on 9th September we too were Namibia bound, flying from Heathrow with South African Airlines via Johannesburg.  Having endured two months of the Siberian and Mongolian winter earlier in the year, Josi was on a high, looking forward to the long promised warmth and sun of Africa.  Alas, she was to be disappointed again.  As we stepped out of the airport we were met by an icy wind tearing in straight from the Atlantic.  Welcome to Walvis Bay!

Being too late for the one transit bus into town, we negotiated a ride with a very friendly Budget rent-a-car employee who was about to head that way.  And so, an hour after landing at the tiny warehouse-like building of the airport arrivals hall, the wheels were finally turning on the start of our epic road trip. The fact that the wheels were not yet ours did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm – tomorrow we would collect Tonka from the port.