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Namibia Windhoek

from Frankfurt to Windhoek

8th September Frankfurt

As we had the rally here we decided to spend a day in Frankfurt, making it easy to catch our overnight flight to Windhoek. A slightly chaotic start as Lufthansa has decided to parcel out our flight to their low cost Eurowings division (designed for short-haul European destinations and consequently not really comfy enough for long haul), putting on a 2nd flight to Windhoek leaving just 40 minutes earlier (very confusing) and rebadging ours as going to Victoria Falls (no mention of via Windhoek); then getting upset when everyone kept querying it! And don’t even mention the suggestion we share a yoghurt spoon because they’d run out! Go figure!!

9th September Windhoek

We finally arrived at Windhoek at a civilised 9am at Hosea Kutako International Airport, disembarked onto the tarmac and walked into the immigration building. It was very quick and easy through immigration as we were all sorted in advance. After collecting our luggage we found the EuropCar counter and collected our car keys. Whilst Steve sorted this out I went to get a SIM card for the phone so we could use GPS. A long line snaked out of one shop, but a friendly guard pointed me to a second shop with no one and I had sorted it all out when Steve arrived 15 minutes later. The card turned out very well; we had 3 vouchers to top it up, one a week, for less than €25 in total and it handled all our GPS with no problems.
Leaving the terminal to collect our rental (a Dacia Duster), we had to watch a short video on driving safely in Namibia (pretty obvious stuff like don’t hit animals, don’t drive in ditches, don’t cross flooded rivers) before being allowed our car. Then it was a 45km, 50 min drive to Windhoek along the B6 motorway. On arriving there we turned right onto Sam Njoma Drive. At the intersection with Nelson Mandela Drive (and shopping centre) we turned right to Metje Street and then right again to Ziegler Street.
Windhoek is located in a basin, 1,680m high, between the Khomas Highland, Auas and Eros Mountains. Whether due to pure luck or a brilliant stroke of Germanic planning, the city is situated in almost the countries epicentre. Windhoek is the social, economic, political, and cultural centre of the country. Nearly every Namibian national enterprise, governmental body, educational and cultural institution is headquartered here. Central Windhoek is a modern, well-groomed city where office workers lounge around Zoo Park at lunchtime, tourists funnel through Post St Mall admiring African curios and taxis whizz around honking at potential customers. In fact, first impressions confirm that the city wouldn’t look out of place in the West. It’s not a big city and is eminently walkable; add to this a mixed population, a pedestrian-friendly city centre, a relaxed, relatively hassle-free pace and utterly cosmopolitan outlook and Windhoek makes for a very pleasant exploration indeed. Of course that’s only part of the story; a trip into Katutura, the once- ramshackle township on the outskirts of the city, now just another outer suburb, gives insight into the reality of most people’s lives within the boundaries of the capital. The site was a permanent hot spring known to the indigenous pastoral communities and developed rapidly after Jonker Afrikaner, Captain of the Orlam, settled here in 1840 and built a stone church and school for his community. Two Rhenish missionaries, Hahn and Kleinschmidt, started working there in 1842, but were removed by Methodist Wesleyans, Haddy and Tindall. In the decades following, wars resulted in neglect of the settlement and when Hahn visited in 1873 nothing remained. It was refounded in 1890 by Imperial German Army Major Curt von François, when the territory was colonised by the German Empire. The name is probably from Afrikaans wind-hoek (wind corner), but possibly Captain Jonker Afrikaner named it after the Winterhoek Mountains in South Africa, where his ancestors lived. The first mention of the name Windhoek was in a letter from Jonker Afrikaner to Joseph Tindall, 1844.
A request by merchants from Lüderitzbucht resulted in the declaration in 1884 of a German protectorate over what was called German South West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika), now Namibia. The borders were determined in 1890 and Germany sent a protective corps, the Schutztruppe under Major Curt von François. Von François stationed his garrison at Windhoek, strategically between the warring Nama and Herero people. Twelve springs provided water for produce and grains. Colonial Windhoek was founded on 18 October 1890, when von François fixed the foundation stone of the fort, now Alte Feste. After 1907, development accelerated as indigenous people migrated to seek work and European settlers arrived. Windhoek’s three castles, Heinitzburg, Sanderburg, Schwerinsburg, were built. German colonial South West Africa fell in 1915 and until the end of WW1 the city was administered by a South African military government. In 1920 Treaty of Versailles, the territory was placed under a League of Nations Class C mandate and administered by South Africa. Windhoek received town privileges 1965 on the 75th anniversary of its second foundation by von François. Since independence in 1990, Windhoek has been the national capital, and provincial capital of central Khomas Region. Windhoek's three main access roads from Rehoboth, Gobabis, and Okahandja are paved. It is served by two airports; Eros, 7 km south for small craft, and Hosea Kutako International, 42 km east. Prominent landmarks include Alte Feste (Old Fortress), three castles Heinitzburg, Sanderburg, and Schwerinsburg, Tintenpalast (Ink Palace), and Zoo Park.
As Windhoek is not that large it was fairly easy to find Villa Violet at 48 Ziegler St, our guest-house for the night. The private gated parking meant it was safe for the night and our friendly host showed us the drinks (thank goodness for a decent coffee). As we were early (11am) the room wasn’t ready, so we went into Windhoek itself for a walk.
Situated in the leafy suburb of Klein Windhoek, Villa Violet offers a modern accommodation option when visiting the city. The en-suite rooms front onto a grassy central area. Each room has an air-con/heater, flat-screen TV, safe, wireless internet, secure parking and a laundry service. The rooms open out onto a patio with tables and chairs, and a small turquoise-blue pool glistens invitingly at the bottom of the garden. The villa is close to restaurants and shops, and a short drive away from the city centre, making is not only an appealing place stay but a convenient stop when entering the country.
We parked at the cathedral, where one of the numerous “car watchers” waited.
The Christ Church (Christuskirche) is a historic Lutheran church in designed by architect Gottlieb Redecker in a mix of neo-Romanesque, Art Noveau and Gothic Revival influences.. The church was built following the wars between the Germans and the Khoikhoi, Herero, and Owambo. The foundation stone was laid on 11 August 1907, when was originally known as the Church of Peace. It was constructed from quartz sandstone mined from the vicinity of Avis Dam. Its spire is 24 m high. The portico was made from Italian Carrara marble. The clock and roof were shipped from Germany, as were three bronze bells cast by Franz Schilling with the inscriptions "Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe" (Glory to God in the highest), "Friede auf Erden" (Peace on earth), "Den Menschen ein Wohlgefallen" (Goodwill towards men). During a confirmation service in the 1960 the clapper of the main bell came loose, smashed through the window and fell on the street. Window bars were installed in reaction to this. The colourful stained lead glass windows in the sanctuary were a gift from Emperor Wilhelm II. In the late 1990s a tourist noticed that all of them were installed with the sun protection on the inside. In the two years following this discovery, all window elements were restored and turned around. The church is located on a traffic island on Robert Mugabe Avenue, opposite the Tintenpalast.
We walked down into the main town to try to find lunch, which proved trickier than we had expected. In the end we ate at a Fried Chicken venue in a shopping mall! A nearby supermarket meant we were able to stock up on provisions for the next few days; crisps, biscuits, fruit, drinks, etc.
We walked down into the main town to try to find lunch, which proved trickier than we had expected. In the end we ate at a Fried Chicken venue in a shopping mall! A nearby supermarket meant we were able to stock up on provisions for the next few days; crisps, biscuits, fruit, drinks, etc. We walked past Zoo Park, which we’d thought we would eat at, but it seemed a bit over dry and dusty. The remains of an elephant kill c20,000 years ago were uncovered in 1961, one of the earliest known such events in human history. Originally known as Schutztruppe, the land was transferred to local control in 1911 and in 1967 renamed after Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of Apartheid. In 1989 it took its current name. Cafe Zoo, which is still in operation, opened in 1916.
After lunch we walked back towards the car, but as we went back up the hill we noticed the Independence Museum and thought, why not. Actually, the museum, on 3 floors was surprisingly interesting (we hadn’t realised Namibia as a country was only born in 1989), and the top floor turned out to be a restaurant and bar. Two balconies pointed east and west, and we enjoyed a beer (Steve) and Namibian wine (me) overlooking the city.
The Independence Memorial Museum https://www.museums.com.na/museums/windhoek/independence-museum is a museum focusing on the anti-colonial resistance and the national liberation movement of Namibia. It was designed and built by Mansudae Overseas Projects, a North Korean firm. The entrance is flanked by two statues: Genocide Statue and Sam Nujoma Statue (on the site of the Reiterdenkmal equestrian statue). The museum was inaugurated 2014, the 24th anniversary of independence. The museum consists of a 5-storey triangular glass structure with two glass-fronted elevators. The first floor, "Colonial Repression", commemorates early resistance leaders of Namibia and the timeline of the country under South African rule. The second floor, "Liberation", commemorates the South African Border War and the role of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). The third floor, "Road to Independence", details the activities of SWAPO, United Nations Security Council Resolution 435, and a viewing platform of the Panoramic Hall of the museum. The fourth floor is the NIMS restaurant, from which there are views over the city.
From the balcony we could see into the Alte Feste (Old Fortress), a former fortress designed by captain Curt von François to serve as headquarters of the imperial German Schutztruppe. It was completed in 1915 and consists of an inner courtyard with high walls and accommodation for the troops on the inside, as well as four towers. Alte Feste is the oldest surviving building in the city which subsequently developed around it. It now serves the school next door and we watched both a concert there and a group of soldiers taking target practise. The Equestrian Monument, commonly known as Reiterdenkmal or Südwester Reiter (Rider of South West), created to honour soldiers that died on the German side of the Herero and Namaqua War was moved in 2009 from its original location opposite the Christuskirche due to public controversy and is now in storage in the courtyard of the Alte Feste. In the distance, on the hill, we could see Schwerinsburg (Schwerin's castle) the biggest of three castles in Windhoek. Today it is the private residence of the Italian ambassador in Namibia. Built in 1890 by von François, the tower of Schwerinsburg was sold in 1904 to architect Wilhelm Sander who converted it into a beer garden and named it Sperlingslust (lit. "Sparrows' delight”). In 1913 Hans Bogislav Graf von Schwerin, governor of the Gobabis District of German South-West Africa, bought Sperlingslust from Sander and engaged him to convert it into a castle. It was later named Schwerinsburg after the new owner. From the balcony the other side we looked over into The Parliament Building aka Tintenpalast (Ink Palace), is the seat of both houses of the Parliament of Namibia (National Council and National Assembly). It was designed by German architect Gottlieb Redecker with Neoclassical front façade 1912/13 using forced labour by Herero and Nama people who, having survived the Herero and Namaqua genocide, had been placed in concentration camps. As an allusion to the ink used by admin workers in the building, it was named Ink Palace. Tintenpalast is surrounded by the Parliament Gardens. Parliament Gardens is a small park in front of the Tintenpalast. It was laid out in 1932 and contains a bronze statue of Herero chief Hosea Kutako, who with two other Namibian nationalists, Hendrik Samuel Witbooi and Theophilus Hamutumbangela, flank the steps up to parliament's main entrance.
When we got back to the hotel, the room was ready (having kindly done us first). Some of the ubiquitous bulbuls sat chirping in the tree outside, birds we saw everywhere in Namibia. We asked the owner for restaurant suggestions and he recommended Joe’s Beerhouse. I phoned, as he suggested because it can get busy, for a reservation and they offered to collect us from the hotel. It was a great place to eat, though somewhat meat-heavy. Steve had a game special, which consisted of about 5 different animals. The outdoor venue is set up for communal dining (as they advertise). We had no problem with this, but a Dutch? couple next to us moaned constantly and “reported” the poor waitress to the management. We intervened for her; hardly her fault after all!

Posted by PetersF 14:06 Archived in Namibia Tagged namibia windhoek Comments (0)

Namibia Kalahari

Desert life and sunsets

10th September Kalahari
We left directly after breakfast, back to Nelson Mandela Av, then out on the main road, Robert Mugabe Av which became Auas Street, aka B1. This led quickly out of the city, south towards Rehoboth and Mariental. We passed Heroes Acre, and could see monolith from the road. We passed from Khomas to Hardap Region, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn soon after.
After some 250km we saw the turn for the C20 and the hotel, but needed petrol first, so we drove a bit further to Mariental. Then, as we were early, we decided to visit Hardap Dam. After driving up past part of the dam, we arrived at check point 1. It took a bit of admin to get in to; register as the first checkpoint with names and car reg, receive a chit, take the chit to the second check point to pay; finally enter the dam park! The area was totally empty; no other cars at all. We drove past the sluice bridge and ended at the very modern restaurant. Great views of the lake and nice (well priced) drinks and food. Another couple finally rocked up 20mins later, but otherwise we had it to ourselves.
Hardap, which is Namibia’s largest dam, is on Fish River. It was built in 1960 and the park around was created soon after. There are plenty of water (and other) birds to see there; we liked the pelicans and even spotted a Fish Eagle. The name Hardap is from the Nama word "nipple" or "wart", how the surrounding area of low conical-shaped hills appeared to the early inhabitants.
As we left we were rather surprised when a large antelope leapt over the fence along the roadside and proceeded to dart in front of us with very little notice. Luckily we were able to stop in time. It was a kudu, notorious for this!
Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) is found throughout central/ northern Namibia and is the second tallest antelope in Africa. Kudu bulls bear long, spiral horns which reach lengths of up to 1.8m. Kudu live in small herds of 12, mainly females and young, joined in breeding season by normally solitary males. They are a savannah woodland species. Kudu can also be found in broken, rocky terrain, under the cover of woodland with a nearby water supply. Despite their large size, kudu are agile and from a virtual standing start can jump great heights, easily clearing game fences of 2m or more. Kudu are a hazard to driving, especially at night as they can freeze in oncoming headlights. Such a large solid animal (with massive horns) can do serious damage. The kudu is predominately a browser on tree and shrub leaves, favouring fruits, pods and creepers. It is tawny- to grey-brown, marked with white stripes on the flanks which vary greatly in shape, size and pattern. It has a V-shaped band on the forehead and white spots on the cheeks. Manes of long hair extend from the back of the head along the back to the tail, as well as on the lower neck to the belly. The main calving period falls after mid-summer, when the grass is tallest; when a single calf is born. Bulls weigh up to 300kg, with a height of 1.4m. Usually only males have horns, but sometimes the females do.

Returning to the B1 it was only a few km to the C20 turn. After 20km we saw the gated entrance to the Kalahari Anib (Gondwana) Lodge. The security guard took our name and let us in.
In a place of burnished sands, Kalahari Anib Lodge is nestled in a lush green oasis under palm trees, set amidst the red dunes of the Kalahari Desert. Kalahari Anib Lodge offers freestanding chalets overlooking the savannah. All rooms are en suite with air condition and mosquito nets. The reception and a souvenir shop are sited in a freestanding building next to the bar and restaurant. The restaurant offers buffet dining. The bar is decorated, with two fireplaces set into 'sand pits' on either side of the room, allowing guests to enjoy the red Kalahari sand. Explore Gondwana Kalahari Park on the sunset drive and celebrate life a top a red Kalahari dune. Drink in the beauty of the Kalahari where gemsbok flourish and sociable weavers build gargantuan nests atop camelthorn trees. Step along the trails around the lodge, keeping eyes open for springbok, zebra and wildebeest; and after your meal how about a star walk in the veld nearby.
The friendly receptionist asked if we were going to swim, have a drink, or go for a hike. After a morning in the car we were up for a walk, so she gave us the map of their self-guided trails. It was hot, so we made sure we had sunscreen and water before heading out into the Kalahari on their Zebra Trail (not the longest, but still 8km and all we had time for). Within 20 minutes we’d spotted several male impala, mostly shading under trees, a small herd of springbok who’d been startled and were doing their springing thing, a variety of birds, and giraffe (in the distance). There were quite a few aardvark trails and holes, but being nocturnal, we didn’t seen any in the flesh.
The Kalahari Desert is a large semi-arid red sandy savannah covering 900,000 km2 in Southern Africa, covering parts of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Kalahari is derived from the Tswana word Kgala "the great thirst", or Kgalagadi "a waterless place"; as it has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface water. The Kalahari was not always a dry desert; fossil flora and fauna from Gcwihaba Cave in Botswana indicates the region was much wetter and cooler c30- 11,000 BC especially around 17,500 BC. Drainage of the desert is by dry black valleys, seasonally inundated pans and the large salt Etosha Pan. The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife. Ancient dry riverbeds, omuramba, traverse the central reaches and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season. As a semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains, the Kalahari supports more animals and plants than a true desert, such as the Namib Desert to the west. The Kalaharian climate is subtropical (average annual temperature ≥18 °C, peak 40 °C), and is semi-arid with the dry season during the "cold" season, the coldest six months of the year. The altitude prevents the Kalaharian climate being tropical; its altitude ranges 600-1600 m, generally 800-1200 m, winter frost is common June to August. The southwest Kalahari is the driest area, in particular in Namibia. The Kalahari is dominated by the Kalahari High anticyclone: The North and North-west is subject to "Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)/"Continental Trade winds” where boreal trade winds meet their austral counterparts; The rest of the Kalahari is subject to the maritime trade winds, that largely shed their moisture as they cross over the Southern African Great Escarpment before arriving over the Kalahari. There are huge subterranean water reserves beneath parts of the Kalahari; the Dragon's Breath Cave, in Grootfontein (Namibia) is the largest documented non-subglacial underground lake.
Due to its low aridity, the Kalahari supports a variety of flora. Native flora includes acacia trees and many other herbs and grasses. The kiwano fruit, aka horned melon, melano, African horned cucumber, jelly melon, or hedged gourd, is endemic to the Kalahari. Even where the Kalahari "desert" is dry enough to qualify as a desert in the sense of low precipitation, it is not strictly a desert because it has too dense a ground cover. In the south and west of the Kalahari, the vegetation is mainly Kalahari xeric savanna (Fish River Canyon aka Nama Karoo region), where typical savanna grasses include Schmidtia, Stipagrostis, Aristida, and Eragrostis; interspersed with trees such as camelthorn (Acacia erioloba), grey camelthorn (Acacia haematoxylon), shepherd's tree (Boscia albitrunca), blackthorn (Acacia mellifera), and silver cluster-leaf (Terminalia sericea). In areas where the climate is drier, it becomes a true semi-desert with ground not entirely covered by vegetation: "open" as opposed to "closed" vegetation (the Keetmanshoop area of Namibia). Although there are few endemic species, a wide variety of species are found in the region, including large predators such as lion (Panthera leo), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), leopard (Panthera pardus), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), brown hyena (Parahyaena brunnea), and African wild dog (Lycaon pictus pictus). Birds of prey include the secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) and other eagles, the giant eagle owl (Bubo lacteus) and other owls, falcons, goshawks, kestrels, and kites. Other animals include wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok and other antelopes, porcupines (Hystrix africaeaustralis) and ostriches (Struthio camelus). The biggest threat to wildlife are the fences erected to manage herds of cattle, a practice which also removes the plant cover of the savanna itself. The San people have lived in the Kalahari for 20,000 years as hunter-gatherers. They get most of their water requirements from plant roots and desert melons found in the desert. They often store water in the blown-out shells of ostrich eggs. Bantu-speaking Tswana, Kgalagadi, and Herero and a small number of European settlers also live in the Kalahari desert. The city of Windhoek is situated in the Kalahari Basin.
Acacia is a large genus of shrubs and trees in subfamily Mimosoideae of pea family Fabaceae. Initially, it comprised a group of plant species native to Africa and Australasia. The genus name is New Latin from Greek ἀκακία (akakia, thorn), a term used by Dioscorides for a preparation extracted from the leaves and fruit pods of Vachellia nilotica, the original type of the genus. By the early 2000s it was evident that several divergent lineages needed to be placed in separate genera. One lineage of over 900 species in Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia was not closely related to the smaller group of African lineage that contained A. nilotica, the type species. Vachellia/ Acacia nilotica aka gum arabic, babul, thorn mimosa, thorny acacia, is native to Africa, the Middle East and India. The tree is 5–20 m high with a dense spheric crown, stems and branches dark to black, fissured bark, grey-pink slash, exuding a reddish low quality gum. The tree has thin, straight, light, grey spines in axillary pairs. Flowers in globulous heads are a bright golden-yellow, set on peduncles 2–3 cm long at the end of the branches.
Acacia/Vachellia erioloba, camel thorn, giraffe thorn, a tree of southern Africa with a preferred habitat of deep dry sandy soils.The tree can grow up to 20m high. It is slow-growing, very hardy to drought and frost-resistant. The light-grey thorns reflect sunlight, and leaves close when it is hot. The wood is dark red-brown and extremely dense and strong. It is good for fires, which leads to widespread clearing of dead trees and felling of healthy trees. The seeds can be roasted as a substitute for coffee beans. Camel thorn refers to the fact that giraffe (kameelperd Afrikaans) commonly feed on the leaves with a specially-adapted tongue and lips that can avoid the thorns.
Acacia/ Senegalia mellifera is a common thorn tree in Africa. Mellifera refers to its sweet-smelling blossoms and honey. Its lumber turns pitch black when oiled. Common names include Blackthorn. It can occur either as a multi-trunked bush up to 7m high with a funnel-shaped crown, or as a single-trunked tree up to 9m. In Africa, it is used for fencing, livestock feed and building material. The wood is prized for fuel and charcoal. It is used in traditional African medicine and contains the psychoactive chemical DMT. The flowers are often eaten by kudu.
Boscia albitrunca, shepherd tree, caper family Capparaceae. Traditionally, the shepherd tree was used by Dutch settlers, boers, to create a variant of coffee from the roots of the tree. "Albitrunca" refers to the often white trunk. It is an evergreen tree native to southern Africa, in hot, dry areas, or occasionally rocky terrain. It is common in the Kalahari, bushveld and lowveld. It is one of the most important forage trees in the Kalahari. The tree can grow to 10 m tall but is usually much smaller. It has a prominent, sturdy white trunk with strips of rough, dark-coloured bark. The crown is often browsed by antelope and grazers that can reach the foliage, resulting in a conspicuous flattened underside or browse-line. The flowers are small, greenish-yellow, star-shaped, and clustered. A specimen found in central Kalahari in 1974 had roots 68m deep, the deepest known.
Terminalia sericea/ Silver cluster-leaf is a deciduous tree, genus Terminalia native to southern Africa. The name is Latin terminus "boundary" and describes the concentration of foliage at the very end of the twigs; "sericea" is from Latin sericatus "clothed in silken hair" and describes the downy foliage. The silver cluster-leaf grows to 9m in woodland but isolated trees can be up to 23m. The bark is red-grey brown and the flowers are white on short spikes. They smell unpleasant and are fly pollinated.
Cucumis metuliferus, horned cucumber, spiked melon, jelly melon, kiwano, or cuke-a-saurus, annual vine in cucumber/ melon family, Cucurbitaceae. Its fruit has horn-like spines. The ripe fruit has orange skin and lime green, jelly-like flesh. C. metuliferus is native to Southern Africa where it is a traditional food. Along with the Gemsbok cucumber (Acanthosicyos naudinianus) and Tsamma (Citron melon) it is one of the few sources of water during the dry season in the Kalahari Desert.
Our trail took us around the grasslands and ended at the foot of the red Kalahari dunes. As we headed back it was beginning to get a little cooler, but it was still lovely to take a dip in the pool, followed by a long drink at the bar. As we cooled down we looked at our itinerary again, before heading to reception to meet our driver for the 3hr sunset drive into the Kalahari. The drive was excellent; we saw loads of birds (inc Kori Bustard, Social Weavers a rare pair of Secretary birds) and animals (zebra, springbok, oryx, eland, and our favourite a family of giraffe). The guide was very knowledgeable and spent time stopping to show and explain aspects of the area, the flora as well as the fauna. After spotting various bachelor impala and springbok under lone trees, we stopped by an enormous Social Weavers nest in a camel thorn tree. This nest had over 100 birds nesting in it, but later in Gondwanaland we came across an even larger nest of about 400 birds! A great idea by these birds as it prevented snakes predating their nests, both by numbers (always an alarm call somewhere) and by the Tony nature of the tree. A further drive up and over dunes took us to a small group of zebra (really hard to spot) and a rather ruffled ostrich. The secretary birds were next, again not easy to spot initially in the long grass, but very visible as they took off to fly the short distance to their next prey, probably a snake. The silhouette of a giraffe alerted us to the family; a group of 2 males, 3 females and quite young ones. Crossing another dune into more a densely wooded area, we found a group of eland grazing, shortly followed by some roan. For a while we even followed a bat-eared fox, which is rare. We ended with sunset at the top of a red sand dune with the sun setting red and orange over the dunes and the giraffes, and the moon rising behind us. The copious supply of alcohol, with snacks, rendered the experience a real high. Then back in the dusk (fairly sure we spotted an aardvark) to a buffet dinner (with musical accompaniment) under the stars.
Social(be) Weaver In Namibia, sociable weavers (Philetairus socius) spend some 20% of their time at their colony, mainly involved in nest building/repairing duties. They inhabit arid dry savannah, and mopane woodland, as the ideal habitat for colonial and cooperative breeding. Philetairus is Greek for 'loving companions’. This bird is a small sparrow like weaver with a short tail whose distribution ranges from Etosha, south through central/ southern Namibia, Fish River Canyon, Swakopmund/ Walvis Bay and the Kalahari Desert. It forages in flocks throughout the day for seeds and arthropods and breeds in huge, domed communal nests.
Springbok (Antidorcas marsupilis) are graceful, relatively small antelope, members of the gazelle family, which generally occur in large herds. They have finely marked short coats: fawn-brown upper parts and a white belly, separated by a dark brown band. Springbok occur throughout Namibia; they are often the most common small antelope. They can be seen by the thousand in Etosha. They favour dry, open country, preferring open plains or savannah, and avoiding thick woodlands and mountains. They can subsist without water for long periods, if there is moisture in the plants they graze or browse. The springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) is one of the fastest antelopes. Both male and female carry lyrate horns which rise from the head and slope slightly backwards. The name marsupialis was added because of a pocket-like skin flap that extends along the middle of the back from the tail onwards. In times of mating, the male shows off his strength and to attract a mate, jumps into the air, which lifts the flap along his back. This action causes the long white hairs under the tail to stand up in a clearly visible fan shape, which in turn emits a strong floral scent of sweat. This stiff legged bouncing motion is known as pronking, an Afrikaans name meaning to show off or to boast. It is also initiated to ward off predators. The range of the springbok is amazing and they can be found in the Namib Desert, living on the sparse vegetation, the lush farmlands around Windhoek and in vast herds in Etosha, where they often mingle with herds of zebra and wildebeest, a predators delight Springbok browse in the dry season and graze in the wet. They will drink water when it is available, but most of their moisture requirements are satisfied by their food intake. They are also known to use mineral licks. Cinnamon coloured upper body, white underparts and a broad dark brown stripe on either flank stretching from the front legs to the rear legs. The short white tail is brown tufted. The rump is marked by a triangular-shaped white patch, framed by a dark brown stripe with the apex on the top of the hindquarters. Most ewes breed every year, some even twice. Young become sexually mature at the age of seven months. Rams may weigh up to 50kg and stand about 75cm at the shoulder and ewes slightly smaller and lighter at around 37kg.
Bat-Eared Fox (Otocyon megalotis) is so named because of its large ears, a characteristic of the species. They belong to the same family as jackals and resemble them, but are smaller. Other characteristic features are the broadly black tipped bushy tail (around 25cm long) and black limbs. They are monogamous and can often be found in groups comprising of just a mated pair and their offspring. Predators include large birds of prey, spotted hyenas and larger cats. If a family member is caught, other bat-eared foxes will attempt to rescue it by bravely attacking the predator using harassment techniques which include ankle-biting. Although not noisy animals they can also be heard calling one another with a shrill 'who-who-who' calls. They mark their territorial boundaries by urinating on bushes and trees. The bat-eared fox is an endangered species, mainly due to the trade in their skins. They follow the rains, which coincide with plentiful insect activity. They favour short grass with bare patches, instead of dense bush. The massive ears of the bat-eared fox allow it to detect invertebrates below ground. It will then dig frantically to unearth its favourite meal – termites. It also feeds on other insects such as beetles, small rodents, lizards, small snakes and wild fruit. Their fur is a beautiful silver-grey colour.
Eland (Taurotragus oryx) The name is from Dutch and means elk. They are the largest African antelope and both sexes have distinctive heavy, spirally twisted horns up to 1m in length. Eland herds are normally 6 -12 animals and are often found near zebras or giraffes, possibly in the hope of warding off lions. An interesting characteristic of an eland herd is that it includes a nursery for the calves. When threatened by predators the herd forms a front, with the large males taking the lead positions, whilst the calves and pregnant females are protected behind this fortress. Hunted extensively for their hide and flesh, and at times trained to work in harness, eland populations have greatly diminished over the years. In spite of its heavy physique, eland are agile and can easily jump over fences. Eland can be found on the farmland of north central Namibia (Outjo and Tsumeb), Kalahari Desert and Etosha (particularly around Namutoni). Elands are predominately browsers and prefer savannah scrub and leaves. They only eat grass in the summer, as it is not an important part of their diet. They drink water when it is available, but they are by not dependent on it, obtaining their moisture requirements from their food. They have been known to go up to a month without water. They are fawn in colour and the horns average about 65cm long. The male has a distinctive tuft of hair on his head and stouter horns than the female. A single calf is born to a mother after a gestation period of approximately 9 months. Calves can run with the herd a few hours after birth. They stand nearly 2m high at the shoulder, and a fully grown male may weigh over 700 kg. Females are smaller at 1.5m and weigh up to 460kg.
Secretary Birds (Sagittarius serpenarius) inhabit open grassland with trees and shrub, but is absent from rocky hills and dense woodland. The sight of them striding across their grassy range, head down on the lookout for prey is truly memorable. They can be active throughout the heat of the day, roosting singly or in pairs in the crown of thorn trees, or in their nests. Dust bathes during the day. Distribution: Etosha, northern Namib Desert, central/ southern Namibia, Kalahari Desert, Orange River. Diet: Eats small tortoises, large grasshoppers, locusts, amphibians, reptiles, birds and their eggs and rodents. Small mammals include striped polecat, hedgehogs and slender mongoose. Bird prey includes francolin, hornbills, laughing dove and red-capped lark. Snake prey includes puff adder, cobras and skinks, as well as various lizards. Serpentarius is Latin for 'pertaining to a snake' a reference to their diet. Description: Only at a distance can the secretarybird be confused with the blue crane, which has black, elongated and drooping tertials and bare, not feathered, upper legs. The upper parts of the secretarybird are mainly plain, bluish grey. Breeding: 1 and 3 eggs. Size: 150cm. Weight: 4kg.
Roan(Hippotragus equinus) is a very large antelope, only surpassed in size by the eland. The name refers to its colour and it is an endangered species in Namibia. They are gregarious and live in small herds of 5-12. Roan are not territorial, but the dominant bull defends his females from other males, as opposed to the territory within which they are living. They have recently been re-introduced to Waterberg Plateau Park. Roan are predominantly grazers on long grass. They are not 'close croppers' such as wildebeest or zebra, preferring grass heights of up to 1.5m. A brown body is tinged with strawberry. It has a black or very dark brown face, that extends to the neck, with a strongly contrasting white patch over the top of the muzzle, round the nostrils and onto either side of the lips and on to the chin. Females give birth to 1 calf. Males stand around 140cm at the shoulder and weigh up to 270kg, the females are slightly smaller and lighter. Both sexes carry horns.
Giraffe The giraffe is the tallest of all animals and the name is derived from the Arabic zarafah (one who walks quickly). The giraffe gets its great height from its legs, around 2m long and a neck which may be even longer. Two bony 'horns' grow from the skull and are covered by skin and hair. They are not true horns because they do not have a horny covering. Some giraffes also have one or more short hornlike bumps on the forehead. The horns of the female are smaller than those of the male. A giraffe can close its nostrils completely to keep out sand and dust (a handy trick in a dusty Namibia). It uses its long upper lip and its tongue, about 53cm long, to gather food from tree branches. Giraffes have good vision and seldom use their voice, though it can utter a variety of soft sounds. Despite the length of its neck, a giraffe only has 7 neck bones, the same number as humans and most other animals. A short mane grows along the back of the neck from the head to the shoulders. The sloping back measures about 1.5m from the base of the neck to the base of the tail. The tail is about 90cm long and ends in a tuft of long black hairs. A giraffe's hoofs are split into two parts; each consists of the hardened top of one toe. A giraffe's closest relative, and only other member of the giraffe family, is the okapi. Giraffes walk by moving both legs on one side of the body forward almost together and then both legs on the other side. When they gallop, both hind feet swing forward and land outside and in front of the front feet. Giraffes can gallop up to 56 km per hour, three times faster than a Windhoek taxi driver looking for passengers. A giraffe usually sleeps standing up. When lying down, it holds its neck upright or rests it on one of its hips or on a low tree limb. Female giraffes and their young often form small, loosely organised groups. They are joined from time to time by an adult male. Giraffes stay in the same general area for most of their lives, around 75km². A bull fights with another by butting its head against the neck or chest of its opponent. If a fight becomes serious, the powerful blows may be heard at a distance of 100m, however, the animals rarely injure each other. Lions are the only animals that attack adult giraffes; it may catch the victim lying down or ambush spring onto the giraffe's back. Giraffes defend themselves by kicking with their front feet, which is powerful enough to kill a lion. The tail hairs are used by some African tribes as bracelets and string. Hides are used for shields and twisted shredded tendons and ligaments to make bowstrings. Giraffes are found in Africa south of the Sahara, in small groups on grasslands. In Namibia they are common in Etosha, with wild free roaming populations in Kalahari, Damaraland & Kaokoland. Giraffes love acacia trees and browse leaves, twigs and fruit from trees that grow in scattered groves. A giraffe, like a cow, chews a cud, which is food that has entered the stomach but returned to the mouth for a second chewing. Giraffes can go without drinking water for many weeks and drink by spreading their forelegs far apart, or bending them forward, so that they can reach down to the water. This is when they are at their most vulnerable, so they are hesitant and visibly nervous when drinking. If they feel the slightest bit uncertain about the safety of the situation, then they'll forgo the opportunity altogether. Giraffe markings are of a tawny (light brown-yellow) to chestnut-brown colour. The lines that separate the patches are a lighter tawny or white. This pattern helps protect giraffes by making them hard to see when they stand amongst trees. Each individual giraffe has its own distinct coat pattern, adding to the camouflage effect. A female giraffe carries her young for about 15 months, before giving birth, generally to one baby, rarely twins. At birth, a calf may stand as tall as 1.8m and weigh as much as 68kg and can stand within an hour. The cow (female giraffe) can bear her first baby when she is 5 years old. In the wild, giraffes may live as long as 28 years. Male giraffes can grow to more than 5.5m, taller than the African elephant, the second tallest animal. The average male is around 5.2m and most females 4.3m. Even though giraffes tower over other animals, adult males weigh only about 1,200kg, 5x less than a male African elephant.
The Great Escarpment is a major topographical feature in Africa that consists of steep slopes from the high central Southern African plateau down in the direction of the oceans that surround southern Africa on three sides. While it lies predominantly within the borders of South Africa, in the east the escarpment extends northward to form the border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe, continuing on beyond the Zambezi river valley to form the Muchinga Escarpment in eastern Zambia. In the west, it extends northward into Namibia to the Khomas highlands and Angola. About 180 million years ago, a mantle plume under southern Gondwana caused bulging of the continental crust in the area that would later become southern Africa. Within 10–20 million years rift valleys formed on either side of the central bulge, which became flooded as the proto-Atlantic Ocean and proto-Indian oceans more or less along the present southern African coastline and separating the Southern Cape from the Falkland Plateau. The stepped, steep walls of these rift valleys formed escarpments that surrounded the newly formed Southern African subcontinent. During the past 20 million years, southern Africa has experienced further massive uplifting, especially in the east, with the result that most of the plateau lies above 1,000 m despite extensive erosion. The plateau is tilted such that it is highest in the east and slopes gently downward toward the west and south. Typically, the elevation of the edge of the eastern escarpments is in excess of 2,000 m. With the widening of the Atlantic, Indian, and Southern oceans, southern Africa became tectonically quiescent, with an almost uninterrupted period of erosion, removing layers many kilometers thick from the surface of the plateau and moving the present position of the escarpment approximately 150 km inland from the original fault lines that formed the walls of the rift valley along the coastline during the break-up of Gondwana. Because of erosion throughout most of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras, none of the plateau's surface rocks (except the Kalahari sands) are younger than 180 million years. The youngest rocks that remain cap the plateau in Lesotho on the steep side, laid down under desert conditions about 200 mya, topped by a 1600m thick layer of lava that erupted and covered most of southern Africa, and large parts of Gondwana, approx 180 mya.

Posted by PetersF 14:37 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals zebra namibia antelope giraffe kalahari springbok windhoek weavers Comments (0)

Namibia Fish River Canyon

the biggest in Africa, maybe the world

11th September Fish River Canyon

After a filling breakfast we left Kalahari Anib Lodge to head on south. It was back onto the B1 and past Mariental. En route a large group of baboons decided to park themselves in the middle of the road; a bit of a surprise. Shortly before Keetmanshoop we saw signs to the Garas Farm Quivertree Forest and decided to stop for a look.
Chacma Baboon (Papio ursinus) is a large monkey with a dog-like face and large, prominent canines, which give a more aggressive appearance than other primates. The chacma baboon lives in family groups of up to 150 individuals, with no single dominant male. Baboons are extremely common in central Namibia, often be seen on the side of the road. It is probably easier to list the food baboons don't eat as opposed to catalogue what is does. They forage for grass, seeds, roots, bulbs, flowers, bark, mushrooms, fruit, insects, small vertebrates and eggs. Grass is their most important item, which might go some way to explain why they forage around human areas, especially towards the end of the dry season. Regular access to drinking water is essential to their survival. There is a wide range of colour of individuals, which depends on sex, age and location. In Namibia they are often a 'grizzled' yellowish brown with a blackish band along the back, on the crown of the head and back. The male has a distinctive bright blue scrotum. Baboons do not have a definite breeding season and are sexually active throughout the year. Gestation is six months, after which a single young is born. Males measure 1.6m and weigh up to 45 kg; females 20 kg.
A fascinating attraction near Keetmanshoop: A large Quivertree Forest with thousands of quiver trees, close to Mesosaurus fossils and a picturesque dolerite rock field.
Aloidendron dichotomum, formerly Aloe dichotoma, the quiver tree or kokerboom, is a tall, branching species of succulent plant, indigenous to Southern Africa, specifically Northern South Africa, and Southern Namibia. Known as choje to the indigenous San, the quiver tree gets its English name from their practice of hollowing out the tubular branches to form quivers for their arrows. The dichotomum refers to how the stems repeatedly branch into two ("dichotomous" branching) as the plant grows. This species was moved to the genus Aloidendron as Aloidendron dichotomum in 2013. Three separate species, A. dichotomum (vulnerable), A. pillansii (critically endangered) and A. ramosissimum (endangered) inhabit the same arid areas of the Richtersveld/ Namib Desert. The three species can be distinguished; A. pillansii inflorescences hangs below the lowest leaves, rather than growing erect; A. ramosissimum is smaller, rarely more than 2m and more shrub-like shape. A. pillansii has a different flowering time and therefore can not interbreed with the other two species. One of the few examples of spontaneous forests of A. dichotomum is the Quiver Tree Forest,14 km north of Keetmanshoop, in Namibia. Throughout much of its range this species is in decline. A. dichotomum lives in arid areas; its slow growth, hard habitat and relative rarity makes it difficult to keep outside of its natural habitat. Quiver Tree Forest (Kokerboom Woud in Afrikaans) is located on the road to Koës, on Gariganus farm. It comprises about 250 specimens of Aloidendron dichotomum. The forest is spontaneous; the tallest trees are two to three centuries old. The forest was declared a national monument of Namibia in 1995. The quiver tree is also known for looking upside down because the "leaves" look somewhat similar to roots. This tree is supposed to bring good luck to anybody that worships and nurtures it. San people say that if one of these trees is dug up, one will get diamonds in their lifetime, but since the trees are sacred nobody wants to dig them up. As part of the forest, there is geological natural interest, the Giant's Playground, a vast pile of large dolerite rocks.
We arrived in Keetmanshoop, a larger town than we expected, and filled up with petrol, before heading on the B4 towards Lüderitz. It wasn’t long, maybe 25km, before we turned left, off the nice tarmac of the B4, onto the sandy D545 towards Naute Dam. This “road” was a rather windy, undulating track and near the dam had the added difficulty of occasionally being a flooded muddy mess. A brief turn leftish (not signposted) onto the C12 (with a crossed fingers we were on the right road as the GPS said we’d left the road entirely), then, thank heavens, after 50km a signpost to turn right towards Canyon Roadhouse on the C37 (about 15km). Due to the speed we could drive we arrived just after lunch (5hrs, 400km), but they were more than happy (a friendly bunch) to give us a late lunch snack. https://store.gondwana-collection.com/accommodation/canyon-roadhouse
The lodge, which we discovered had recently been taken over by the Gondwana collection (same as Kalahari Anib) was in the middle of nowhere (goodness knows where the staff come from), filled with super friendly staff. Resembling a roadhouse of old with a large red roof, The Canyon Roadhouse is a veritable treasure-house and 'must-do' stop when visiting the canyon. The outside area hints of the wonderland interior with its rusty old Chevys and Fords from a bygone era, adorned with corky quiver trees and desert flora. The large doors open onto a truck serving as the reception desk, a 'pompstasie' (filling station) bar and assortment of classic vehicles and transport paraphernalia assembled with an innovative and creative flair - and a good deal of humour! Restaurant tables are placed in between and the cabs of several cars serve as zany fireplaces in the chilly winter months. Large attractive rooms, positioned around courtyards have en-suite bathrooms, double beds, a/c and mosquito nets. The lodge is interestingly decorated with old car parts found in the region. Antiques adorn the inside, such as an old gas burning stove with a beaten copper kettle on top. Out back there is a swimming pool and sun-deck, tucked in between indigenous succulents such as hoodias and aloes. Sunset is best appreciated from the hill above the lodge looking out onto the flat-topped Holoog Mountain and the Gondwana Canyon Park. A sundowner drive and walks on their unguided trails can be organised at Canyon Roadhouse, a perfect base to explore the wonders of Namibia's Fish River Canyon.
We decided to try their trail so Steve asked for directions. Easy, just a 5k walk, follow the painted footprints…. which turned out to be a 10k walk, although generally the footprints were there. Past the campsite, up a hill for the view, along the escarpment which opened to a vast plateau, a stop at Archway Rock for the view, a surprise (and surprised) herd of zebra, before circling back to our hotel. I was interested in the strange rocks in the park, which I later found to be gneiss, a common metamorphic rock formed by high-temperature and high-pressure metamorphic processes acting on formations composed of igneous or sedimentary rocks. Gneiss forms at higher temperatures and pressures than schist and nearly always has a banded texture characterised by alternating darker and lighter coloured bands and without a distinct cleavage. Gneisses are common in the ancient crust of continental shields. Some of the oldest rocks on Earth are gneisses, such as the Acasta Gneiss. Gneisses that are metamorphosed igneous rocks are termed granite gneisses, diorite gneisses, etc. Gneiss rocks may also be named after a characteristic component such as garnet gneiss, biotite gneiss, albite gneiss, etc. Orthogneiss is a gneiss from an igneous rock, and paragneiss from a sedimentary rock.
The were a surprising number of flowering plants and we became quite good at spotting them. These included Devil's thorn flower (Tribulus zeyheri) in the family Zygophyllaceae, found in diverse climates and soils worldwide from latitudes 35°S to 47°N. Tribulus species are perennial. The flowers are perfect (hermaphroditic) and insect-pollinated, with fivefold symmetry. Another was a pretty Karoo Violet (Aptosimum), as well as a tiny aloe plant between the rocks.
History of Gondwana Canyon Park. The area of the park was originally utilised for extensive sheep farming which resulting in over grazing, a common problem in the arid south of Namibia. This, paired with annual average rainfall of 100 ml led to the destruction of the flora. In 1996 a group of Namibians bought the farms and converted it to a protected nature reserve. A team of rangers was trained, sheep farming was abandoned and local game was re-introduced. Fences within the reserve were taken down to grand roaming space to the wildlife and new watering holes for the wildlife were created. Today the Gondwana Canyon Park covers an area of more than 125.000 hectare. Visitors can enjoy watching giraffes, mountain zebras, oryx antelopes, kudus, springbuck, ostriches, a leopard and other local species all adapted to the harsh climate. The ranger team is convinced that a major part of the original flora has recovered and that the measures taken for re-cultivating the area were successful. Income generated by the 4 lodges and the park fees is invested directly into the conservation of the Gondwana Canyon Park.
The restaurant tables were all attached to old cars and trucks, and the food was hearty (Steve naturally tried their famous Amarula Cheesecake). We were very glad we’d decided to do the Sundown tour the next evening because it blew a gale from early evening on.
Plain Sand Lizard (Pedioplanis inornata) is a small species endemic to Namibia. It is similar in size to Waterberg sand lizard with the tail just over twice the length of the head and body, grey-brown back with a network of pale green spots on the sides. It can be observed foraging around succulent vegetation on open bedrock surfaces on the lower reaches of mountains in South-west Namibia from Orange River to Swakopmund. It feeds on small insects.

Khoekhoen (sing Khoekhoe) (Khoikhoi; formerly Hottentots) are the traditionally nomadic pastoralist indigenous population of southwestern Africa, often grouped with the hunter-gatherer San (lit "Foragers"). "Khoekhoe" is not an ethnic endonym, but has been used as an ethnic term for Khoe-speaking peoples of Southern Africa, particularly pastoralist groups, such as the !Ora, !Gona, Nama, Xiri and ǂNūkhoe nations. While the presence of Khoekhoen in Southern Africa predates the Bantu expansion, based on linguistic evidence, it is not clear when they began inhabiting the areas (possibly the Late Stone Age). By the 17th century, the Khoekhoen maintained large herds of Nguni cattle in the Cape region. The Khoekhoe language is related to certain dialects spoken by foraging San peoples of the Kalahari, such as the Khwe and Tshwa, forming the Khoe language family. The main Khoekhoe subdivisions today are the Nama of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, the ǂNūkhoeǃhaos of Namibia, the !Orana of South Africa, the Xirikua or Griekwa of South Africa, and the AmaGqunukhwebe or !Gona who fall under Xhosa-speaking polities. The Xirikua clans (Griqua) developed their own identity in the 19th century and settled Griqualand. They are related to the Rehoboth Basters.
The broad ethnic designation of "Khoekhoen", ie peoples originally of a pastoral culture and language group across Southern Africa, refers to a population originating in northern Botswana and spreading south. "Khoekhoe" include ǀAwakhoen and ǀKx'abakhoena; both mean "Red People", equivalent to the IsiXhosa term "amaqaba". Husbandry of sheep, goats and cattle grazing in fertile valleys across the region allowed them to spread, with larger groups forming in a region previously occupied by subsistence foragers. Ntu-speaking agriculturalists entered in the 3rd century AD, pushing pastoralists west. The close relation between ǃUriǁ’aes (High clan), a cattle keeping population, and the !Uriǁ’aeǀ’ona (High clan children), a more sedentary forager population (aka "Strandlopers"), both occupying ǁHuiǃgaeb, shows that a distinction between “Khoekhoe pastoralists”, “San hunter-gatherers” and “Bantu agriculturalists” does not hold up to scrutiny. Khoe-speaking people traded with seafarers for centuries, going back into ancient times, and this undoubtedly included some Europeans, perhaps even Romans, although Portuguese explorers and merchants are the first to record contact in the 15th C. In 1510 Battle of Salt River, Francisco de Almeida and fifty of his men were killed by ox-mounted !Uriǁ’aekua ("Goringhaiqua" Dutch spelling), one of the Khoekhoe clans, probably ancestors of the !Ora nation. In the late 16th century, Portuguese, French, Danish, Dutch and English ships regularly stopped in Table Bay en route to the Indies to trade tobacco, copper and iron for fresh meat. Local population dropped after smallpox was spread by Europeans. Military conflict intensified with colonial expansion as the United East India Company (Dutch) began to enclose traditional grazing land for farms. Khoe-speaking people were driven off, resulting in migration, and the dissolution of many traditional structures. Many Khoekhoen settled on farms and became bondsmen; or were incorporated into clans that persisted. Georg Schmidt, a Moravian Brother from Saxony, founded Genadendal in 1738, in the Riviersonderend Mountains. The colonial "Baasters" came to refer to any clan that had European ancestry in some part and adopted Western culture, later known as Griqua (Xirikua, Griekwa) eg the Baster community of Rehoboth, Namibia. In the late 18th century, Oorlam communities migrated north to escape Dutch conscription, to Namaqualand and settled places earlier occupied by the Nama. Some of these emigrants, led by outlaw Jager Afrikaner and his son Jonker Afrikaner, retained links to Oorlam communities. In the face of Boer expansion, Jonker Afrikaner brought his people into Namaqualand by the mid-19th century, leading Oorlam domination over the Nama and Hereros. 1904-07, the Germans fought Khoekhoe living in South-West Africa. Over 10,000 Nama, more than half the Nama, died in the conflict, the greatest massacre ever of the Khoekhoe people.
The religion of Khoe-speaking cultures gives special significance to the Moon, as the physical manifestation of a supreme being associated with heaven. Thiǁoab (Tsui'goab) is the creator and the guardian of health, while ǁGaunab is primarily an evil being, who causes sickness or death.
Khoekhoe people are classified into two groups: Northern Khoekhoe (mainly Namibia) & Southern or Cape Khoekhoe (South Namibia/ SA)
Northern Khoekhoe/ Nama/ Namaqua have 11 clans. Among the Namaqua are the Oorlams, a southern Khoekhoe mixed-race people that trekked north over the Orange River and absorbed Nama identity. Oorlams are made up of 5 small clans. The Namaqua inhabit the Great Namaqualand region of Namibia. There are also minor Namaqua clans in Little Namaqualand regions south of the Orange River in South Africa.

12th September Fish River Canyon

Hikers viewpoint
We had booked the morning drive to Fish River Canyon, and were the only people, which was even better! The guide looked askance at our clothing and it turned out to be rather colder than we’d expected at first. Thanks goodness for the included rugs! The open 4x4 took us through Gondwana Park first, where Steve managed to loose his hat (a normal occurrence for him!), but we re-found it. The guide explained how this area had originally been filled with enormous farms, mainly of cattle and goats, whose grazing the ecosystem cannot manage. The farmers have now been bought off and removed, so the region is slowly regenerating. Then we entered Fish River Canyon through the Hobas Gate to pay our fees. Our guide-driver drove us along the canyon edge (actually quite close at some points), past the few other tourists (in minibuses) to the Hike start point. This gave an amazing view of the whole area, almost at sunrise, so the shadows and light were great.
He dropped us off and we walked along the canyon edge (in the opposite direction to all the other people) to end at the view point.

After a short break, he decided to drive us off the beaten track to a variety of different viewpoints (none on any established track), some of which even he had never visited before. He was particularly interested in the local euphorbia.
Euphorbia is a very large and diverse genus of flowering plants, commonly called spurge, in the family Euphorbiaceae. Euphorbias range from tiny annual plants to large and long-lived trees. The genus has roughly 2,000 members, one of the largest genera of flowering plants, as well as one of the largest ranges of chromosome counts. Euphorbia antiquorum is the type species for the genus. Succulent euphorbias from the deserts of Southern Africa have evolved physical characteristics and forms similar to cacti of America, through convergent evolution. Euphorbia all have a poisonous, latex-like sap and unique floral structures. When viewed as a whole, the head of flowers looks like a single flower (pseudanthium). It has a unique pseudanthium, called a cyathium, where each flower in the head is reduced to its barest essential part needed for sexual reproduction. Individual flowers are either male or female, with the male flowers reduced to only the stamen, and the females to the pistil. There are no petals, or other parts typical of flowers in other plants. It is the only genus of plants that has all three kinds of photosynthesis, CAM, C3, C4. The milky sap (latex) evolved as a deterrent to herbivores. It is white, and transparent when dry. The pressurised sap seeps from the slightest wound and congeals after a few minutes in air. The skin-irritating and caustic effects are largely caused by varying amounts of diterpenes, triterpenes such as betulin and corresponding esters. In contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth), the latex produces extremely painful inflammation, including mild to extreme Keratouveitis, which affects vision. Latex on skin should be washed off immediately; congealed latex is insoluble in water, but can be removed with soap. Severe eye damage including permanent blindness may result from exposure to the sap
As we began back we covered increasingly difficult terrain, from loose gravel like soil, to flat salt pans and black fine-grain soil with little to no vegetation. The ground became extremely undulating and we almost stranded the vehicle on the top on one hillock! In the wet season the area would have been fairly impassable, given the number of dried or nearly dried up rivulets.
The Fish River Canyon features a gigantic ravine, in total about 160 km long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 m deep. Fish River is the longest interior river in Namibia. It cuts deep into the plateau which is today dry, stony and sparsely covered with hardy drought-resistant plants. The river flows intermittently, flooding in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow pools. The hot springs resort of Ai-Ais is at the lower end of the Fish River Canyon. Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon worldwide after Grand Canyon in the USA. The Canyon forms part of the state-run IAis-IAis/ Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Entrance to the Park is situated 10 km from the well-known view point Hell`s Bend at Hobas Restcamp where visitors have to report. The Canyon/ Fish River Hiking Trail can be conducted during Apr–Sept and completed within 4 to 5 days. It covers a length of 85 km and the descent into the Canyon is only allowed for hikers doing the trail; day-visitors are not allowed. Fish River is 800 km long and thus the longest river of Namibia. Its source is the eastern Naukluft Mountains. After 200 km the river flows into Hardap Dam which is the largest water reservoir of the country with a circumference of 30 km and a surface area of 28 km². Fish River does not carry water continuously, only during the rainy season the river turns into a torrent. During the dry season sporadic pools supply water to many animals. Fish River Canyon commences at Seeheim, at the lower course of the River. The Canyon is 161 km long, 27 km wide and up to 550m deep. Fish River Canyon ends at Ai Ais and the river then flows into the Orange River, the border to South Africa. The oldest rocks in Namibia (gneiss) were cut by the Fish River over a billion years ago. A mighty mountain range eroded down to a vast plain flooded by the ocean 650 mya. Then 350 mya the formation of Fish River Canyon started. A vast graben formed along old tectonic faults and formed the broad ancient valley of the Fish River. The graben edges, more than 20 km apart, today form the upper edges of the canyon. After the formation of the graben structure 300 mya the riverbed was still 300 m higher than today. The Gondwana-Glaciation glaciers further deepened the graben. With the separation of Gondwana 120 mya and the uplifting of the African continent the gradient of Fish River increased allowing it to erode even deeper into the rock. Today the deepest point of the canyon is 549 m.
Wild Fig Bend
Fish River canyon consists of an upper canyon, where river erosion was inhibited by hard gneiss bedrocks, and a lower canyon formed after erosion had finally worn through the gneiss. Upstream, the river runs through horizontal dolomite strata; metamorphic rocks that formed part of the canyon. About 650 million years ago (Mya), plate movement formed a north-south graben (lowered area), along which the ancient Fish River could flow and eventually erode a flat plain, today's upper canyon. Glaciation at 300 Mya, part of the Dyka glaciation during the Karoo Ice Age, further deepened the canyon. About 60 Mya, South America and Africa (as Gondwana) separated and Africa rose significantly; the consequentially increased gradient of Fish River enabled it to erode the lower canyon into the hard gneisses, forming the current deeply twisting, meandering system of the lower canyon.
Descent to Sulphur Springs through sand and boulders (2 pics); Sulphur Springs to Three Sisters over river stones and firmer ground (2 pics); Three Sisters to Ai-Ais via wider canyon and to trail end (2 pics)
The trail starts from the car park 13km west from Hobas. The descent is steep and chains are provided to assist hikers over the first 100m. Thereafter the unmarked path follows a gravel trail to the beach at the bottom. The trail can be divided into three notable sections:
The descent down to Sulphur Springs (aka Palm Springs) through the narrowest section of the canyon, layered with big boulders, rocks and deep sand making hiking slow.
The route from Sulphur Springs to Three Sisters on firmer ground with river stones and frequent river crossings. At 50km an optional crossing of Kooigoed Ridge to Barble Pools and German Soldier's grave via Vasbyt Nek.
From Three Sisters to ǀAi-ǀAis the canyon widens out. Optional Bandage Pass between Causeway and Fools Gold Corner.
We got back in time for a late lunch outside, followed by a leisurely coffee on the room patio. In the tree was a group of African Red-Eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus nigricans). They live in a wide range of habitats that include arid and semi-arid regions, as long as there is water and patches of trees and shrubs. This includes dry woodland, riverine bush and shrubby watercourses. They are a common visitor to gardens in drier regions of Namibia, usually grateful for a full bird bath to drink from. Blackish (nigricans) dark chin and throat. Often mistaken for the dark-capped bulbul which has black, not orange, eye rings. This species also has a thickly feathered (Pycnonotus) back. Distribution: Common and widespread throughout Namibia except the southern Namib Desert. Diet: Will eat a wide variety of fruits, swallowing berries whole. Also eats flower petals and probes flowers for nectar. Partial to spiders and insects as well. Breeding: Usually 2 or 3 eggs are laid between December and February in a nest made of dry grass and twigs, held together by spider web. Size: 20cm. Weight: 30g. We set off with same driver for our Sundowner tour at 4pm, this time well clothed!
Experience the wild expanse of Gondwana Canyon Park; Namibia’s Eden. Sundowner Drive Gondwana Canyon: 3 hr drive to acquaint yourself with the geology, flora, fauna ND692 (€40) evening drive huge grasshopper, vultures, jackal, over grazed areas.
We crossed straight over the road from the lodge into the private Gondwana Canyon Park, and drove directly into the bush. Initially we saw mainly zebra, ostrich and groups of antelopes (mainly springbok, impala and oryx), through an area of shrub and low trees. Some larger quiver trees had ENORMOUS Social weaver nests in them. As we drove towards the hills we saw several large birds of prey, mainly eagles, using the evening currents to soar over their preying fields. Heading then towards more open grassland, we saw several herds of various antelope types. Something (not us) had spooked them and they were going hell-for-leather in front of us, then suddenly stopped, looked around as if surprised they were running and proceeded to start grazing again. As we continued the guide stopped by a small fenced area where the farmers used to corral their goats. In the two decades since they had left the area was still totally barren; mainly due to their urine. Towards the escarpment base we heard an odd owl-like noise; a pair of hunting jackals, said our guide. Very lucky to see them!
Side-Striped Jackal (Canis adustus) superficially resembles its more well-known cousin, the black-backed jackal, due to its white-tipped tail and similar size. They hunt alone or in pairs, in a territory they defend. Its snout is blunter and ears shorter than the black-backed, and they favour plains. Unlike the black-backed jackal, it avoids open savannah grassland. Main peaks of activity are just before sunrise and at dusk. Owl-like and explosive hoots are a part of their varied vocal repertoire. They eat less than other jackals, with wild fruit a favourite, as are small mammals and insects and occasionally reptiles. Carrion will be eaten if found. They have a greyish coat with a white-tipped tail and a white stripe on their flanks. Litters consist of 4-6, born in holes in the ground, usually disused aardvark holes, with an added second entrance.
Heading towards higher ground was a large acacia tree with a magnificent pair of Lappet-faced vultures. They let us approach quite close before finally taking off. Funnily we saw them later in another part of the park.
Lappet-Faced Vultures (Aegypius tracheliotus) inhabit open woodland in dry and semi-dry regions often with acacia trees, shepherds tree and mopane. Waterholes and pans are a great location to view these vultures, usually late morning to afternoon, roosting singly or in pairs. Lappet-faced vultures spend much of their time in flight gliding and soaring, as opposed to flapping their wings. They live throughout Namibia inc Etosha Park, Namib and Kalahari Deserts. They tend to arrive at carcasses later than most other vultures when they dominate the feeding proceedings, but will eat anything from vervet monkey to antelope, elephant to domestic stock. They have strong, deep bills, strong feet, long toes, long broad wings 2.5m, but a relatively short neck with a ruff of short brown feathers.Tracheliotus is a Greek meaning for 'gristly ears' a reference to the head and neck wattles. They make stick nests up to 2m long lined with dry grass.
After another hour or so, during which the most enormous grasshopper landed on me, we stopped at the top of the escarpment by a beautiful quiver tree. The sunset was truly amazing, the best we saw in Namibia, with every colour you could imagine from red, orange and yellow to intense violet, indigo, blue and finally to black studded with stars (and a wonderful view of the Southern cross). As we drove back an aardwolf crossed our road, but no photo in the dark (shame!)
Acanthoplus discoidalis is a species in the Hetrodinae, a subfamily of the katydid family (Tettigoniidae). Common names inc armoured katydid, armoured ground cricket, corn cricket, setotojane and koringkriek. The species is native to Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The common names are misleading; the species is not closely related to true crickets. It is a wide-bodied, flightless species that typically grows to a body length of about 5 cm. The pronotum bears several sharp, conical spines. The mandibles are powerful; they can inflict a painful nip and they permit the insect to feed on material such as tough herbage or carrion. A defense against predators is reflex bleeding (autohaemorrhaging) in which they squirt haemolymph from pores in their exoskeleton, achieving a range of a few centimetres. Another defensive response is to regurgitate their stomach contents when attacked. A. discoidalis is omnivorous and feeds opportunistically on many different foods. When their diet is deficient in protein, members commonly become cannibalistic.

Posted by PetersF 14:04 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals fish desert sunset canyon river namibia Comments (0)

Orange River, feral horses and ghost towns

Orange River via Namib-Naukluft to Aus; Garub feral horses; Luderitz and Kolmanskop

13th September Orange River and Aus

Having heard people discuss the Orange river route with the local guide we decided to go this way to Aus; although further it is much prettier and interesting. It meant crossing the canyon park, over the plains and mountains and ending at the Orange river which forms the border with South Africa. We filled up with petrol at The Canyon Roadhouse lodge which has its own fuel station, complete with retro pump.
We left, heading back towards Fish River on the D324 and instead of turning to Hobas we continued along the main road which runs parallel to the canyon. This road gave us amazing views into the canyon itself as we crossed the high plateau before cutting through the mountains.
Having reached the T-junction that was the C10 we turned left, cutting through the mountains still until the crossroads with the D316. Here the main C10 continued into Ai-Ais, but we took the left turn onto the D316, which was a much rockier, less mainstream road. To our right the highest peak was Mount Dreikopf. The mountains became hills and the hills turned into a dusty, salty plain (probably a pan) which was the change from Gondwana Canyon Park to Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, not that anyone would know apart from the odd sign.
Not long after we turned right onto an even less good road, the C37 and skirted the edge of the pan (also the frontier between Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier and Aussenkehr Parks). In all this time we’d seen… 1 other car! To the left was the pan, but to the right red hills began to rear up. For quite a while we followed the Gamkab/Gamchab River, which flows into the Orange River, driving along Gamkab River Canyon. Finally we descended through more mountains to arrive at Aussenkehr, a ramshackle ?town on the banks of the Orange River.
This whole area, from Fish River to Orange River is still inhabited by the Nama people. Nama (in older sources Namaqua) are an African ethnic group of South Africa and Namibia. They traditionally speak the Nama language (Khoe-Kwadi language family). The Nama (or Nama-Khoe) are the largest group of Khoikhoi. Many Nama clans live in Central Namibia and Namaqualand, which straddles the border with South Africa. For thousands of years, the Khoisan maintained a nomadic life, the Khoikhoi as pastoralists and the San people as hunter-gatherers. The Nama are a Khoikhoi group. The Nama originally lived around the Orange River, where early colonialists referred to them as Hottentots. Namaqua is from Khoekhoe language suffix "-qua/kwa", meaning "place of” + nama.
In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck, of the Dutch East India Company, arrived at the Cape of Good Hope with 90 people to start a Dutch settlement at the request of the company. They found the indigenous settlers called the Khoikhoi there, who had settled in the Cape region at least a thousand years before the Dutch arrived. Van Riebeek initially attempted to get cattle, land, and labour from the Khoikhoi people through negotiation, but when this failed, the Dutch settlers waged wars against the Khoikoi, and seized their lands and livestock. During the 18th/19th centuries, as Dutch settlement was expanding, the colony pushed the Khoikhoi east and north. Some descendants of Khoikhoi communities, including the Nama, crossed the Orange River into German South West Africa (Namibia). In 1991, a part of Namaqualand (home of the Nama and one of the last true wilderness areas) was named the Richtersveld National Park and in 2002, ancestral lands, including the park, were returned to community ownership as South Africa and Namibia created a trans-frontier park, now one of the few places where the original Nama traditions survive. There, the Nama move with the seasons and speak their language. The traditional Nama dwelling, |haru oms, or portable rush-mat covered domed hut is easy to move when grazing becomes scarce. Some Khoikhoi groups including the Nama under the leadership of David Witbooi (Hendrik Witbooi's grandfather) crossed the Orange River in 1863, and settled in Gibeon (south-central Namibia). After his death in 1875 Moses Witbooi (Hendrik Witbooi's father) assumed chieftaincy and remained in that position until 1883. In 1884 Hendrik Witbooi was leader, and began to move his people north into central Damaraland, in Hoornkrans. However, Hoornkrans was an important stronghold territory controlled by the Herero, powerful Bantu pastoralists led by Chief Maharero. This sparked a protracted military conflict between the two tribes. However, a few months before the conflict began, Maharero had agreed a protection agreement with the newly arrived German colonial administration. In 1886, Reichskomissar Göring wrote to Witbooi, encouraging him to end his hostile actions and return to Gibeon. Witbooi ignored this warning and continued his campaign for dominance against the Herero. Göring wrote Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck and described the overall situation as "not very encouraging”. He threatened war against Witbooi and his tribe if he did not halt his attacks against groups allied with Germany. In 1893 Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm ɪɪ appointed Curt von François as Landeshauptmann. A fanatic, François called Witbooi a mere "tribesman" whom he could defeat easily, saying his predecessors acted weakly in dealing with the Nama chief and made too many concessions. François believed that nothing but relentless severity would end Witbooi's resistance and in 1893 launched a surprise attack on Witbooi at Hoornkrans to "destroy the Witbooi Nama tribe". Witbooi and majority of his male soldiers escaped, but German troops killed nearly one hundred Namaqua women and children in their sleep. In a series of skirmishes that lasted for more than a year the Namaqua had great success, stealing horses and livestock from the German headquarters in Windhoek. At the end of 1893 Theodor Leutwein replaced Von François, to investigate the continuing failure to subdue the Nama. By 1894 Leutwein had successfully subdued the Nama and forced Hendrik to sign a protection treaty. In 1904 Kaiser Wilhelm replaced Leutwein with Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha, who also believed that violence would put an end to the wars. He employed a policy of extermination of the whole African tribes in the colony. From 1904-08, the German Empire waged a war against the Nama and Herero culminating in the Herero Namaqua genocide. Nama and Herero were driven into the desert and in some cases interned in concentration camps on the coast, and used as slave labour. At the dawn of the 19th century, Oorlam people encroached into Namaqualand and Damaraland. They likewise descended from indigenous Khoikhoi but had mixed ancestry including European. After two centuries of assimilation into Nama culture, many Oorlams today regard Khoikhoigowab (Damara/Nama) as their mother tongue. In general the Nama practice a policy of communal land ownership. Music, poetry and story telling are very important in Nama culture and many stories have been passed down orally through the generations. Traditionally, Nama camps had 5-30 huts. These huts had circular domes and their doors faced into the centre. Livestock sleep in front of their owners huts, with calves and lambs in an enclosed area in the middle. Namas have a complicated wedding ritual. First the man has to discuss his intentions with his family. If they agree they all go to ask the bride's family. The groom's family ask for the gate to be opened. If granted, the groom is interrogated about details of the bride, including the circumstances of their first meeting and how to identify her to make sure both know each other well. The wedding preparations can take up to one year. The families of both bride and groom make gift to others mother, traditionally a cow.
Having finally arrived at the Orange River we thought we had arrived at a great tarmac road. This was true for… about 5km, before it became a dusty track which fell into the river. No wonder you are advised to check before you head to this road. it is frequently closed in times of rain as it floods with fast-moving water. There were barriers at both ends to prevent anyone using the road at these times. However, it was dry season, and the road was passable. For quite some time we followed the river, which always has water and is rather attractive. Most of the vegetation and animals lived in a strip along the river bank, including a rather large troupe of vervet monkeys who ran in front of us. After a while the road turned sharply right and headed directly into the mountains; still no there cars either. We crossed several ephemeral river beads, and higher up in one place even spotted a klipspringer bounding across the rocks in front of us. The road was fairly challenging as the surface was poor and dusty, and ascended/ descended some fairly substantial mountains.
Eventually we descended back to meet up again with the river, at the point where Fish River joins it. Sometimes in dry season Fish River dries up completely, but this year there was still some water. In Orange river, being permanent, we saw a number of water birds, including an enormous flock of pelicans who glided around with the sun shining on them. We passed a number of small camp sites, several entrances to diamond and copper mines, and eventually crossed a weir across the Orange River, with some ibis casually fishing.
Some further mountains to climb, and a very narrow road along the river and we finally reached the barrier that ended the road. Here we turned right towards Rosh Pinah (whilst left led directly to SA). In all the time since leaving Canyon Roadhouse we counted 5 cars, 0 settlements and 2 bike riders. It would not do to have a puncture or run out of petrol!
We arrived at Rosh Pinah at lunchtime, so stopped to fill up with fuel, both for the car and for us! As usual our fuel was served by a petrol attendant; they have no concept of filling your own car in Namibia!
Vervet Monkey (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) is a predominately savannah woodland species, generally absent from open scrubland and grass, but will penetrate unsuitable terrain along rivers to find fruit trees. This adventurous streak accounts for commando-style raids on lodges and campsites. The vervet are highly social, and live in well-organised troops. The dominant hierarchy is maintained by threat; fighting is one-sided and non-retaliatory. When bitten, the male redirects its anger to the next member down the order. Its main habitats are along Orange River, rocky hills in the Grootfontein and Tsumeb districts. Vervet monkeys are omnivorous, feeding on fruit, flowers, leaves and insects, which constitutes the bulk of their diet; even when hungry they usually storedin their cheek pouches. They are silver-grey hair with a black face fringed with white. The male vervet has a bright blue scrotum, an important symbol of status, as a green one is a sign of immaturity! Troops will accept strange young juveniles.
Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus) is a strongly built little antelope, easily identified by its dark, bristly grey-yellow coat, slightly speckled appearance and unique habitat preference. Klipspringer means 'rockjumper' in Afrikaans, an apt name for an antelope which occurs exclusively in mountainous areas. They are common in Namibia, wherever rocky hills or kopjes are found. The klipspringer has two adaptations found in no other antelope. The first is the hoof structure: the klipspringer is able to walk on the hoof tip because the last joint of the digit has rotated, allowing extra grip and the ability to climb smooth rock surfaces and jump from boulder to boulder to escape predators. The second is thick, course hair which provides insulation in extreme temperatures. Klipspringers travel short distances amongst rocks. They have a tendency to stop and stand on a rock. This works well in the animal kingdom, but unfortunately makes it vulnerable to hunters. Its main habitats are the rocky habitats of lower Orange River, Kuiseb River in Namib Desert, Damaraland, Kaokoland and Erongo. It feeds on a wide variety of growing shoots, flowers and fruits from herbs and shrubs, but not grass.
Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) abound in Namibia's shallow lakes, floodplains, dams and estuaries, sheltered coastal bays and lagoons. Flocks of several thousand are common. It breeds at Bird Rock Platform near Walvis Bay, Etosha Pan and Hardap Dam and is also commonly found in lower Orange River and Fish River Canyon. It traps fish in large, gular pouch, often foraging whilst swimming, as well scavenging and killing animals ashore. It is known to steal the catch of Namibian anglers.
African Sacred Ibis. In Namibia, the African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) is found in grasslands, open habitats, dams, and inland freshwater wetlands. It was easily be seen in Etosha Park, Orange River, Fish River Canyon and Hardap Dam. The bird pecks slowly when walking for insects, frogs, crabs, grasshoppers and locusts, crickets, fish, frogs, lizards, small mammals, eggs and nestlings, worms and molluscs. This large ibis has a bare black head and neck, mainly white plumage and a black tail. Threskiornis is Greek for 'a religious bird’.
As we headed back north once more on the C13, we basically drove along the edge/ centre of Sperrgebiet, a restricted area of desert. The area is studded with tiny roads leading to various mining operations, often diamonds. We passed the Roter Kamm crater, the remnant of mighty meteorite. The crater is 2.5 km diameter and 130 m deep. The age is estimated 4.81 ± 0.5 Ma, the Pliocene. The scenery was amazing, especially to our left, but the wind whipping across the sand meant we staying inside to car to enjoy it. At one point we spotted an enormous sandstorm, but luckily it only caught the edge of us (although visibility on the road was pretty tricky). Another hour took us to the Aurus Mountains, which is the change from Sperrgebiet to Tsau//Khaeb Parks; both with restricted access as pretty much everything seems to have been sold to operators as “concessions”; which means you pay them a ton of money (only 1 person can own a concession) or don’t go. It seems to have caused some controversy, given comments later made to us in Luderitz.
We finally arrived in the tiny town of Aus at teatime. This was the only place in the whole of Namibia where we saw an actual train, despite there being railway lines everywhere.
Bahnhof Hotel Aus is the jewel of the Sperrgebiet; a modern, elegant format, combining rich history and traditional comfort with excellent service. Aus played a major role in the development of the railway line between Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop, because it had abundant water and also gave access through the mountains, to the inland plateau. https://hotel-aus.com
All rooms have en-suite facilities. Accommodation includes breakfast in the restaurant and the kitchen is open throughout the day for always freshly prepared light meals as well as outstanding "à la carte" dishes, daily fresh home baked bread and cakes and a large selection of South African wines. Meals can also be enjoyed on the sundeck, in the sheltered beer garden or in the historic bar.
Aus, this tranquil little desert town is situated east of Lüderitz and the name means 'out' in German, but may be derived from a Khoi-Khoi word which means the 'place of the snakes’. Aus is tucked between the folds of several hills and was formerly the site of a prisoner-of-war camp established by the South African army in 1915 to house German inmates captured during the First World War. The inmates initially lived in tents but later built brick houses. The number of prisoners reached 1500 but by May 1919 the last inmates left and the camp closed. A plaque marks the site today and some of the houses have been reconstructed.
It was early afternoon, so after a coffee we went for a short drive to see if we could spot the famous Feral horses of the Garub. There weren’t many at the waterhole, but as we drove on one strolled across the road and got very friendly with Steve! Newly emboldened, he decided to take our car off the road and drive into the desert. Passing a lot of ostriches and a few zebra and oryx we finally crossed (just about) a railway line with a halt, and ended at the base of a yellow sand dune.

The Wild Horses of the Namib hold a powerful fascination. For centuries their origin was shrouded in mystery. Their habitat, the barren plains around Garub on the eastern fringe of the Namib Desert (part of the Namib-Naukluft Park), is no paradise. Nevertheless, they have adapted to the harsh conditions and arid land. Their forebears, once in a stud, gained freedom a century ago to live their lives in the vastness of the Namib Desert, away from human civilisation, according to the natural ways of the land. Perhaps our yearning for the wild and free is the reason for our deep attraction to the Namib horses and explains why thousands of travellers visit Garub every year. Decades of research has resulted in a detailed understanding of the horses and their environment as a harmonious part of the desert ecosystem. Garup was once a station on the railway line from Aus to Lüderitz, completed in 1906. Because there was no drinking water in Lüderitz, water had to be transported in barrels by train from Garub to the coast, a 120km journey. Lüderitz later received its own water pipe and in 1990 Garub station was closed. The little station house is still standing (photo later).
It was becoming dusk, so we headed back to the hotel for a cocktail and a delicious fish (thank god no more game) meal before an early night.

14th September Aus and Lüderitz

After a very pleasant breakfast we set off to the ghost town of Kolmanskop set in the encroaching dunes of the Namib Desert. The town only opens in the morning, 3 days a week from 9-12, so it’s quite a limited schedule. As we left Aus the warm desert scenery became progressively colder and even a bit misty, so Kolmanskop looked somewhat ethereal rising from the mist. The town was fascinating; it was only finally abandoned around 1960, but already the houses were sand-filled.
After becoming one of the richest towns in Africa during a diamond boom in 1910, Kolmanskop was left by all inhabitants in the following decades. Kolmanskop became a ghost town in the desert. 15 km east of the harbour town of Lüderitz, Kolmanskop used to be a small railway station in 1908, when the railway between Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop was built. As far as legend has it the station derived its name from a Nama man named Coleman, who got stuck at the site with his ox waggon and consequently died of thirst. In 1908 the railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a shiny stone and took it to the chief railway foreman August Stauch. Stauch had been stationed at the station Grasplatz with the instruction to keep the railway line clear of sand. He was a hobby mineralogist and had advised his workers to bring any unique stone they might find to him.  He immediately assumed the find of Lewala to be a diamond, which was later confirmed, after the stone had been examined by his friend and future partner Söhnke Nissen, a mining engineer.
Stauch and Nissen did not shout their find form the rooftops, but instead quit their jobs and secured claims of 75 km² at Kolmanskop. They successfully continued their search for diamonds. Nevertheless the occurrence of diamonds did not stay a secret for long and soon a real diamond fever developed, as hordes of diamond seekers and adventurers settled in the area. Within two years at a rapid speed an unparalleled town development took place; within a few years Kolmanskop became the richest town of Africa and one of the richest towns worldwide. The thereby developed infrastructure was unmatched at the time; as from 1911 the town had electric power, luxurious stone houses, a casino, a school, a hospital, an ice factory to produce ice for fridges, a theatre, a ballroom, a sport-hall, a bowling alley, a salt-water swimming pool and much more although less than 400 people lived here. Noteworthy is that the hospital had the first x-ray apparatus in southern Africa installed. It probably also served to control workers, who might have swallowed diamonds. In 1908 no more claims were granted and the southern coastal strip was declared Restricted Diamond area. Diamond mining was industrialised and the diamond-yielding gravel was sifted and washed in huge factories. From 10 tons of sand only one to two carats of diamonds can be mined. With this method 1 ton of diamonds was mined until World War I. With the outbreak of the war in 1914 the production was nearly zero and with the loss of the German colony the German Era of diamond mining came to an end and was taken over by South Africa. In 1928 profitable prospecting sites were discovered south of Lüderitz all the way to Oranjemund and as the deposits around Kolmanskop were nearing depletion the mining activities were discontinued and until 1938 all machinery was taken south. The town was left to its own devices and the desert claimed its lost territory back. The last inhabitant left Kolmanskop between 1956 and 1960. In 1980 as Lüderitz underwent an economic boom the potential of the ghost town was rediscovered and some houses were dug out of the sand and partially restored.
We started in the Casino building, which has stood the passage of time the best and had a lot of work on it. This was the town’s main centre, and we walked around the impressive rooms; a gymnasium, movie theatre, bowling alley and kitchens. There are a couple of rooms with the history and exhibits, surprisingly well done. The most interest part was the exhibits showing all the various ways workers tried to smuggle diamonds out; in shoes, traditional swallowing (hence the X-ray machine in the hospital I suspect), kites, carrier pigeons, and many more. There was also an account, diaries and photos which had been donated by the last family to leave.
Not much different to a large town hall. From here we set off through the sand to the larger abandoned buildings; the teacher, architect (arkitect), accountant (buchhalter) and mine manager houses. Some of the houses were (moderately) safe to enter and others were clearly not. The poshest was the mine managers, complete with portico and orangery (which probably didn’t succeed in the desert), with the inlaid mosaic floors oddly still intact. We tried upstairs as the staircase was complete, but the floorboards had mostly gone.
Having drudged through the sand to the end of the town (mine manager’s), we came back at the top of the sand dune to the more interesting houses, including the architect’s, an iconic choice as in the bathroom is a bathtub filled with not water, but sand. The engineer and teacher’s houses were also fairly well preserved outside, but only the engineer’s was partially safe (to the upper balcony). Then it was the workers quarters, which we viewed from the rear as you could see how the sand had blown in. Most had rear exits, now the doors had gone we could see in to the rooms which were two-thirds sand filled. The school completed the run, again fairly well preserved. This gave us access to the main road and in front were the hospital, then the commercial buildings, butcher, baker and even ice factory (eisfabrik).
We finished back at the Casino, where they have created a nice restaurant and had a cake and coffee, before heading on to Lüderitz town.

The mist got thicker and the temperature got noticeably colder as we entered the Restricted Diamond Area Tsau Khaeb Park, so we were glad we’d brought coats. We parked on the main street, still called Bismarck Street, and found what passed for the tourist office; one helpful lady in a small souvenir shop with a few brochures. I think S found a kindred spirit! Eventually I put a stop to the double ramble and we left with several brochures and a plan.
First stop; a quick look at the more historic buildings of the town, and the famous church.
Then a visit to the supermarket to buy onward snacks. And finally, we set off on what looked like an interesting trip around the peninsula.

The town of Lüderitz stands in isolation on a great frontier between the desert and ocean. Beyond the structures huddled together beside the bay and a lighthouse on the peninsula, the surroundings are much as Bartolomeu Dias found them in 1487, when his flotilla of three small ships first sailed into the uncharted anchorage. The townlands form an enclave in the Sperrgebiet, 26 000 km2 of coastal desert rich in diamonds. The greater part of the Sperrgebiet lies to the south. Northward the dune fields of the Great Sand Sea sprawl overland to the horizon and far beyond. In streets almost devoid of trees, the townscape today still reflects the colonial past, a remnant of Germany in Africa: edifices with domes, towers and turrets, steep roofs with oriel windows, embellished gables, bay windows on ground level and, for shelter from the wind, Wintergärten or sunrooms in homes. Uniquely in Africa, the predominant architectural style of public, business and residential buildings, especially in Ring, Bismarck, Berg and Bahnhof streets, is straight out of late 19th century Germany.

Bartolomeu Dias is recorded as the first European visitor to Lüderitz in 1487. He named it Angra Pequena (Little Boy) and left his calling card in the form of a stone cross. The treacherous coastline protected the bay from further interference until the discovery of guano on the offshore islands close by. The guano rush lasted from 1842-1845. A second rush in 1861 precipitated the annexation of the islands to the Cape Colony. However, with the exception of a small trading and fish processing station in the name of Cape Town businessman Aaron de Pass, and a private settlement at Radford Bay in the name of his agent, David Radford, no serious attempt was made to establish a permanent settlement an the mainland at the time. It was the arrival of Adolf Lüderitz, a Bremen merchant with ideas of establishing a trading post, and foothold for the German Empire, that finally placed Angra Pequena on the map. In 1883 Heinrich Vogelsang, acting on behalf of Lüderitz, negotiated two deals with local chief Josef Frederiks, for the purchase of Angra Pequena and a significant stretch of the surrounding coastline. In 1884 this land was declared a German Protectorate. Lüderitz sold the land and rights to the Deutsche Colonial Gesellschaft für Südwest-Afrika who, after his death in 1886, renamed the bay Lüderitzbucht in his honour.
Strong winds, encroaching sand, lack of building material and absence of fresh water supply hampered early development but in 1904 the Name-Herero uprising proved to be the catalyst that brought the struggling trading settlement to civic status. By 1907 peace was restored and Lüderitz found itself somewhat better off than before the war as an independent district with upgraded port facilities and a railway line linking it to the interior. In 1908 the town’s future was assured when a sparkling diamond was discovered in the desert sands not more than 25km away by railway worker Zacharias Lewala. What followed was a period of rapid development and economic prosperity for Lüderitzbucht. Introduction of building regulations in 1909 saw that the townscape took attractive and well-ordered proportions and the underlying urban plan was efficiently connected by a Stadtbahn (trolleybus) instituted in 1911.
Despite changes wrought by WWI, Lüderitz continued to prosper under the South-west African Administration. All German diamond interests were bought and consolidated into the Consolidated Diamond Mines of South West Africa (CDM) and in 1922 four rock lobster factories were established. The little town prospered, its fate bound to the treasures mined on land and fished from the sea. But in 1928 diamonds were discovered at the Orange River mouth and as mining interests shifted south, so the local economy shifted down a gear. Faced with the reality of its isolation and bleak economic outlook, the rallying cry of the Lüderitzbucht Foundation in the late 1970s was “Lüderitz must live”. Concerted efforts were made to save buildings from demolition and to institute a conservation ethic, culminating in the town’s centenary celebrations in 1983 and the 500 year anniversary of Dias’ landing in 1988. Today, in an independant Namibia, Lüderitz continues to face economic challenges. Mining operations were re-established at Elizabeth Bay in 1989 and the fishing industry continues to be the main employer, while the Lüderitz Waterfront Project of 2000 was a significant boost to tourism. The 2012 celebration of the Felsenkirche (Church on the rock) holds a special place in the heart of Buchters and visitors alike.
Having decided to try the bay drive, as map below, we left Lüderitz on the “Lüderitz road”, which was basically an open, somewhat windswept track which undoubtably was prone to floods, given that is was over sand and beaches. We first reached Radford Bay/ Austern, the headquarters of the lobster fleet and end of the tarmac. From here it was up through the rocks to the First Lagoon, an open patch of low road. The tide was out when we drove through, but coming in as we drove back. Ignoring the turn off to Griffith Bay (which we came back to later when the mist had cleared), we headed towards Diaz Point. The scenery became decidedly rockier, until we passed through the aptly named Black Ridge. Descending took over over the pans and on to a narrow causeway to Diaz Point. On both sides there were huge flocks of flamingoes; very pretty with the sun on their pink plumage.
Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber) breed at large, flooded shallow salt pans as well as coastal mudflats, inland dams, small ephemeral rivers, river mouths and sewage treatment works. Flocks of tens of thousands, often with lesser flamingos, are common. Overall pale pink in colour with yellow eyes and bright coral pink legs and feet. They have a scattered population in southern, central and northern Namibia, but are especially prevalent at Sandwich Harbour, Swakopmund, Skeleton Coast, Cape Cross and Luderitz. Up to 38,000 non-breeding birds have been observed at Walvis Bay. It wades belly-deep in water with bill upside down, filtering small invertebrates from the mud, mainly brine shrimps, brine flies, molluscs and diatoms. Males scrape mud towards themselves and vibrate it into place with their bills on far-out islands on flooded salt pans.
At the very end of the causeway the land lifted to a small carpark, lighthouse and cafe. We parked at the far end, crossed an expanse of seaweed covered rocks and a set of small streams before climbing the steps to the cross at Diaz Point itself. It looked like the original walk to the point had been long neglected, with the remains of a bridge and rather dodgy protective railings. An interesting walk as this is where the first European, Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Diaz (Dias) made landfall in Namibia and I’m not surprised he didn’t stay as it was windswept and uninviting. A cross marked the point he landed in 1488 just a year after Diogo Cão erected a similar one at Cape Cross.
Bartolomeu Dias travelled under instructions from King John/João II of Portugal to sail to the southern end of Africa. He was blown off course to land initially at the Cape of Good Hope. On his return, he stopped off at what is known today as Lüderitz Bay. As was traditional, he erected a stone padrão (cross) to mark Portugal’s presence in the area, 25 July 1488. This landmark withstood the harsh conditions of the coast for over 300 years. In 1825 the crew of the HMS Barracouta noted the uprooted and broken cross and in 1855 the remains were taken to the South African Museum in Cape Town. In 1953, Dr Exel Erikson, attempted to reconstruct the cross from these pieces and what he unearthed on site. The National Monuments Council’s Regional Committee for SWA took up the task in 1988, and a replica was constructed, carved from local dolerite.
We returned to the car and continued around the peninsula; Guano Bay and Halifax Island, across the pans, Knochen Bucht, Easy Bay and the pretty Eberlanz Höhle. Crossing a couple of fjords (Grosse and Kleiner), a brief side trip to Kleiner Bogenfels and its attractive rocks, we ended at Große Bucht (Large Bay), a huge sandy beach attractively wreathed in curling mist. As we crossed back over the centre of Elizabeth Peninsula the mist began to lift. We drove straight over the crossroads to head to Griffith Bay, Kartoffelbucht and parked at Angra point. From here we could see back over to Lüderitz town, Penguin and Seal Islands on one side and Shearwater Bay (Sturmvogelbucht) the other.
Bogenfels Arch is a 55m lime rock formed like a bridge on the south Atlantic coast in the middle of the Restricted Diamond Area south of Lüderitz. A short walk takes visitors to the arch.
As it was now 2pm we drove back past the lagoon and into town. We decided to take the tourist lady’s recommendation and ate a nice meal at The Desert Deli http://desert-deli-gift.com. Cheap and tasty, so perfect. After this late lunch we drove out to see the penguins on Penguin Island. Sadly it was still quite misty, so we couldn’t see much of them. The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), is a species of penguin confined to southern African waters. They have distinctive pink patches of skin above the eyes and a black facial mask. The body's upper parts are black and sharply delineated from the white underparts, which are spotted and marked with a black band. Once numerous, the African penguin is declining rapidly and classified endangered. Common names include black-footed and jackass penguin. They are only found along the coast of South Africa and Namibia.

As it was now around 3:30 we decided to fill up with petrol and head back to Aus, a 30 min drive. As we drove back the temperature rose 10 degrees and the mist lifted. Nearly back, we decided to see if any more horses had appeared at the waterhole and we were lucky as the rangers had just finished refilling it so a small group appeared. They were very friendly and came right up to the hide, including one very young foal.
Then back to the hotel for a drink, a chill and dinner.
6416CF06-C1B3-456D-B18C-F19F198CF70D_4_5005_c.jpegKrantzberg Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Malbec/Petit Verdot. Being one of the first Bordeaux style blends in Namibia we are charting unknown territory. The small ripe berries gave extra concentration during fermentation. Light pressing ensures abundance of fruit with a soft round mouthfeel. The wine was separately aged for 12 months in French oak barrels before all the components were expertly blended together. The wine has deep dark fruit flavours that are well rounded with hints of tobacco, spice and vanilla, giving depth and complexity. Pairs well with meat on the “braai” and good friends.

Posted by PetersF 12:26 Archived in Namibia Tagged mountains animals desert town river horse namibia ghost aus orange diamond luderitz feral Comments (0)

Namibia Red Rocky Koiimasis

Dassie and horses

15th September Tiras

We left in good time as there is little to do in Aus. After only a few kms we turned off the nice B4, right on to the rutted C13 towards Helmeringhausen. The road was extremely dusty and nobody wanted to be behind any other vehicle so it was a bit of a game! We ended up letting all the bikers past us and held back until their dust had settled. Then we were basically alone, driving through the red southern edge of Namib-Naukluft desert, with a few scattered black rocks.
After about 60km we came to the hamlet of Tirool, where we turned off left onto an even less well maintained road; basically a red dust track (officially the D707). However, we were totally alone and the views were incredible. To our left was the edge of the desert; think red and yellow sand dunes, black outcrops and blue sky, while to our right were the mountains of Tirasberg; think grassy savannah with herds of oryx, zebra, ostrich, impala…. etc with red and black mountains as the backdrop. There were maybe 2 or 3 small farms along the road for 70km until we spotted the gate to the Lodge on the right. Then it was a 4x4 track for some 20km, through all the game, another gate, and finally the lodge itself. The journey was only 2 hours (we expected it to take longer), so it was mid morning and we decided to chill on the patio and enjoy the views. Probably the most beautiful hotel we stayed at in Namibia.
Welcome to Koiimasis Ranch Fest Inn Fels Lodge situated in the heart of the Tiras Mountains. Allow your soul be revived in this magnificent surrounding and enjoy a special feeling of endless freedom amongst shining red granite boulders. Listen to secret ancestral voices, which the echoing wind carries through the ancient valleys. Accommodation is in comfortable private chalets at the Fest Inn Fels Farm Lodge which includes the restaurant, reception, the sky-bar and pool facilities all elegantly melted into the red granite rocks. Explore this variable landscape, from desert savannah to Quiver tree forest on horseback or by foot, or take a glance into our ostrich and parrot breeding production facilities. At Ranch Koiimasis learn how the ancient bushmen survived. https://www.namibia-farm-lodge.com/fest-inn-fels-clg6
Tirasberg Conservancy Since 1998 there has been a 125,000 ha (125 km²) large private nature reserve. The area is set aside by 8 farms (2018); Gunsbewys, Tiras, Landsberg, Koiimasis. Numis, Weissenborn, Korais, Excelsior). This Wildlife Conservancy encompasses much of the Tiras Mountains. The Tiras Mountains are the intersection of four different landscapes: from the north/ north-east, the Tiras Mountains merge with the mountainous landscape of the Rooirand (Rotrand) and adjoining Tsaris Mountains; from the west/ south-west, the red dunes of Neisib Plateau and Homs Plateau form the contact with the Namib-Naukluft National Park and the foothills of the Namib Desert. To the south-east, the Tiras Mountains border on a savannah and succulent steppe, which has ancient rock paintings of bushmen (San). In the adjoining short shrub savannah, cattle breeding is practised. Important peaks of the Tiras Mountains are Schanzenberg (1902m), Sattelberg (1419m), Koiimasis Nase (1397m) and Bergveld.
We thought about going in the pool; even changed into our costumes, and then felt the water temperature. We changed our minds! Then the manager came to show us to our chalet at the bottom of the hill. Very well appointed, although the lack of door and wall to the toilet was a bit off-putting, with a porch. As the temperature cooled we went for a hike around the lodge, keeping an eye open for snakes. A very pleasant walk through the red rocks and dry grasses, we saw a lot of birds (White Browed Sparrow-weaver, Acacia Pied Barbet, Bulbuls), insects and lizards, especially in the dried river valleys. Koiimasis is San "The Meeting Place" and invites exploration of fauna and flora; very true as we discovered.
Oryx (gemsbok) (Oryx gazella) often known by its Afrikaans name, gemsbok (origin unknown) are found all over Namibia and can tolerate arid areas uninhabitable to most other antelope, hence its status as Namibia's National animal. It obtains enough water from food to survive and rarely needs to drink. They can tolerate extreme heat and to conserve water can allow body temperature to rise to levels that would kill most animals, by cooling the blood going to the brain. Herds number anywhere 5-40, but aggregations of several hundred can occur. Female herds include non-territorial bulls who will move between the territories of dominant bulls in search of food. To avoid conflict, non-territorial bulls are submissive towards territorial bulls. Fights between males are often fatal, one or both can receive severe stab wounds. When cornered by a predator, oryx use their horns rigorously to defend themselves and attackers display extreme caution before advancing. In the heat of the day they rest in the shade of trees. When shade is not available they orientate themselves to present as little as possible of their body surface to the sun. The sight of oryx in the dunes at Sossusvlei, with the rising sun as a backdrop, is not uncommon. They are so common in Namibia you are likely to see them next to the road throughout the entire country. Gemsbok feed on leaves, grasses and herbs. It is a large mainly grey-coloured antelope, with striking black and white markings on the face and legs, black side stripes on the flanks and a long black tail. Only one calf is born after 9 months. Bulls measure 1.2m at the shoulders and attain a mass of 240kg. Both bulls and cows have horns, shorter and stockier on the male.
Yellow Spotted Rock Dassie (Heterohyrax brucei) refers to the colour of the hair on the dorsal gland, which in the rock dassie is black but can vary in the species from yellow to ochre. They are slightly smaller than the rock dassie and the muzzle is slightly narrower. Two of the best features when distinguishing from the rock dassie are the white or off-white patches above the eyes and the lighter colour of the sides of the face. It lives in similar habitats to the rock dassie, often live on the same rocks and crevices and can be seen basking in the sun next to each other. Both species frequent the mountains and koppies around Windhoek. They do not interbreed. Predominantly a browser but in the warm, wetter months, their diet includes grass as well. In colouring it is dark brown with a reddish tint, flecked on the upper parts with off-white.
Hyraxes (Ancient Greek ὕραξ (húrax) 'shrewmouse'), also dassies, are small, thickset, herbivorous mammals in the order Hyracoidea. Hyraxes are well-furred, rotund animals with short tails. Though superficially similar to pikas and marmots, they are more closely related to elephants and sea cows. Hyraxes retain a number of primitive mammalian characteristics; in particular poorly developed internal temperature regulation, for which they compensate by behavioural thermoregulation, such as huddling together and basking in the sun. Unlike most browsers, they do not use the incisors for slicing off leaves and grass, but instead their molars. The incisors are large and tusk-like, and grow continuously through life, similar to rodents. Hyraxes have complex, multi-chambered stomachs that allow symbiotic bacteria to break down tough plant materials. All modern hyraxes are members of the family Procaviidae (the only living family within Hyracoidea) and are found only in Africa. The order first appears in the fossil of Dimaitherium, 37 mya. For many millions of years, hyraxes, proboscideans, and other afrotherian mammals were the primary terrestrial herbivores in Africa. The smallest were the size of a mouse but Titanohyrax could reach 600- 1,300 kg. During the Miocene, competition from the newly developed bovids, displaced the hyraxes into marginal niches.
Sesamum capense (Wild sesame) carpeted the floor. Sesame seed is the oldest oilseed crop known to humanity. The genus has many species, and most are wild, native to sub-Saharan Africa. Archaeological remnants of charred sesame dating to about 3500-3050 BC show sesame was domesticated in India and possibly traded by the Indus Valley civilisation to Mesopotamia (ilu in Sumerian and ellu in Akkadian). Egyptians called it sesemt, and it is included in the list of medicinal drugs in the scrolls of the Ebers Papyrus dated over 3600 years old. Sesame can grow in areas that do not support the growth of other crops. It grows in drought conditions, high heat, and at the edge of deserts, a true survivor.
Euphorbia virosa (Gifboom poison tree), spurge family Euphorbiaceae. It has a short main stem, usually twisted, from which 5–10 cm branches emerge. These leafless branches have 5 to 8 edges. Paired thorns grow in regularly spaced intervals from the edges. Euphorbia virosa is common from the Orange River to Southern Angola, and throughout the Namib Desert, mainly on rocky slopes. The plant contains a milky latex with carcinogenic properties. This is very poisonous and is used by San (Bushmen) to dip the tips of their hunting arrows. Contact causes skin irritation, and even blindness.
After our walk we cooled off sitting on the porch and watching the birds, before strolling back up to the outdoor bar for a cocktail. As the sun set behind the red rocks the dassies (rock hyrax) came out in force to soak up the last rays. We thought they were cute; the staff thought they were pests! Then it was a set dinner in the restaurant (only one other couple were there) with giant viewing windows and a very nice Namibian wine, before we headed back to our room for the night.
Namibian wine is produced in small quantities by a few wineries. Although the production of wine is expanding in Namibia, the grapes grown are mostly destined for the home market. One of the challenges of viticulture in Namibia is that the country is quite dry, which means that irrigation is usually necessary. Unlike South Africa, it is situated closer to the equator than the traditional (but now challenged) 30-50° latitude rule for wine production. Namibian wine production began with the colonisation of Namibia by Germany in 1884. The first vineyards were planted by German Roman Catholic priests at the end of the 19th century in the mountain valleys of the suburb of Klein Windhoek. They produced a white wine and a potent schnapps named "Katholischer". Production was halted in the late 1960s, when the last wine-making priest died and the vineyards made way for building classrooms for the church school. Since Namibia’s independence in 1990 plantations for table grapes have taken place along Orange River. Small scale winemaking was pioneered in 1990 by Helmuth Kluge in the town of Omaruru. He grew Colombard and Ruby Cabernet in his plot called Kristall Kellerei http://kristallkellerei.com/our-wines Kristall Kellerei, purchased in 2008 by NAWGA’s Chair, Mr. Weder, continues to produce quality wines with Colombard grapes, and a unique red blend, the Paradise Flycatcher and various fine spirits. In addition to Kristall Kellerei, Namibia currently comprises two other wineries: Thonningii Cellar in Otavi, and Neuras: N/a’an ku sé Wine and Wildlife Estate, on the edge of the Namib Desert. The Cheetah Conservation Fund planted its first vines in 2005. In 2009, Heiko Pfafferott planted 1000 shiraz vines on farm Ahrensburg near Otjiwarongo, producing under the cellar name of Omumbara. Winery Erongo Mountain Winery https://erongomountainwinery.com produces a variety of wines from European-style grapes. Allen Walken-Davis established a vineyard with Shiraz vines during the 1990s at his farm Neuras https://naankusecollection.com/establishment/neuras-wine-wildlife-estate near Maltahöhe, in south Namibia. In 1997, Bertus Boshoff planted his first vines at his farm, Thonninggii, in the Otavi Mountains where he grows Shiraz, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Mourvèdre. In 2003, the families Schulz and Evrard bought a farm 2 km away from Boshoff, and they planted Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo and Chardonnay in 2004.
AA86C86E-6527-4416-89A7-636B5FA303E9_4_5005_c.jpegNamibian Kiss Cabernet Sauvigon / Shiraz Blend “Namibian Kiss” is made with subtle intention and passionate wine making. After slow fermentation and gentle pressing the wine was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels then expertly blended to give a full-bodied, but elegantly smooth red wine, bursting with sweet ripe fruit and wild berries. It pairs well with grilled meat but it is just as enjoyable with good friends. Each sip will leave you behind with the sweet kiss of the Namibian Sun.

Posted by PetersF 15:01 Archived in Namibia Tagged mountains animals horse namibia aus garub koiimasis festinnfels Comments (0)

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