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Learning to drive in Namibia!

Namibia Day One


View Namibia road trip 2004 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Eningu Clay House Lodge

We landed at Windhoek’s small airport around midday and after clearing all the formalities and collecting our luggage we made our way to the car hire desk. Once our paperwork was checked we were escorted to the parking area. After taking advice from the tour company we had decided on a 2WD rather than 4WD vehicle – although we’d be driving on gravel roads for most of this trip we were assured all the ones on our route were manageable in a 2WD and as we had no experience of 4WD we felt trying to learn here would be the harder and potentially riskier option.

Before leaving we took our time checking the car thoroughly, as we’d been warned that we could be penalised for damage not already logged – damage that was all too likely on those gravel roads. We pointed out a few additional scratches not marked on the hire company’s record sheet and then signed for the car – it was time to hit the road!

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Welcome to Eningu Clay House Lodge

Chris had kindly ‘volunteered’ to do all the driving on this trip, so I was navigator. We had opted to spend our first night in a lodge that was relatively near the airport – around 70 kilometres away. For the first couple of these we were on tarmac but very soon we had to turn south on our first gravel road.

Fortunately there was very little traffic (as we were to find pretty much everywhere) so we could take our time, mindful of the advice we’d been given. The main points of this were to stick to under 50 kph and not to do anything (brake, change direction) too suddenly.

Just fifteen minutes into our drive we spotted a kudu – another reminder, if we’d needed it, that we were driving somewhere very different from home and needed to stay alert not only because of the road surfaces but also the very real risk of encountering animals on the roads. There are very few fences here, and the quietness of the roads means that animals are likely to regard them as a simple extension of their usual territory.

Eningu Clay House Lodge

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Our bungalow

We arrived at our destination unscathed after just over an hour’s driving and were immediately taken by the property. The rooms are in individual adobe buildings in attractive grounds on the edge of the Kalahari Desert which the lodge’s website describes accurately as ‘vast camel thorn savannah’.

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Inside our room

There was plenty of time left of the day to enjoy our surroundings. At our host Stephanie’s suggestion we went for a walk in the bush, accompanied by the lodge’s friendly Labrador dog Shaka. The walk led to a small lookout tower with views of the surrounding land.

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Chris in the grounds

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Chris with Shaka, and cacti in the grounds

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Toucan in the grounds

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Me at the lookout tower

When we got back I braved the small unheated swimming pool which was pretty chilly despite the heat of the day (it gets very cold here at night as we were soon to see) but very refreshing.

In the evening we had a delicious dinner served to us and the two other guests in front of a welcome open fire.

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A much-needed warm fire

After dinner we all went outside and Stephanie led us up onto the flat roof of the main building where there was a good telescope. Living in a city I was astounded by the number and brilliance of the stars – it was my first time star-gazing in such an unpolluted environment and I’d never seen anything quite as spectacular! We saw some of the brightest shooting stars I'd ever seen, and found three of Jupiter's moons through the telescope.

But July is winter in Namibia and here in the desert the nights are freezing, so after our time up on the roof we thoroughly enjoyed a glass of the local brandy in front of the fire, and were happy on returning to our room to find a hot water bottle in the bed. What a great start to our Namibian adventures!

Posted by ToonSarah 08:38 Archived in Namibia Tagged birds night desert road_trip hotel roads africa dogs namibia cacti kalahari Comments (14)

The Kalahari Desert

Namibia Day Two


View Namibia road trip 2004 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Cactus at Anib Lodge

Our first full day driving in Namibia! After a good breakfast at the Eningu Clay House Lodge we loaded up the car and headed south.

We spent the morning on the road, taking it easy and enjoying the scenery, and arrived at our destination in time for a late lunch.

Anib Lodge

Our base for the night was this comfortable family-run hotel near Mariental in the Kalahari Desert. I say ‘family-run’ because it was at that time, although checking their website they seem since to have been taken over by a larger company. Not much seems to have changed however, except that maybe they have more rooms these days.

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Our bungalow

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Another cactus

We enjoyed a light lunch sitting by the swimming pool but I don’t remember that I had a dip, unusually for me! Instead we relaxed for a while in the pretty grounds, where I enjoyed taking photos of the large sculptural cacti until it was time to depart on the sundowner outing we had pre-booked.

Sunset in the Kalahari

We wrapped up warmly for this trip as we knew it would get cold as soon as the sun set, and even before then it was cool in the lodge’s open jeep. The plan was to watch the sunset from the nearby dunes but first we stopped to photograph a tree with several Sociable Weavers’ nests.

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Sociable weavers' nests

These birds are endemic to southern Africa and unlike other birds build large community nests. These nests are the biggest built by any bird and can house over a hundred pairs of birds. Each pair of birds has its own chamber within the nest, rather like a human apartment block. The size of the nest means that the chambers stay relatively cool during the heat of the day, and warm in the cold Kalahari nights.

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Kalahari view

Then it was time to head for the dunes. The Kalahari is perhaps more properly regarded as a semi desert, so the dunes aren’t pure ridges of sand but rather are dotted with scrub, camel thorns (acacias) and grasses. Our jeep driver parked at the top of one of them and we and the other guests got out to enjoy the views. We were served with a glass of Glühwein (the hotel was run by an Austrian couple) to keep us warm as we watched the sun set over the Kalahari which gradually started to take on an orange glow.

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Kalahari sundowners

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Chris with the jeep

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On the dunes

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Kalahari sunset

Then we climbed back into the jeep and snuggled under the provided blanket for the return to the lodge, as already the temperature had dropped below freezing.

Later dinner was served in the cosy dining room ‘family style’, that is, we were seated with other guests rather than at a table for two. This led to plenty of swapping of travellers’ tales – we got chatting to a Swiss couple near the end of their trip who gave us several good tips and ideas of places to go. The dinner was absolutely excellent and was accompanied by good wine (included in the accommodation costs). Our Austrian hosts’ love of good food, wine and schnapps was very evident, as we were to discover after dinner when we sat at the cosy bar and chatted with the landlord about our own favourite Austrian wines. A lovely way to end the day!

Posted by ToonSarah 05:19 Archived in Namibia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises trees birds desert sunset road_trip hotel africa namibia cacti kalahari Comments (13)

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