All posts by George

Skeleton Coast, Kunene River and Kaokoland

A coast of loneliness, contrast and history. A journey to the most North-Western part of Namibia.

12 – 23 August 2021
R15 500 p/p sharing

To be on this route is a privilege, as not many people pass through this part of Namibia and it’s one of the most remote areas of this beautiful country. A route from Swakopmund to Puros or Sesfontein, covering about 1.500 km, with the most unusual sceneries, from mountains to plains and beaches with quite a few shipwrecks and dunes.

wreck

Day 1

We meet early morning (6.30) on the first day at the Shell petrol station and last circle on the Henties bay road (time may differ)

The tour leader supplies each car with a radio transmitter to keep in touch with the convoy, warning us and telling us on route what to do and what not to do. He is very strict about the tracks we follow as not to make new ones.

Stop at Zeila wreck that stranded 25 August 2008. We also visit the old rusted Toscanini oil rig which closed in 1976. Diamonds were never found in that area or the ones that were found, had not much value. It is now a breeding place for cormorants and we might even see the elusive Brown Hyena! The patterns of the rust of the rig make splendid photographic opportunities.

On we go to Terrace-bay, also a very popular place for fishing, where we have lunch and it is the last opportunity for all to refuel (as for the next 1000 km there won’t be any shops or any other luxuries except ourselves!) And animals…

  • Diesel: 220 liter per motor
  • Petrol: 290 liter per motor

Mowe Bay is the un-official border between Damaraland and Kaokoveld and this is our last contact with people as we enter a park only accessible with someone that has a permit. Away from pollution, people and civilization, only to hear your own heartbeat and the sound of the waves on the beach, and absolute quietness – pure bliss.

Just north of Mowe Bay, we will look for a nice overnight spot between the dunes. Our cook will start a fire while we all set up our tents. We’ll enjoy a “boesman’s TV” fire and have a wonderful potjie.

Lorry

Day 2

We are never in a hurry in the morning, after having our first hot cup of coffee/tea and breakfast, made by our cook, we make our own lunch pack. Cold meats, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese etc will be provided and you can built your own sandwich. Somewhere along the way we have a stop and eat our lunch or just eat whenever you like while still driving.

The scenery varies as we travel along from barren landscapes to mountains and riverbeds and here you realize the intense loneliness of this part of the country. The colors vary from the yellow of the sand to black on the mountains and red from the Garnet, a silicate mineral.

We’ll pass a rusted and forlorn bulldozer and tractor, left behind by the van der Westhuizen brothers who tried to mine diamonds here, the area is now called the Westhies.  Perhaps they were part of the famous rescue of the Duneden Star?? If only they could talk!

Very interesting are the parts of the Ventura Bomber plane who were part of the rescue team. Some parts are still visible. The plane crashed diving into the sea near the shore and all in the plane could get out alive and had minor injuries. The wreck of the plane washed ashore which we could see spread around. (try to look up the book “The Skeleton coast” by John Marsh)

We’ll drive long stretches on the beach but also on the dunes and again, the scenery varies ever so often .

The many “Ghost crabs” popping out of  holes on the beach at the vibration of the cars are something special to see, they are beautiful. They race like little cars on the beach towards the sea, quite amusing.

We’ll cross the dry river bed of the Hoariseb, the dried mud making the most beautiful curls. Up and along some dunes again to the place where the dunes talk back to you. They are also called roaring dunes. We get the opportunity to climb the dunes, one step up and 2 steps down! Then we pass the most amazing rock formations which are nestled between die dunes.

We enter the Hoariseb dry river with high mountains around us, go through some water pools with lots of green and of course the men want to show off by going fast through the water and almost like a competition, who can make the highest splash!

We put up camp again against a dune. Fire is made for hot water for the showers and you can either sit down and relax or wander around.

Dunes and sea

Day 3

This day is going to be an interesting day as the scenery change from the riverbed and high mountains right next to us to plains with the most stunning colors. Barren, with dark brown colors and the yellow of the sand. The orange of the lichen that brighten the whole area. Lichens are a symbolic relationship between fungus and algae and are well adapted to survive in harsh conditions. The desert hosts 120 species. Some are black on rocks and putting some water on them and then watching them turning green, is something amazing to see.

Onward we go along the beach to Cape Fria and see hundreds of seals.

Interesting to read is the book Skeleton coast, written by John H Marsh, where he writes the true story around the history of the Duneden Eden Star shipwreck and the rescue that took place in 1942. Almost unbelievable how that many people were stranded on the beach for almost 14 days and how they survived. We will make camp where they had their shelter without hardly anything to eat or drink and how they endured the sun, wind and the absolute nothingness around them. Except for two, everyone was brought to safety from their horrible ordeal.

Day 4

Today we will reach the Kunene mouth, first over some dunes and a stop to have a beautiful view over “borsluisbaai”. Before arriving at the Kunene you will be warned not to go near the water as there could be crocodiles. Be on the outlook for the turtles, we’ll have a good view into Angola on the other side!

From there we’ll go over the dunes and witness the beautiful contrasts with the colors of the sand against the dark mountains. Look back every now and then.

Day 5

A cave visit is on the list and we stop and have a look around before going down over the dunes to the Kunene river. We will take a walk and find a perfect spot for a braai.

Day 6

Before departing you can walk to the river and see the rapids, climbing over huge boulders. Dune driving is next on the list before we enter the Hartmans valley, beautiful open spaces and a lot of Oryx.

Stopping at green drum where someone left an old laptop so you can send a “mock” email! Suddenly you remember that you were almost a week without any connection to the outside world.

Day 7

We might see some Welwitschia’s today on route. The “Castles of clay” in the Hoarusib river will leave you speechless.

Someone wrote: “If there are any doubts as the incredible power of the ancient forces that played havoc in Western Namibia many millions years ago than the white grayish sedimentary clay walls high up in the Hoarusib will dispel them”. And here we are, walking along them and we look so tiny next to them. We’ll set up camp not far from the castles and we can wonder around. Google and read more about it, it is amazingly stunning.

Day 8 and 9

This day is a dry river day, descending to the Hoarusib river and driving through water streams and the most beautiful mountains on both sides, till we come to the famous village Puros. This will be our home for the next two days.

Day 10 , 11 and 12 

We’ll make our way to Sesfontein via the Puros River through the Puros Poort and the Hoarusib River to Sesfontein.

Dunes

Price of the tour includes the following:

  • Concession fees payable to the Ministry
  • Park entrance and usage fees per person per day payable to the Ministry
  • Radio communication between vehicles (important and compulsory)
  • All camping and conservation fees
  • Two guided vehicles
  • Three meals per day

Each car must bring:

  • Enough fuel as mentioned before.
  • Tent, mattress, sleeping bag/blankets and chairs. (it can get very cold at night)
  • Minimum of 60 liter water (20 liter is for the use in the kitchen (plus 2 liter per day per person drinking water?) Will get water from the river for showers.
  • 2 large bags of wood and 1 bag charcoal.
  • Strong green garbage bags.
  • Enough drinks (when we sit at the fire)
  • Snacks (biltong) etc.
  • Your own cutlery & crockery (we will supply dish-washing facilities after each meal)

Other necessary items:

  • Warm jackets, clothes for cold and warm weather.
  • Sun protection, medicine, lip ice, hats……….
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition.
  • 4x4 must have “high flotation tyres “(no tube type tyres)
  • Pump and pressure gauge. 2 spare wheels
  • Emergency gear, tools and parts. (Land Rovers – your own recovery vehicle!)
  • Recovery point/hook front and rear
  • Roof racks only be loaded with maximum weight of 50kg (i.e. bedding and tents)

Great lakes and waterfalls of Zambia recce tour

We all travel for a reason. Whether it is for the experience, the thirst of adventure and to explore new places.

2 – 15 May 2020
R9 850 p/p Sharing

We here at Trans Africa proud ourselves as market leaders hence our slogan “Often Copied – Never Matched”. With this tour we will be doing just that, we will explore Northern Zambia and all the hidden gems it has to offer. This is a very exclusive tour that has never been done by anyone before and not much is known about that part of Africa. This is our much anticipated recon tour for 2020.

The area we plan to visit is littered with some of Africa’s greatest Lakes, spectacular unknown waterfalls and rivers. Potential travellers for this epic adventure must please set aside 2 more days for unforeseen circumstances, road conditions, border posts, availability of fuel etc. The idea is to have a relaxed travel adventure and not a “rally” from camp site to camp site. If we do find a nice place and the majority of the group wants to stay one extra night, we’ll do that. This tour has a basic itinerary, we will consult with locals and fellow travellers on the due course for the next day.

The open spaces on the untamed north of Zambia, starts from the pedicle – the piece of the DRC that juts out into the country’s midriff. From here, the national road shoots straight up north to Tanzania – passing national parks, vast wilderness areas, monuments, heritage sites and waterfalls all the way along.

Attractions in the north include Lake Tanganyika, Kasanka National Park, Chishimba Falls, the Mutinondo Wilderness, and even the eerie Shiwa Ng’andu – an English colonial mansion buried deep in the Zambian bush.

Northern Zambia is one of nature’s best-kept secrets.

This adventure will start in Kasane and end at Kapishya Hot Springs near Mpika and covers around 3 250 km.

Places we will visit include the following:

  • Kasane
  • Choma
  • Fringilla Farm
  • Forest Inn
  • Dr Livingstone’s memorial
  • Lake Bangweulu
  • Samfya Beach
  • Kabwelume Falls
  • Lumangwe falls
  • Mumbuluma Falls
  • Ntumbachushi Falls
  • Lake Mweru
  • Lake Tanganyika
  • Ndole Bay
  • Kalambo Falls
  • Kapishya Hot Springs

100% Pure Adventure

The aim of this tour is to explore and find new places off the beaten track. To do what Trans Africa does best – Find new routes and places for our ongoing growing list of clients. Very little is known of Northern Zambia as a tourist destination although it has the potential to be the best in Africa. Are you adventurous enough to join us in this search to have your name written down as the first ones to explore this route? Very limited space available. Only 3 of the 5 spots are up for grabs.

Ntumbachushi Falls

A series of water pools and rapids culminating in the main falls about 30m high on the Ng’ona River. This very picturesque waterfall was believed to be a sanctuary of spirits while the waters of the Ng’ona River are used for bathing chiefs before they are installed on the throne so as to cleanse them of bad luck and misfortune.

Kalambo Falls

The Kalambo Falls on the Kalambo River is a 772ft (235m) single drop waterfall in Tanzania, very near the border with Zambia at the southeast end of Lake Tanganyika. The falls are some of the tallest uninterrupted falls in Africa (after South Africa’s Tugela Falls, Ethiopia’s Jin Bahir Falls and some more waterfalls). Downstream of the falls the Kalambo Gorge which has a width of about 1 km and a depth of up to 300 m runs for about 5 km before opening out into the Lake Tanganyika rift valley.

Mumbuluma Falls

Mumbuluma Falls, situated near Mansa town, cascades down in two steps on the Mumbuluma River. The temple for the protective spirits, Makumba and his sister Ngosa, are situated some distance south of the Falls. The temple has a sacred fire which never goes out and is tended by the priests. According to legend, Makumba and Ngosa fell from the sky.

Lumangwe falls

Near the Chipembe Pontoon in the Northern Province, an astounding drop in the middle of nowhere creates what looks like a smaller version of Victoria Falls. 35m high and 100m across, the falls nourish a small rain forest on the Kalungwishi River. They are quite magnificent and well worth the 9km detour off the main road.
Lumangwe Falls is like a miniature Victoria Falls except this one is no slouch in its own right. It appeared to be roughly 20-30m tall and spanning a width of over 50m. But it had that wide rectangular shape that made this one of the more memorable waterfalls we saw in the remote Northern Zambia.

Kabwelume Falls

Five km’s down the Kalungwishi river from the Lumangwe Falls (above) you’ll find this group of three powerful cascades, each spilling into the next. The Falls are a revered shrine for the local people. Many frogs are seen here which locals say they are the earthly forms of snake spirits. The Spirits do not allow the building of houses or any frivolity nearby. Beneath the falls there is a thickly wooded ravine and some ancient paintings adorning nearby rock faces beneath a permanent rainbow.

Lake Bangweulu

When one looks out over Lake Bangweulu, the grey blue waters disappear into the horizon, blending in completely with the colour of the sky. It is difficult to tell just where the horizon is. ‘Bangweulu’ means ‘The Place Where the Water Meets the Sky.’

The Lake is exploited more as a fish source than for its tourist potential. This is unfortunate, as it’s beauty is breathtaking.

Lake Mweru

This truly beautiful lake is located on the far north-west border of Zambia and is shared more or less equally with DRC. The Luapula River flows in from the south having formed the official border between northern Zambia and DRC. It also drains out from the lake in the north. The Kalungwishi river flows in from the east. Both river mouths form important deltas that serve as fish breeding grounds.

Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is the second-oldest freshwater lake in the world, the second-largest by volume, and the second-deepest, in all cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is the world’s longest freshwater lake. The lake is shared between four countries – Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi and Zambia, with Tanzania (46%) and DRC (40%) possessing the majority of the lake. It drains into the Congo River system and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean.

Lumangwe Falls

What do you need:

  1. A good reliable, serviced 4-wheel drive vehicle.
  2. Fuel range of app. 850km’s including extra fuel containers like long range tanks and jerry cans.
  3. Vehicle registration papers or letter of consent from the financing institution.
  4. Children must have a valid passport and an unabridged birth certificate and letter of consent if not accompanied by both parents.
  5. Guests from non-SADC countries will need a Visa.
  6. A passport that is valid for 3 months after our return to SA, valid drivers license and ID.
  7. Camping equipment and cooking/braai accessories.
  8. Fridge/Freezer
  9. Malaria Prophylaxis taken as prescribed by your GP.
  10. Last but not least – A good sense of humour and a positive outlook.

Price includes:

  • All cross border fees, 3rd party insurance and taxes except road toll
  • Camping fees
  • Guide fees
  • Experienced guide with advanced emergency medical background and medical kit
  • 2 way radios
  • 1 sim card for Zambia per vehicle excluding airtime
  • 2 potjie dinners (Chicken curry and Beef)
  • 2 way Satellite Communications in case of emergency
  • Tag along back to SA with guide at own cost

Not included

  • 4×4 vehicle hire
  • Fuel
  • Food
  • Daily activities
  • Transfer fees
  • Conservation and park entry fees
  • Medical evacuation and travel insurance
  • Anything else not mentioned above

Lone men of Kaokoland

As one of the last remaining wilderness areas in Africa, it attracts hard-core travellers and explorers. It appeals to those who have already travelled the main tarmac arteries through the country and the myriad gravel tracks that branch off them like fibrous roots. Kaokoland, as this remote and inhospitable region (now part of the Kunene Region) is known historically, has always been the Wild West of Namibia. And for those self-sufficient and experienced 4×4 travellers who venture further afield, it’s a desert Eden of mysteries and marvels.

The story of the Lone Men of Namibia is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma.

These stone men – or rather, sculptures – are scattered all over the country, and known as The Lone Men Of Kaokoland. Each figure has an aluminium disc attached to it, with a number and a message as to where it is going. Although a sculpture numbered 37 has been seen (and I won’t divulge its whereabouts), only 14 Lone Men have been found by us so far.

They have been spotted in Puros in the South, Van Zyl’s Pass in the East, Otjinungua in the North and even in the Skeleton Coast National Park in the West. And for many travellers it has become a treasure hunt to find these Lone Men of Namibia; in fact, you know about it, it has become one of the highlights of things to do in Kaokoland.

Each life-size sculpture is made from rock prevailing in the area, and depicts a different personality. In the dry remote landscape of Kakoaland, with its unforgiving climate and temperatures, you will see them (that’s if you can find them). Some are standing, some are sitting, some are on their knees with their hands in the air and there’s one holding on for dear life from an overhang.

But unlike most artists who display their name on their creations, the Lone Men of Namibia has no name connected to it. The sculptures each have a number on it and a message saying where the figure is heading.

And it all begs the question: who is the artist?

No one knows.

The artist-with-no-name has managed to secretively construct, create and place these stone figures all over Namibia’s long forgotten landscape of silence, and it has become an open-air gallery that draws the spectator into the environment and emotions of each sculpture.

Of course, it also begs a few other questions. Why do these sculptures look so lonely, so haggard? How many are there? Are there more sculptures to be discovered? And is the artist still creating more?

Again no one knows.

And maybe that is the beauty of it all, the unknown wrapped up in the mystery.

The beauty of nothingness….

How does one begin to describe the beauty of nothingness…..? Only after sitting on a sand dune and staring into the sea of sand do you appreciate the true beauty of nothingness.

Questions like who am I comes to mind in this bigger picture of nothingness. You come to realise that you are part of the blank canvas upon which the entire universe is painted. You start to realise how small and insignificant you really are. Only then do you realise that life as you know it has no bearing upon who you are but you live because of others. Your existence on earth is to be part of the bigger scheme of things and you have two options. To make life better for those around you and or to do the opposite. Choose wisely because you will be judged for it.

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By birth we all have the same degree of beauty and purity and then life shapes and changes us into who and what we become. Be careful of the impacts you have on others, especially children Your actions can be the difference between good and evil.
Sometimes we need to travel and get away from life as we know it to get completely lost in the nothingness to find our true selfs.

Stories in the sand

Each morning brings a new episode in the ongoing series “Stories in the sand” – to the trained eye a whole new world of intriguing interactions and dramas from the previous night unfolds each morning. Battles big and small, visits from the biggest, baddest and meanest to those who crawl.

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Its like an open book – one that could be read as well as contributed to. Maybe you could call it “Wiki-Landscape”. Though I’d prefer to think of it as the encyclopedia of who did what last night: a book that absorbs you such that you are suddenly one of the characters of the very story you are reading in the sand. What we often underestimate is exactly how much information we can gather from the signs left behind by animals and it is once we start following and identifying the spoor, that we start building a “bigger picture” of exactly what the animal/s are doing. A jackal scratching fleas, a Toktokkie looking for a mate, to the king of beasts leisurely strolling through camp to all sorts of critters running to and fro, there are much to read and learn.

lion-pawprint-bushwise

The stories in the red sand carried so many characters, events and action which we would have otherwise never seen, if we had not looked. The San (Bushman) are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa,  they have lived here for at least 20 000 years. They are the master readers when it comes to stories in the sand. They know each and every character by hart and they know exactly how to interpret what might look to us like ordinary marks in the sand.

Stories in the sand is any sign of a creature or trace by which the progress of something may be followed. A spoor may include tracks, scents, scat or broken foliage.

To read these stories in the sand you need to understand the basics.  

1. Who Made The Tracks?
What type of animal made these tracks? There are numerous pocket guides available for resources in identifying tracks. Signs of the Wild by Clive Barker is one of the most complete guides available.
2. What Was The Animal Doing When The Tracks Were Made?
Was the animal chasing another animal or hunting another animal? Was the animal walking or just grazing? Was the creature alone and if not – what was the interaction with the others?
3. When Were The Tracks Made?
By identifying when the tracks were made, you can get a better picture of the animals habits and or if its nocturnal or day living. How long ago did the animal past.
4. Where Did The Animal Go From Here?
Is it just passing through? Did it go to sleep near by? Sometimes, by following fresh tracks for a short distance, you will find the animal.
5. Why Did The Animal Go Though Here?
Why does the animal move at a specific time of day? Is this a pattern for this animal? Will it come by tomorrow and use this same path? Many animals have “roads” and “highways” that they constantly use.

san-bushmen-dance-deception-valley