Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Namibia 2017 Part 3. Erongo

We awoke for our first full day in Namibia to the welcoming sight of the sun beaming through a gap in the curtains. Well, it was welcoming to us anyway. Our host at the guest house explained that they had had no proper rains for 7 years and they were desperate for rainfall. The lack of water of course would be an advantage for us when we got to Etosha N.P. as the animals would be much easier to find as they head to the waterholes to drink. Despite warnings to the contrary the "wet" season might be every bit as good as the "dry" season from a game viewing point of view to say nothing of being far less expensive.
Anyway, following an excellent breakfast we were on our way to our next stop in the Erongo reserve.
Before leaving Windhoek we had been tipped off to where the best shopping centre is ( just off the B1 on Hosea Kutako drive) and we duly visited to stock up on essentials. Water,wine,beer and a few snacks for lunch time consumption. Most places we stayed had a fridge in the room so that offered convenience as well as a small saving on bar prices. Water in the car is essential, just in case it's needed. On that first day it was. The car dash recorded  a temperature of 43ยบ at one point. It was blisteringly hot to say the least.
Leaving Windhoek I was at the wheel and Claire was navigating. I had already experienced the embarrassment of stalling the car twice in the middle of Windhoek by mistakenly trying to change gear in an automatic car but at least I had the advantage of driving on the "usual" side of the road. Having driven on the "wrong" side quite a few times in Europe and the USA I found the car way more challenging for the first 24 hours! I had to think whilst driving !
Once you are out of Windhoek which isn't very big anyway, you soon find yourself on virtually traffic free roads, even the main north-south B1 was a breeze. In town though I had noticed driving standards were poor. Jumping the lights on red was commonplace, ignoring speed limits likewise. 
Whilst Claire had been in the supermarket buying the supplies I killed time by reading the pamphlet on driving in Namibia that I had been given the previous day.
Sobering literature indeed and one to take serious note of.
You are 50x more likely to have an accident in Namibia than when driving in Europe.
10% of hirers have an accident.
10 rental cars per month are written off.
From what I'd seen of driving standards so far I could see why! However, the really interesting fact is that the majority of accidents don't involve a third party. They are purely down to driver error. We were to see an example with our own eyes a few days later but in the meantime we took in all the warnings about speed and driving on gravel roads.
To be honest, as long as you don't try to travel too far in any given day you can sit back and enjoy the scenery. Tip. Think carefully and remember the roads in Namibia are much slower than elsewhere you might have been. You are often travelling at 60 kph and an average of 40kph on a journey isn't unusual by the time you have stopped for photos, slowed down for poor road surfaces etc, etc. 
That said, if you are aware of the pitfalls driving in Namibia is an absolute breeze and in my opinion the way to go.
Anyway, back on the road to Erongo here's a typical scene.
I think I recorded it as there was actually some traffic ! We took the B1 north then headed west on the B2 before taking our first gravel road towards Omaruru, the C36. At some stage Claire had taken over the driving 
My chauffeur
and I was grateful as I was having a problem with one eye watering badly. I came to the conclusion it was the dust. 
This is typical of the gravel roads as we travelled and you can see, a breeze to drive on provided you respect the road surface and your speed limitations.
According to my plan this route should have taken around 2 hrs 30mins. Most of it was on tar roads. With a stop or two thrown in it took us over 4hrs, well who could resist an opportunity like this?
or this!
Termite nest Namibia
 We still arrived before the check in time of 3.00pm so we headed back to the sign we had passed five minutes earlier for the Erongo Wilderness camp. I had heard great things about this place but at over £300 per night for half board it was way more expensive than it's near neighbour, Otjohotozu Guest farm and our choice. At around £70 per night for B&B it was considerably cheaper even when you add in another 440NR or roughly £28 for dinner for two.
The private road to Erongo Wilderness clearly stated that day visitors were not allowed so I never got to see what that extra cost would buy but we were more than happy with our choice of residence.
Our room might be a bit dated but it was comfortable and spotlessly clean, typical of everywhere we went on the latter points.
Otjohotozu Guestfarm   Erongo
What we really enjoyed was the communal family dining in the covered dining area.
Otjohotozu Guestfarm   Erongo
Well in the evenings anyway! On our second morning we were the only ones for breakfast but on the first night it was a full house of 14 for dinner, a BBQ featuring Kudu steaks.

Otjohotozu Guestfarm   Erongo

Sitting under the stars we were treated to our hostess performing a few songs accompanied by her guitar. She was so good my suspicions she had been a pro were confirmed!
Besides excellent value in the accommodation, the guest farm is set in thousands of acres and the land holds lots of game. Once upon a time it was hunting lodge but now it's purely a farm.
I was free to wander wherever but first I explored the gardens and to my delight I was shown a African Paradise Flycatcher nest complete with chick.
African Paradise Flycatcher    Terpishone Viridis
The adults were constantly on the go looking for food and i was able to get some shots of what is one of my favourite birds.
African Paradise Flycatcher    Terpishone Viridis
Both the female and long tailed male posed nicely whilst contemplating returning to the nest.
African Paradise Flycatcher    Terpishone Viridis
With great care it was possible to view the nest from a hidden position fairly close although making sure not to disturb the birds was of course paramount.
African Paradise Flycatcher    Terpishone Viridis
In the two days we stayed we saw the chick appear to grow in size. 
African Paradise Flycatcher    Terpishone Viridis
I wondered if the chick would have fledged by the time we returned for a second stay on our way south two weeks or so later. Hopefully it would still be there!
In the meantime other garden birds were a challenge, Bearded Woodpecker was a first for me.
Bearded Woodpecker   Dendropicos Namaquus
Hand holding my 600mm lens and using slow shutter speeds isn't a good combination but I was hoping the bird might stay still for just a fraction of a second.
Bearded Woodpecker   Dendropicos Namaquus
Trouble was, when it did it was partially obscured by foliage!
Ah well, there might be another chance.
Wandering a short distance from the walled garden I found a couple of other interesting species too.
My first ever Great Spotted Cuckoo.
Great Spotted Cuckoo  Clamator Glandarius
and the much desired and fairly uncommon Ruppell's Parrot.
Ruppell's Parrot    Poicephalus Rueppellii
No, I went to bed on the first night thinking I had found a gem of a place to stay and that opinion still remains today. Tomorrow I would step further outside the walled property and see what was on offer a bit further afield. Andreas, the owner had told me where to look for Rockrunner, a species that was way up my wish list.
Sweet dreams and expectations accompanied me in to slumberland!

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