Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Namibia 2017 Part 5. Grootberg we come!

I was particularly looking forward to the stay at Grootberg Lodge for several reasons not least as it seemed to be held in very high regard by all who visit . The pictures I'd seen seemed to back that up too and it was after all, along with Dolomite Camp in Etosha, the most expensive place we planned to stay. 6330NR or £365 for two nights half board. The expense didn't end there either, the following day we were booked in for an on foot  Rhino tracking expedition which turned out to cost us £250 for the two of us. My biggest concern was that this would be a hard act to follow so early in the trip.
Still we could worry about that later.
We left Otjohotozu Farm with no regret whatsoever. Not that we hadn't enjoyed it, we had, but there was so much ahead to look forward to and not only that we were booked for another two nights on our way south again! I'd be back. A second crack at the Rockrunner, Ruppell's Parrot and everything else then!
We weren't in too big a rush to leave though, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast first.
I think I might have been driving for the first five minutes but Claire took over when, having not gone far, I leapt out of the car in pursuit of a  Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill , another lifer!
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill   Tockus Leucomelas
It wasn't having me getting close though and took off flying past me in the process.

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill   Tockus Leucomelas
As it turned out it was the only avian photograph I took all day. Driving through Erongo there was a dearth of wildlife but it was getting hotter.
When I say the only photos I took I do mean of birds. The scenery was quite simply stunning along the D2315 and we couldn't resist stopping for snaps here
Erongo    Namibia
Erongo    Namibia
Erongo    Namibia
What made it so special was the contrast of stunning blue sky and fluffy white clouds
Damaraland   Namibia
I'm no landscape photographer but I couldn't resist trying although I was just using my Olympus Tough point and shoot whilst Claire was using the iPad.
As well as the sky and terrain there was the odd interesting road sign too!
Erongo   Namibia
You don't see those around where I live!
The only problem was that we stopped so often it took us an hour just to cover the first 30 kms!
Aware it was time moving on we refrained from stopping and I took more shots from the moving car .
That's were the Tough in Olympus came in handy!

Erongo    Namibia
Erongo    Namibia

We headed first westwards towards the mining town of Uis ( an ugly blot on the landscape) then northwards towards Khorixas on the C35.
We'd made a conscious decision to take the scenic route on gravel roads but now the reality of travel in Namibia was starting to dawn on us.
Remember my advice on driving ? It was based on this experience!
You can be driving along happily when you can suddenly encounter this.
Damaraland   Namibia
Your beautiful day is about to vanish in a cloud of dust !
It's not just vehicles coming the opposite way, the same applies when you are overtaken but as that is likely to be a small vehicle the dust trail isn't too bad.
Damaraland   Namibia
Common sense applies and you just hang back for the vehicle to get well ahead however, if you look at that shot again you'll notice two things. We were in the shadow of a cloud so it was darker but in the distance there is a convoy of vehicles approaching.
They might be smallish cars but there were eight of them.
Damaraland   Namibia
I couldn't believe how close they followed each other.
Damaraland   Namibia
Suddenly it was lights out for us ! Why they would want to drive in such a hazardous formation is beyond me. They must love eating their own dust though.
If it wasn't other vehicles creating the hazard it was a turn in the weather.
We experienced some dramatic weather conditions the further north we travelled in to Damaraland.
Damaraland   Namibia
You could see rain clouds gathering and then dropping their load. We kept our fingers crossed we would skirt around them. The skies were fabulous though.
Damaraland   Namibia
One minute this
Damaraland   Namibia
The next minute this!
Damaraland   Namibia
Inevitably we got caught in the middle several times.
Damaraland   Namibia
This wasn't rain though, it was liquid gold!
Damaraland   Namibia
Sometimes we got caught in dust storms, usually just before the rain hit. The skies were so impressive.
Damaraland   Namibia
Was it dangerous driving in these conditions? Certainly not if you are sensible but you need to slow down. Our journey was taking longer and longer, the estimate of 5hrs 30mins long past.
Eventually we felt we were nearing Grootberg. The weather was still looking a bit grim.
Damaraland  Namibia
But as quickly as it starts raining it can stop.
Damaraland  Namibia
The landscape looks impressive in a totally different way.
Damaraland  Namibia
In some ways we didn't see the best of Damaraland as it was often obscured by the rain but we did experience some incredible weather. 
Maybe I should drive there again on a day of brilliant blue skies and white fluffy clouds just to compare it properly with Erongo.
In the meantime my memories are more like this!
Damaraland   Namibia
Anyway, the rain eased off, we finally got to the turn off for the C40 and the Grootberg Pass and duly arrived at Grootberg Lodge. Well the car park at the bottom of the hill anyway.
Claire had driven all the way, a total of 8 hours. My eyes had kicked off again but were now starting to ease. We had heard so much about the terrors of driving up the steep track to the Lodge car park that we wondered just how bad it could be. Claire was all for leaving the car at the bottom and taking the Lodge's vehicle. 
I wasn't!
I have never driven in 4x4 mode before and I wasn't going to miss out. Once the man on the gate showed me how to engage it I was off.
Piece of cake!
We finally had arrived in to the top car park and reception.
You know it's going to be impressive as you have seen the photos but the real deal is so much better!
Each room, a bungalow type hut, looks over the valley below.
Grootberg Lodge   Namibia
and what a view it is too!
Grootberg  Namibia
The rooms are nicely appointed, the beds comfortable. Well at the price they should be too.
Grootberg Lodge
They don't have fridges in the rooms so it was off to the bar for a sundowner. The drinks are very reasonable (as they were everywhere we went)  30NR or less than £2 for a large Windhoek draught lager.
Yes, the weather had taken a turn for the better and there was a hint of sun as it disappeared for the night.
Could you really wish to end the day in better style?
Grootberg Lodge  Namibia
We had a few more too and were one of the last in to the restaurant where we had an enjoyable meal before an early bed ready for a 5.00am alarm to take us off Rhino tracking.
It was already the end of Day 4 and so far I had seen vey little game , a roadside baboon or two, an Oryx and my encounter with a Zebra.
Hopefully tomorrow all that would change. Bring it on!
Any regrets so far ?
Definitely. I wish we had arrived at Grootberg much earlier. So much to see, now one afternoon less to see it.
Remember that tip. don't plan to drive too far in a single day.

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