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Swakopmund to Etosha

Day: 131

KLMS 20,865

Swakopmund is another very German town in Namibia –it definitely doesn’t feel like Africa! We treated ourselves to a posh camp at Alte Brucke where you’re given your own en-suite facilities and endless hot water! Luxury! The next day we found ourselves a mechanic and to our surprise (again) he said he could easily get transfer case seals from Windhoek by the next day for us, so to come back and see him tomorrow. With the car booked in, we decided to treat ourselves to some fun and went off for an afternoon of sandboarding. The dunes just outside the town are huge, so armed with a super hi-tech piece of MDF board (specially designed for sandboarding apparently, with one side rough and one side super shiny for extra speed – haha!) Specially designed or not, oh my god, these things fly, sliding down the dunes at nearly 80km/hr is an unbelievable amount of fun – it was hard to hold on for laughing so much! Swakopmund was a great town to be based in for a few days, but once the car was sorted we were excited to be heading out of town and back into the bush again, heading north to Etosha National Park.

Big Rich at 80km/hr!

Double trouble!

Double trouble!

Etosha is over 20,000km² but due to the vast salt pan that covers the majority of centre the wildlife is forced to stay around the waterholes along the southern edges. The high concentration of animals, make it one of the best places to view wildlife in the world. We headed up to the park, but as we hadn’t booked ahead all the campsites were full, so instead we camped at one of the lovely lodges just outside and made the most of the free wi-fi, pool and bar before getting an early night. Safari days start early, 5am! I’m usually terrible in the mornings, but as the alarm went off i could hear a lion in the distance so was out of bed like a shot, desperate to get to the park to try and find the lion we could hear. And as we drove through the gates, the sun was beginning to rise and there in the early dawn light, there he was, our first African male lion! Strolling through the grassland, he kept doing his deep, bellowing call for other lions which is the most awesome sound. There were no replies this time but we followed him slowly for awhile before he disappeared off into the bushes. First sighting within 10minutes of arriving – it was going to be a good day! We spent the day driving round the edge of the pan, the white salty expanse disappearing off into the horizon on one side, and scrubby bush and grasslands on the other. We drove slowly from waterhole, to waterhole where we could just park up and watch the different herds of animals wandering in for their daily drink, elephants, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, every kind of antelope you can think of and an array of birds – including Zazzoos! (Yellow horn bills to those who haven’t seen the lion king!).

Zazzoo!

Zazzoo!

Etosha pan

Etosha pan

 

 

The sheer number of animals at any one waterhole was just staggering. We drove to Halali which is mid-way through the park and thought we’d ask about camping on the off-chance they had availability. ‘Yes of course we do, we have plenty of spaces’ the receptionist said and booked us in for the following night. Having been told repeatedly over the phone, email and at the gate they were fully booked, we couldn’t believe how empty the camp was!!! The NWR park management are incredibly frustrating,  it’s all very ‘computer says no’ and they seem so uninterested in their jobs – there is no point asking questions about the park or the animals – they won’t know! Fortunately maps and guide books are available. The only other grumble i have about the parks, is the other people and the lack of ‘safari etiquette’, we saw some shockers, particularly when elephants and lions were involved.  People forcing their cars past to get a better view, resulting in them either blocking everyone elses view or scaring the animal off. One afternoon, we were meandering along when we turned the corner to see 3 large elephant bulls walking up the road towards us. We stopped to give them as much room as possible (having both read the ‘Elephant whisperer’ we know what can happen if an elephant decides you’re too close!) but couldn’t believe it when 2 cars flew past us and drove right up to where the elephants were. They were lucky these elephants were so placid, but what idiots!

Day 2, bought us one of the most memorable experiences of the trip so far. Just after arriving at a waterhole, we were so excited to see a herd of elephants appearing from the bushes, striding over towards the water. The matriarch leading the long line, they marched right in front of us, heading straight into the cool muddy water where they began to splash, spray, swim and play. There were about 15 of them and it was brilliant to watch an entire family, the boisterous ‘teenagers’ charging about, the babies doing their excited squeeling trumpet sound and  slipping and sliding in the mud whilst the mature elephants kept a watchful eye over them. We were so absorbed with watching this family that we hadn’t seen that other elephants were also making their way over. We sat opened mouthed as elephant after elephant appeared from out of the bushes until there were over 50 elephants all splashing around in the muddy water in front of us. The noise, the smell, the presence of that many elephants was just incredible. We watched them for over an hour, both just sitting in complete awe of what was happening in front of us, before gradually the matriarchs decided it was time to go and one by one lead their families back into the bush where they simply vanished.

Elephant play - Rietfontein waterhole

Elephant play – Rietfontein waterhole

 

On a complete high from our afternoon of elephant play we headed into Halali camp in the middle of the park. Armed with a couple of sundowners we headed to the waterhole viewing deck, to see whether we’d be lucky to have any other visitors to join us watching the sun set. The day was going to get even better. A family of elephants soon arrived and with the waterhole only feet away, it was amazing to be so close to such giants. The elephants were soon joined by 2 black rhinos, but not wanting to share their water with anyone we watched as the older elephants began squaring up to the rhinos. We watched some pretty intense scuffles between the two animals and only being feet away added to the intensity!  As night fell and the elephants moved on, the waterhole was now clear for other animals to return and to top off our amazing day a pair of white rhino brought their tiny calf in for a drink, the peace of the African bush only interrupted by the rhinos slurping sounds.

Sunset at Halali camp

Sunset at Halali camp

 

After 3 wonderful days in Etosha, it was sadly time to move on so with heavy hearts we left the park, hoping very much that will come back one day. We are heading north now, towards the Angolan border to spend our last few days in Namibia in the Caprivi strip. We have absolutely loved our time in Namibia, and have been completely bowled over by it’s beauty, it’s remoteness and the generosity of the people we’re meeting along the way. But just as you become at ease with one country, it’s time to move onto the next and the familiar butterflies return as you begin to wonder what the next country has in store for you. Botswana beckons!

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Kylie’s Nine Lives

Day 120:

KLMS 18,275:

Pajero means a number of different things – In Spanish the word ‘Pajero’ means ‘Wanker’ but in the rest of the world including Mitsubishi HQ  Japan, ‘Pajero’ means Mountain Lion! A mountain lion is essentially a cat and if they say that a cat has 9 lives, Kylie has lost yet another one, but by some feline stroke of luck, our old girl is back up and running once more.

First, a bit of history. Sometime after buying Kylie as a knock-about run around, I discovered a few details regarding her chequered past. She has actually been written off by insurance companies on two different occasions. Once due to ‘malicious damage’ and once for ‘storm’ damage i.e. flooded. So if you are superstitious this means that 2 of the 9 lives have been spent. I also knew that the previous owner had blown the engine and had to get it rebuilt. Life 3 of 9 gone. I then bought the car for not much and the previous owner managed to make back the money he spent fixing the engine. I had a cheap old truck with a nearly new V6. Everyone is happy.

Forward in time up to a few days ago and we were happily trundling along the corrugations towards Cape Diaz, the location of the first white European to land in this locality. As we headed across the salt pans to the cape Sophie suddenly tuned to me and said what the hell is that noise? I also heard the noise but was convinced that it was just stones bouncing up from the gravel road and hitting the chassis rails. About 500m further and a few ‘pings’ the engine just stopped. We managed to get towed back to camp, so I could look over the engine for clues as to what had gone wrong.  The next morning I was convinced that I had found a leak in the inlet manifold and that it could be fixed easily. The leaking manifold would mean the air mixture entering the engine would be incorrect and as a result would not run well.  We drove the spluttering Kylie to Luderitz Motors where the owner Udo said he could help us out. As his assistance was confirmed three of his mechanics tore into the failing engine.

Udo's mechanics get to work straightaway

Udo’s mechanics get to work straightaway

The engine is soon taken out and lies in pieces across the garage

The engine is soon taken out and lies in pieces across the garage

Not going anywhere fast

Not going anywhere fast

I was keen to hang round for a bit to see how things would pan out, expecting to be there for ages even though it was a fairly simple fix. The exact opposite happened. It didn’t take the garage long to completely strip down the engine but the problem was not a simple one at all. The inlet manifold on this engine has an over complicated air supply and exhaust gas mixing system, this doesn’t really lend itself to an overlanding vehicle that could require remote bush fixes. We were well aware of this when we decided to try and drive Kylie back home so I guess we are now living the consequences of our decision. The over complicated butterfly valve system had disintegrated and one of the butterflies fell into the piston valves in the engine head. A compression check showed that piston 6 had zero compression so the valves were stuffed. This is a nightmare as this engine is rare in this part of the world and the last time Luderitz Motors worked on a Pajero they had to wait 5 weeks for parts. Bummer……

Number 6 butterfly valve is missing (left)

Number 6 butterfly valve is missing

The broken butterfly (c) what its meant to look like and 4 bent cylinder valves

The broken butterfly (c) what its meant to look like and 4 bent cylinder valves

 

We retired to our accommodation at the igloo to jump on the web and start sourcing the parts we needed albeit not exactly brimming with confidence of a quick fix and expecting a mammoth bill. We planned to get comfy in Luderitz. While searching I contacted Alan at ANG service, aka the guys we used in Cape Town for Kylie’s service. He came up with the great suggestion that we just remove the butterfly valve system and run the engine without it. Doing this would result in a slight loss of power and torque, but the car will run. Armed with this knowledge we returned to Luderitz motors the next morning and discussed the option with Udo our mechanic. He agreed that this fix should work and he was happy to give it a go. So with no immediate need to replace the manifold system and butterfly valves we just had to get a new set of piston valves. This didn’t seem too bad and I guessed we would be back on track in a week or so.

Sophie and I popped out for a coffee and a walk round town. On the way back to the igloo we called into the garage again to get some more items from the car. As I walked in, Udo met us and in his calm manner said ‘I almost finished’. By some miracle Udo told us that he actually had valves form a partly refurbished Kia motor out the back of the workshop. Kia used the same 6G74 motor in their cars until recently. In the pile of tractor and lorry motors was an exact match for Kylie’s motor, albeit a lot newer and many less klms. Having followed the advice of the Bradt guide to ‘Africa Overland’ we also carried a full engine gasket set so with this and the valves for the Kia I couldn’t believe our luck! We had everything we needed for the repair.

So today we picked up Kylie. Still in shock that the repair was completed in less than 2days and the parts we needed just happened to be ‘out the back’, we were still concerned as to whether the engine would run when pieced all back together – but it does and the difference in power is hardly noticeable. Tomorrow we hit the road and hopefully that will be last of the bad luck for a while, fingers crossed Kylie doesn’t lose another life on the way home! Thank you to everyone who has sent us messages of support and offered to help – it’s been so great having you all there behind us, willing and encouraging us through what has been quite a rollercoaster – we really appreciate having you with us!

Onwards and Upwards – for real this time.

R

The igloo we stayed in

The igloo we stayed in

 

Inside the igloo

Inside the igloo

 

 

Staying in Luderitz for awhile

So things are not looking good at the moment. After managing to find a mechanic this morning who would look at Kylie, (two turned us away when they saw it was mitsubishi) it seems one of the cylinders has gone on the engine. Our V6 is now only a V5 after a component from the inlet manifold fell off into engine destroying the valves. Big problem. As I mentioned yesterday, the lovely Luderitz is nestled between the desert and the Atlantic which is not really the best place to get stranded as there is no easy way to get the parts we need. Kylie and deserts clearly don’t go well together, but at least we are still in civilisation and not deep in the African bush. Hopefully we’ll have a list of all the parts the mechanic needs today so that we can begin working out where we can get them and how much it will all cost. Our best solution is that we can get them couriered from Cape Town, if not, Australia but we will have to wait to see who has got what.

In the meantime, we are staying with someone who has an ‘igloo’ we can sleep in! A first for me! The big dome has great views over the harbour, so at least we have beautiful scenery to look at while we sit and ponder the pickle we are in.

Defrosting in Namibia: Ai-Ais – Luderitz

Day 116:

KLMS 18,275:

We crossed into Namibia at the Rietfontein border post, just as Kylie celebrated her 300,000klm birthday. It was all fairly straightforward except for a debate as to whether the Carnet, should or shouldn’t be stamped (technically South Africa, Namibia and Botswana all fall under the same stamp) but as we’d been stamped out of South Africa, we needed to be stamped back into Namibia. After an argument amongst themselves, we finally got our stamp and we were off into country number 4.

It’s amazing how different the countries are on either side of these imaginary lines and crossing into Namibia was no exception. Once through the border, there was nothing but desert, it suddenly all felt very remote! We drove onto the next town where we paid our road tax and then continued to our first camping spot in the Quiver tree forest. Quiver trees are actually a type of Aloe plant,  which the bushmen used to make arrows from, hence it’s name. They usually grow alone, so this ‘forest’ is the only place in the world where you find many growing together. The campground was also home to a menagerie of rescue animals, including 2 cheetahs which unfortunately can never be released back into the wild so have become very tame. It was amazing to see the cheetahs up close for the first time, absolutely beautiful – i hope we get to see wild ones later.

Quiver trees

Quiver trees

 

Cheetahs up close - sadly not wild ones!

Cheetahs up close – sadly not wild ones!

 

From there, we headed south again towards the Fish River Canyon – the drive felt as remote as any we’d done in Australia – but the rocky wildness landscape was far more spectacular. The roads, although unsealed, are pretty good but the dust is so bad. After only a day, everything inside the car, including us, has a layer of fine dust covering it. Driving along with the window down, you have to keep clearing your sunglasses so you can see!

Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon

Arriving at Ai-Ais, was like finding paradise in the desert. Travelling out of season meant we pretty much had the whole resort to ourselves, so we quickly set up camp, dug out our swimmers and went to find the hot spring-fed pool. The sun was out, the water was warm, it was bliss to just soak in the water for a while. After a couple of weeks of camping in freezing conditions a hot spa was just what we needed and we spent a blissful afternoon lazing in the pool and getting some sun on the skin for the first time in ages.

Loving our spa experience so much we stayed another day, giving ourselves a chance to plan the rest of our route through Namibia, tidy up the car and do some laundry! It’s so nice to have clean sheets, clean sleeping bag liners, towels and pillow cases!! We also got plenty of catapult target practice, as a troop of baboons were constantly patrolling round the camp, looking for any opportunity to steal food. Man v’s Ape certainly makes for hours of entertainment – i’m not convinced as to which one was smarter! The springs are at the south end of the famous Fish River Canyon, so we drove to the other end to the view point, from which there are spectacular views across the canon – the biggest in Africa.

Man V's Ape

Man V’s Ape

Not wanting to stay in the dustbowl camping area at Hobas, we drove onto Aus for the night, before reaching Luderitz the following day. They say Luderitz is more German than Germany – the old Schutztruppe certainly left their mark! Sandwiched between the dunes of the Namib desert and the Atlantic ocean, the only reason this town exists is the rich sources of diamonds that lie in the surrounding areas. We visited Kolmanskop, an old mining town that once boasted casinos, bowling alleys and mansions, until new diamond reserves were found elsewhere and the town was abandoned 50years ago, leaving the buildings to gradually disappear beneath the shifting desert sands. It’s a very eerie place, but fascinating to learn how lavishly they were able to live despite being in the middle of the desert. Amazing what money can buy! I kept an eye out for any ‘twinkling rocks’ but sadly they are all long gone.

Kolmanskop -Ghost Diamond mining town

Kolmanskop -Ghost Diamond mining town

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Unfortunately it seems the same can be said about our luck. On our way out to Cape Diaz, the engine suddenly cut out, leaving us completely stranded – again! Fortunately, we were blessed with 2 more angels, Swiss this time, who stopped to help us (Thankyou Mickel & Jocelyne Henry!!!). We managed to start the engine again, but with a lot of spluttering and juddering we decided it would be best to get towed back to town. So off we went, on the wrong end of the tow rope again! Fortunately it was only 30km back to our campsite and so once back Rich was able to give the engine a proper check. It looks as though the ERG valve that controls the air into the engine has worn out, so the air mix into the engine isn’t right causing it to splutter.

We’ll take her to a garage tomorrow, keeping our fingers crossed that it’s nothing too serious – but we’ll keep you posted 😦

 

And here we go again

And here we go again

 

 

 

 

 

 

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