Waking up in Namibia

Windhoek - Etosha - The Fort at Onguma

Not quite the early getaway from the Olive Grove we had hoped for but by about 9am we were all ready, car packed and the &Beyond representative had brought by a manual for the car, which we discovered the Nissan didn’t have, woo hoo now I know how to reset trip meter and an esky that he loaned us for the trip.

Ready for our trip into the vast unknown Namibian outback

With our map at the ready we planned to head out of Windhoek, first stop though was to pick up some ice at the local gas station and wet wipes at the supermarket. Wet wipes are essential for long drives!

Off we went heading north on the B1 first stop Otjiwarongo approximately 200 km away. So far the roads have been great, a 120 km speed limit with the occasional road block checking licenses, but we just get flagged through and never stopped. There are some strange road signs though such as the warning about Warthogs on the road.

Warthog warning sign

Picked up some gas at the busy BP station in Otjiwarongo and got approached by guys saying “you german?“ and then hassled to buy bracelets and other jewellery. But they were pretty good about moving on when we told them we were Australian and not interested. Kelly went looking for the bathrooms but the place was so crowded we decided to move on, we stopped at the Engen station (a popular brand in Namibia).

The forecourt was much quieter than the BP so we pulled up and Kelly headed for the bathrooms. I noticed a couple of guys around the side of the station cooking up a BBQ that smelt great. I asked them what they were cooking and they told me Lamb and Goat. I asked them if I could buy some and they told me that I could buy it in the station store.

The guys at the BBQ

I went into the store and let me tell you this could have been a upmarket deli in any part of Australia. They had hot and cold foot, fresh fruit and the place was spotless. I went around and looked for the BBQ meat but couldn't see it anywhere, so I went up to the counter and asked them but they didn't quite understand what I was asking for. Fortunately the garage manager came by and lifted a lid on a large metal container that was full of BBQ meat. The girls gave me some tongs and I helped myself to a lamp chop and some goat ribs. To finish it off I bought a nice fresh crusty bread roll. Around the gas station there were a lot of fruit and vegetable sellers on the curbsides throughout the town.

Fruit sellers

So back in the car and still heading north this time to Tsumeb about 181 km North.

B1 Highway

One of the things you notice when driving through Namibia is the number of rest stops, they appear about every 5Km and are always painted in two tone either blue and white or green and white.

Nanibian Rest Stop

At one point we passed a goods train, and being a bit train obsessed, I thought I’d drive on up a way and pull up and get a shot of it. A couple of kilometers later there was this track heading off to the right so I pulled up and ran up to the tracks just as it was approaching. Don’t know what the driver thought of this mad white man taking a picture of his old goods train!  

Namibian Goods Train

It was only afterward that I noticed we had track heads off the the Omarassa Jagd & Gastefarm that also uses our friendly Warthog! I translated Jagd & Gastefarm to Hunt and Guest Farm, so I wonder if they actually hunt the warthogs?

Farm Sign

Tsumeb use to be a big mining town with an ore pipe that produced 217 different minerals and gems, 40 of them unique to the area. The mine closed in  late 1990 and the town has suffered from the closure. I read, in my Bradt Namibia guide book that there was an Arts and Crafts Centre that was opening for the afternoon just about the time we would get there so we planned a stop.

Old Mine Head

The Arts and Crafts Centre was made up from a number of different buildings arranged around a gravel courtyard, we drove in through the gates and pulled up in front of one of the larger buildings. Not quite sure what to do we started wandering around looking in the windows of the different studios. The first person we met was a woman called Nailoke Niingungo and I asked her about the centre and how it works. When we’d initially pulled into the courtyard we‘d noticed these wooden boxes with a glass top and cover with reflective material on it. It turns out that they had been built by Nailoke and she uses them as solar ovens to bake bread in them by reflecting the sunlight through the glass into the box. She told us it takes approximately 3 hours to bake the bread. She also does nuts and other fruits and sells them at her store. Nailoke’s business is called Nailoke’s Solar House and if you want more information you can contact her at hnailoke@yahoo.com

Nailoke and her assistant Victoria Kaalushu

We had a good look around and ended up buying some original prints and little elephant for mum from a lovely lady, Alma Malima, who runs a small shop there.

Alma in her shop

All set we headed off through the town, which was lined with beautiful Jacarranda trees still in bloom, that reminded me of a country town in New South Wales, and headed for our next stop, Onguma and our lodgings for the next two days.

Jacarranda Trees

Jacarranda Trees

We followed the B1 for another 90 km until we turned left onto the C38 at the signpost for Etosha National Park. About 25 km after the turn we came to entrance gate to Onguma.

The imposing entrance gate to Onguma

After signing in we proceeded up a gravel road toward our lodge, about 5 minutes into the drive we saw a Giraffe off to the left behind a double fence, which I presumed marked the boundary of the park, and then about a minute later another Giraffe ran onto the road right in front of us!

We waited until he’d scampered off into the bush before continuing. Onguma have several properties and Kelly had selected a lodge called the Fort.

Onguma lodge signpost

After about another ten minutes, we had to drive “dead slow” the signpost said, we arrived at “The Fort” and wow what an amazing place! It’s built on the edge of the salt plain in a Moroccan style and the first glimpse of it really took our breath away.

The main entrance for the Fort)

We were met by Erasmus, head of house, and two other staff members, including one called David who we would get to know quite well over the next few days. The gave us warm towels to freshen up with and then scented water to wash our hands.

Erasmus then lead us through the courtyard, over the pool and into the main room for our briefing. The briefing was similar to other lodges, no walking outside after dark, always call for an escort. At the end of the briefing we followed him, in our car, around to number 11 our own little slice of the fort for the next two days.

Our lodge #11

Our little lodge was spectacular, it had two large wooden doors that opened to a small entrance hall, the bedroom was on the left and the bathroom on the right. Walking into the bedroom it opened onto a large deck, which in turn looked out over the salt pan, flat as far as you could see.  

View of the lodge from the deck

View of the lodge from the deck

Instead of walls there were heavy canvas flaps that rolled down with net windows. The window section could be rolled up independent of the main flap so you could lie in bed and look out on the horizon. But we were precautioned to roll them down at night as they did get lions and other large beasties roaming about.

360˚ panorama of Lodge #11 bedroom

The bathroom was equally impressive as it’s built into the base of the tower structure and has a huge ceiling in it, two sinks and indoor and outdoor showers.

We unpacked, showered and had a sundowner on the deck watching the sunset. After sunset we finished getting ready for dinner and then called for our escort. Erasmus turned up in a dusty little golf cart and off we went to dinner.

Looking out over Etosha from the deck

Now everything is pretty dusty and dry out here, but there was a small courtyard section near the pool that was a beautiful green lawn, when we arrived there were only two tables set out with one couple already occupying one. It turned out that we were the only couples there that evening and they thought they would do something special for us. The other couple, Steve and Leslie, from New York were eating early as they had an evening game drive to go on, but we had no such plans and could enjoy the evening at our leisure. A few minutes after arriving our chef, Edward, greeted us and explained his dinner menu that included sorbets to refresh the palate between the starter and main course. By this time we were firmly in love with the Fort, and after dinner spent some time on the main deck of the building enjoying an after dinner Amarula watching the stars.

Then it was off to bed as we had booked a game drive early and another of those damn 5am wakeup calls.

 

Tony Redhead

93 Maud Street, Unley, SA, 5061, Australia