Tag Archives: Spitzkoppe

Into Himba Country; Opuwo Country Lodge 550 km

Day 11 Dec. 23 Tuesday
This was the day I was convinced that Mike had contracted Ebola!!!

The day began perfectly. Mike had set his alarm for 5 am so he could climb Spitzkoppe in time to photograph the sunrise. Much to the surprise of both of us, I managed to wake myself up enough to join him on the mountain. It was truly spectacular . . . . from almost completely dark to the first lightening of the sky to the full splendor of the newly awakened sun casting its rays on the surrounding rocks.

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As we were leaving Spitzkoppe, we found a cave. Richard told us that tribe members will go to a cave like that with a candle and some medicine from the local shaman and will spend ‘alone’ time there, meditating. . . . communing with the spirit world . . . . time spent in prayer and ritual.

We were enroute to our next 2 nights in Kaololand, reputedly one of the most remote, harsh environments in Namibia. It was also one of the longest days in terms of the number of kilometers we were to cover. In Opuwo, our final destination and where we would stay for 2 nights,  we had a visit planned with the Himba people. It was one of the things I was most eagerly anticipating.

The first part of jelephant signourney took us through Damaraland, the north-central part of Namibia. The Damara people who live here are an ethnic group making up 8.5% of Namibia’s population (thank you Kiboko for those facts and figures). We had been informed in our pre-trip information that the terrain here is rugged, consisting of mountains interspersed with gravel plains and hot, sandy valleys. We entered elephant country and started to see numerous  “caution elephants”  road signs. We never did see any at this point. The road was rough and by 830 am,  Mike became violently sick.

Dumi barely had time to stop the bus. Initially, I thought Mike was sick from the combination of cough medicine, wine the night before and the rough road, but as the day progressed, Mike went from bad to worse. From 830 am until late afternoon, he was sick, both ends trying to clear his system of whatever had disturbed it so viciously. Every hour we had to stop the bus. It got so that I dreaded any change in the motion of the bus. Every time the bus slowed down, panic-stricken, I would grab the roll of tissue and a plastic bag and support Mike out the door to his new favorite spot by the rear wheel. By afternoon, he could no longer stand up or support himself . . . Dumi and Richard had to help him or he would fall. Meanwhile, we were in the middle of nowhere in “one of the most rugged, inhospitable regions of Namibia”. Trust Mike to choose this day to be sick.

Mikal’s point of view:

Today was the shits, literally. It was both the longest drive of the trip and the roughest road too. We started out as usual but the road was very much rougher than I thought it would be which would have been bad enough… but I caught a bug ( besides single handedly downing an entire bottle of red wine last night.. incredibly STUPID!) and after about an hour of bouncing I was sick … Out of the bus and spewing from both ends….

Memories  of the rest of the day are nothing but a blur because from that point on I had to stop every 30-45 minutes to be sick… again and again and again…

I had lots of time to think and worry on this worst of all days. I thought back to when we entered South Africa at the Cape town airport and being ordered to “go this way if you have been in an Ebola infected country”. But there didn’t seem to be any enforcement of that order that I could remember seeing. When we entered the country, Ebola was the least of my worries . . . I didn’t give Ebola a second thought, my mind being much more occupied with the adventure about to begin. I did, however, think to myself as I was going down some stairs, my hand resting on the bannister, that I must be sure to use my hand sanitizer. Of course I forgot. I had never ever seen Michael so sick before – I started to think maybe ???? Especially since all of us on the trip had been eating the same foods . . . he was the only one who got sick.

The rough roads not only created a problem for Mike bus also for the bus . . . a problem with a brake line. Fairly early on, we stopped at the side of the road for the crew to try a patch job until we got to the nearest service station. A short distance up the road stood a rustic stand operated by three Damara women and their children selling handicrafts they had made. We decided to shop while we stopped. Not for long . . .  no sooner had I started to look then ….  I followed Mike into the bushes again.

 

Mikal’s point of view:

Dehydrated & extremely weak, I had Tilly very worried to the point she was thinking “Ebola?”. I  even had to be helped to the bathroom by Dumi …too weak to walk a straight line.

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We finally found the proverbial service station. We were deposited at a local, enclosed camp/resort spot where we had lunch and where we put Mike on a mat, in the shade to rest. These flowers were a small bright spot during this short stop.  So vivid! We waited for about an hour or so for the truck to be repaired and then, once again, we were under way.

I have to commend Dumi, Richard and Mandhla. They handled the situation superbly,  panic – free (I was doing that for all of us!!), but steady and helpful. Mike had by this time lost all of his bodily fluids. Dumi made him a concoction of  water, sugar and salt and Mike tried to keep it down.

Mikal’s point of view:

The crew – Dumi, Richard, Mandla were phenomenal in their care for me.They concocted  a homemade re-hydration salt/sugar solution… (1 teaspoon salt to 7 teaspoons sugar per liter). Getting it down my throat was easy… keeping it down? … We stopped every 30-45 minutes for me to be sick… again and again and again…

Our fellow travelers were incredible also, being supportive of Tilly and understanding of my situation by NOT taking a video for YOUtube posting later.

At this point, you’d think it couldn’t get any worse. It did. Mike just couldn’t get comfortable. After some discussion, it was decided he might be more comfortable in the cab of the truck, beside Dumi, who was driving.  All of a sudden, the brakes went on. There was a commotion in the front seat. I leaped out of my seat, and just as I got to the window and able to see Mike, I saw him having a seizure. He had thrown up again (thank heavens there wasn’t much left by this time). The seizure was very short – only a few moments. We quickly got him out – the nether region was also excreting. Mike told us that he thought maybe he was too hot but too incapacitated to say anything – basically I think he lost consciousness. Little did we know the sun had been shining on him full blast, through his open window, so on top of whatever bug he had, we had inadvertently caused him to have heat stroke too. We soaked everything we could find in water and laid him on the floor of the bus where he stayed for the duration of the trip. Once we got him cooled off, he started to rally and I started to hope that maybe the worst was over. Thank heavens we were finally on a paved road.

Finally, after a stop at the ‘already closed’ medical clinic, we arrived in Opuwo, at the Opuwo Country Lodge. Our tent was the priority that evening (it was already 7pm). We were already much later than planned with the numerous stops for Mike and the longer stop for truck repair. I think we were all exhausted. We showered, washed clothes, ate dinner and headed off to our respective tents.

Spitzkoppe Bush Camp 100 km

Day 10 Dec. 22 Monday
Much as we loved camping and were happy and content in our tent, we certainly appreciated ‘real beds’. We woke up early, washed and hung the rest of our clothes and went for the breakfast included in our guesthouse stay. We both had a continental breakfast and coffee. Knowing that shopping was on our agenda and that we only had until noon, we packed up as much as possible and headed towards the shopping area a few blocks away.

The previous day, we had decided we would celebrate Christmas Eve by doing the ‘Secret Santa’ game that some of us had done so many times in Christmases past. When consulted as to the best day to do this, either the 24th or the 25th, Dumi, Richard and Mandhla  enthusiastically agreed to participate and that in terms of our travel plans, campsites, and mileages, the 24th would be the best day. That meant we had to find some secret Santa gifts. Of course, we were looking for grand baby gifts too – you never know if the grand baby might turn out to be as much of a gypsy as Mike and I. The Bush Babies were still slumbering after their night on the town so Rhea decided to join us on our shopping spree.

We discovered to our delight, that Swakopmund is a really ‘tourist friendly’  little town with lots of great shopping. I bought a travel mug and a fly swatter for my secret Santa gift; Mike bought a set of plastic wine glasses for his gift and we found a small present for the ‘baby’. Some mosquito repellent cream, sunscreen and Advil cold and flu meds completed the shopping list. We returned  to the guesthouse to pack and put things away, buy water for 2 days and have lunch. Lunch was a Greek salad, bread and melon.

From Swakopmund we made our way north along the coast. The ocean was in view the whole way , miles and miles of sand, surf, and sea.

We even dipped our feet in the Atlantic Ocean. We stopped to see a ship wreck and just had to test the waters.

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The Zeila, a fishing trawler, being towed as scrap metal to India in 2008, came loose from its towing cable, becoming one of the many ships which, over the years, have become stranded on ‘the Skeleton Coast’.

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We all were fascinated not only by the ship but also by the waves crashing onto the shore, and the fishermen further up the coast. The Atlantic at its best!

 

 

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We were making our way to the one and only remote ‘bush camp’ of the trip, a place called ‘Spitzkoppe’, translated as “sharp head”, nicknamed “The Matterhorn of Africa”. It’s one of Namibia’s most recognizable landmarks and as you will see from the pictures, absolutely stunning. This was by far our favorite part of the trip.

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This is what it looked like from afar.

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As we got closer and closer, we started to get an idea of the grandeur and size of these Spitkoppe Mountains.

 

 

 

 

We arrived at our remote, “only place with a long-drop toilet” campsite. Our crew got busy organizing our camp; we got busy exploring. First, the camp.

bcd1This is Richard setting up the first of our tents, always checking for shade and comfort. In the foreground you can see the acacia tree with its many weaver bird nests.

Below – the long-drop toilet! In the shade, no less!bcd2  bcd3

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Our bush camp with the mountains as the backdrop. Absolutely spectacular!

 

 

After exploring the camp and getting things ready for the evening routine, we set off to scramble around on the mountains.

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These big huge boulders were easy to climb up but higher than they appeared and very steep coming down.

Below left, Mike & Jan “getting to the top”, right, the ‘Bush-babies’.

 

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Next, we had a 2 hour walking tour scheduled with a local Damara guide who showed us the bushman paintings done with blood and ‘something something’, a bottle tree and finally ‘the bridge’.

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We made it to the top, right into the arch from where took a picture down, at Jan’s suggestion, of our shadows!

 

 

We continued our walk through the boulders and surrounding grasslands.

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The sun was starting to set so up the mountain for sunset we went, each of us with a bottle of red or white in our arms. What a sunset and what a party! We all made it back down safely, believe it or not!!

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This is what our camp looked like in the evening. By the time we got down it was quite dark and our dinner was waiting for us.

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We had a dinner of fish (Snooke I think it was called, cooked in foil over the fire), an African version of scalloped potatoes, a rice dish, wine, all accompanied with lots of laughs and good conversation. In this remote area without the reflection of lights, the display of stars overhead was brilliant. Mike stayed sitting outside for a long time, fascinated by stars, satellites, and shooting stars.