Granny's trip to Namibia and South Africa

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Nov 4th, 2007, 05:55 AM
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Granny's trip to Namibia and South Africa

This will be just a short report of our 32 day trip to Namibia and South Africa. We flew Delta to Atlanta, to Dakar (just a 2hr refuel and check the luggage and under the seats?), then on to Johannesburg. Had to stay overnite to catch the 6a.m. flight to Windhoek. First thunderstorm in Joburg and first small scam. Porter tried to help us by phoning our B & B and said he only got answering machine. So he kindly guided us to his friend (the taxi driver) who wanted $45 to drive us 5km. Smart husband went back and phoned himself (with a little help) and our B & B host picked us up and took us back at 3a.m. Stayed at the Outlook Lodge. Host was very nice, but the Sun Hotel right outside the airport door would have been easier and we could have slept in longer.

I have to mention that Fodorites that like luxury accommodations need to read no further. We like to travel longer and stay in clean places, a little more than basic, but not upscale, except for two. We like variety.

We learned from fellow travelers that we didn't pick the best route. Luftansa flies from Portland to Frankford and Air Namibia flies to Windhoek. Could possibly have saved a day and flying time. Might have been cheaper also.

Windhoek is a big town to relearn how to drive on the left with a 5-speed Corolla. It was a little hairy. If you have the money, get a heavier car and 4-wheel drive. We were there in the dry season, but we went through lots of dry riverbeds we never could have navigated. We guess that Namibia has about 20% paved roads and the rest gravel. We went through Eurocar. We had some problems with them. More on that later.

We loved Namibia. A desert vacation was so different for us. We visited mainly because we wanted to see the animals. We delt with Cardboard Box and Norelle. She's moved on to another travel agency in Windhoek now. She got us 5 nights in Etosha and we planned our trip around that. Etosha was the hilight of our trip.

No trip is withouth problems and the first one was when Klein Windhoek B & B had a French crowd that filled their location and they put us across the street in a 4 bedroom, 4 bath townhouse. We like being able to socialize with other guests and this didn't work for us. It was on a busy street and getting in and out of the gate was scary.

The first day there we met up with Norelle and took her to lunch at the Craft Center Restaurant on the second floor balcony. It was so nice to meet her after emailing back and forth for a few months. We had the most wonderful organic lunch, and we were able to give her the gifts we brought for her and her children. The lunch was my husband's favorite and we went there again our last day in Windhoek. Don't know how we ever found her with all the directions we got. We went to a few cafes before we found the right one. I was getting desperate that we would miss her. Finally I went down this back entrance and saw someone I thought looked like her and called out her name. It was like meeting a dear friend.

That night we went to Joe's Beer Garden. Get there when it opens, or else you need a reservation. Got a lot of restaurant suggestions from Fodor travelers. It was a fun place and huge portions. First time, but not the last, that we tried Kingklip fish. My personal favorite. There are lots of smokers in Africa. Looked like a good singles place. By the time we left, there must have been a hundred good looking guys there enjoying beer. I'm 68, but it doesn't hurt to look.

Next morning we drove to Okanhandja and stayed at Sylvanette B & B. We had the Zebra bedspreads on the our beds, just like the website. It was a nice little place. We drove around the small town, did a little food shopping and ate at the Lodge Restaurant that evening. They had had a wedding at lunch time and there were flowers everywhere. The food was delicious, until I got back to the B & B. I picked up a 24 hr virus somewhere. They had a lovely room for breakfast, so my husband tells me. I couldn't eat. Looking back, if we hadn't wanted to meet Norelle, we think we could have skipped Windhoek and went on to Okahandja the first day and gained a day.

We drove to Waterburg Plateau Park. It's a beautiful spot after you drive about an hour on rough roads. We didn't do much but walk around. It was hot and I wasn't back to normal. The pool there was so pretty, I tried it once. They don't heat the water. Maybe in summer it's warm, Sept and Oct are still spring. Know why they call them plunge pools. They had just renovated the dining room and outer buildings. The dining room had been a prison at one time, now it was just beautiful with verandas on the sides. We ate our meals out there, beautiful view, very good food. We did see a Kudo and chimp on a short walk.

We stayed two nights and drove through Outjo to Etosha. We had one night at Okaukuejo, two at Halali and two at Namutoni. I could have stayed three at each. We drove around to the different waterholes (some were already dried) and saw so many animals. It was incredible. My DH likes to say we didn't see the Big 5, we saw the Big 3. There were thousands of Zebras. They had a wonderful waterhole at Okaukuejo. Our bungalow was right across the parking lot, so we could walk there several times and see different animals as they walked for a drink. The food was buffet there and at Halali. It was ok. It was better at Namutoni. They serve meals inside the fort now. We tried the African and also the Steak House, both very good.

We were lucky. Norelle got us in the renovated accommodations at the old prices. As of Nov 1 they went up over 300%!! I would say the accommodations are really luxury now, but at luxury prices. I think they have priced so many people out of the joy of visiting there, unless they camp.

At one place, Namutoni, we had a room a third as big as our house with a double shower, double sink and the bathroom was about 15 x 20. I take back what I said about not having luxury accommodations, but we wouldn't have been able to stay there at the current prices.

It was just wonderful to watch all the animals while driving around and at the water holes. We followed a family of elephants walking to a water hole. I could go on and on, but I won't.

When we left Namutoni, we moved on to Mushara for two nights. This was one of the nicer places we stayed. We had our own bungalow and air conditioning. It was getting hot. The lodge, grounds and pool was lovely. Breakfast was a beautiful buffet and dinner was served at your table, very gormet. It was a great place if you hadn't spent five nights alredy in Etosha, because they did safari tours. Got a beautiful crystal and bead necklace there. I love jewelry.

We thought we would take several safari tours but we only took one safari tour and that was later on, because we saw so many animals already and driving, you saw more.

We could have stayed one night there and one night on the way to Hobatere Lodge, because it was a long driving day, about 7 or 8 hours. Lesson lerned.

We stopped at a hostel in Tsumeb two different days and used their very slow internet, then continued on to Outjo. Read here about a great German Bakery. It's right next to a great craft shop, where we purchased many of our gifts. The bakery was great.

Hobatere Lodge was one of our favorites. They were just finishing paving the long road there. It was rough gravel before, so again we timed it right. Hobatere is on the western side of Etosha. It used to be a game resort. We drove down 16km of rough, sometimes narrow, road to get there. It's not plush, but very welcoming and the people there were so nice and helpful. They had a small waterhole and splash pool and the food was serveds buffet and very good. Some of the freshest vegetables we had the whole trip. Dan was especially helpful, he's the young owners' son. He drove us out to a hide a bit away and picked us up a couple hours later. When we got there, nothing was happening. Shortly after, all kinds of animals showed up. We saw three Elands there and only saw one in five days at Etosha.

We went on an evening ride, but didn't see much new, but it was interesting to be off rode. Met nice people to talk with almost everywhere we went.

Our little cabin was funky and we should have taken their advice and sprayed the room before we left for dinner. Mossies! There's not much privacy in these places, even the spacious cabins in Etosha didn't have doors to the toilet.

They suggest you leave for your cabin before 9 or get an escort. The lions roam. We did find prints outside our cabin next morning. Hobatere is in the process of putting a fence around the whole place to keep them out.

We usually stayed two nights at most places. Drove on to Vingerklip Lodge, another long drive on gravel roads. Vingerklip Lodge was luxury to us, beautiful pools, lodge, wonderful buffet. People were so nice and friendly there. We had an incredible terrace and view. You could see for miles. There was a little waterhole. We saw a small family of Gemsbok walk there each morning and evening.

We took a day trip to some carvings on rocks at Twyfelfontein. It was 40c, or over 110F. The ride there was a hundred dips over gravel roads. Not my favorite day. Took about 3 or more hours to get there and then we got lost going back. We both swore we turned right into the road, but it was left! We spent an hour or more, and I think we were both glad to get back into the air conditioned car.

Still have jet lag, up at 2:30a.m., asleep by 7p.m. Time to make breakfast. More later





granny is offline  
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Nov 4th, 2007, 08:51 AM
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Welcome home after a month on the road. I zeroed in on your Etosha comments. That's great you saw so much there. Any difficulties with too many people at the waterholes or other parts of Etosha? Being sick, especially on holiday is no fun, good thing your bout was short lived.
Thanks for your comments.
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Nov 4th, 2007, 09:49 AM
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Welcome home granny! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip.
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Nov 4th, 2007, 03:40 PM
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Hi Granny,

thanks for this post - very interesting to read your comments on Namutoni Fort and especially Hobatere. I have just booked here for 2 nights next year and am so looking forward to it.

Cheers,


Pol
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Nov 4th, 2007, 03:58 PM
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Welcome back, granny! Thanks for starting your trip report. Looking forward to more!
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Nov 5th, 2007, 05:40 AM
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Thanks everyone for your welcome home good wishes. Yes, it's good to be back to crisp fall weather.

Lynn, it never seemed overcrowded at the waterholes. People have to drive to each one and view the animals from their cars, so they are coming and going. At the three locations where they have lodges, it was never that crowded either. They have just so many rooms available. People do come from outside the park also, but it was ok. Maybe holidays would be different. The beauty of staying in the park was that you could visit the waterholes at night, they are lighted, and they have places to sit. You just go sit for an hour or more and wait for different animals to walk by for water. We went back several times when we were staying there. Saw rhinos one night, but our pictures didn't turn out.

Well it's 4a.m. here and I'm wide awake!

We drove next to Cape Cross Lodge on the ocean. Stayed one night, that was enough to see the seals. The lounge in the lodge was beautiful. It was a long drive from Vingerklip. We stopped on the way and took pictures of ladies in their long dresses, bought a little doll they made. Don't know how they eke out a living in the desert there. It was a gravel road, but not too bad. Part of the road to Cape Cross is hard salt.

We arrived around 4p.m. and they offered us tea and wonderful cake. We met another couple that had just arrived also. They were from Europe, the gentleman shared the same birthday as my husband, and we kept bumping into them in different towns. That's the nice thing about traveling yourselves. You have time to meet new people. We were glad we weren't on a tour and could do our own thing.

The food at the lodge was delicious and the help there and everywhere were so friendly. You really felt welcome.

We were the first ones at the seal reserve and had an hour to ourselves. We actually got there before they opened and waited at the gate. We thought it was 9a.m, it was 10a.m. Anyway, someone came and opened the gate early for us. 10a.m. the bus loads arrived. The seals are incredibly noisy and smelly, but the wind was blowing to the sea, so it wasn't that unpleasant.

Off to Brigadoon Cottage, in Swakopmund. A simple B & B in a good location. We left the car for two days and walked around this good sized town. It's a great shopping area and my DH read and went to the museum, as I shopped. Bought mostly African fabrics, wonderful fabric shop there. Also found ostrich shell jewelry, quite reasonable, at the museum, that was lovely. We bought several pieces. We avoided the street sellers. Saw the same stuff everywhere. They would say "my uncle or aunt made this", but it was all the same.

Our first meal was lunch at The Tug, right on the beach. Wonderful Kingklip and the rough waves nearly reached the restaurant wall. We usually take the advice of locals, and the second night we ate at this little restaurant behind the fabric shop in a small mall. The name will come to me later. Once inside, it was charming and the food! Yum! You needed a reservation at both places for dinner.

There's an internet cafe here across from Woolworth's, slow but we were desperate to check our email. Also, check out the Crystal Museum gift shop. Didn't have much time here, but still found a couple things.

Two days after walking and resting up here, we drove the long ride, several hours, over gravel and mountains, my dh said hills, to the dunes area. Places to stay are out of sight here. We chose the most reasonable we could find to be close to the dunes. We stayed at a "christian" B & B, the Betesda Restcamp. Actually it was ok for one night, but we stayed two. We brought wine with us, thinking it might be a dry place, but there was wine and beer for sale. The food was ok. We reserved dinner at every place it was offered. You don't want to get in your car and drive at night.

It only took us 1-1/2 to 2 hours to get to dunes office from there. Sossusvlei, is everything they say. Beautiful red dunes on both sides of a paved road for about 60km. DH decided to walk the 5km to big dunes at the end, big mistake. It's not easy walking 5km in sand! By the time we got there, we were too tired to get closer to the special dunes. We got a ride back with the shuttle. The driver was nice enough to stop and let us take some pictures, so we could say we saw them.

After you've seen the dunes, there's not much to see, so when we left Betesda we drove to the Duwisib Castle, a couple hours away. It was this castle on a hill, out in the middle of the desert, built in the very early 1900's. We walked around a bit and had tea and apple cake in their little shop. Everyone has apple cake in Namibia, but they call it pie, so we had to try it.

We took a D road on the way to Zebra River Lodge. The roads in Namibia are very well marked, A, B, C, etc. When we got lost, it was in the cities. This turned out to be a fairly good road and a shortcut. We stopped for horses, we stopped for donkeys on the road.
Anyway, we stopped for so many different animals on the road. The one picture I missed was a Zebra standing on the road, eating the top of a tree.

One of my favorite pictures was a couple of men walking down this D road with their dogs. One man had a live sheep around his neck! Then we met a couple with a child riding in a cart behind some donkeys. We felt badly because we didn't think to offer a gratuity for taking the men's pictures, so my DH offered most of the food and beer we had with us to this couple, after we took their picture. I think the man drank that hot beer before we left.

We were quite generous with tips. Infact, my husband wished we could give more.

Well, two km away from Zebra Lodge, we had a blowout. Lesson learned. When you rent a car, check the tire treads. This one tire was bald. We were so lucky it didn't happen somewhere dangerous. DH fixed the tire in over 100 degree heat. Not one car passed in all that time!

We drove to Zebra River Lodge over a narrow, rocky road for 6km. Were we glad to get there. Our hostess was charming and we had a stone cottages on a hill with our own patio. They had a small splash pool and big verandas to eat our meals on at night. This is the kind of place to chill out at for a couple days. They have some hiking trails and beautiful views. We spent time talking to fellow visitors and relaxing. They do fly or ride trips to the dunes. Met such nice people there.

One couple from England we had met at Vingerklip. My DH left his favorite hat with all his travel pins on it there. We met up with them at Zebra the second day, and they returned it to him. We'll keep in touch.

So funny. One of the help at Zebra asked us to drop off her mother's credit card in the next town, when we passed through. We stopped at the gas station and there was her mother. Mission accommplished! Then three young boys came up to the car asking for bread. It breaks your heart. My DH went all over town looking for bread for them. The town was out of bread. He gave them money and asked them to share it. There is still a lot of poverty.

Stayed at a roadside B & B in Mariental on the way back to Windhoek, the Amandi Guesthouse. It was very nice. The river had flooded the year before, so the B & B was like new. We had the first t.v. there in 3 weeks. Watched the big rugby match between South Africa and Britain. Ate at Wimpby's! Had to try it, they are all over Namibia. No MacD's folks!

We drove out to the Kalahari Desert a bit, just to take some pictures for a friend. We stopped at a resort that we had tried to get into a few times, but it was always booked. Walked around, it was beautiful, then a busload of tourists arrived and we were glad we didn't get it. Saved a couple hundred and we had a t.v. to ourselves for the game!

Next day we drove back to Windhoek and Klein Windhoek B & B again. They made up for the first night, I think we got the honeymoon suite! Went to that Craft Center Restaurant again. Still wonderful. Met up with folks from Zebra Lodge. Worst part, it was Sunday and the Craft part was closed at 2, so no last minute shopping.

We ate dinner at the B & B, it was ok. We didn't feel like driving out at night.

We were glad to turn in our car next morning without any scratches (that they could see). They had problems with their computer, and we found out later they tried to charge us for gas after we had filled it up, minus the 45km ride to the airport. We still haven't resolved getting back the money for the new tire we had to buy as a spare, since one tire was bald. Other little things also. We weren't that happy with that company.

We really enjoyed our visit to Namibia. The country, the people, food, especially the animals were a treat. It's a good place to do a self-drive.





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Nov 5th, 2007, 10:38 AM
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hi, granny,

great report. Keep it coming.

We were in SA for only 12 days earlier this year and we are hooked.

how did you find all your accommodations in Namibia?

regards, ann
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Nov 5th, 2007, 11:13 AM
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What car rental/hire company did you use?

regards - tom
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Nov 5th, 2007, 12:42 PM
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Great report so far, thanks!
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Nov 5th, 2007, 03:28 PM
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Thanks for the Etosha response and the whole report! Despite the wonderful time you were having, I bet you missed the grandkids.
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Nov 5th, 2007, 06:26 PM
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KATHERINEMAEPARDEE
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Dear Granny,

You are quite the traveler and what an interesting and detailed trip report. Africa has not been on my wish list until I read your posting.

Earlier today, I read your trip report on Thailand and was even more interested as we go next month...also with OAT. This will be our first OAT; we did Russia last month with Grand Circle and have several OAT tours booked. We like the faster pace and smaller groups.

We live in Sequim - are you near Seattle too?

Have you taken any other tours with OAT; you certainly enjoyed Thailand.

We are also doing India and Egypt with OAT.

I would like to correspond with you regarding Thailand, if you can write to me direct. It seems I can never relocate postings after I ask questions on Fodors or Frommers.

Your trip reports bring so much pleasure and excitement for our upcoming travels.

Best regards,

Katherine

email: [email protected]

 
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Nov 5th, 2007, 06:37 PM
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Glad to hear everything worked out.
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Nov 5th, 2007, 08:14 PM
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Glad to hear some of you are reading my trip reports. When I finish, I email them to my kids as a memento of my trips.

Lynn, how did you know? I haven't seen the grandkids since early August, and yesterday made plans to go to CA at Christmas. I only have 3 and they are 5, 7 and 9 and they are still at the ages that they love to see me visit and play with them.

Cary999, we made arrangements through Eurocar and they bought out Imperial, so we got the car from them. We never had such problems. You have to check every little thing on the car, and then show them the gas receipt when you turn it back in, and watch that they check everything off correctly. They also wanted to charge us for a missing hub cap and we returned it with four!

Annhig, I went to the Cardboard Box website. Got that name from people here. They have a page that describes most lodges. with pictures. C.B. doesn't handle little B & B's, so I just googled those cities.

Katherine, I'll be in touch. I live in the San Juan islands.
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Nov 5th, 2007, 08:37 PM
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Pol,
When you go to Namutoni, check out the little gift shop in the fort that has handmade baskets and things. Luckily, I purchased several for Christmas gifts while there. I think they had some of the nicest quality ones I saw while traveling.
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Nov 5th, 2007, 09:02 PM
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granny - FWIW , we always rent with Avis, figuring that we and they being Americans, if we have any problems were "local". Also, when we turn in a rental car, at the office I take photos of the car to show its condition (no damage, all wheel covers, etc) when we returned it.

regards - tom
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Nov 5th, 2007, 09:31 PM
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As another non-luxury-preferring Fodorite, I appreciate this. And wow, 32 days.

Great report--thanks!

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Nov 6th, 2007, 10:43 AM
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hi, granny,

i scoured your thread for clues, but failed to find any other reference to the "cardboard box" website. google didn't help either- lots of cardboard boxes but no Namibian lodges.

have you got a web-address?

regards, ann
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Nov 6th, 2007, 11:03 AM
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Here's the link to the cardboard box:
http://www.namibian.org/
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Nov 6th, 2007, 11:11 AM
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Ann,
Cardboard box's website is www.namibian.org

granny,
I started laughing when I read your comment that they tried to charge you for a missing hub cap when you returned the car with 4! We rented from Hertz but had a similar experience returning our vehicle when they tried to charge us for existing damage. It ended up taking us nearly an hour and a half just to return our car!

Tom,
Those were my thoughts too when we rented from Hertz. We ended up getting all of our issues resolved in Namibia so didn't need to contact customer service here, but I thought it would be a good back up if necessary. I might also add taking pictures of the car at pickup in case they missed anything on the damage form. That way you have before and after pics to compare. Our photos were what saved us from having to pay for some existing damage.
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Nov 6th, 2007, 11:36 AM
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Patty - noted, take photos of car at pickup. But only if damage exists? We go over the car carefully before we get into it and drive away. If you had refused the car at pickup then there would not have been the hassel when you returned it. Of course if it's a small rental office then car selection can be very limited. At JNB Avis and Hertz are huge operations probably having 1,000 cars in inventory.

regard - tom
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