Jim Beachill – 2015 Africa

September 2015

A Trek around Southern Africa

The adventure began with a day in Cape Town, a beautiful city full of native Africans. The waterfront was a lively fascinating place, with dolphins in the harbour. The next day we took a final look at Table Mountain before the journey through the Cedarberg mountains in the 4 x 4 truck which was to be our base for the next 3 weeks. As we left South Africa the tarmac roads gave way to rough corrugated, dirt track surfaces. We passed large, well irrigated vineyards and massive complexes of native workers.

After arriving at the Namibian border we spent a day canoeing on the Orange River, with a current strong in parts. We then travelled to Ai Ais – the place of ‘burning water’ and enjoyed a pleasant swim. A sunset trek above the Fish River Canyon (second only in depth to the Grand Canyon), followed. The next day was the longest journey, 600 km in total, and for the most part of the journey we passed only a handful of vehicles, such was the desolation.

After an early start the following day, we reached the sand dunes at Sossusvlei which rise to a height of over 300 metres. We climbed Dune 45 which was an incredible experience. Over 3,000 steps climbing up soft sand – and all before 9 o’clock on Sunday morning! Then we walked to the dead lake which had numerous trees in a colourful panorama. To end the day we descended the Sesriem Canyon.

We next journeyed to Swakopmund, passing through more sand dunes and salt flats. Swakopmund was an eye opener. It has a 50,000 population but only 16,000 reside in the town. Separated from it by an industrial estate are the townships which house 35,000 natives with varying housing conditions. We visited the townships and schools and were invited to a meal which included caterpillars and worms, washed down by a cold beer!

Next to Cape Cross which houses a colony of 90,000 seals, an awesome site and a smell beyond description! This was on the way to the Brandburg mountain, where the lodge we stayed at warned of Mountain elephants and we also found tracks of leopards. Three treks in the mountains followed as we saw ancient cave paintings and petrified trees. A visit to an Himba village came next, where the people still live in tribal ways and the women are semi naked. They cover their bodies with an orange resin to protect against the sun. We saw young children make fires and and cook their own breakfast.

We had now reached the Etosha salt pan, which stretches for 75 miles. The next few days were spent on game drives in safari vehicles with close encounters, with lions, elephants, giraffes, buffalo, rhino’s and numerous other animals and birds. Immense game parks in Namibia and Botswana enable the animals live a natural existence.We were privileged to see, amongst other things, lions watching over waterholes, galloping giraffes, a rhino trying to charge our vehicle,a herd of elephants crossing the river and a hippo rampaging through our camp ! We also made an impromptu stop at a local village and learnt, with humility, of their struggle for water and the toils of a family planting crops in a hostile earth.

We finally arrived at Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. On our last day we descended into the canyon, trekked for a mile, took a boat to a lagoon and then returned. All before 9 o’clock and breakfast!

Follow the other links for a short daily diary and photographs !!1