Erindi and back

Day 17 – Friday 15th June – Brandberg White Lady Lodge – 250kms

We leave the backpacker place and ride north toward the Skeleton last for about 70kms. Then, after refuelling and stopping for brunch at the cafe near the fuel station, we turn east inland, toward Uis. The road is badly corrugated.

By the time we get to Uis it is already lunch time and we need a break. We buy more fuel and stop at the Cactus Cafe and campsite for some tea and pancakes!

It is then back on the road. Our destination is in the Brandberg nature reserve, the Brandberg White Lady lodge and campsite.

Apparently, David Attenborough spent time there while filming one of his most recent series. The campsite is not fenced. So far no campsite has been fenced and wild animals are free to roam. So we tackle a good 40 kms to get there through a final sandy track.

It often happens that desert elephants and lions are walking across the campsite. A sign at reception says so. And the staff at the lodge warns us to have a fire at night and not walk around after dark.

So we duly order some wood, then set camp. This is our first hurdle. The bushes and low grass around have thorns that catch on the shoes and get everywhere. We are paranoid about any getting in the tent or under the tent, as we have inflatable mattresses. One puncture and it would be a very miserable night! I had that problem in Mongolia and I don’t want a repeat.

After clearing under the tent I put my sheepskin and gel seat under my mattress.

After heating a can of baked beans and having some dinner, we decide to get our fire going. We are certainly hapless at this. The wood is hard as rock and even using part of my lonely planet guide ( very good use of a lonely planet! ) and pouring some petrol, the fire is too hard to catch fire. A bit concerned about the lions, who killed 40 goats and a donkey few days before, only 20kms from camp, I look around for help.

I can see another set of campers, with big 4x4s and all the modern comfort that South Africans seem to bring with them when camping ( everything including the kitchen sink! ). I walk over to them and explain our predicament. They are very kind about this and give me some fire starter.

As I walk back to camp with my precious load, a group of people is passing bye. By now, it is pitch dark and I cannot really see. They are walking in complete darkness, without light, and not bothered by the lions. 3 young ladies from the group stop to ask if I am ok. I explain my stupid problem ( I can’t make the fire!) and they follow me and start the fire for us. To be fair, with fire starter, it is very easy. That thing seems to burn forever, long enough that our wood finally catches fire!

The girls then leave and the group stops at a large organised tour camp ( with large truck and 2 or 3 staff in hand!) to sing a Capella. Beautiful voices, raising in the dark.

With no chairs, table or anywhere to sit, we stand around our little fire. The sky is amazing. As my friend Naila said, in the desert the night skyfeel is close enough that you can touch the stars. With the moon only a thin crescent, it is spectacular.

It is then an early night.

Day 18 – Saturday 16th June – Brandberg White Lady Lodge

We get up early and are at reception at 8am. We have booked an elephant drive. With two other tourists we get on one of the Safari cars in search of elephants. Considering how big they are, they are very elusive. The ride is usually 3 hours, but it takes our guide a good 3 1/2 hours to find a family of about 16 elephants. But when we finally get to see them, it is great. Desert elephants are the same species than savannah elephants but smaller due to their very harsh environment.

After many photos we get back to the lodge. We relax in the afternoon by the pool, beer in hand, and get some toasted sandwiches for late lunch.

After last night problem starting the fire, we ask the staff if they can provide some fire starter for tonight with the wood. They don’t have any, but the guys setting the donkeys on fire ( you remember, that is the fire to heat water for the showers’ blocks!) get our fire going. It is easy when you know where the cardboard and little branches are stored!

So with a fire going, we know we can survive another night!

I take time to thank again the guys who gave me fire starter last night. They are now back to camp. One of them was actually competing in some motocross competition near-bye ( his bike broke down! ).

We get some instant noodle bag in the little pot, over our fuel stove. The night sky once again go on a great display. Last night singers are at it again but with more campers and organised tours tonight, they have more work. Once again, the mix of this beautiful night with such a spectacular sky, combined with the voices of this Choir, sometime mixing gospel songs, is amazing. I am loving Namibia!

Day 19 – Sunday 17th June – Erindi private game reserve – 280kms

The following morning we pack camp after a quick coffe and some peanuts butter with bread.

It takes a while to pack as we get the tweezers out to remove those horrid thorns from our shoes, our tyres and everything they got into. Some are so large they could cause a puncture!

We are finally on the way. Our 1st stop, 40 kms away is Uis again. We buy fuel and stop at the Cactus Cafe for 2d breakfast! Another tea with their great cinnamon pancakes while Alistair prefers an omelette!

Then we are off again. We stop at the closest town to Erindi: Amaruru. After buying more fuel we set the gps coordinates of Erindi private game park campsite : camp Elephant. Erindi is the biggest private game reserve in Namibia.

My road map shows nothing! To start with, the gps calculate about 70kms from Amaruru. We set on small tracks. Somehow the stupid gps decides to take us through some detours for whatever reason ( don’t get me started on artificial intelligence – the cheer uselessness and stupidity of a gps is breathtaking!) … we end up doing a total of 104 kms!

By the time we get at the entrance, I am rather tired. The entrance gate remind me of Jurassic Park. It is huge.

And then you have the warning board: “ enter at your own risk”; “ do not stop”, “ do not leave your vehicle”, “do not step out of your car”, “open top cars are banned”…. but somehow the armed guard at the gate does not seem to think that stepping into Jurassic Park, I mean Erindi, on our motorbikes, is dangerous! I ask about lions, he tells me to just ride through if we see them! Great! I hope the lions got the memo!

As we arrived to the reserve through a back gate, the ride to the camp is a further 27 kms! I am gutted! I was looking forward to get changed and get a beer!

We see warthogs running around. We follow the guard’s instructions and the road signs. I miss a junction at some point and need to do either a large u turn or wing it through deep sand. I take the deep sand doing a sharp turn and make a beginner mistake. I drop the bike as a result. I thought I was getting really good at sand riding! Really! But it has been a long day and I am tired.

I stand next to my bike. Alistair was ahead and did not spot me. I can’t lift my bike! I wonder how long before the lions come to eat me! As chance happens, after a few minutes, a car with South Africans turn up. They stop and two big lads come to the rescue! Ha…. playing the damsel in distress always work! By then, Alistair has joined us and we set off again.

The campsite is luxury campsite. From what I read online i expected to pay 400 rands per person ( about 34 $), but, at reception the price is 1200 for the two of us. I point out to their website pricing (if my memory of their website is correct!) and the girl eventually gives us a discount. We are charged 1000 rand for one night! About 85 USD. Most expensive camping ever!

We are given a key! Our spot include a locked fridge outside with sink and table. Inside is the bathroom. It is big. On the right the toilet cubicle, and separate by a small low wall, the walk-in-shower.

On the left side a sink and built in bench. Between those two side, space big enough to fit two sleeping bags! We decide not to bother with the tent and sleep in the bathroom instead!

After a quick shower we go to the lake. The camp has an electric fence. The lake is beyond the fence. There, we can see 2 huge elephants, hippos and springboks.

Some warthogs are running around as well as lots of birds I cannot identify.

After a good watch and lots of photos we go back for dinner. Our camp has also a small electric Coker provided! We beat a tin of curried vegetables and we add some instant noodles to it. Surprisingly good!

With another can of beer and some biscuits, as the sun set, we go back to the lake. We can see 2 giraffes around but, although the lake is floodlit, it is hard to take photos. We are really happy to have seen giraffes! The 2 elephants are still there but one hippo in the lake is getting angry. Eventually, the elephants leave and 2 hippos get out of the water on the same spot. Zebras faff around while some Orix and springboks are standing around.

No more wildlife comes across so we go to bed. Alistair’s mattress seems to have a small leak. Not great!

Day 20 – Monday 18th June – back to Swakopmund – 320 kms

We decide to get up before sunrise to check the lake. Not much happening there. After a while we go back to our camp for a breakfast of bread and peanut butter with coffee. A very inquisitive bird, with a big beak keeps coming closer and closer, eying my bread. After the baboons in Ai Ais, I am careful with my food! No one will steal it!

We then go back to the lake, a bit before 9am. Few Wildebeests and deers that I cannot identify, as well as springboks, are around. Suddenly, they all get scared and run a way. On the opposite side, Alistair thinks he saw something.

With no one else around in the viewing spots, we carefully and silently walk around toward whatever is “ over there “. Something is coming, slowly, carefully.

And then we see it, hiding under the bushes, coming to drink: a cheetah! Slowly and carefully she comes to drink and leave. She has a collar around her neck, for tracking. She is beautiful!

Later on, I mention this at the reception desk and they tell me that she comes every morning to drink and has some cubs. It was a magical sight! I did not expect to see a cheetah in the wild as they tend to be very shy!

It was a worthwhile visit!

After that, we finish packing up and set off at 10. We are going back to Swakopmund check out if our parts have arrived. And with Alistair’s mattress punctured, camping is out of the question until we fix it.

The ride out of the game park takes us through some farms tracks. The public road cross into gated parcels. One of them is a private hunting lodge. At the entrance of the gate, a sign says “ Danger! Hippos and crocodiles! Do not stop!”. Hum…. I hope they too got the memo about us!

The tracks are sandy and the many dry river crossings are deep sand. By then I mastered it. For short sections at least. Speed. I just accelerate through deep sand and the bike does the rest! The road is merely a farm track and we see no one! It is great and we make good progress. Only stop by the many gates to open and close behind us. The only “ not wild” life we see are cows, goats and sheep.

Eventually, we join the tarmac road to Swakopmund. We stop for fuel and rest. We catch the cross kalahari Highway. We arrive at Swakop at 4 pm and find a backpacker place recommended by Jolein ( as her backpacker place is closed – she has to go to Windhoek so pace is closed this week).

After a quick change, we walk to the Yamaha dealer. Our parts have arrived! That include not only the fork seal for both bikes but also the “cruises control tool”. That should help!