Tag Archives: Marble Camp

A visit to the Marienfluss area of Namibia

In my previous blog I wrote about what a beautiful oasis Marble Camp is.  It was a great spot for us to recover and prepare ourselves for our trip up to Camp Synchro on the Kunene River.  We met some other campers who were towing a trailer and they told us about Red Drum Pass that awaited us shortly after we left Marble Camp.  The Pass turned out to be relatively easy to negotiate, but the rocks were quite jagged and we crossed fingers that they wouldn’t damage our tyres.  Apart from a few small tears in the sidewalls of the tyres, we survived the climb up and over Red Drum Pass relatively unscathed.

The road up Red Drum Pass

From there it was a short drive to Red Drum, which, although it features on all the road maps of the Kunene region, is really no more than a junction marked by a red drum.  We came upon it quite suddenly and it took us a moment or two to realize that this was the famous Red Drum that everyone talks about.  We had to stop and take the obligatory photos to show that we’d passed it!  Rob looks a bit perplexed about something – probably wondering what all the fuss is about.

Rob at Red Drum

Once we turned off at Red Drum and headed into the Marienfluss, the going was a lot easier.  The Marienfluss is a valley that runs alongside the Hartmann Mountains in northern Namibia and it is definitely one of the prettiest areas in the Kunene region.  It is described as one of the southern Africa’s last wilderness areas because of its isolation, and it’s easy to see why.  Although it is dotted with little Himba settlements, they are few and far between so do little to change one’s perception of being in an undeveloped and remote area.  These colourful Himba ladies graciously allowed me to photograph them.  Unfortunately our idea of a reasonable price to pay for a photo was somewhat different to theirs – their thinking was more in line with what a model like Kate Moss would charge!  As a result their smiles turned to glares as we drove away.

Three colourful Himba ladies

We loved the beautiful fairy circles that dotted the Marienfluss and stopped often to photograph them, the yellow grass, mountains and red road.  The area has an almost ethereal quality about it.

The beautiful Marienfluss scenery

The road was very corrugated and sandy in patches.  It was quite sad to see how motorists had left the track often to get away from the sand and corrugations, causing the track to become ever wider.  Sometimes we had as many as six tracks to choose from.    Driving off the road is not encouraged as the damage to the environment is usually permanent.

The wide red road

There were lots of wild animals and birds to be seen along the way.  These ostriches made a beautiful picture in the landscape.

Ostriches in the Marienfluss

We also stopped to watch a Pale chanting goshawk swoop down and catch a snake.  When Rob set off on foot to try and photograph it, the goshawk flew off clutching its prey in its talons.  These are the magical moments on a trip and they need to be savoured without being in a hurry to get to your next destination.

Pale chanting goshawk with a snake

What a special time it was in this area.  If you’re prepared to put up with the atrocious roads to get there, the beauty will amply reward you for your tenacity and endurance.  Our destination for the day was Camp Synchro on the Kunene River – one of two camping places at Otjinungwa.  More about that lovely spot next week …..

 

Purros to Marble Camp

If you’re a regular traveler in Africa, and in particular in Namibia and Botswana, you could often find yourself in the most remote places with nary another soul to be seen for days.  We love this sort of traveling – it kind of makes you feel like you’re participating  in your own version of “Survivor”.  If you do happen to meet any locals along the way (maybe once in two days) you need to be seriously nice to them in your greeting because you never know if you might get stuck or break down and need their assistance a few kilometers along the road.  And you know you’re in a remote spot when your GPS loses track of where you are, has a nervous breakdown and tells you nothing except that you’re driving on elephants!  That must be a first, surely.

Our GPS had a nervous breakdown

Our trip along the Hoarusib River from Purros to Marble Camp was one that pitted us against the demons of the dry river bed.  We’d heard that the regular road was unbearable to drive on because of relentless corrugations, so our plan was to drive a short way along the river bed and then pull out onto a track that would take us to Marble Camp.  Unfortunately Rob didn’t check the GPS co-ordinates that a friend had kindly given us and we soon found out that they were incorrect.  Instead of driving a few kilometers up a reasonably well-traveled and wide river bed, we ended up taking a day and a half to cover 90 kilometers of some hectic sand and rocks.

Hoarusib River near Purros

The drive started out pleasantly enough with us excited at the possibility of seeing elusive desert elephants and lions.  Within the first half hour we struck gold when an ellie came into view up ahead.  These elephants, although similar in appearance to other African elephants, differ in that they have adapted to survive in desert conditions and are not as destructive as their cousins that live in more abundant countryside.  There were so many animals (giraffes, ostriches, gemsbok) that we often marveled at the fact that we weren’t actually in a game reserve and that these were just wild animals living in their own habitat.  It’s hard to imagine that places like this still exist in the world.

Desert elephant - Hoarusib River

We stopped often to photograph the spectacular scenery in the river gorge. Of concern though, was the fact that we had to travel so slowly through the sand and rocks, often backtracking to find a route around impassable areas, and we didn’t appear to be getting any closer to the co-ordinates where we had to turn out of the river bed.  By lunchtime the sun had warmed the sand considerably, which made it more difficult to drive on (the earlier one drives on sand the better as cold sand is more compact than hot sand).  Rob’s brother, Kenny, who was with us and who wasn’t an experienced 4×4 driver, managed exceptionally well, but got seriously stuck when having to drive up a sand bank and make a sharp lefthand turn.  It took us more than an hour to get him out in spite of using a high-lift jack and a couple of spades to shovel the sand away.  Three local Himba children materialised out of nowhere and lent a hand.  Eventually Rob towed Kenny’s vehicle out and we were on our way again.  Hopefully our collective jubilation wiped clear the air that hung heavy with some of Kenny’s choice expletives!

Spectacular scenery in the Hoarusib River

By mid-afternoon we realized that we weren’t going to make it to Marble Camp that day.  The river bed had narrowed considerably and it was becoming more difficult to negotiate our way through the rocky sections.  The golden rule for camping in Namibia is that you never camp in a river bed.  Flash floods can happen far away that send water rushing down the river even when conditions are dry.  As evening approached we knew that we’d have to break this rule, so decided to find an area that was relatively high up for our camp.  Fortunately it was the month of July, so rains and floods were unlikely.  We parked close together and crossed our fingers!  Were we going to be trampled on by elephants, mauled by lions or washed away?  Fortunately none of these things happened and we were treated to a magnificent starlit sky as we enjoyed our dinner and chatted about the day’s adventures.

Enough for one day - our camping spot

When we set off the next morning we found that we’d stopped just short of the worst part of the entire track.  Thank heavens we hadn’t seen it the night before when we were so weary as  I don’t think Kenny would have slept very well at all.  We had to do some road building to help us over the rocks before we could proceed.  How we made it through that section I still don’t know, suffice to say that once we levered Kenny’s vehicle off a big rock we were on our way again.  More blue air and even worse expletives notwithstanding!

Kenny guides Rob through the rocks

About an hour later we were very relieved when we saw two vehicles heading in our direction.  Visions of people finding our skeletons rapidly receded and we managed to get an indication of how far it was to an exit point from the river bed.  Eventually we found the road and although it wasn’t the best road in Namibia, to us it was a golden highway.  It took us another couple of hours to get to Marble Camp, which was an absolute oasis with its shady campsites and piping hot showers.