Tag Archives: cliffs

Through the Khowarib Schlucht

Our first look at the track running through the Khowarib Schlucht was quite intimidating. We had driven south from Ongongo Campsite, where we had spent the night, and entered the Schlucht at its Western end, turning off the C43. Within a very short time we were faced with a very rough stretch of track.

The road shortly after entering the Khowarib Schlucht

The road shortly after entering the Khowarib Schlucht

Jo and I parked the bakkies and walked forward to look at the road. It was tricky, but quite driveable; however the thought of twenty-three kilometers of that sort of track was daunting to say the least.

Jo & Rob checking the track before driving though

Jo & Rob checking the track before driving though

But, we had given ourselves most of the day to cover the 80 kilometres between the C43 and C35 that included the Khowarib Schlucht and without any sort of time pressure we would be able to enjoy the spectacular scenery that we believed lay ahead.

In the Khowarib Schlucht

In the Khowarib Schlucht

In fact the drive turned out to be very enjoyable and not nearly as difficult as we had anticipated. The most difficult part was the navigation as the track split up repeatedly with no indication as to which was the “correct” track to follow. In most cases it didn’t really matter, as the roads almost invariably linked up again, but sometimes the decision was an important one, as some of the threads deteriorated into an assortment of potholes, deeply worn tracks and eroded dongas that made driving more challenging or well nigh impossible.

In the Khowarib Schlucht

In the Khowarib Schlucht

Being cautious souls, we stopped the vehicles frequently to walk over the more challenging sections of the track. We didn’t relish the idea of falling off the track or getting stuck unnecessarily and this also gave us plenty of time to absorb the scenery. The rocky cliffs towering over the track are a golden-red and present a magnificent sight.

Magnificent rock faces in the Khowarib Schlucht

Magnificent rock faces in the Khowarib Schlucht

The cliffs are a wonderful deep, golden red

The cliffs are a wonderful deep, golden red

The track crosses the dry Hoanib River numerous times, sometimes following the river-bed for a short way before climbing up the bank again. On occasion there was water to cross, but most of the time the bed of the river is of thick, soft sand that demands low-range four-wheel drive and a fair amount of concentration to maintain forward momentum.

A rare water crossing in the Khowarib Schlucht

A rare water crossing in the Khowarib Schlucht

Water crossing

Water crossing

It was crossing this river, that we got stuck. We had crossed the soft sand of the river-bed and driven up the bank on the far side when we found that we were on the wrong route; the track was impassable due to massive erosion. A quick excursion on foot showed that we should not have crossed the river-bed directly, but should have turned left on entering the river-bed and driven along the river for a few hundred metres before exiting again onto the same bank. We turned the cars and dropped back down the bank onto the soft sand. Correction, not onto the sand, rather into the sand! The Toyota sank down and stopped. Nothing serious, though, we let the tyres down (which we should have done a lot earlier!) and removed some of the sand from in front of the wheels. In about thirty minutes we were on our way again.

Digging the bakkiie from the loose sand

Digging the bakkie from the loose sand

The wonderful cliffs form a natural amphitheatre

The wonderful cliffs form a natural amphitheatre

An interesting feature of the drive through the Schlucht are the “dust holes” that occur without any real warning. These stretches of track are filled with the finest talcum-like dust that billows around the car like a thick, opaque mist. If there is the slightest tailwind, this cloud engulfs the car and reduces visibility to a few metres.  Quite disconcerting. Even just walking through this talcum-sand raises puffs of dust around your feet and ankles.

Rob walking through one of the dust holes found within the Schlucht

Rob walking through one of the dust holes found within the Schlucht

The little village of Umumbaadjie marks the end of the Schlucht itself, but there is still about 55 km of track, passing through the Kamdescha Veterinary Control Point (and yes, they did check that we had no meat with us), before reaching the C35  It was still quite early in the day when we reached the C35 and so there was a quick change of plan and we headed south for 200 km to Outjo, where we camped just outside the town at a farm called Sophienhof. This was the first and only occasion on the entire trip that Jo, Des and Gwen were able to pitch their tents on grass!

After spending the night at this very comfortable spot, we had an easy drive back to Windhoek to end the trip.

Weekend at Waterberg

Summer is not the best time of the year to go to the Waterberg as we were to find out when we paid the area a visit.  However, we duly set off from Windhoek on a Friday afternoon and drove the 300 kms north with high expectations and our usual enthusiasm when going to see a new place.

As always, we had our guide books with us so could read up on the geology and history of the area.  Nicole Grunert has an interesting book (Namibia – Fascination of Geology) that describes how erosion formed the enormous red sandstone cliffs of the Waterberg.  According to her the Waterberg was mainly characterized by tectonic processes, when an equalizing movement in the earth’s crust took place causing a comprehensive elevation of the land.  An old fault zone in the area of the Waterberg was reactivated and this zone, which stretches from Omaruru, past the Waterberg up to Grootfontein, is now known as the Waterberg Thrust.

The Waterberg cliifs

The Waterberg cliifs

Historically, the area is famous for the final battle of the Herero uprising in 1904.  Here, a comparatively small number of Germans put down the Hereroes and brought an end to the war.  The battle was apparently made very difficult by the dense vegetation in the area.  Today a small cemetery marks the final resting place of about seventy young German men who lost their lives in the fight.  A long way from home, it is sad that they had to give up their promising young lives in such a remote and desolate spot.

It is the victors who usually get to write the history and sadly we could find no memorial to the many Hereros who fought and died for what they believed in.

The cemetery at Waterberg

The cemetery at Waterberg

The campsite in the Waterberg Plateau Park is a beautiful shaded oasis with enormous trees and sprinklers that lazily flick water over the lush green lawns.  We found a super shady site fairly close to the ablution block and soon had the rooftop tent up and our table and chairs unpacked.   Our first impression was of lots of bird activity in the park with starlings, crimson breasted shrikes, forked tailed drongos and noisy wood hoopoes flitting around.

The campsite

The campsite

Apart from the birds, the sprinklers attracted a few little ground squirrels that were quite tame and didn’t run away when we approached them.

Ground squirrel

Ground squirrel

A short walk towards the towering sandstone cliffs had us passing a fair sized restaurant and an inviting looking swimming pool.  At the foot of the mountain, some distance from the campsites, a number of chalets were nestled amongst shady thorn trees.

Being one of the more popular Parks Board camps, we had to share the spot with other campers.   Our site had a large concrete braai where later we were able to cook our meat and potatoes whilst enjoying the cool of the evening and the sound of crickets around us.  When you’re sitting in the dark, watching the flickering fire flames and enjoying the symphony of the night creatures you truly feel like you’re one with the African bushveld.  For me it’s a special time of the day and I really savour the experience.

Our plan the next day was to climb up the cliffs to the top of the plateau from where we would get amazing views over the plains below.  At the foot of the mountain we were a bit sidetracked by two shy little deer that we followed into the dense bush for a photo shoot.  They blended into the woodland so well, only making themselves visible when they took off in fright as we approached them.  The birdlife in this area is also abundant and we flushed out some red billed francolins and spent about half an hour trying to photograph a pair of yellow-bellied eremomelas.  The Hartlaub’s francolin is found in this area, but unfortunately remained elusive on this trip.

The path up the mountain is quite steep and is mostly through shaded woodland with a carpet of dry leaves.  Quite near the top the trees thin out a bit and one catches glimpses of the vast expanse of land below.  On one of the rocks near the top we passed a plaque honouring a member of the Mountain Club who had lost his life in a rescue operation here many years before.  We later heard from a former member of the Mountain Club that he had plunged to his death when he stepped on a tuft of grass at the side of the cliff which gave way underneath him.

On the path

On the path

It was a bit disappointing to reach the rocky outcrop at the top of the cliff and to find that we weren’t allowed to go any further without a guide and a permit.  The plateau at the top is home to many dangerous wild animals, including white rhinos, buffalo and leopards, so it is understandable that they want to protect both the visitors and the animals.  We sat for a long time looking out over the plains below us, their natural beauty marred somewhat by the dirt roads that cross-crossed them.  Occasionally in the distance we saw a cloud of dust raised by a passing car.  It was very peaceful up there, but we didn’t linger too long as we wanted to explore the area at the bottom.

Our bird watching was very productive as we saw a pair of groundscraper thrushes near the chalets.  Continuing on towards the little German cemetery we photographed Ruppell’s Parrots and a Purple Roller.  By mid-morning the heat was starting to take its toll on me and I had to leave Rob to wander through the bush on his own while I took shelter in the campsite under the shady trees with a good book.  The squirrels and birds around the campsite were a pleasurable distraction.

Ruppell's parrot

Ruppell's parrot

Eventually even Rob couldn’t tolerate the heat anymore and we settled down to a siesta until the sun disappeared behind the mountains.  This is always my favourite time of the day as the sting has been taken out of the heat and the birds reappear as if to make the most of the last hour or so of daylight.

By the time we arrived back a big bus carrying students from the Namibian PolyTech had pulled in and unfortunately ruined the peace and quiet with their loud music and partying.  I’m sure that we weren’t alone in wishing that they had allowed us a quiet evening out in nature.  We sometimes feel that people lose the plot when it comes to weekends away in the bush – if they want to party and listen to loud music they should do it at home or at discos, not in places where others are trying to get away from these very noises to listen to natures night sounds.

In spite of our rowdy neighbours, the weekend was considered a great success and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Waterberg.  Our biggest regret was not booking a hike at the top of the plateau, but then again, it gave us a good excuse to go back another time.