MEETING THE NEW PARTY
We are now back at the Oyster Box guesthouse in Walvis Bay after our fascinating desert adventure.
Calli is waiting for us, all sorted after going back and forward to Johannesburg to get a tourist visa. Willem is displaying a huge radiant smile! These two quickly disapear and I guess why...
I then meet Martin, the wildlife photographer from Johannesburg, who also comes to join the party.
Again I have to re-organize the car and the trailer for the second part of our expedition. This time all four of us, will be camping, no more luxury lodges. In fact at many places where we are going there is no lodging facilities, only camping sites often managed by the local communities or simply bush camping.
OYSTERS & COOKING
The oysters are so delicious in Namibia! Huge and so tasty... I can't resist but to take several portions of 6 before leaving the coast. The Walvis Bay Waterfront is a nice place to have dinner in the evening and during the day, you are often welcome by Athos, Porthos and Aramis, the three great white pelicans... but I couldn't find d'Artagnan!
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Calli is now in charge of the kitchen, that I have an immense pleasure to hand it over to her. So she goes shopping and buy plenty of nice things for us. Willem told me before that she is a very good cook... being a Greek woman, I believe it is not an option not to be a good cook!
SPIRITUAL SPITZKOPPE... AGAIN
In order to accommodate ourselves to each other and get ready for the long drive to the Angolan border, I suggest to stop at Spitzkope. I simply love that place. I can feel the energy of these magnificent boulders.
Willem and Calli are delighted... they love rocks and crystals. So we are scrutinizing all the little stands along the road in search of that special crystal that is supposed to give you magical power... but instead we get hundreds of nice little stones with no magic but irresistible for Willem & Calli to buy... Later I had to fix a quota for rocks collected along the road for4 these two, otherwise we would have ended up collecting half of Namibia geological treasures in the trailer.
Spitzkope is really a spiritual place for me and I often find myself climbing on the top of these bald granite peaks, the highest one culminating at 1784 m the surrounding flat plain. Then I stand on the top for hours absorbing the powerful energy of the natural beauty.
After 2 nights at Spitzkope, we are now breaking down the camp, ready to hit the dirt roads for about 300 km. The objective is to reach Palmwag Lodge which has a very attractive campsite.
Palmwag campsite was fully booked... that's incredible. I will never get used to that! Anyway we were told to use the dry overload site which is fine for the night but lacks the luxury of an 'official' site with its shaded kitchen and braai area, and even sometimes its private ablution block!
The 3 boys - meaning Willem, Martin & myself - decided to take an early morning drive inside the conservancy. The landscape was nice but too hazy, and the sunrise was quite dull. And besides we didn't see much game, certainly not the rhinos!
ALL SORT OF HIMBA IN OPUWO
On the way to the Kunene river, we stopped at Opuwo for our last shopping before the real expedition. That city is simply amazing. In the street and in the supermarket, you can meet these Himba women half naked in traditional undress, then the adapted Himba women still half naked but with 'normal' clothing, then the proud and imposing Herero mamma with their big hat and large dress, and finally the other people who look more like you and me. And all this happens perfectly naturally.
The Himba women are famous for covering themselves with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, that gives their skins a reddish color. I am sure this mixture is a good natural substitute for sun cream, but the smell is very strong. In a way I like it, but don't abuse it. I remember the day we took an Himba girl with her baby in the car... not only the seats were red but the smell continued to accompany us for the rest of the trip.
This tradition apparently symbolizes earth's rich red color and the blood that symbolizes life, and is consistent with the Himba ideal of beauty. Himba women also braid each other's hair and cover it in the same ochre mixture. I truly believe that some of these women are very beautiful, and when I managed to convey that believe to them, then they are very pleased to be photographed.
I am not a people photographer, but when I can exchange some kind of complicity and intimacy, I feel at ease to use my camera to capture people expression and natural beauty.
The D3701 dirt road between Opuwo and the Kunene river was under repair by heavy machinery and one stretch was quite impressive, going down and up the hill in first gear with the trailer.
The nice thing about this trip is that there was (still) water in every little streams, which made the riverbed crossings a bit more exciting than if they were dry.
We arrived quite late at the Kunene River Lodge which offers a confortable campsite along the river. Once again it is just an overnight stop for us.
My GPS indicates 78 km to reach Epupa Falls and I know from my previous trip that this will take us some time... in fact it took us a good day and a half. Of course we could have done it faster, but considering our photographic objectives, this is what you have to plan for... at least!
The word 'dirt road' can not be used for this stretch. There is no road and no dirt, only rock and sand at some places when driving on the river banks.
I loved it, even with my 1.5 T trailer! Even though we struggled at a few places... sandy sharp bend around a tree along the river, deep ditch, huge rocks in river crossing, and plenty of incredible rocky and heavily weather-eroded passes going up or down the hill.
Watch for the little movie!
We found a nice spot along the river to set-up a rudimentary camp where we enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and the noise of the water rushing down the river.
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The next morning a young Himba came and visit us. He didn't say a word but was happy to recieve a loaf of bread cooked on the fire the previous evening.
We had a brilliant idea in Opuwo when we bought some sugar, salt and tabacco to offer to some of the Himba we would meet along the road. They were always delighted by these little presents and so we avoided the money matters. The old women particularly loved the tabacco!
Epupa Falls village had grown quite big, there are now 2 campsites and several lodges. I remember in 1998, there was only one very basic campsite.
The tourism industry has brought some good things to these communities, and I was very pleased to discover that the place and especially the local people had kept their authenticity. At least this is my opinion.
At our first visit, 13 years ago, we only spent one night at the falls... and you know what? We did not see it all!
I was so surprised and shocked this time when I walked the path on the south-west side of the fall next to the campsite, to discover the magnitude of the whole Epupa Falls which extends on 1.5 km long and about 500 m wide. It is so impressive and I felt so stupid to have miss that before!
Thus, in respect for that new discovery, I made sure that I told everyone I met at the campsite, so the same story would not happen to them!
Willem and Calli were finding themselves at home, sitting on the deck of the bar overlooking the rumbling lullaby and the fine mist of the nearby water fall dropping 37 m down the gorge.
By the way, Epupa means 'foam' in Herero, the foam created by the falling water.
Calli insisted to stay 2 nights and we all immediately agreed.
So far we were still in contact of civilisation, with cities, perfectly organized campsites, petrol stations and even supermarkets... but now we were going to abandon this luxury and enter remote Kaokaland.
In order to be free to explore to the North, I had to take as much petrol as possible, so we decided to drop Martin and Calli at the hot springs near Okangwati, which are located at the beginning of the dirt road going to the infamous Van Zijl pass. We left them with the trailer under a big tree. Then Willem and myself, we drove quickly to Opuwo to refill the car and all the jerrycans, and at the same time make sure that our stock of beers was large enough to ensure our survival in the desert. Martin doesn't drink... I mean alcohol, but he drinks the more funniest colored cool drinks... pink, yellow or even flashing green which we had more trouble to find in Opuwo than our canned beers!
Our timing was a bit wrong... instead of the 3 hours I mentioned to our friends before leaving them, it took us 5 hours... so you can imagine that they were happy to see us back when we arrived after dark. They had lighted a campfire and Calli was already cooking a delicious meal.
The hot springs by the way are not the most recommended camping site. They look more like a natural pool for all the cows of the village nearby than the relaxing spa in desert you would imagine.
So we ended spending the night under the big trees near the dry riverbed.
TERRIFYING VAN ZIJL PASS
The terrifying Van Zijl pass was now in front of us... and I can guarantee you that even with a good 4x4 it's a real challenge... so imagine our land cruiser with its heavy 1.5 T trailer! In fact, I can say that it was a piece of cake. This car is simply incredible... the power it has to pull the trailer smoothly up the most challenging rocky track... I was once again totally amazed!
Watch the movie!
Expect the same kind of speed on this road as the one along the Kunene. It took us the whole day to drive the 74 km to the view point in the middle of the Van Zijl pass, overlooking the magnificent Marienfluss valley. Although the wind started blowing, we decided to setup camp on the little plateau. It was simply too beautiful.
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The morning light was pleasant but the clouds quickly played around and finally dimmed the sun down through a pale haze, which was definitely not good for photography.
Down the pass, we traditionally wrote our names on a flat stone and added it to the pile around the little tree. It is quite amusing to read who has been adventurous enough to drive the pass... but don't believe everything which is written there... these 3 beetles would have never made it!
MARIENFLUSS & HARTMANN VALLEYS
Down in the valley, we came across hundreds of Himba gathering for the funeral of one of their chiefs. There were coming with their bakkies from all over Kaokaland and even Damaraland and most of them were using camping tents.
So I got the idea of trading one of the tent I had for some nice woman necklesses. The discussion was hard as I initially wanted at least 2 of them for my tent... but I quickly realized that 2 women could not make the deal (as they would not share the same tent)... only one could. A very young woman with a baby - I would rather call her a girl - wanted the tent. So I let the 10 men involved in the discussion put the tent up. It was a big igglo tent with a verhanda and the girl was very excited about her new acquisition. It was an epic moment with about 40 traditional Himba women and another 20 men around the car. Martin was filming and I took some photos but only at the end the discussion.
Now we were looking for a nice spot to set-up our camp for 2 nights and that place under the trees in the dry riverbed seemed perfectly suitable.
Martin and myself were often driving around in the late afternoon to capture the best light for our photographs and our video. And at the same time give some privacy to Willem and Calli...
That evening we climbed a small hill that gave us a good overview on the surrounding Hartmann valley and mountains... but it was still quite hazy.
I will never regret the drive up to the Kunene river through the Hartmann valley even though I destroyed a tyre on the way back! The morning drive was once again very hazy. We barely saw the Hartmann mountains on the sides of the valley, unless we were driving just close to them.
HARTMAN MOUNTAINS AT KUNENE
The apogee was when we reached the northern part of the valley. The tracks were now climbing up the overgrown and rocky sand dunes, and the scenery became more than majestic, even with the dust blown by the wind, making the sky still very hazy. In a way that haze was making the landscape very mysterious but quite a challenge to photograph.
I was in another world, for me it was magic.
As good citizens, we respected the 'no entry' signs belonging to the Serra Cafema Lodge from Wilderness Safari. So we ended up travelling on a sandy track going more North in the hope to reach the Kunene river. At the end the views on the Kunene valley and river were absolutely mind-blowing but still downgraded by the poor light.
Then the track started to go more and more down the hills, becoming more and more sandy... softer and softer... going down was definitely not a problem, but then I had to inform my passengers that there was no possible going back on the same track... and that the GPS was now showing a cut at the end of the track.
OK we all agreed that it was already too late to turn around, so we continued to drive down the overgrown sand dunes until we reached the end of it.
YES the track simply stopped just before some black granite outcrops in front of us. Down the dune, a good 100 m below was the Kunene river and a bit further the Wilderness lodge, beautifully nestled along some rapids.
Whoa! what's next now!... Well there was a way to go down just in between these rocks, then simply down the slip face of that big dune we were standing on.
Why not? We had done it so many times in the Namib!
Yes BUT it was with Simons and now we were alone, just one car and no tracks to follow in the deep sand of the slip face.
Anyway, this was the only option, and my friends were insisting so much.
They had put all their confidence in me, seeing my driver expertise on the difficult roads.
For me it was different... anyway I grab my courage and started driving down the sand dune when one of the right front wheel hit some tuff of grass and the car started to turn sideway.
Willem insisted that I corrected the wheels but more I was straightening them, more the car was going sideway!
Strangely I felt that leaving the wheels as they were made the car more happy to slowly continue its descend, still sideway but at least still on four wheels!
Martin was filming the scene from above and he was pretty sure that the car would flip over.
Willem and Calli had a strange position in the car... there were almost on my side as they felt that their weight was better put towards the hill.
I was simply glued to the steering wheel, sweating, and hoping to finish the slide on all four wheels...
You can not imagine how much happy I was to reach the bottom of the dune!
Watch for the little movie!
And you know what? I would do it again... no problem. Because I know what was my biggest mistake... to slow down! I should have accelerated slightly at the moment I was straightening the front wheels... but this is the most scary part!
The most amazing part however was when a young Himba - apparently gay just by the way he was walking - came to us at the bottom of the dune and said in a typical gay manner "Oh my God! I thought you were going to flip!". Then this kind person invited us to have a look at the lodge which was under serious repair after the recent flood of the Kunene.
Later, on his advise we stopped for lunch at the tented camp on the East side of the lodge. We even had a good nap there, probably to relax the tension of our last adventure.
It was about 4 pm when we decided to start driving back to our camp. The light was a bit better but the dust in the air was still dimming the faraway mountains.
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Anyway, you can not change nature. I learned to take it that way and we all enjoyed very much the landscapes we crossed on the way back, especially at the beginning when we drove over the monster dunes.
There was an old Himba kraal but recently more Himba came to settle down in these mountains while some of them are working at the only lodge around.
And guess who we met again there? Our gay friend, who introduced us to his family.
When we reached the top of the monster dune, the view behind us was spectacular.
Abit further along the track, the strange cloud floating and jumping over the golden grass happened to be zillions of starling birds!
It was time to drive back and suddently for absolutely no apparent reason, the left back tyre 'exploded' while we were driving on a soft sand track. The tyre got a large cut, about 8 cm long on its side... mystery! ...as I didn't find any sharp object or even stone on the track. Willem tried to call my road assistance but as they didn't show up, he decided to change the tyre himself.
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So because of the incident, we had to find our camp in the dark... Well quite an easy task with an off-road GPS!
Every single night since the desert expedition in the Namib, I have been sleeping outside. This is so cool and it was a long time I had done this... sleeping near the campfire under the stars in my dawn sleeping bag. It was fantastic!
DESERT ELEPHANT AT PUROS
As I remembered the drive down to Puros 13 years ago, I knew that the road was not the most exciting but now with that dust in the air it was even more boring.
The scenery was nice but a bit monotonous until we reached the pass before the Hoarusib river. Driving in the sandy riverbed, we saw plenty of girafes and elephants. It was nice to see so much game before reaching the community campsite at Puros. We chose a very nice site and 2 guys immediately started the fire in the donkey for our evening hot showers.
There was apparently some politics going on at Puros. As one of the guy explained to me, I understood that they were 2 communities and that the income of the campsite was not equally distributed amongsts them. So they simply decided not to accept any payment until the issue would be resolved. I was impressed... and not only by their decision, but that they would guarantee us their best service at all time and that they did!
At sunset Martin and myself took a quick drive back to the elephants. The same young bull we saw at lunch time, was quickly showing signs of aggressivity, so we preferred to carry on and let him alone.
Our site was perfect for a nice evening around the campfire and like everyday Calli had prepared a very tasty dinner. As usual, I put my mattress and sleeping bag near the fire. I often stayed at the campfire after the others had already decided to go and retrench in their tent.
Just before going to sleep, as I was walking around the car to put the computer inside, I heard a loud grinding noise at the exact time I was opening the driver's door. My first reaction was that the hinges needed a serious dose of oil, then I realized that these hinges were perfectly fine before and that the powerful noise was the trumpet of an elephant very close to me, in fact almost in my right ear! Indeed and the big bull immediately panicked and ran through the trees to escape my presence. Fortunately for the rest of the party, everybody was already half asleep to realize the danger and the elephant was quickly on the other side of the row of small trees and thick bushes behind the tents. For me it was so quick to realize what really just happened that I slided into my sleeping bag without even thinking that the beast could come back, or other elephants could come around at night and walk over me. I simply trusted their good manners not to do so!
The next morning I was dead shocked to see that the huge footprints were less than 3 m in front of the car. So I could have almost bumped into the bull who was peacefully and silently browsing in front of the car!
I love the close contact with animals... I really have a kind of a feeling of trust towards them.
I will definitely remember that night for some time!
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The next day, we all went back to film and photographs the game in the riverbed and we got some very nice shots. Martin was at the limit of being too brave. In order to get a good shot at the elephant from the ground level, he went out of the car on his knees. I was surprised to see how long he stood there while the elephant was closing down on him, and only stepped back into the car at the last minute. Martin is an experienced wildlife photographer who recently embraced video. He was very proud of his new Canon XF300 which indeed captured excellent quality hd footage.
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Later on the way back, the same young bull once more was not happy seeing our white car... probably some bad memories. Martin wanted to film it and it didn't take a long before the elephant started charging us. I am sure it was not a real charge and he would probably have stopped but it was certainely impressive enough to drive out of the scene!
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We had already spent 2 weeks in Kaokaland and now we were returning back to Palmwag through Fort Sesfontein. On the way from Spitzkoppe, we stopped at Aba Huab campsite and we immediately liked the idea of coming back there. The sites at Aba Huab are very nice on the banks of the river of the same name. There is a bar for Willem and Calli and power points for the ones who feel to work on the computer. Digital photographers indeed need to spend some time everyday at processing their photos. I personally try every single day after shooting to empty the flash cards, import the new photos in LightRoom, make a quick first selection and do a backup on a external drive... a simple routine that really pays at the end.
ABA HUAB - TWYFELFONTEIN
The site of twyfelfontein is reputed for some of the best rock engravings in the world.
Early morning, the boys went to see the organ pipes and the burnt mountain. I personally enjoyed more the organ pipes and played around for a while to make a couple of graphical shots. The burnt mountain looks more to me like our man-made hills in Belgium resulting from the unwanted underground excavation for coil.
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Then in the afternoon, we took a guided tour of the rock engravings with a charming lady who was very good at explaining everything known about each site. And we were allowed to go closer to the rocks to take the best possible shots.
In the morning, we decided to cut short to the coast via the Mesum crater.
I like very much that kind of driving, following a single track through incredible landscape. We had a nice surprise too when we crossed the Ugab river. First the track going down and up the gorge was quite impressive, especially the sharp bends to maneuver with the trailer. Second when we drove in the riverbed, we saw the most incredible geological formation arboring a multitude of different layers of rocks and making lovely folds on the walls of the gorge.
I would love to have weeks to explore such kind of area and stop where ever I feel good for a few days. But we all had our agenda, so we gently traveled through the area, stoping here and there. We drove down the abandoned open carry at Brandberg West and explored some of the sample tunels going sideways. Apart the turquoise little lake at the bottom, we didn't find any precious stones or crystals, only a few rocks with amazing stripes of colors to the delight of our apprentice geologists.
Since the beginning of the day, we saw many Welwitschia. They were everywhere, but the biggest and nicest ones were surely those along the Mesum dry riverbed.
They were spectacular, and a regal for the eyes in the late afternoon light. In fact we were wrongly directed to the North from the GPS that was pointing to an erroneous marking of the Mesum crater. Thnks to that, we saw the huge dinosaure plants!
ALONG THE COAST
Willem and Calli absolutely wanted to reach the coast and hitchhike to Walvis Bay the same night. So we had to continue our route to the East. We drove along the real Mesum crater another 20 km South and then at last on a very boring flat plain with a multitude of parallel tracks. This was definitely not the same feeling as in the morning, on our single track through the mountains.
It was pitch black when we reached the costal road made of compacted salt. There were plenty of salt crystals for sale along the road. But what is really funny is that there is nobody at the stands, only a planck to display the small and big crystals and a pot for you to leave the money, which I did... not really knowing who would be collecting it during the night!
We couldn't really leave Willem and his girl friend on the side of the road, so we decided to drive down together to Henties Bay where we found a cheap holiday flat to rent for the night. And in exchange for our compassion, Willem invited us for dinner at the only open restaurant in town.
The next morning we split. Willem and Calli took a taxi South to Walvis Bay. Willem wanted to visit the biggest fish & sea food processing factories and become the 'king of the calamari' as he explained, trying to convince us of the legitimacy of his diabolic plans.
SEALS AT CAPE CROSS
Martin and myself, we decided to drive back North and have a good look at the seals at Cape Cross. Our bravery of arriving at sunrise was not really rewarded and we had to wait a good hour before entering into the nature reserve.
There was apparently a serious issue about seal calling, and the authorities were really on alert with a boat patrolling the sea to spy on any attempt which would have compromised their image. We heard a bit later that the calling was finished since more than 3 months... and that the issue was simply the gate not being open in time...
Anyway, we were now the first car to enter the reserve, and only with a few others following us.
To my great surprise, the seals were not smelling at all this time. I remember at my last visit 13 years ago, I almost couldn't breathe the first time I opened the door of the car. Of course, after a while I got used to it because I felt the urge to take some photographs. This time was very different, there was almost no smell at all.
I love watching wild animal. I can do it for hours. I feel good.
The wooden (read plastic) platform is well done and you can almost see the seals as close as if you were walking through them.
SWAKOPMUND - Goanikontes Oasis
Apart the Angolan shipwreck 20 km North of Swakopmund and the colorful fisherman village where every house has a huge water tank on the roof, the coastal road is quite boring.
We spent our last 2 nights resting at the Goanikontes Oasis nestled in a palmeree along the Swakop river.
I dropped Martin at the Oyster Bay guesthouse for him to retrieve his huge suitcase and all the extra luggage I forced him to abandon before the trip, and we said bye-bye to each other.
I had now the whole afternoon and the next morning to fix the trailer (one wheel bearing leaking), the brakes of the cruiser (tired after all the hard work of stopping the trailer), organize a good wash of the whole car and do the shopping for the last week of the trip with Petra and the kids.
I found the best place to stay in Walvis Bay : Loubster's guesthouse. The price is more than fair and XXX and XXX are real nice people. It is by far the place I enjoyed the most. XXX invited me for a braai and we had some interesting discussion about Namibia.
PICKING UP THE FAMILY AT THE AIRPORT
I was so happy to see my kids - and Petra too - coming out of customs at the little 'international' airport of Walvis Bay.
As soon as everyone was installed in the car, we hit the road to the East, our destination being the campsite of Mirabib in the Northern part of the Namib-Naukluft national park.
On the track to Mirabib, we saw a school of 20 young ostriches, all walking in a straight line with one adult on each side. As they were walking to the horizon, their silhouettes came in front of the sun setting down. It was absolutely beautiful but I couldn't take the shot because my camera was simply not ready!
Mirabib is in fact a miniature Spitzkoppe. It is located 30 km South of the C14 road. So it is pretty much isolated!
It was so peacefull there, especially that we were the only one!
I did a bit of rock climbing with Enya & James. We were so happy to be together after 6 weeks of separation, the longest ever!
Enya loves to drive anything from a donkey cart to a Land Cruiser with a trailer. I sat at the back and she sat alone on the driver's seat. She started the engine, changed the gears, controlled the pedals and the stearing for about 20 km. It was a longer drive with the car and the trailer. She is really good at it. Then James drove the last 10 km but he prefered to sit on my lap and that I do the pedals. He is only 8-year old... that's not too bad!
I remembered that the Kuiseb river was flowing a month ago. That's where we saw these 14 people taking photographs of the naked black model in the river for the next calendar of Grohe (the German tap manufacturer). Quite an expensive calendar to make, isn't it!
YES, the Kuiseb river was still full of water, so we drove down the riverbed with the trailer and found a good spot in the shade of a tree to have lunch. The river was so apealing that we all went for a good swim. It was divine!
And I almost forgot to mention that we had the second half of the fresh oysters we eated the evening before, and today with a glass of champagne. What a better location to enjoy these delicatesses!
SOSSUS DUNES LODGE
When I stayed at Sossus Dunes Lodge, Jonathan, the manager was keen on using our services for some advertising. So he invited us to come back with the family. As soon as we arrived at the lodge, I took the kids to the closest sand dune as they couldn't contain themselves anymore. There I watched them running down the dune, then walking up, then running down, then up, then down, then up and so on for an hour... until they were completely exhausted.
We then drove back for our first evening together at the lodge. Back to our nice bungalow, everyone went to bed early for a good night sleep.
The biggest advantage for photographers when you stay at this lodge is that you don't have to queue and wait for the opening of the gate at 6 am. You can drive earlier to be in time on top of big dune and enjoy the sun rising on the sand dunes.
BIG DADDY - DEADVLEI
This is exactly what we did except that I underestimated the real time to climb big daddy, not that Petra or the kids were too slow, but because a photographer stops whenever he feels the moment and there was a beautiful shot to take a the base of big daddy... judge for yourselves!
So we made it... but a bit after sunrise... it was absolutely mind blowing.
We were lucky as the sky was quite clear. There was almost no wind.
The beauty of the surrounding landscape is totaly sureal.
What a great moment!
It is worth the effort, which is big believe me!
OK so if you want to do the same, count at least 2 hours or more before sunrise if you depart from the lodge... and if you are at the campsite, just forget about big daddy for sunrise unless you have another trick... (as I used to have in the past)
Then we ran the long slipface down deadvlei, it is fun and it will take you 5 minutes only! Also quite impressive…
Deadvlei is magic. These dead trees are so photogenic. At the time we were down in Deadvlei, too many people were already walking around and the sun was everywhere. I only took a few shots of the family posing with the dead trees.
We then went back to the lodge to do our homework and for the kids to enjoy the swimming pool. In the afternoon, we returned together to the dune close by for the kids to enjoy rolling down and running up and down until they collapsed.
BIG MAMMA - SOSSUSVLEI
The next morning we all agreed that we had to go back to Sossusvlei and this time climb Big Mamma. Half way we stopped for breakfast but then I was the only brave one continuing the ascend to the top...
and I was rewarded with stunning views towards the South especially where that big mountain stands in the middle of the sea of dunes.
When I am alone, I guess I have more freedom to move around and YES, there I got some of the best shots of the trip.
While I was meditating on top of the big dune and taking my photographs, Petra and the children had an incredible encounter of a small herd of springboks. First they saw them grazing at the bottom of a tiny little vlei and then running towards them before climbing the dunes.
The rest of the trip was more about visiting friends - Shawn & Priscillia at Drifter's Lodge and Willem & Cindy??? at Klein Auss Vista.
Willem took us - Petra and myself - for an interesting tour of their huge farm, checking at some cows and showing us around the best vistas.
We connected nicely while all the kids were playing together at their house.
PURE MAGIC WITH THE WILD HORSES
When we were camping at Klein Auss Vista near Auss, I took Enya and James early morning to the view point of the wild horses. That morning was a full moon setting down just at sunrise. So when we arrived at the water hole, no horse was there. Courageously, we walked towards the mountains where we saw a herd quite faraway. We spent a good hour with these 10 horses but they did not really let us come very close, only 5-6 m may-be. The kids were disapointed.
Then we decided to walk back to the car and when we reached the plain around the water hole, about one hundred horses were standing there.
Then the magic happened.
As we walked down towards the horses, they all started laying down. And more time we were spending there, closer to them, more horses were laying down. At some point, most of the horses were calmly resting on the ground. There was nobody around yet... fortunately... the magic was just for us.
Enya & James are very close to all animals, including small and big wild ones. So they started caressing the horses which were still perfectly happy to rest in total confidence. The kids were not only touching the horses, or caressing them, they were literally hugging them with so much love that the whole valley was filled with magic. This moment was completely sureal and in a way very spiritual for me. I was also hugging the horse, youngsters and adults, and a mother let me knee down and put my head on her new born calf.
I don't know if the horses were under anesthesia because of the full moon or if all of us were radiating positive and calming energy that morning, but something exceptional and pure happened there and we were part of it.
And fortunately I had a camera to report the magic!
A long journey back home was expecting us for the last day of my 7 weeks in Namibia, and all went very well. Safe and back home before 8 pm!
Of course, you can see more of them… just follow the 2 links below, and remember that if you have posted a comment, you are entitled to see the slide in high resolution. So what are you waiting for?
THE NEXT EXPEDITION
I am busy preparing the Namibia expeditions for March/April 2012 and I will post the final dates in a couple of days.
This interactive Google map shows the routes and most of the points of interests... enjoy, play around and send me your feedback!
View Paul Godard - Soul Photography - Photo Safari & Workshop - Namibia 2011 in a larger map