Article 1 - Ballymore Bugle_Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare - May 2001
Peter Cregg, our African correspondent (no less than Stanley was for the London Times regarding Livingstone) has filed the promised report from James Coonan at Windhoek, in Namibia, old German South West Africa, and just 8° north of the Tropic of Capricorn. By the time they land at Swakopmund, the Riviera of the west coast, they will have covered 1,500 miles, with another 2,500 miles to go before reaching Nakuru on the far side of Africa, and only about 50 miles from the Equator.
Namibia is the ancient land of the Bushman, Herero and Hottentot peoples. In 1904, the German General Van Trotha sealed off all the wells in the nearby desert, and then by banishment, virtually exterminated these tribes. Namibia is rich in minerals, particularly diamonds.
The Hottentot people are recognised for their high intelligence, and are pastoralists, rearing the much prized Persian jet-black-fleeced breed of sheep called Karakul. The word Hottentot is derived from the Dutch, meaning 'stutter', and is applied to them because of the peculiar 'click click' sound of various consonants used in their language.
The next leg of their trip will be across Botswana and the Kalahari Desert, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and on to Kenya. We have posted a copy of last month's Bugle to Nakuru in the hopes that the Kikuyu tribe will give them a hearty traditional welcome when they eventually arrive there, but to please dispense with the old cauldron-pot as a utensil for a variety of fresh Irish Stew - the real thing! Here then, is the report:
Big White Hunters Newsletter
The Big White Hunters have arrived in the Black continent. We flew into Capetown over the spectacular Table Mountain which juts into and dominates the centre of the city and is situated at the convergence of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, next stop the South Pole.
Capetown is not what we expected, it is very cosmopolitan and more European than African in character. While in Capetown we stayed with friends of friends, the Hacketts and Pierce Sinnott who looked after us very well and showed us around Capetown especially the nightlife, which was cheapand entertaining (Steak - 5 punts, beer -1 punt, cigarettes -1 punt).
We spent a week collecting the Landrover (Rosie) from the boat and buying all the equipment for our journey. Although we didn't have much time to do the tourist sites, buying the equipment was a great way to meet the people both black and white, who proved to be very friendly and helpful. With so much camping and cooking equipment, tools and Landrover parts to buy we bought as much as possible on the cheap in the local markets and in pawn shops, where ferocious bargaining was a must. Having been ripped off a few times we sharpened up our act quickly.
With Rosie packed to the roof and the roof-rack loaded up, we set out on the first leg of our journey, 500 miles to the Orange river on the Namibian border. Our first near crisis occurred just out of Capetown when we realised that there were no petrol stations within the first 50 miles. We got there well into the red. Having nearly done it a second time, we soon realised that the population and number of petrol stations was very sparse. We now keep the 4 jerry cans on the roof and the tank topped up at all times, with a combined range of 500 miles. In the sweltering midday heat we soon realised why everyone kept telling us that we needed air-conditioning or at least windows in the back and a fridge, of course we have none of the above.
Our trip started on an easy note with a 4 day rafting trip through the Kalahari desert and mountains. The river was high and there wasn't a lot of white water so we drifted most of our day through the beautiful scenery, occasionally rolling overboard for a swim. In the evenings we had a Brie (BBQ) on camp fires, taught the South Africans how to sing Irish songs and slept outside under the stars.
At a camp site in Namibia we very nearly ran over a Springbok, alas bried springbok was not on the menu, instead we bought some fishing line and hooks and caught Yellow fin for dinner with improvised hand lines, not to be recommended, the boniest fish in the world. The same night we discovered our mosquito proof awning/tent was no match for an African tropical rainstorm soaked, we slept on the campsite kitchen floor, as thunder and lightning crashed all around (having been told the rainy season was over!) -
In Namibia we hit the dirt roads which stretch as far as the eye can see in a straight line, through the most barren and sparsely populated countryside imaginable. Rosie was soon filled with red dust and we were covered from head to toe. It took a week with the silicon gun to locate and block every hole that was letting dust in. Rosie had her first real test, being vibrated violently on the corrugated roads and negotiating the river beds where the roads have been washed away by flash floods.
In Sesriem we awoke at 4.30am to drive out to Sossevlei, an oasis in the middle of the Namib desert to see the sunrise over some large and amazing sand dunes rising up to 400m. It was an unforgettable experience.
Rosie had started to bellow progressively more and blacker smoke from Cape Town; by the time we reached Sesriem she had started to cut out, then with the park entrance in sight she had had enough and cut out completely. She rolled the last 150 metres coming to rest under a shady tree, making the locals think she was solar powered. It was then we decided on a detour to Windhoek for repairs. In Windhoek we also discovered a leaking seal in the steering box and that Rosie had started to slip her clutch.
Windhoek although the capital of Namibia is unlike other cities in that the population is only 200,000. Namibia has a population of 1.5 million yet is 10 times the size of Ireland - 'Big'. It is a quite little city where everything shuts down at the weekends - luckily we found Joe's Beer House which pours a great pint and has every game animal imaginable on the menu - Kudu, Springbok, Oryx, Crocodile... all surprisingly tasty.
We might be here for a few days while Rosie visits the car Hospital, hopefully repairs will be quick and cheap and we will be on the road again, but we have become aware of Africa time. Everything in Africa seems to move at its own slow pace; queuing, border crossings, changing money, vehicle repairs ... It is futile trying to rush things, you just have to go with the flow (which suits us fine). At the border crossings for example we pull out a football and get a game going with the locals, soon the border guards are playing; this sometimes works to our advantage as they rush the paperwork through, but at other times they want us to stay and play more or leave the football behind.
From here we will head to Swakopmund to sand board on the dunes, then up the Skeleton coast and from there to Damaraland to look for Desert Elephants.