Article 2 - Ballymore Bugle_Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare - June 2001
We continue our report of the travels and travails through Africa of James Coonan and Co. Livingstone could not equal this.
Welcome all to our second news letter from the Big White Hunters.
After visiting two Landrover appointed garages and being quoted $300 and $700 for a new clutch we finally stumbled onto Mr Gustav Minz, a Namibian of German descent as are most of the whites in Namibia. Unlike a lot of them, Gustav was a bit of a character. Within 2 minutes he had the clutch fixed with a minor adjustment, the next hour was filled with quality German/ Irish banter - did you ever! We eventually managed to find someone willing to work on Rosie's Daihatsu engine - most had not even heard of Daihatsu - we still have not seen another one. The lad gave her a slight tuning, but she was still smoking furiously. Then we were on the road again after (JC) had made plans to meet some Norwegian girls along the way. On the way out of Windhoek (JC) ('the sensible one') decided not to notice the 20 + signs warning of a police roadblock and drove straight through, then stopped to be berated by an irate policeman. He threatened to confiscate our passports and send us back to Windhoek to pay a large fine, but (JC) flashed the cigarettes, smiled and got a bit of banter started. Then (JC) asked if it was possible to 'pay' the fine without going back to Windhoek, $30 Namibian gift to the policeman for his troubles and (JC) was on the road again with two nervous passengers.
Our next stop was Spitzkoppe, a mystical mountain jutting out of the plains of the Namibian desert. We spent 2 days walking around this magical place with its bushman paintings in the caves, rockpools and very strange shapes that have been carved out of the rock by wind and time. Next stop Swakopmund - for a party! But (JC)'s Norwegian chicks never showed, it must have been his singing! We never managed any of the 'activities' on offer in Swak and headed north hastily. This journey took us through the Skeleton Coast, which is a bit like a lunar landscape - a South African had told some yanks earlier in our trip that the moon walk (Armstrong) had been filmed here! The coast is littered with ship wrecks - imagine getting washed ashore to find yourself on a desert! Along the Skeleton Coast we dropped into the cape seal reserve, Africa's largest - the smell was hideous but the animals hilarious.
On our way East from the coast we were very lucky to come across the elusive Desert Elephants. This was our first 'big five' sighting and he took exception to Rosie's bright red paintwork as we crept within 20 metres of him. It may have been Rosie's gentle idling noise or perhaps her smoke, but Jumbo started to get agitated, flapping his ears and sending clouds of dust about him. Wrighty at the wheel had trouble driving away as his clutch leg started trembling, but finally he drove to safety. Next stop, a cheetah farm; as (JC) and (AC) giggled from the safety of the car (JW) went to open the gate to the lodge, not noticing the camouflaged cheetah advancing towards him through the shadows or the one lying to his left. We later were able to stroke four of these cheetahs that were 'house pets' and get close to wilder ones that were being fed out of the back of a pick-up that we were standing in. It was interesting to watch the keeper trying to control these animals and one even jumped into the pick-up beside Angus to steal some meat!
After these tasters at some of Africa's wildlife we headed into Etosha national park. This was a little disappointing as there had been a lot of rain and the animals were widespread across the pan, not needing the usual waterholes. We also got our second major soaking in the tent - unable as yet to find a WATERPROOF tent, we are convinced we are rain gods. Maybe we can sell our services as these guys love a bit of rain. Anyhow this prompted us to head out of the park and head for Botswana, but before leaving, (JW) spotted movement far off through the rain; lo and behold a Rhino and he was running towards us ... it got within 30 yards and did not look best pleased, but with (JC) behind the wheel we thought we would be grand but he also suffers from 'nervous clutch leg'. Then when we thought (JC) had taken us to safety it mock charged us - did we fancy Rosie against a Rhino? I think not. The Rhino then proceeded to run around like a headless chicken up and down the road with us in pursuit/retreat depending.
Next stop Botswana - you know a country is going to be nice when the immigration officer is sitting at a table in the shade yarning with a few friends and asks you to join him to fill in your paperwork. We were planning a makoro trip through the delta but this seemed v. expensive so although there had been a plane crash recently, we decided to fly over the delta in a small 6-man Cessna - very Wilbur Smith. Wow what a spot -animals everywhere - loads of Elephant, Hippos, Giraffe and next on the big 5 list, the Buffalo (thousands of them). We then headed further East, avoiding Chobe National Park (v. expensive) and planned to Bush camp en route to Vie Falls, but the rain clouds were after us again and we had had a tasty looking lump of beef taken off us at a veterinary check point, so onwards north to Kasane in the dark. Driving at night is not recommended as (JC) found out - bright lights coming at you, blinded, an elephant appears on the edge of the road not 3 metres away!! (AC) took over the driving shortly but sticking to low speeds and concentrating on the verges that could become elephant at any time was very tiring and made for a long journey. Now we know why there are loads of crashed cars on the edge of the roads.
And on into Zimbabwe to view the legendary Victoria Falls. This is a stunning sight and no amount of video footage or photos do it justice. The sheer power, speed and volume of water (550,000,000 litres/second) at the moment in high water, creates noise and spray that can be heard/seen for miles. Mosi oa Tunya is the local name for the falls and translates as the smoke that thunders. We had planned to go through more of Zimbabwe but with the fuel shortages we decided against. We changed money in Vie Falls, but with over Z$100 to the US$ we got silly amounts of Z$100 notes and Angus thought it was time for the Casino. But prior to this we had to do a booze cruise - basically drink as much as you can for three hours while the sun goes down. (JC), though, felt a 'nip in the air' and had to take a night in a hotel room! We moved over to Livingstone in Zambia the next day and were able to witness a lunar rainbow over the falls at full moon. (AC) did a bungee jump the next day and was still shaken about a week later. (JC) and (JW) took a jet boat ride through the gorge and (JC) topped it all off with a helicopter trip out of the gorge and over the falls.
Having spent too much money we set a course for Lusaka, but 150km down the road we heard a noise from the engine then (AC) pulled over and steam appeared from everywhere. We knew that this was not good - but replaced a pipe on the side of the road and let Rosie cool down. This did not work so Wrighty was despatched in a passing lorry back to Livingstone to find help. The hostel where we had spent 2 nights is run by a man named Quinn - he claims to be a Kiwi - he went off to tow Rosie back to town. We had also previously met a mechanic who worked for Landrover but had owned a Daihatsu, he is our mentor at this stage. With time now on our hands while we wait for emergency parts, (AC) has been put to work by Paul Quinn to pay for rent with the odd bit of assistance from (JW) (we finished the bar last night - yeeha!!) and (JC) has taken leave of absence to walk with Lions in South Luangwe.