dimanche 21 mai 2017

Namibia, Days 13 and 14, Thursday-Friday, 27-28 April 2017. Windhoek-Johannesburg-Amsterdam-Montreal

In the morning we can admire the beautiful grounds and surroundings of Midgard Estate. Would be nice to stay... no predators, just some mischievous baboons; so, long walks would have been possible but we can't complain.  We depart for Windhoak for our last ride together on the bus.
Lindy shows us a little bit of Windhoek, it's history and government.
In 1840 Jonker Afrikaner, a Khoi tribesman came from the cape and founded a settlement. It was destroyed by wars between the Herero and Nama tribes. In 1890 the city was founded a second time by the German imperial army under Von Francois.
The Germans had dominion of what was then South West Africa. Von Francois built a fort, "die alte Feste", the 12 hot springs provided water for produce and grains, the settlement developed.
After WW I Germany lost SWA to South Africa which administered the territory until indepence in 1990. Afrikaans and German languages are still widely used but the government speaks only English, it is the first language taught in school. Local languages have no official status. It seems the transition from apartheid went relatively smoothly, this was confirmed to us by a third generation Namibian white lady we met in the plane. She also agreed with Lindy's assessment of the government which functions democratically and with little corruption. There are 45 % women and one white member in parliament. Presently, the country is relatively easy to govern because of its small population: 2.5 million in Namibia, 323,000 in Windhoek. However, the population is growing at 10 % yearly, which will surely cause problems in the future.
Windhoek is  clean, has beautiful gardens, some historic buildings, statues and monuments and a new modern museum, all very pleasant. We stopped at a cooperative market with good handicrafts made and sold mostly by women. Really in Africa I don't know what they would do without women! The men sit as presidents, but the women do everything else!  Contrary to most tourist traps, I really enjoyed that market. I bought hand printed cushions, an ostrich egg necklace and Schnaps glasses. As we do on every trip we always buy such glasses as souvenir and I was looking for them all through the trip but couldn't find nice ones, so I am very pleased to add them to my collection.
And then it was good byes at the airport, so it goes. Andre has everybody's e-mails so I hope to keep in touch.
The short flight was very plesant in the company if the Namibian lady. She was very positive and hopeful about Namibia, but worried about South Africa. She camps all over Southern Africa including Botswana which seems as beautiful as I imagine it. Problem is it's very expensive and we are becoming too old to self drive.
Arrived in Johannesburg at 1 PM, some people had earlier connection flights, ours was at 11 PM so we had the whole day to wait. Lindy had procured us with free VIP lounge tickets and that was wonderful. According to Marc the best lounge he had seen; lots of decent food, oudles of booze, free showers, smoking room and, of course, WiFi.
Unfortunately since we couldn’t preregister much ahead of time due to the lack of WiFi in the boondocks, by the time we reached Windhoek all the aile seats were gone
our seats were in the middle in a jam-packed and very unconfortable Boeing 777 plane. The man sitting at our end was very friendly, I disturbed him often as I have trouble sitting still. I spent a lot of hours standing in the back. Got to Amsterdam at 9 AM, no time change with SA. Andre and I took a shower in the KLM VIP lounge for which we paid too much: a rip-off with miserable cold cuts for food and a long wait for the showers. Next time we will be smarter. The boys wisely didn't follow us. The flight to Montreal was ok; nothing to report. The seats were also in the middle but more comfortable, it was an Airbus.
The Airport Inn shuttle picked us up promptly, the car was in good shape, the dog happy to see us. After a quick spaghetti dinner at Nives’, we set off for our the last hour and a half drive to the house and arrived at 11 PM. Still a bit of snow but almost all gone.
From 6 AM Thursday Namibia time to 11 PM Friday Montreal time, that's a long stretch but oh how much worth it. The long flight is soon forgotten but one can relive all the beautiful moments over and over again.
Happy travels to all of you.

Midgard to Windhoek, 142km
Mischievous baboons
We could have stayed longer
Breakfast buffet
Friendly staff
Good bye Midgard
A peaceful cow
One last springbock
Approaching Windhoek
Our short tour of Windhoak
Reverend Theophilus Humutumbangela.
Martyr of the Namibian liberation,
was imprisoned in 1966 and died in 1990
Sam Nujoma, first president of Namibia


Lots of green spaces
The Independence Memorial Museum
The coop market
The full bus trip, 3168km (including hikes)
YUL-AMS 5760 km, AMS-JNB 8900 km, JNB-WDH 1220 km.
Total one-way, 15,880 km

Namibia, Day 12, Wednesday, 26 April 2017. East Etosha to Milgard Estate.

Tomorrow we are boarding the plane home in Windhoek, the capital.  That is over 500 km South, so we have a long way to go. Fortunately this highway is paved. Mostly we drive through almost uninhabited veld, the name given to this arid semi desert landscape. Private game lodges are scattered here and there and we get glimpses of animals; warthogs, baboons and antelopes. Further south higher trees, lusher grass and cattle. This is the agricultural center of Namibia. The terrain becomes increasingly mountainous;very beautiful.
At lunch we visit the AfriCat foundation in Okonjima. This is a 200 sqkm game reserve for the rehabilitation of the big cats, leopards, lions and cheetahs. It is also a beautiful lodge, the best mix of modern design with open spaces and lots of glass but with African materials, accessories, fabrics etc. I asked: it costs over CAN$700 for 1 night.
From the lunch table we observed a family of warthogs and kudus and springbocks from afar.
A guide took as on a tour into the cheetah reservation. They cannot be let out into the main area because there are too many leopards there for whom they are a preferred lunch. Hopefully some of the cheetahs will be relocated into the wild but it is difficult to find a big enough range for them. As always, livestock farmers are at odds with the predators, a balance is difficult to achieve.
After some searching we find two young cheetahs sleeping near the track. We could see them very well, but it is not the same thrill as watching them stalk a herd. The guide was interesting and passionate and told us a lot about the cats in general.
We also came across a few Kudus, much to my delight as we hadn't seen any and they are my preferred antelope. I find them totally majestic with their impressive horns and beautiful markings.
We continue our ride toward our next lodge, the Midgard Country Estate near Okahandja. Okahandjia is the "garden town" of Namibia. It's a very clean quiet town with tree lined boulevards. It is 70 km north of Windhoek and is fast becoming a sleeper town of the capital.
The Estate is not in the town but 70 km into the mountains on a bad gravel road. Well the bus decided that it had had enough and broke down, some shaft or other component had broken. Luckily this happened close to Windhoek so the driver was able to call for another bus to save us. It was no big deal, first we had a beautiful sunset from the top of the road and when darkness came we had fun in the bus. The new bus came in about 1 hr and we arrived 30 min. later at Midgard. Pity it was dark because it looked very nice, more "civilized", yet with a bunch of baboons making mischief. Our "last" supper was almost touching: we had become friends. Lindy ordered drinks and wine for everybody to make up for the breakdown. Our gang tempted Lindy to a cigarette and more wine on the terrace, finally the staff had to tell us to go, they wanted to sleep. It is in these improvised moments one gets closest to the real life in Namibia, I greatly appreciated it.

From Makuti Lodge to Midgard Lodge, 577km and a new bus
The road is paved at last

A female kudu
A baboon spectator

Bonjour from Okahandja

The AfriCat site

10 km inland
Well fenced
Good lunch in a nice setting
A warthog close by
Our guide Asser
Sleeping cheetah
Shaft tailed Whydah
Martial eagle
Exhibit of Namibia game
Tracking collars

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The bus gave up on us on the way to Midgard Estate
Not too far from Okahandja
We're in good spirits
With the new bus we make it to Midgard Estate
Our room
Farewell dinner
Lindy with Marc-André and Mathieu
Lindy, Lynne, André, Maria, Rona and Kevin