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Month February 2020

Delta exploration

Until the truck is finished I’ve been doing day trips

Here are a few GPS tracks in one area I get to without overnighting. I do the blue one below regularly, it has 4 dodgy bridges and has 2 of my favourite lagoons

My favourite lagoon. Hippos are photogenic

And here’s one route I’ve planned for when I can go out for a couple of days

I look at a possible line (those shown on my OSM map often don’t exist or are grown over, or are flooded) on Google Earth and take a screen grab and print important points to take with me, like below

Sometimes nothing works out:

And sometimes they’re established routes, like this one from Moremi park:

A GoPro mount came with my shipment (stuff I can’t get here) from Vancouver. I’ll be making videos of routes to post here

mole rat

These are really bad photos, but I was chasing this animal around a large ‘garden’ in Gobabis, eastern Namibia, at night with no flash, just light from the house. And he moved fast.

But it’s the story of having seen it at all. I was very lucky. The people I was staying with, who live here, have never seen one. They live exclusively underground, so no idea what this fellow was doing above.

One of my email circles is a group of 3, and the subject of the mole rat has come up a bunch of times, really. One of us is a zoologist, and I’m keen on anything interesting, and the third is only very mildly interested in flora/fauna, and in particular he hates when the mole rat comes up, because he thinks they’re gross.

Here’s a picture from the web of a Naked Mole Rat, from its zone in Ethiopia/Somalia

As it turns out, my encounter was with a Damaraland mole rat.

Here I first see it, its moving fast!

I chase it

Senses me (it’s blind)

It stops, wheels around, and attacks:

Snapping at me

This teeth are very strange, they grow outside the mouth

For something only about 4″ long, it was fantastically angry

From wiki

Damaraland mole-rats live in networks of tunnels, which they dig with their front teeth. The tunnels are 65 to 75 mm (2.6 to 3.0 in) in diameter, and may stretch for up to 1 km (0.62 mi) below the ground. They have no connection to the surface, although their presence can be inferred from dome-shaped molehills of excavated earth pushed up to the surface. As a result, the tunnels develop their own microclimate containing warm, moist air, with low oxygen levels.

For more Damaraland mole rat

road trip, back country namibia

The first ride in the Prado, a 2960K route to see a friend in southern Namibia, with a stop in Windhoek on the way back

Had to do this

Apologies for the truck shots, but you know how that goes, a new toy

So beautiful.

A small immaculate town

It’s hot. Shade in an abandoned gas station

Not sure

Silent. I saw 2 cars in 2 days

Like this for 1000K

Termite mounds dug out by anteaters

Then finally the dunes start. The Namib is the oldest desert in the world, 55 to 80 million years old. The 2nd oldest desert is where we just came from, the Kalahari

truck build 1

You have to have a capable truck here if you’re going to spend any time in the Delta. Most people catch rides with safari vehicles and stick to Moremi Park, but if you’re going to explore there’s quite a bit of preparation involved.

You start here:

BE FORWARD

Click on that Japanese website and you’ll see all kinds of cars going for a song. In fact nearly all the taxis in Maun are from this website, Honda Fits, from about $500. Japan offloads these non-conforming used vehicles to countries that are right hand drive and have no environmental restrictions on older imports. Not a big world market, hence the rock bottom prices.

So you bring one in, pay 30% duty and away you go. The drawbacks:

and

If you’re going to serious modify a truck, there’s only one vehicle to get: a Toyota. At the top there are the Land Cruisers, then the Fortuna, then the Surf.

So I buy a Land Cruiser Prado, mint, with only 58,000K on the clock, ready to go into the shop

Then you take it to Kavango Engineering.

They get these in

Gut them

And turn them into these, for the camps

So we ordered EFS suspension from Australia, a winch and steel front-end from Wild Dog in South Africa, big wheels and tyres, boxes of various smaller offroad essentials, and ended up with this

Nice.

It’s a big 3 row, 7 seater beast, and is being gutted inside now. Part 2 of the build involves building a 185 liter fuel tank, 100 liter water tank, all kinds of electronic stuff, roof rack, shower installation (arrived from the US 2 weeks ago). The dual battery and 60 liter fridge are installed already

I’m going for a clean all-white build, unlike the traditional Africa vehicles, which look more like this, which cost 250K US to complete

If you’re curious what sort of (professional photographer) person does this, here’s the URL on the side of the truck: JENS

2 places


So what does my environment look like?

Here’s my place. It’s a kraal, the small buildings are traditional rondavels. It’s on the Thamalakane river (currently dry) that flows through Maun from the Delta

The bedrooms (independent structures) have a/c. I have too many rooms, but overall it’s small and cozy

The living room, unglazed, so it’s hot inside when its hot outside.

OK, but suboptimal wifi, and fully western bathrooms and kitchen. There’s no generator, as many places have, and power outages are frequent during the lightning storms, sometimes lasting a day.

I share a housekeeper with my neighbour who does everything except cook. Housekeepers are not an optional thing, if you can afford the small amount. It’s employment.

There aren’t a lot of full westernized places available for rent riverside in Maun. It took me 6 months. And I could be leaving this summer…

My view, the dry river bed. Hippos, crocs, birds of all types, when it’s full as it was when I arrived here
 

It’s simple, and the town is like the dusty, donkey-ridden Wild West, sandwiched here between the Kalahari and the Okavango Delta, a strip along the only river in the central country, it’s very special.

The population is almost entirely San tribe, or Bushman, that lived here on the Kalahari forever and are one of the oldest indigenous populations in the world. They’re the reason this country is so peaceful compared to some of Botswana’s more rowdy neighbours. That and a brilliant and revered first President after independence, who wrote the rules. To read a bit about him, here’s the wiki Seretse Khama.

But now, on the river, cow carcasses, from the seasonal drought

The google earth. I’m in the trees on the south bank

And an occasional home away:

About 90 minutes into the Delta, a friend owns this camp. Negotiating the licence to build the camp took 3 years and is obviously tightly regulated. In exchange for some creative guidance I did on it during construction, I can stay for free, yay. Normally it’s $1000US per person per night, helicopter in. Prices per night in the Delta go to $5000 per night.

I drive there, now that my truck is finished (more on that later), an always incredible experience, another blog.

My friend’s sister relaxing in front of one of the luxury tents

The camp is located here, in the trees centre left. Another seasonal drought photo, normally the area is flooded

Nice inside. A fully equipped bathroom (mostly stainless steel) behind

An hour after sunset the lions roar.

A few of these, plus a large ‘map room’ with reference books and a bar

Fire

Dining room view. Elephants here

Wow, doing this blog reminds me of how dry it was before the rinds came back.

Solar

Kitchen. The staff outnumber guests 2 to 1. Most of them have never worked in the Delta before and are spooked by the wildlife that surrounds the camp. They work in 2 week shifts.

More in-depth Delta reports coming up.