Victor and crew spend our last night in Namibia 8th April Sunday camped nestle alongside our old faithful African camp’s …yes another Micro-wave Tower cooking our brains as we sleep.
A Mobile Telephone Transmitting tower stands high above us.
Left over lakes between Ombatantu and Oshikango
It had been a hot afternoon but we had enjoyed the scenery from Kunene Island River Camp, Large lakes of water lay either side of a muddy dry track filled with water lilies, from Ombatantu to Oshikango these Lilly lakes left over from the wet season would flood and flow into Etosha National Park onwards to the Okavango delta, but this was the end of winter (Their dry season) summer and the wet will arrive soon making these tracks a different story.
Wynand (the campsite owner of Kunene Island River camp) had drawn out a sand map scratched on dry river bank, his deep Afrikaans/Namibian accent was difficult to follow, so Elayne and I took notes …I videoed the whole conversation on our small flip so as not to stray to far from Wynands directions. This was it our venture along the west coast of Africa was approaching fast, as fast as that wet season we hope to miss. Leaving the safety and hospitality we enjoy once again is tough, but we are armed with Wynands knowledge and experience, 2 Angolan Generals mobile phone contacts hours spent over Angolan maps, and some destinations to visit in the far east of Angola.
The Cunene River shimmers in the morning light, swirling slowly rippling along the banks of the Kunene Island River campsite. The setting so tranquil it is hard to believe what conflict this tranquillity had injured we should stay a week or two here exploring this beautiful river, but those all to familiar thoughts run through my mind our transit DRC visa we had obtained in Windhoek Namibia had a starting date, allowing us just a month in Angola……. it was governing our timing this stupid bureaucracy placing the pressure on us to leave.
Crocodiles warm themselves along the muddy banks, our breakfast table surrounded by old Mortar shells and bygone conflict, I sit in the early morning sun pondering the new road ahead. It was not our intended route but neither was our chance meeting with Wynand so our destiny changes once again.
Wynand asks us to fill in the camp register if we would like too……sure I reply it would be our pleasure. This is a breakfast I will remember I exclaim as I write a small notation sticking our travel card into the Cunene Island River campsite register Sunday 8th April 2012.
Wynand…..Wynand smiles…. you are always welcome back he exclaims………..always welcome anytime.
Our chance encounter with Wynand near Oshikuku have put some of those background Angolan demons to rest for awhile.
Armed with all our new information Angola looks less formidable, Elayne and I feeling so much better as we leave the Kunene Island River camp.
Wynand scratches the vital road map to Angola.
The sun reflects the Orange and red rocks the blue sky and small white puffy clouds the vivid green foliage along the Cunene river bank cuts into my memory as Victors dust hang’s between the rocky Canyon walls our exhaust note reverberating the image lingers in my mind.
Wynand and his family wave good-bye in the shade of the Marula trees as, Victor rumbles away climbing up the same rocky track we followed Wynand in the dark 2 days before. This time it looks more interesting in the daylight, look Unbrella thorn trees, I exclaim to Elayne the scenery beautiful the Ruacana Falls looms ahead…just stunning.
Ruacana Falls roar even at the end of the dry season what were they like in the record rains of 2011, but Wynand had told us the water was the highest in living memory his campsite taking the full brunt of that flooding year nearly decimating everything Wynand had work for.
A small group of Himba ladies wave while they were working on a young Himba lady’s hair…They look stunning their ancient dress and orange brown glistening bodies blending into the natural background.
We wave back …….those returning waves with so much frenzy …Elayne and I laugh at their interest in passing Victor.
Ruacana Falls Cunene River. W/P 866
Our Chance encounters..?????
How do you explain these chance encounters just as we need them Elayne exclaims…..I shake my head……It’s hard to believe we meet Wynand with his little packed car heading in the same direction, he waves us down offering their campsite along the Cunene River just at the right time……Elayne agrees……It’s to hard to try and work these encounters out, but some many other travellers tell us the same storey…the right help at the right time.
Victor and crew arrive at Oshikango another border town crossing to Angola, but we head eastwards following Wynands directions on the D3601 to Eenhana, Okongo, and Mpungu.
D3 601 was a perfect flat almost new bitumen road. Something we did not expect to find, but Wynand had told us you won’t believe how good the road is …………..kilometre after Kilometre not a car in sight and even more stranger not a bump in sight to be felt.
The bush laid thick either side of the D3601 with some tracks leading into its interior, but every time we stopped to investigate a possible camp spot we were attacked be those biting mapane flies, so we pressed on enjoying Victors breeze glad to leave those biting mapane flies behind……That’s better Elayne exclaims, both our waving arms franticly waving, finally freeing ourselves of those bloody blood sucking insects….its to early to camp the sun still high and hot the low bush not providing to much shade. We push on east to Mpungu.
Victor rumbles alone not a car insight………….but what is that ahead?
Elayne exclaims….is that a road block ahead….I look …….and reply not sure but it looks as if something is going on.
The Afternoon air hot the black bitumen road shimmering in the distance our view not so clear. We strain our eyes into the distant trying to focus that shimmering heat not helping us to determine what lies ahead.
Victor ambling along at 80klm per hour…….Yes Elayne exclaims its some sort of police stop. I look ahead and try and work out what’s going on. As we are driving on the left hand side of the road (as you do in Namibia) I can now see the Police road stop ahead which indicates the oncoming traffic to the Police sign should stop …but there is no traffic we have seen just a few vehicles all day.
The D3601 flat and straight as far as the eye can see……..but lurking dangers lie ahead!!!!
Elayne and I agree this is what we see there is no reason for us to stop according to how the signage is laid out ahead, so we are clear to proceed.
I approach around 70 klm per hour slowing …suddenly I see a large woman stepping into the road our eyes meet, there is a very large tree at this Police road point no doubt they are enjoying the shade.
Victor is some 50mts away travelling at 50klm per hour…..We have no indication we are to stop, but I slow down to 30 klm per hour…..We pass the Police point.
We both look to our left only to see about 12 Police standing around under the trees shade chatting away…..
We could see all their faces turn their eyes and white teeth light up as Victor slowly ambles past….Immediately we see arms waving they all start to run towards us shouting for us to stop.
What are you going to do Elayne asks quickly my mind telling me just to carry on…..But I reconsider as they do have 2 Police cars nestled in the shade of that large tree.
I have already past the Police check point some 200mtrs …..I swerve to my left and leave the bitumen road, Victor now off road cutting a large arc across the very wide dry grassy verge Victor and crew now head straight back to the Police waving their arms. Victor is creating a reasonable dust cloud from our pounding wheels the small breeze carrying out dust back to those beckoning Police.
I hit the throttle Victor barks into life, both back wheels start spinning in the dry dust ground the dust cloud now even bigger. Slow down Elayne exclaims …but Victor is gaining even more speed I head straight for the 12 Namibian Police…… I could see their expressions…….some unsure of my intentions the group starts breaking up, some opting to take cover behind the parked Police cars.
Who are these people; I can see their minds working overtime, what is this strange car, their minds working even hard to interpret the rapidly approaching monster.
They were eager to stop us it was all to clear….but some have clearly changed their minds running away only the brave standing dumb struck……Our dust cloud consumes us all.
Victor comes to a halt, but I leave Victors engine running my foot constantly blipping the throttle Victors exhaust note barking like a loud mad dog Rummmm, Rummmm,Rummmm
My thoughts return to a Ugandan Police road block, there too I continually stamped on Victor’s throttle pretending we were an Trans African rally car, was something like that encounter going to work again.???
Victors exhaust note is deafening, cutting the silence through the lingering dust cloud.
I could see they had captured us their eyes and faces all light up as the encountering danger has peacefully surrendered to their waving arms only the roar from Victor’s exhaust now threatening their peace hiding from the late afternoon sun.
Almost all at once they stuttered their request, firing their questions off like some old Gatling machine gun, some shouting you are speeding? Some shouting where is your driving license? Some shouting get out of your car………..
I never answered any of the questions………NO I replied….to all of their requests…..No.
I shout back….. Why are you waving at us…..I exclaim….why are you waving at us……..I repeat…..my anger clearly noted on their expressions.
Again some shout back get out of the car…… Their body language now aggressive responding to my obstinacies …….No I again reply…..shouting back even louder than before.
Again some shout in harmony give us your driving license……No I again reply…..But I can see one senior officer, well I think he is more senior judging by his armlets pushing forward through from the back of the surrounding police. They have all gathered on my side all trying to peer into Victor.
The senior officer pushes forward parting the surrounding crowd………get out we are going to search your car……. get out of your car immediately ….The senior officer exclaims…..I stare at the senior officer…… my reply is slowly coming……I stop blipping Victors throttle….. his exhaust note falls silent……..silence falls nobody shouts anymore demands…..not a word is spoken for a few short seconds by anybody……..The Police officers move back half a step or two, even the Senior Police officer moves back the silence even more powerful than the noise…… They all look on expecting some new demons emanating from these strange cantankerous people, and even stranger loud car …….I shout back ……NOBODY WILL SEARCH MY CAR……NOBODY……. WE HAVE NOTHING……..TO SHOW YOU…….GOOD/BYE….
I shout out……. I plant my foot on Victors throttle….Victor roars into life wheels spinning, I see some police officers jumping from my enraged path, a huge dust cloud again appears from Victor’s madly spinning wheels.
All the Police officers disappear from sight covered in Victors dust, Elayne sits silent as I hit the hot bitumen road wheels chirping Victor roars off leaving all behind………Good one Chris that’s just what any normal person would do……I fail to reply to Elayne’s words, worried we might be hurrying to that Angolan border quicker than I thought.
Checking the rear mirrors constantly for the next 50 klms I expect a blue light flashing and a speeding Police car hot in pursuit ……….nothing happens ….no hot in pursuit Namibian Police car nothing follows us.
We settle back once again to Victors ambling pace, it was getting on in the afternoon the sun was cooling off at last it was time to find a resting place after all the excitement.
Crossing to Angola late in the afternoon was not our plan……..
But there is always a reliable African Micro-wave tower to camp next to. We can see the looming tower ahead and make plans to stop, we had passed several during the day but none offered any shelter.
Passing slowly we check out the surrounds, as so many of these towers in Africa have several huts, even whole villages surround these obelisks, us never knowing which came first the micro wave tower or the village surrounding it…..or is it just better phone reception……lol
We pulled in after making a u turn back to the bushy almost concealed entrance. Elayne was looking closely for any people/ huts…..No this one looks uninhabited…so far Elayne exclaims………both of us checking as we entered the small track leading to the Micro-wave tower. Several taller trees providing shade…..it looks great even a small patch of short grass where we can camp under the shade…perfect we exclaim.
Out of Victor after a long day, stretching our legs we inspect the surrounds….looks ok…I exclaim to Elayne who was busting for a pee before we had encountered those Namibia Police some 100klms back….Elayne opting not to stop in case they decided to follow us.
Elayne resurfaces from a bush….all ok then …yes I reply looks good.
Sitting down once again on our camp chairs me studying the map Elayne reading her books….pissss Elayne under her breadth try’s to gain my attention…..pisssss….Chris she calls out quietly …….What I reply…what’s up……look behind you…….I slowly turn around only to stare at a uniformed guard ……..Our eyes meet and immediately the guard removes his hat and holds it by his side.
I quickly stand up and walk to-wards him stopping a few metres away. He stands still as if to attention waiting for his inspection from some senior officer.
His uniform worn and tattered his cap, red with a small badge attached to it.
I could not help to notice his submissive face and eyes, he was no threat to us but the opposite was more the case.
Maybe he thought the company who he works for had sent some strangers to check out his dedication to this lonesome job.
I spoke to him and asked him if he was guarding the telephone tower.
He softly replied in good English…..Yes I am guarding the telephone tower it is my job to do so ….he replied slowly.
I explained we are checking some towers in the area and he was not to worry about us as we will stay the night and leave in the morning. I wanted to explain our journey but it all looked such an impossible dream for this lone guard camped in a small bush hut made from sticks and old tin …I just didn’t have the heart to tell him such a story.
He nodded his head and told us he will check for our safety in the night as he had seen some Lions recently not far from the telephone tower. This was getting even better our own personal guard looking after us through the night. We gave him some food and a bunch of Namibian small notes and coins he was very pleased and came to attention placing his cap on his head after we hand him our small gifts.
Our Humble 24 hr Security W/P 866
I ask how much the company is paying for his 24hr security, he shows me a worn paper document he removes from his uniform his hat still in his hand.
As far as I could make out it was some hand written wage slip for a month…..I could not see for sure, but it looked like 50 Namibian dollars…….around $7.00 usd.
He shows us his camp and uncovers a rifle well rapped in old cloth hidden under his mattress which lay directly on the sandy floor.
He exclaims….I will protect you from any wild animals which come and visit in the night…… I will shoot them……..he holds up the rifle in some make believe contest between man and best.
I reply to his bravery…..Thank you we will sleep much better knowing you are protecting us. He nods his head and agrees the old 303 now upright by his side standing to attention.
It is an old 303 but it looks as if it works, I make a move to look at it more closely but my silent assertion is met with the old 303 being held even more vigorously in the owners grip now across his chest. I nod in agreement with his reluctance to let his weapon go from his grasp.
I leave his small camp in the bush some 100mtrs away and return to Elayne explaining our good fortune……although Elayne feels a little more unconfutable re the roaming Lions at least the thought of our own armed personal guard for our last camp in Namibia is not to bad considering.