Freitag, 12. Juni 2020

Windhoek - VicFalls - PART 1 / English

Windhoek – Victoria Falls and back

PART 1 – from Windhoek to the Waterberg Plateau National Park

More than three weeks, we've been on our way - on a journey, which had led us from Windhoek via several exciting landmarks up to the Victoria Falls of the Zambezi and back again. This also explains why I am telling the story of this tour in several sections. I also do not want to bore the reader by telling excessively about planning and preparation, or about who arrived in Windhoek from where, on which way and airline etc

Anyway, we met on the morning of November 13, 2019 at the Windhoek international airport, about 45km east of Windhoek. Oh yes, there is still something that should perhaps be mentioned briefly - even if most people do know about that since long: Stay away from Air Namibia! Later there will certainly be an opportunity to tell you why that is so and why you should take this seriously.

Namibia has beautiful, sometimes even surreally beautiful landscapes and an exceptionally diverse wildlife. But Windhoek? The former understated colonial charm has suffered badly. Tasteful stylistic assurance and architectural skills had to give way to inflated urge for validity and overwhelming craving for status.

Thanks god, there are still pubs, restaurants and beer gardens that spread an attractive effect to locals as well as to visitors. And so we prefer to stay away from the coarse splendour of the "State House", the "coffee machine" and the various places "of hero worship", in this distinctive "Pyongyang style". Anyway: Confronted to alternative options like that, there is only one solution for us today: off to the beer garden!

Do you really have to do such hideous things to yourself in Windhoek? You don't have to - at least not yet...

We would rather enjoy a real, cool beer in "Joe's Beerhouse".

And by the way:
Even a warm beer would be by far more real, than heroic stories and curricula vitae, composed by
the “bush-league court poets" of the government.

Martina, far right - Heike in the centre and I myself - on the left in the picture >>>

Martina, far right - Heike in the middle and I myself - on the left in the picture >>>

Ekki and Günter, top left, myself - sitting below: Anett, Heike and Martina (standing). >>>

Our route from Windhoek Airport to the Waterberg Plateau

Since the time when various Herero tribes migrated from Betchuanaland under their chief Mutjise in the late eighteenth century, Okahandja became a cultish place of the OvaHerero. Tjamuaha, Mutjise's successor and guardian of the ancestral fire, chose Okahandja as his ancestral seat and later, the two most important chiefs, Maherero kaTjamuaha (1820) and Samuel Maherero (1856) were born here. From 1850 to 1880, Okahandja was the scene of bloody feuds, wars and massacres for thirty years, between Hereros, Orlam-Arfricaners and other Nama tribes.

<<< "African Quadriga" between Windhoek and Okahandja

In 1827 Heinrich Schmelen was the first European to reach Okahandja, but it was only much later that the Rhenish Mission built the Augustineum School (1866) and the Mission Church (1876). This happened while the hostilities where still going on. Anyhow, Okahandja is the location of the traditional Herero Day, which takes place every year on the last weekend in August, and it also houses the legendary Herero cemetery.

<<< The carvers' market in Okahandja

Now let's finish talking about the history, because we are not writing a history book and there is really good news to report from the present: In 2016, a solar power plant should be put into operation outside Okahandja. Well, and maybe that will actually work at some day with it's commissioning? In any case, we are not visiting the Okahandja crafts market today. I really don't know how he made it into all European travel guides and is praised there as a cultural event of the first order. But, one writes from the other and so myths arise. However, if you really like intrusive sellers, then (and only then) you shouldn't miss that market place.

Thankfully there are other landmarks in Okahandja, such as Dekker's bakery, the old train station and the historic Herero cemetery. But however, when looking at the grave monuments, I always get the feeling that more field marshal generals of an imaginary Herero army have been buried here, than have served in both world wars, on all fronts together and in all the armed forces involved.

The tomb for Tjamuaha, Maherero KaTjamuaha and Samuel Maherero. >>>

I almost forgot, but while we are on the subject of armed forces let's talk about: The "Museum of the Namibian People's Liberation Army". Just the forecourt alone is a feast for the eyes - unless you are overly "culture-sensitive".
But you can't get any further than this gate because this "museum" is closely guarded by SWAPO-soldiers and is not open to the public. It is a real treat for those who love contemporary North Korean architecture and hero worship. You just have to put that on celluloid. But see for yourself! (...thereby you save at least the long way to Pyongyang...).

North Korean "fine art" in Africa
A historical photograph of the Rhenish Mission Church

From Okahandja towards Otjiwarongo, cattle and sheep farms start to alternate with game and hunting farms. In recent years, private farmers have invested a lot of hard-earned money to take the risk of switching from traditional livestock farming to game. Simple farm fences have to be replaced by the high game fences and the annual meat growth is much lower than with cattle, sheep or goats. On the other hand, game farming is much better adapted to the landscape and your natural water resources and brings the ancestral game back to regions where it has not had a place for more than a hundred years.

<<< Official board of the German customs station Swakopmund, which somehow landed up in the garden of the riding club in Okahandja.

After just after about a 45 minutes' drive, the cones of the Omatako Mountains (2,286m above sea level) stick out of the plain, which reminds me always and again of the so called "Die Drei Gleichen" (the tree equals) in Thuringia. Especially when you look at it from the north and the Klein Omatako mountain peak (1,783m above sea level), which is further left from this perspective, comes into the picture. Only, the knight's castles on the peaks are missing. But the highest of the peaks reaches almost 2,300 meters in altitude. Well, admittedly, the road is already over 1,400 meters higher than the sea level.

After another 20 minutes of driving time, we pass the entrance to the private Okonjima nature reserve and drive another ten minutes until we get to that turn-off, from where we go eastwards.

<<< The Omatako Mountains on an oil painting by Helmut Lewin from 1947.

Over a hundred and fifty million years ago, the Waterberg was elevateted some hundred meters by tectonic forces from the interior of the earth, and formed thereupon a huge plateau - together with the Klein Waterberg and Mount Etjo, which is located about 70 kilometers to the west. Softer layers of rock were subsequently removed by weathering, whereas the Etjo, Klein Waterberg and the Waterberg Plateau, which are protected from above by harder material from erosion, remained as rudiments Subjacent impermeable layers ensure that the overlying sandstone can store water during the summer rainy season (from November to April), which is subsequently released relatively evenly by springs throughout the year. A biodiverse community of animals and plants has been living on it since millions of years, which could not exist in this form in the more distant arid regions.

So we turn right, off the B1 onto the C22 towards Okakara, the former capital of Hereroland West. After about forty kilometers we drive northeast on the well-developed sand track D2512 and reach the "Bernabé-de-la-Bat-Camp" after a short time.

The journey is it’s own reward >>>

The old German "police and post station Waterberg" was restored in the 1980s by the then South West African mandate administration and has since been gradually expanded to a wonderfully situated camp with restaurant, bar and large swimming pool. To stay overnight, there is a spacious campsite, as well as chalets in different sizes and facilities.

The old Waterberg Police Station
The Waterberg Plateau

You can walk and climb the Waterberg or take a tour with the national park's rangers. Unlike in most national parks, you are not allowed to drive up there with your own vehicle - whether 4x4 or not. So we book at the reception for the "Sundowner Tour".Since the early 1970s, the mandate government bought up commercial farms on and around the plateau, and took the first steps towards establishing a wildlife sanctuary.

Since the early 1970s, the mandate government bought up commercial farms on and around the plateau, and took the first steps towards establishing a wildlife sanctuary.

Initially, the wildlife sanctuary was primarily used to create a safe haven for the largest African antelope, the Eland. In the 1980s, sable antelopes from Angola were also settled, which had almost been exterminated in their homeland by the long-lasting wars. Since the end of the 1980s, among others, the two African rhinoceros species, giraffes and buffalos have been brought back into an area that they had...

<<< Damara Dik-Dik (dwarf antilope) within the Waterberg Camp

...inhabited for millions of years. The idea of saving the black rhinoceros, which had been already endangered for a long time, may have played a significant role in this.

Since then, the biodiversity on the Waterberg has grown significantly. In addition to the "usual suspects" - such as impala, kudu, wildebeest, giraffes, etc. - you can also find: red hartebeest, tsessebe, roan antelope, leopard, cheetah, the rarely seen aardvark... etc.

<<< Pied Crow
I cannot list everything here. With 90 mammals species, over 200 bird species and around 650 different types of lichen and plants, the Waterberg is - biologically seen -
one of the most diverse biospheres in southern Africa. Except for elephants and lions, almost all large mammals are present. Within a forseeable future, Elephants and lions will not be resettled to the Waterberg anyway. Because for the elephant, with its enormous potential for destruction, the Waterberg biotope is too sensitive and...

<<< Elands on a waterhole on top of the plateau

...definitely too small. Yes, and lions? Then it would be over with the mountain hikes to the plateau. And finally, even nature conservation authorities want to preserve this area for the local population as a recreation area. Leopards, on the other hand, are not a major danger for hikers. Experience has shown that they largely avoid any contact to humans.

I had been on my feet since early morning and had actually thought about just going to bed. However, and even after I really have had been on the Waterberg plateau before quite often - both, climbing up on my own or together with gamekeepers in their Land Rovers: I really would have missed something today if I had not went with.

We have been on the road for almost five hours and this has been a long time even for the Waterberg trip. Wilhelm, our “Field Guide” from Okakarara is tough, has good eyes, a good nose and can hear almost everything that moves in the bush. Except for the leopard and the aardvark, we (almost) saw everything. And as we know: aardvarks and leopards, although you could actually find them almost everywhere, can only be seen if they want to.

<<< On the Waterberg plateau - roan antelopes in the bush

But in the late afternoon we came across two cheetahs. It was probably two brothers who warmed up in the rays of a slowly setting sun before looking for cover in the thick bushland.

Cheetahs are diurnal and have been indigenous up here on the plateau since long before humans and farms had settled there. I keep thinking about it because the Waterberg plateau (at least for me) doesn't look like a typical cheetah habitat.

<<< Cheetahs enjoy the last rays of sunshine

At the end of the tour and always an experience: A beautiful sunset in all the colors of the African savannah, plus a small table, drinks and snacks. Camera with, binoculars with - just my warming jacket - it's far down and laying on my bed. Gin and tonic with ice cubes doesn't warm either, and so far north, the African twilight only lasts for minutes.

Well, even in early African summer, you should keep in mind that it can get cold at over 1,800 meters above sea level when the sun goes down. On the way down I could feel every meter of height difference in my blood circulation.

<<< Shortly before the return trip to the camp

By the time we arrive at the camp, it is already pitch dark, but much warmer than on the plateau. Might be that's why, it took after dinner just a bit longer until we finally started our way - from the beer garden towards our beds.

Tomorrow morning we continue - towards ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK. To be seen in PART 2 of this tour "From Waterberg to Etosha National Park".

In this blog, we not only describe the tour itself and what we experienced. We also want to report on aspects of nature conservation, the history of the creation of the national parks and current events in connection with it. The present geology of the respective landscapes and their geological history also play an important role.
Klar – wir können in diesem Rahmen nicht alles ausführlich behandeln.

Sure - we cannot deal detailed with everything in this context. Therefore my request: Write in the comment column, your personal questions, which topics you are particularly interested in and what we should write more about.

We have also dedicated two pages to these topics on our website - namely:
- nature conservation and hunting .... >>>

- .... as well as nature conservation and tourism ... >>>

Current travel offers - for self-drivers as well as guided tours
- can be found on our website:
- or you send us an e-mail to:

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