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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

August 2009 Roster.

The rota this month consisted of a lot of short turnarounds to Kuwait, Jedda, Bahrain, ect. Most of them night flights, and seven in a row.
One shining Jewel was a CPT.....Cape Town, South Africa. Table mountain with table cloth.
Then it was 14 days Annual Leave, and a well earned rest.
Air Emirates held a recruitment event in mid September, this was the first one for a while. Check out my earlier post if you fancy a job with EK http://moira-moirasdailyblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/how-to-get-job-as-emirates-cabin-crew.html

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Etosha National Park. Namibia.

Etosha National Park is billed as one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves. Having stayed at many of South Africas National Parks, where we enjoy self catering and sitting out at night listening to the night sounds. I was really exited about visiting Etosha.
We enjoyed a Wimpy double thick milkshake in the town of Tsumeb, Southern Africa make the best milkshakes! We then went to the supermarket to stock up on the supplies we would be needing in the park. Charcoal, Meat and general provisions for BBQing.
The eastern entrance is called the "Von Lindequist Gate" and is near Namutoni. This was our stop for the first two nights. The Landmark at Namutoni is the whitewashed German fort. This was built by the Germans in 1899.

Inside the fort is a restaurant, you can also go up onto the ramparts and look down on the floodlit waterhole.

We went to our accommodation, and got a surprise, we were expecting basic Parks Board Accommodation. Usually this consists of a small hut, with a BBQ area and basic cooking utensils. But the 'huts' had been renovated. Firstly, you can no longer drive up to your accommodation, but you have to park in a communal area, then walk to your hut. This is the walkway. Inside the accommodation was far from basic, very modern and very nice, with A/C. The bathroom was also lovely. The huts were no longer self catering, all utensils had been removed, as had the outside BBQ areas, this is a photo of our outdoor area.

That evening we went over to the adjacent camping site to cook (BBQ) our dinner. We were not alone, three other family's who were staying in the huts were doing the same thing! The camping area was very nice. Each pitch had an electric light and the ablution blocks were a good standard. Jackals were a problem, one nearly got my steak of my plate! That evening the campers got very little sleep as a lions roared just by the perimeter fence, we did not hear a thing in out hut.
The next day we drove out onto the pan. Etosha, means "Great White Place", the park is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds. This is the car on the pan.
This elephant was heading to the pan.
The next camp we went to was Okaukuejo Rest Camp. Some of the bungalows had been renovated at this camp, but traditional ones also remain. The campsite did not look as good as Namutoni, it was very dry and dusty.
The flood lit watering hole was the attraction at this camp, you did not need to go out into the park to look for animals, they came to you!
All day long there was a procession of Zebra to the waterhole, we also saw herds of elephant and both Black and White Rhino with youngsters. This watering hole is one of the best places I have ever visited.
When we left Etosha, using the Anderson Gate, we had a long drive back to Windhoek airport, to catch the night flight to Gatwick. The roads had just been tarred so it did not take as long as expected. This gave us time to stop in Okahandja at a Biltong outlet, it was next to a large Biltong factory. If you like Biltong, this was some of the best we have ever had.
As we boarded the Air Namibia plane, I reflected on a country I had know so little about. I had see a lot of it, but there is still lots to see and I definitely want to visit again.
Namibia is a fantastic destination, you can visit it with any budget. Campers are well catered for, even in the most remote destinations I saw camp sites. The luxury end of the marked is also well provided for. You do not need to go on an organised tour, if you have a guide book such as Lonely Planet or Bradt, USE them, both are full of good information.
Self driving is easy, the roads are in good condition and we did not use the 4x4 facility on our hire car. To conclude, if you do get the opportunity to visit this fascinating country, then go! I can not recommend it highly enough.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Namibia, Damaraland, Mowani Mountain Camp.

Damaraland ?? I had never heard of it! Damaraland is part of North-western Namibia, inland from the Skeleton Coast. The area has wildlife and many natural features. In 1985 I had watched a South African TV series called ‘The Mantis Project’, http://ccms.ukzn.ac.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=336&Itemid=44 and soon I saw the landscape that had starred in this TV series....The Spitzkoppe.
This Namibian landmark is also known as ‘The Matterhorn of Africa’. It was first climbed in 1948, and know is a very popular climbing stop.
Unfortunately, we did not have time to climb, or camp at the community run campsite. We did stop for a drink at the community run shop, drove round the Spitzkoppe & Pondoks, and to gaze at the awesome view.
We then had a long drive on dirt roads, through the town of Uls- a strange place situated on the main road between the coast and the Damaraland interior. Tin has been mined in the Uis region since the early 1900's and the town was established in 1958 as a mine workers residence when a South African mining company, ISCOR, started operations there. As you approach Uis, the first thing you see is a huge white mountain, this is the old mine dump for processed tin ore. There is a small supermarket, guesthouse and a petrol station. We did stop for petrol, and this was the only place in Namibia where I felt I needed to lock the car doors.
It was late afternoon when we arrived at Mowani Mountain Camp. We almost missed it, as you can not see it until you are in it, it is so well camouflaged. Mowani Mountain Camp is distinguished by its thatched dome-shaped structures, a mirror-image of the granite boulders amongst which they are built. The camp lies in a vast and unspoilt wilderness, between the Ugab and Huab Rivers. There is outstanding desert scenery, fascinating geological formations and archaeological sites near by to visit.
The main complex consists of a reception, bar, dining room and a lounge that overlooks the waterhole, this area was constantly busy with bird life.
The luxury tented accommodation is built inconspicuously, nestled amongst the natural surroundings, to ensure minimum impact on the natural environment. It consists of 12 luxury tents, all with en-suite facilities, decorated beautifully in an East African style. Individual wooden decks, with a superb view of the Damara landscape.
Not to be missed, is the bar area with its spectacular sunsets from the camp sundowner point.
A great pool to get the road dust off you.
The next morning we went out on a nature drive into the Twyfontein conservancy with the possibility of seeing the elusive and according to our guide ‘small’ Desert Adapted Elephant and rare black rhino. We drove around for a long time, tracking the large Elephant footprints we found, but did not see any game. The scenery was once again spectacular, and the guide taught us many things about the local trees and plants. Just was we were driving back to the camp, I spotted this loan bull on the brow of a hill.
We drove up and watched him for a long time, Andy and the guide got very close, to close, but I did not! He may have been desert adapted, but he did not look small to me!!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Namibia, Swakopmund, Senic Air Flight over Sossusvlei.

In Swakopmund we had really got to grips with the sand based activities on offer! We driven trough the desert, climbed up the dunes and moon walked down them, rode over them on quad bikes, now it was time to fly over them and see what the desert meeting the ocean looked like from above. We met our Scenic Air pilot at the airstrip. He was at least 6ft 6, and I did not know how he would fit in the small 6 seated plane. He sorted the five of us into the order he wanted for weigh distribution, than we were off.
First the Swakop River. The rivers are dry, the water runs underground, but you can see the course of the river by the trees growing in the river bed.
The Kuiseb River bed and Canyon looked very different from the air than when we drove through it.
The Sossusvlei Dunes looked lifeless from the air, but we did see a family of Orynx, the pilot flew down low so we could get a better look at them. We flew over the Dead Vlei and the Hidden Vlei where we had walked to just a few days earlier.
In this area we saw old diamond workings, the ship wreaks of the 'Eduard Bohlen' and 'Shaunee' half buried in the sand. We also saw many Seals in the sea and once again the pilot flew low over the surf to give us a good view.
We flew over the Walvis Bay Salt Works before returning to Swakopmund.Penned as Namibia's premier tourist and recreational resort, it forms an oasis for body and soul.
This flight lasted about 1 1/2 hours, it was expensive, priced in US$$. People choose to spend their hard earned cash in lots of different ways, for me this flight was definitely worth the money, Senic Air say 'We fly your breath away', they did that to me! It was the perfect end to a memorable stay in the small town of Swakopmund, a small town with lots on offer.