03-Jul-2003 -- Continued from 23S 15E.
We left the best for last. After Swakopmund we spent two nights at one of the most magic places on Earth - the Spitzkuppe (see link for some interesting information about inselbergs in the Namib). We camped under two big camelthorn trees (Acacia erioloba, not be confused with the invasive weed Alhagi pseudalhagi). On the day in between my daughter Jana and I climbed the main Spitzkuppe peak (1759 m) by the normal route - a 600 m climb that took us about nine hours. The next morning Ferdi and Dirk gave the confluence at 22S 15E a second visit.
Then the three day long trek back to Pretoria started with overnight stops at Gross Barmen and at Kang in the middle of the Kalahari in Botswana. But first we were going to attempt a visit to 22S 17E in the Von Bach resort just outside Okahandja. We skipped the Confluence near Karibib (22S 16E) as it had been done already.
We arrived at about four o'clock at Von Bach with about one and a half hours of daylight left and explained the reason for our visit to the nature conservation officer. He nevertheless insisted that we pay the full entrance fee, which is double for South Africans compared to Namibians. This turned out be quite expensive, so once again the party had to split, with most of the people continuing on to Gross Barmen, leaving Ferdi and me to quickly finish off the Confluence.
It looked like an easy one. We tried get some directions from the conservation officers, but they did not clearly understand where we wanted to go. They seemed to think it might be close to a ski club on the edge of the dam, and advised us to drive around in that direction, but warned us to be back before the gate closes at six. When we found the ski club, the Confluence was still 4 km away on the other side of the dam in what appeared to be impenetrable thorny bush veld.
We gave up and took some "attempt" photos. On the way back though I spotted a small track leading off the main track. It wasn't going in the right direction, but we though it might somehow curve around the dam. We descended into a river bed and after driving along it for a while, found an exit up the hills on the other side. Now the terrain got really rough and I changed into low range 4x4 drive. The track ended up following the fence on the far side of the resort and headed straight for the Confluence. At one point the bakkie nearly didn't make it up a hill side, and it took three storming runs at the hill before we managed to get up. Eventually we got to within 150 m of the point. We hiked the last bit through veld in which every plant seemed to have thorns, but by following game tracks we got there without losing too much blood.
Now it was getting dark and we had to race back to the gate. Once some kudu jumped in front of us. Going around a corner we nearly crashed into two giraffes. A fox jumped out of the undergrowth and jogged ahead in front of the bakkie. A family of warthogs watched as we sped by at 20 km/h. When it got dark we nearly got lost, but luckily we had marked the route on the GPS. Then we realised we were not going to make it following the route that we came in by and decided to risk a short cut. Luckily this worked out and we made it to the gate with two minutes to spare.
However, the gate was already locked and the security guards posted. They insisted on searching the bakkie before going to find the nature conservation officer with the keys. There was an opening in the fence next to the gate with some petrol drums and a wooden beam barring it, but the guards refused to shift the drums to let us out. They were actually quite friendly and we spent the time chatting to them while we waited for the key to arrive. After about fifteen minutes the guard that went off to get the keys returned without having accomplished anything. It turned out the guards were Ovambos, while the nature conservation officers were Hereros, and the two do not really talk to each other. So now I had to accompany the guard to the conservation officer's house in order to talk to him personally. This had the desired effect and he accompanied us back to the gate with a bunch of keys - none of which fitted the lock. Eventually he ordered the guards to shift the drums and let us out, after once again searching the bakkie. We arrived about two hours later than planned at Gross Barmen where the wives and kids were already quite worried.
We had vaguely planned to also visit 22S 19E north of Gobabis and 24S 23E which seems to lie directly on the Trans-Kgalagadi highway, but lack of time eventually precluded this. There is always a next time…