Epupa Falls

A Tale of Two Radiators

After 2 weeks, 2 cities, and 2 national parks, we finally got our holy grail in Tsumeb: a new radiator. At one point I thought the radiator just wasn’t meant to be. The one we initially ordered only fit Prados with petrol engines. A different one had to be shipped from Windhoek.

As with all other stories involving the car, there is more. The delivery truck carrying our long awaited radiator crashed on the outskirts of Tsumeb. Frank, the head mechanic, had to retrieve his order from the truck wreckage. Although the majority of his order was damaged during the crash, our radiator serendipitously survived.

With the new radiator installed and our overheating problem a thing of the past, we decided to make a detour to Epupa Falls in Kaokoland before making our way to through the Caprivi. This is no ordinary detour. Kaokoland is the northwestern corner of Namibia; it is the most sparsely populated part of the sparsely populated Namibia. It is one of the truly unspoiled frontiers of Southern Africa. Epupa Falls is 9 hours from Tsumeb in the opposite direction of the Caprivi. From Epupa we can see Angola across the Kunene River.

Back to the Heart of Africa

From the time we entered Namibia from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park all the way through Etosha, Namibia felt like one giant tourist attraction: there was a whole lot of nothing in between lodges, National Parks, and UNESCO heritage sites.

The road from Tsumeb to Epupa Falls brought back memories of the Africa I experienced in the lesser developed Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique: Villages and huts scattered along the side of the highway, locals walking to a destination nowhere in sight, and herds of goats and cattle wandering aimlessly on the road.

The last 3 hours of our drive – a 180km stretch of corrugated gravel road from Opuwo north to Epupa – was a surreal experience. The scenery was right out of Jurassic Park: I was half-expecting a T-Rex to walk across the forest in the horizon.

Our campsite at Epupa was meters away from the (undoubtedly crocodile infested) Kunene River and less than 50 meters away from the main Falls.

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View of Epupa Falls from our Campsite.

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Epupa Falls

Although the scenery at Epupa was otherworldly, so was its unbearable heat and humidity. After spending some time at the falls, we decided the amazing scenery and campsite was not worth the discomfort of spending another night at Epupa. With the amazing Opuwo Country Lodge – featuring an infinity pool overlooking Jurassic Park – only 3 hours away, it was an easy decision.

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Campsite at Opuwo Country Lodge

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The Serpent Welcomes us to the Kalahari

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Howling Moon – at Kalahari Trail Restcamp

For the past 2 months, we have enjoyed first world comforts and luxuries that accompany travelling the well-beaten tourist trail from the Drakensberg to Cape Town. Upon reaching the ‘city’ of Upington, it is time we say good-bye to those comforts as we transition from developed South Africa into the wild and desolate Kalahari Desert and Namibia.

Our campsites North of Upington have gotten progressively more wild and remote.

At the Kalahari Monate Lodge, just 13km north of Upington, our campsite was visited by tortoises mating and packs of springboks.

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Discovery Channel . . . LIVE

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Night time image of our campsite at the Kalahari Monate Lodge

At Kalahari Trails Restcamp, there was only salty running water. We had to back track 50km to Askham to find clean drinking water.

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Sunset at the Kalahari Trail Restcamp 

At Twee Rivieren Restcamp inside the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, we came face to face with a deadly predator meters away from our campsite.

After our sunset safari drive, we were relaxing at our campsite over a cold beer and a game of monopoly. All of the sudden Christine’s face turned pale, she pointed over our shoulders and jumped out of her seat. Eugene and I looked back, and saw a long yellow snake slithering towards us. Startled by our gaze, the snake took a sharp turn and took shelter under my tent. We were all speechless.

Eugene’s first instinct was to tip over my tent to get rid of the snake. At this point I recalled seeing a picture of a yellow snake called the Cape Cobra in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park guide. I ran to retrieve my copy of the park guide, found the picture of a yellow snake swallowing another snake and it read:

Cape Cobra: This is probably the most striking snake in the Kalahari. The colouration of individuals can vary from a deep yellow to a dark brown, even black. Although the cobra is relatively docile, it is extremely venomous. It produces a neurotoxic venom which attacks the nervous system. This results in paralysis and death (note: there is no if). The cobra displays its characteristic hood when threatened. A puff adder sees the Cape cobra as its fiercest enemy and will try to quickly get away the moment it becomes aware of one. Apparently puff adders form a big part in the cobra’s diet.”

“Bro, I think this is a Cape Cobra,” I said.

“It surely can’t be, what are the odds,” Eugene said wearily.

Awoken by our commotion, a South African man walked over in his underwear with a cigarette in his mouth and asked what was going on.

“There is a snake underneath my tent.”

“What colour is it?”

“Yellow.”

Suddenly excited, he said, “Damn, it’s a Cape Cobra!”

We had no choice but to call the animal emergency hotline, which we took down at a stroke of genius.

As we anxiously waited for the park ranger, the snake peaked its head out from the bottom of the tent to check out the commotion. Unexpectedly, the snake slithered out of the tent towards our table, settled behind a bag for a brief moment then bolted for the nearest bush as if he knew the ranger was coming.

Although I was relieved the snake left my tent, I am now worried the snake might escape before the ranger gets his hands on it. A Cape Cobra lurking in the shadows of our campground is even more disturbing then knowing it is under my tent – as least I know it will be caught in the latter case.

We collectively breathed out a sigh of relief when we saw the yellow headlights of the Ranger’s truck finally pulled into the parking lot.

The snake guy, with a snake clamp in his hands, a cigarette in his mouth, and his butt crack exposed while surveying the nearby bushes, were quickly joined by old couples stumbling over drunk for the excitement, a French tour guide claiming he would grab the snake with his bare hands if only his head was not next to his tail, and more men in their underwear. It was an odd sight.

You can see the dread and fear in the ranger’s eyes when he was told the loose snake he was summoned to capture was a Cape Cobra. The locals were wise enough to be afraid.

At first, the Cobra was elusive. It hid in the middle of a dense bush where the ranger could not reach. Then the cobra got angry at the ranger’s repeated jabs at him with the snake clamp and displayed its characteristic hood. After 20 minutes of struggle, the Cobra made a crucial mistake. It slithered up the tree where the ranger had an open shot at it, and he made no mistake.

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The ranger in action

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Snake getting angry

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Ranger (left). French tour guide (right), “I’ll catch it with my bare hands!”

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With nowhere to go, the snake decide to climb the tree

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Big mistake

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The guy in charged of the snake bin was not thrilled

That was quite the surreal welcome to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Follow my Odyssey on Twitter @AlpheusChan

6 Weeks in Cape Town: at a glance

Sunset on top of Lion’s Head

Capetokathmandu.com has been eerily quiet over the past 6 weeks. Don’t worry. We are still alive. Proof comes from the picture above.

I am sorry to report we are still in Cape Town. We have no epic stories about honey badger encounters nor have we tested the theory that elephants are attracted to Citrus fruit.

I can show you pictures of us on Table Mountain, at V&A Waterfront, or other Cape Town landmarks but that is not representative of our 6 weeks in Cape Town. The following quotes and pictures are better indicators of our time in Cape Town.

“When are you leaving?” ~Jason, the barman at Ashanti

“Next week” ~Alpheus

“That’s what you’ve said everyday for the past month” ~Jason

Jason with his girlfriend Angela

“Can you please extend our room?” ~Alpheus, bi-weekly at Ashanti reception

“Our car is finally ready tomorrow!!!” ~Alpheus, proclaimed enthusiastically at Ashanti every few days for the past 6 weeks.

“Why are you taking pictures like you are planning to leave” ~Cal

At the Ashanti reception with Cal, Lisa, and Dan (left to right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m convinced the staff at Ashanti Lodge thinks I’m just squatting indefinitely in Cape Town. Besides my words we have presented no evidence our trip actually exists. We have outstayed Chiara, one of the interns at Ashanti and we are desperately trying to beat Isabel, the other Ashanti intern, out of town.

“We’re unstoppable”

“Last trip to (JB/R&D), YEAAAHHHHH BUDDY!”

“We’re finally ready to leave Cape Town”

“We don’t need to go to another mechanic until Cairo”

“Why didn’t we buy the Land Cruiser?”

~Eugene, everytime we do anything car related for the last 6 weeks. As soon as these phrases were uttered, something else breaks and off we go again to JB Auto or R&D Offroad.

Christine rolls eyes…

“UUUGGHHHH!!! DON’T SAY THAT”

“Hi Gran, can you come pick us up at (JB/R&D” ~ Us

“Again?” ~ Gran, our beloved cab driver

“Last laundry day!” ~ Us, every Sunday for the past 6 weeks

“We’re never going to be here…

…for the next Formula 1 Grand Prix” ~ Eugene, we’ve been here for 4

…for the next Equinox at Fiction” ~Alpheus, we’ve been here for 6

…for Earthdance” ~Alpheus, from Early September

…for the next outdoor Trance party” ~ Alpheus, after Earthdance, 2 more has come and gone

…for Lady Gaga” ~US, she is touring through Cape Town early December.

In other news…

Checkers, the grocery store down the street from us, began remodelling a week into our stay. It now looks completely different on the inside.

This restaurant – closed down 2 weeks into our stay for a major renovation – is once again open for business.

Christine’s favourite Frozen Yogurt place. She just filled up her 2nd Buy-9-Get-1-Free loyalty card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I’ve said this many many times before, but this really has the be the last time I’m going to say this: “We’re leaving Friday.”

P.S. New poll is up, please vote how far you think we’ll make it on our overland trip!

Follow my odyssey on twitter @AlpheusChan

Drakensberg Part 2: Cathedral Peak

I forgot to mention an interesting fact from our Amphitheatre hike in my last post: Tugela Falls, the 2nd highest waterfall in the world (Trivia: What is the highest waterfall in the world? no cheating), originates from the top of the Amphitheatre. The reason I forgot to mention Tugela Falls in my previous post was because it was thoroughly underwhelming during dry season. It was just a small stream of water.

The roaring Tugela Falls during dry season

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We briefly contemplated leaving the Drakensberg after hiking the Amphitheatre, but the hostel receptionist convinced us to stick around to hike Tugela Gorge – pretty but relatively uneventful hike – and Cathedral Peak.

Tugela Gorge

Cathedral Peak is a beast of a day hike that’s takes us up 1500m in elevation over 19km, with 4 scrambling sections. I will once again do a pictorial exposition of our hike.

Cathedral Peak is so far away it is barely visible from the trailhead. It is behind the mountain on the right.

A quarter of the way into the hike, Cathedral peak is finally visible. It is the tall one in the middle.

Nearly 3 hours into the hike, Cathedral peak is still so far away.

The last 200m of Cathedral Peak is poorly marked. In our stupidity, we neglected to take a map of the last section with us. Instead of taking the scrambling route straight up on the face of the peak, we went up the gully on the left of the peak that led us to a dead end.

Scrambling up the wrong route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it was a little demoralizing we didn’t summit Cathedral Peak after spending 9 hours on the trail, the amazing alpine scenery enroute still made it a worthwhile trip.

Follow my odyssey on Twitter @AlpheusChan

Drakensberg Part 1: The Amphitheatre

Campsite at Amphitheatre Backpackers

After a brief layover in Swaziland, we made our way to the Northern Drakensberg (a.k.a. the Dragon Mountains in Afrikaans and ‘Barrier of Spears’ in Zulu) in South Africa. With our base at the beautiful Amphitheatre Backpackers near Bergville, we set off to explore the nearby natural wonders.

Sentinel Peak at the Drakensberg Amphitheatre was the subject of our first day trip. Although the Amphitheatre is visible from our campsite, the trailhead is two hours, 22km of road construction, a town named Phuthaditjhaba (try pronouncing it), and a narrow mountain road away on the backside of the mountain.

I could try to describe the vastness and grandeur of the mountain with words, but pictures do a much better job telling the story.

Eugene navigating ‘The Gully’

View of the North from the top of the Amphitheatre Escarpment

View of the South from the escarpment and the beginning of the chain ladder descent

Climbing down the 40m chain ladder

Exhausted after a long day of hiking, we were looking forward to a cold beer and a hot shower back at the campsite. Unfortunately, the mountain just wouldn’t let us leave. On the narrow mountain road that led to the trailhead, a negligent truck driver took his semi off-roading and blocked all traffic from passing.

In my mind, there were only two real options for getting out: 1) move the truck or 2) drive around the truck. The truck was clearly not going anywhere on its own. Even if a big enough tow truck did miraculously show up to tow the semi out, it is questionable whether it could actually get into a position to dislodge the truck. With trees and steep slopes guarding both sides of the road, driving around was not an option. With the sun setting in the horizon and no progress in sight, It became a real possibility that we would need to spend the night wild camping.

Since Africans generally lack the equipment to properly fix broken things, they are creative experts at making broken things work. In a stroke of problem solving genius, a team of park staff got some saws to cut the trees and shovels to relocate dirt to widen the road so that the cars could pass.

Amazingly… it worked!

Free at last!

Follow my Odyssey on Twitter @AlpheusChan