Itinerary – Cape Town to Mabuasehube, Kgalagadi

Distance: 3500km Duration: 15 days Countries: 3

IMG_6738I have decided to do a series on some of our itineraries.  When you start planning your trips, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start.  Where do you overnight?  What is a good distance to travel with kids? What is a realistic travel time vs what the Garmin says? (FYI -it always takes longer) 

IMG_6461Simon and I tend to be a bit chilled when it comes to planning (read VERY), but we have very organized friends.  We like to ‘wing it’, but when travelling into Africa that is not always the best option, especially with little kids.  So it is really helpful to have friends who like to plot and plan.  One of these useful sort of friends to have is our neighbour, Mike.  He loves to spend hours researching various routes, alternative and less travelled options etc.  We have been to some incredible places because he saw something on google Earth and then traced it and plotted and planned.

IMG_6525

To Drive is the Holiday

Before our Kgalagadi trip, Simon and I had done the Okavango and various others, but always without kids.  The drives to the beginning of our adventure destination were generally loooooong, and the thought of being in the car for that duration with our young children was frankly terrifying.  But we have come to realise that this is because the drive for us was a means of getting to a destination.  Mike and his wife Georgie have taught us differently.  They took us on our first family overlanding trip when Jesse was 5 and Olivia was 3 , showing us that these long journeys are possible with kids. They changed our mindset; the drive is the holiday.   The distances they suggested were shorter, which meant that you could stop along the way and if the kids needed time, you had it.

IMG_6838Back to the Useful Friends

Back to the reason these organised friends are so useful, they are very detailed.  And with being so detailed comes very detailed trip itineraries with time lines etc.  I thought it was overkill to start, but it really helps with planning your days, lunch stops and so on.  Where Mike and I differ is that he can’t stay in one spot for too long.  I would recommend a 2 night stay more often and subsequently we have compromised on trips since this first one.So here is the first overlanding trip we did as a family to the Kgalagadi.  You can then get an idea of the distances we travelled, where we stopped and then use it as a guide to start your own adventure planning.

IMG_0067

Itinerary Notes

A special thanks to Mike Borgstrom whose itinerary this is.

Vryburg – DO NOT use the community campsite (unless it has had a revamp) That experience now goes down as one of the ‘remember when’s’, which is great story telling now but not so much fun to experience at the time

Route – If going into the Botswana side of Kgalagadi, I would do the trip the other way round. So enter Kgalagadi either at TweeRivieren or Namibia and then head through to Botswana and out McCarthy’s. Reason being is that the Botswana side is so wild, so when you get to the SA side it is much tamer and feels a bit of a let down.

Booking – The SA side books up so quickly and that is why we had to do our trip a bit higgledy piggledy. We had to take the bookings we could for Nossob and Mata-Mata and then work the trip around that.

KGALAGADI_BOTSWANA 2013 ITINERARY

I hope that it helps with your planning and if you need any advice or have a question, please feel free to send it our way.

Lots of love

Simon and Tammy

Desert Knights – a Namibian mountain bike adventure

 

Desert-Knights-2014-12

Photo courtesy of Desert Knights Gallery

Being spontaneous has its rewards.  I got offered the amazing once in a lifetime opportunity to go and partake in the Desert Knights mountain bike adventure in Namibia!  Frankly, when I got the message I thought it was spam, but I had nothing to lose by responding and hey, presto, it was genuine!!!!  It’s an event I had looked at previously and thought looked like a bucket list must.  Who doesn’t want to cycle through the desert during full moon and canoe down the Orange River?

Image result for desert knights mountain bike

Photo courtesy of https://tfcaportal.org/desert-knights-2

 

The event takes place in the Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and combines 5 days of cycling and 1 day canoeing down the Orange river.  I have been lucky to spend a few holidays in this region and absolutely love it (read here). So we start on the Namibian side  of the park in Hobas and end on the South African side in Sendlingsdrift.  What is so unique is that the event takes place during full moon and most of the cycling is done from late afternoon and into the night.  How incredible to cycle to the Fish River Canyon and watch the moon rise over this iconic and beautiful place?  Or to camp in the dry river bed of the Gamkab Canyon?  As you can tell, I am beyond excited!

Our route area map

Having only gotten my entry a week ago, one week before departure, means that I haven’t had months to prep and train.  But here is another bonus, this is a tour, not a race.  You are supposed to enjoy the scenery, stop and take pictures and generally just appreciate the area that is truly a magical place on earth.  Luckily I ride regularly and am pretty fit….well here’s hoping.

Desert-Knights-2014-71

Photo courtesy of Desert Knights gallery

So I am off tomorrow and we start on Friday.  It has been a bit of a scramble getting my bike together as I was waiting on a part from the UK, but all is sorted in the nick of time as well as having to have the clutch replaced on our Toyota Fortuner.  But all was packed this evening and I am ready to get going early tomorrow morning.  Hopefully the sun will be shining and I will get to see some of the flowers through the Namaqualand en route which will be a treat.

This will be a solo mission, Simon and the kids will sadly remain at home holding the fort.  But a solo adventure isn’t always bad, it is good for the soul to have time to think, meditate, appreciate and rest and this is something that the silence of the desert does bountifully.

Image result for desert knights mountain bike

Photo courtesy of Jacques Marais Media

If you would like to follow my adventure on this event I will be posting to my personal Instagram page and to our Family On a Mission page.

Here is to a Bucket List Must!

Epupa Falls – Namibia

Jesse and Olivia could not say the name without laughing hysterically!  For them this was up there with toilet talk.  But they were also beyond excited to see the waterfalls featured in the animated movie, Zambezia.

Epupa Falls is one of the most incredible places to visit.  Situated in the northern most region of Namibia in the Koakaland on the Angolan border.  It is fed by the Kunene River and is 0,5km wide and drops down in a series of waterfalls that spread over 1.5 km.

IMG_8087

Epupa Falls taken close to the town

Getting there

The road to Epupa is pretty amazing.  Like most roads in Namibia it is gravel, but it is well maintained and a 4×4 is not necessary.  It is possible to get there without having to do a whole overlanding long trip, like we did.  You can fly into Windhoek and rent a standard car and drive up.  It is far more accessible than I expected.

Taking the trip from Windhoek, you will need to look at overnighting en route.  It is never worth pushing distances in Africa just in case something goes wrong.  A great place to overnight is around Etosha.  There is a new camp on the northwest side called Olifantsrus that has camping and chalets that friends stayed at and raved about.  We spent three days on our way up in a Game Reserve called Erindi and then overnighted in the town of Opuwo before getting to Epupa.  If you decide to rather push the distance and stay in Opuwo, we stayed at the Opuwo Country Lodge.  I would forgo staying in Opuwo unless necessity requires it as it is not a great town.  They have a good campsite, though you definitely need to book during school holidays.  We stayed the night on the weekend, so there was lots of music and partying going on in the surrounding area.  The road up to the lodge was a bit tricky and the area you go through not great.  The lodge area is well fenced and there is security.  The hotel itself has an amazing view.

IMG_7942

The view from the hotel

Fuel and Food

We did our major food shop in Windhoek, as you can get pretty much everything.  Fuel is something you have to plan for as you always want to have a bit more that needed just in case a petrol station doesn’t have, which is possible.  You are pretty much guaranteed to get good diesel at Kamanjab.  We filled our jerry cans at this point.  When we got to Opuwo we just topped up the main tank.  This is due to not always being able to get 50pp diesel there.  At the main garage in Opuwo there is also a decent Shoprite if you need to get some basics you have forgotten.  I had forgotten flour to make bread, so could get a local brand there.  Click here for my yummy beer bread recipe.  There was also cash machines and banks if you need access.

Culturally

Just before reaching Opuwo, you will start to see Himba people.  If you have children, it is a good idea just to show and discuss with them what to expect.  The women are completely topless at all ages.  When we got to the garage to fill up diesel, our car was inundated with Himba women trying to sell their wares and then also young kids from different tribes begging for sweets and money.

IMG_7878

Olivia watching the children

My son found it very overwhelming and our friends son, who was 12, didn’t know where to look.  So discussing their culture is a good way to prep so that the children know what to expect and can be respectful.  I love showing them such diverse cultural differences.  It shows that diversity is beautiful and that respect is a human right regardless of how different we are!

Himba Women

Himba women riding to get water

If you do stop to take a picture, you will have to ‘pay’.  They want sweets or medicine, which you don’t want to give as they are both addictive.  Supplying fruit or food is better.  Also paper and pencils or pens are great, especially for kids.  Be mindful of giving things in plastic, as the packets/bags/wrapper will most likely just be thrown onto the ground and not disposed of properly.

They are also a nomadic people, so you will see shells of villages and camps.

Himba hut

Outside an abandoned Himba hut

Epupa itself

IMG_7973

Our first Baobab just before reaching Epupa

Epupa is like a little green oasis.  The campsites and lodges are all along the river right above the start of the waterfall.  We stayed at one of the most furthest along campsites called Epupa Camp.  Don’t get confused by Epupa Falls Lodge, we went there and then panicked as they were full and didn’t have our booking.  We then worked out we were in the wrong place.  It is a quieter campsite a bit higher up the river.  They have both camping and little chalets.  The main area has a bar and a swimming pool and wifi.  You can sit and have a drink and a dip in the pool or walk across the bridge to a little island.  You can’t swim in the river because of crocs and must just be wary when walking along the river bank.

The campsite was treed with date palms.  There was a shower and loo ablution stand per two camps with a donkey boiler.  The staff would light the donkey boiler morning and night, though the mornings tended to be a bit tepid as needed more time.   The showers don’t have a roof, so you shower at night looking at all the stars.

 

Just beware of monkeys, don’t leave any food out unattended.  They are so quick and if you turn your back for a second, they grab and run.

If you need any washing done, there will be local ladies at the gate to the campsite in the mornings.  You give them your washing and your powder, though I would supply the powder per wash as they pretty much used most of what we had budgeted for the whole holiday.  The rate charged depends on how many garments there are.  You also buy firewood at the gate from the locals.  Make sure that you have lots of change as you have to pay exact amounts.  This goes for pretty much all remote places throughout Namibia.  So often we wanted to buy wood etc but only had large notes and the local didn’t have any change.

With regards to safety, always beware of petty theft.  So don’t leave things unnecessarily out and unattended.  Walking through the town to the falls was very safe and we didn’t feel worried at all.

Activities

IMG_8110The falls itself is free to access.  We walked from our campsite and you can stand right on top of them.  There is even a walk down to the bottom of the valley.  If you want to go to the view point, you will have to pay money.  It wasn’t a lot and the best time of day is definitely later towards sunset.

Epupa Falls

Above Epupa Falls

There is a village tour and also a river rafting trip.  Both are organized through your place of accommodation.  We did the river trip with the kids, which was such fun.  You get driven roughly 8ks up the river and then you paddle back down.  The rapids were very mild, so very safe with the kids.  We saw crocodiles and birds and had our snack and cooldrink on the Angolan side of the river.

We spent 3 nights at Epupa, but I could have happily spent more.  It is tranquil and beautiful and so culturally rich!

Desserts in the Desert

DSC_9537

There is nothing nicer than being in the middle of nowhere and being able to have a pudding that is more than toasted marshmallows.  Don’t get me mistaken, my kids LOVE toasted marshmallow squished between two Marie biscuits with Nutella.  It is my quick go-to treat when camping but a warm pudding can’t be beaten.  My son Jesse absolutely loves apple crumble and it is the biggest treat when away.  It’s also really easy to take along on long trips as tinned apples work perfectly well and the makings for the crumble just need butter brought.  It’s been a bit of a hit and miss trying to get the crumble to be more crumble like and not turn cakey.  So I have finally managed to get it right!  So here are my tricks.

IMG_3411

We love to throw peaches or apricots in with the apples for added yumminess

Firstly, when putting your fruit into the pot try to not add any of the juice or as little juice as possible.  This will minimize the amount of moisture lessening the steaming effect. With regards to what to use, cast iron works well but be careful not too much heat.  I have a standard Cadac pot which I prefer over my bread pot as the fruit doesn’t stick.  The crumble must not be too thick on top either.  And then the final winner, instead of putting a sealed lid on top, you put a few layers of tinfoil.  Pierce holes around the outside quite close to the edge.  This lets steam escape while still being able to put coals in the middle.  The first time I let the coals burn down and then ash fell through the holes.  So rather use larger coal pieces and rotate them.  We always take the heavy duty tinfoil on our trips, so if you have the lighter stuff be careful.

IMG_3381

Our first attempt with tinfoil.  Credit goes to my brilliant friend Nena, who suggested it after I moaned about the steaming!

 

It takes roughly 45mins to an hour and you need to rotate it so that all the sides get the fire heat too.  As with making bread on the fire, you just need an even spread of light coals underneath the pot.  Again, rather have too few and add a bit more than start too hot and burn it.  You will need to replace the top and bottom coals a few times during this time.  I generally make the apple crumble before prepping the rest of dinner and as soon as the fire is lit.  This is because it can go on the outside while the fire is burning down for the braai.  Any leftovers are great for breakfast the next day!

So here is my recipe.  It is more of a basic guideline.  I am no chef and more of a taste as I go and adjust.  So try it out, change it up and share with good company in beautiful places.

RECIPE

I generally make for roughly 4 adults and 4/5 kids

2 large tins apples

1 tin peaches or apricots

Drain all the juice and put in the pot.  There should be an even covering on the bottom of the pot.

If the apples are sugar free you may need to sprinkle some sugar on

You can add cinnamon sugar and raisins depending on your kids and friends

For the crumble:

4 tblsp soft butter

8 tblsp stone ground flour

6 tblsp sugar

I add some oats as we like how it makes it a bit chewy

Mix together with your fingers until the consistency is ‘crumbly’.  My standard test is if I squeeze some in my hand that it can stick together.

 

Put it over the top of the fruit.  You want a good covering but maximum of 1.5cm thick.  I then put a light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top.  Cook until golden on the coals next to the fire.

 

It’s the Little Things that count

Just because you’re in the middle of nowhere doesn’t mean you have to suffer.  I have come to realize that when you are out in these remote amazing places it is the little things which just ‘make it’.

 

DSC_8464

Finding a small shop in the middle of nowhere and getting some ‘luxuries’.  Below is a picture of the shop….we nearly missed it

DSC_8465

So here are some of my non negotiables to making all things good while camping:

  • Good coffee – thank God for aeropress
  • Good wine – pack more red than white so don’t have to worry about chilling
  • Good food – you can do more than just braai on a fire
  • Clover full cream or low fat long life milk tastes the best (it doesn’t kill the taste of your Rooibos tea)
  • A comfy pillow – I will sacrifice clothes for my pillow
  • A sheet or kikoi to sleep on – it really makes a difference
  • My Paez shoes – they pack flat, light and are closed! Socks and takkies can get very hot but slip slops aren’t always practical and your feet get dirty
  • Facial wipes – means I can wear some make up 🙂
  • The solar shower bag – nothing better than a shower after a dusty day
  • My kindle
  • Good music
  • A good comfortable camping chair (a lot of time is spent sitting round the fire)

DSC_9165

Bees and Desert Camping – not a match made in Heaven

I thought the puff adder was bad but the bees were something else!

In 2014 we were on Khiding pan in the Kgalagadi.  Water is scarce in this area and animals come for miles to the water holes.  We had a beautiful campsite overlooking the pan with not a soul in sight.  We arrived quite late in the day, so by the time we setup camp dusk had fallen. In the morning once the sun had come up we started to hear a bee or two.  Within 30 minutes there was a low din and within two hours the campsite was swarming.  They were trying to climb up the trailer taps, in the kettle or any water bottle left out.  Any moisture left on any surface was infested and they only left at sunset.  They were relentless!  Olivia got stung for the first time and luckily wasn’t allergic.  We ended up just going for drives in the car to get away.  Any other car we stopped to ask had no bees in their campsite, we were just unlucky.

IMG_0037

We had left a small bowl of water out to rinse hands in and soon it was filled with drowned bees 😦

And we thought it was a once off but in 2016 we were in the Hoanib valley in Namibia looking for the desert lion and elephants.  The wind was howling and we spent most of the morning trying to find a valley to camp in that was slightly sheltered.  We finally found a spot at lunch time and again, within an hour of setting up camp, they started to arrive.  But this time it was 50 times worse than Botswana.  The water is so scarce that they were desperate.  We put the kids in the bubble tent to play and watch a movie but they had water bottles and the tent was soon crawling on the outside with bees trying to get in.  The kids were beyond freaked and on top of that boiling hot.  In the end we again ended up having to climb in our cars just to get away as it was too hot to lie in the tents.

DSC_9589

Me trying to see if sitting under the mosquito net would help at all – it didn’t but at least it provided some amusement.

We had planned to spend two days in that valley but as soon as the sun rose the next morning they already started arriving so we had to pack up and go find another campsite.

Being no expert this is what I have learnt from these two experiences:

  • Fruit scented dishwashing liquid makes it muuuuuuuch worse
  • Citronella candles do nothing to keep them away.  We were burning 5 of them to try and get the lunch out but they still were everywhere
  • Anthisan works better than calladrel for the stings
  • The mozzie net helped a bit but ours had a stupid split in the middle to tie closed so a full one would work better
  • Basically, if they start arriving rather pack up camp and move
  • If you can’t move, grab snacks and drinks and rather go for a drive till sunset
  • As soon as the sun goes down they leave

So here’s to hoping that we have a bee free trip up next

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Bread on the Fire

301542_10150333040451580_1279575637_n

My friend, Elaine, gave me the yummiest beer bread recipe ever!  There is never any left and generally it gets eaten as soon as its sliced as it is completely irresistible.

Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup sugar (this just makes it delicious)

1 beer – preferably one of the stronger ones like Black Label

Method

Throw dry ingredients together and add the beer – not complicated at all!

Oil the bread pot well or spray and cook it

Add the mixture

To Cook

Do not put the pot right on the coals in the fire, it will burn!  We did that the first few times and it is not easy cleaning a burnt pot while bushcamping with limited water.  You will need far less coals than you expect as those cast iron bread pots get extremely hot.  Rather start with too few and add.  We put a few off to the side of the fire but close enought to still feel warmth.  Put coals underneath and a few on top.  These will need to be rotated a few times for fresh ones.  A pot hook is quite useful for taking the lid off to check how it is cooking but brush the coals off first.  I have tried a few times to think I could just lift it up and then put it back on and invariable the ash falls onto the bread!  Don’t forget to rotate the beer bread around as well so the sides get even warmth from the fire.  It takes roughly 45mins-1hr to cook.

Enjoy!

IMG_6503

Namibia…it captures my heart

IMG_8524

My husband, Simon, and I suddenly realized that our Easter Holidays in South Africa were much longer than usual (usually around 10 days but this year it is 17).  So we thought we better take advantage and go somewhere and we truly have some gems on our back doorstep from the Cedarberg to the West Coast or up the Garden Route or even up to the Kgalagadi.  We decided to ask the kids where would they like to go (they have been to all these spots) and both emphatically said Namibia!  This partly surprised me as it is hot, the distances to cover are generally pretty vast and you can be in some incredibly remote spots (so no riding bicycles in campsites with other kids).  Yet on the other hand it didn’t surprise me at all!

Namibia truly captures your soul.  We have only done a few holidays there visiting Sossusvlei, Fish River Canyon, Twyfelfontein, Spitskoppe, Etosha, Hoanib, Epupa and have also done Van Zyls pass….with the infamous trailer!

IMG_8689

Our campsite below in the mountains before entering the Hoanib Valley the next day

IMG_8388

Driving across Knersvlakte after doing van Zyls pass.  It was 40deg Celsius in mid winter

But the way the scenery changes so suddenly from red dunes to black rocky mountains to flat grasslands with jutting rocks is truly magnificent.  You literally can’t help but feel very insignificant and small when standing in the vastness that is Namibia and soak in this incredible creation that God made.

IMG_1311

Jesse and Olivia on the pan at Sossusvlei

So in 10 days we are heading back across the border to visit this magical country and my two cannot wait!  I love how they now appreciate being in places with not a soul for miles around.  That time in the car is not necessarily an evil thing, but time spent chatting and drawing and reading or listening to stories (we try not to limit device us to only when on the national highway do those long long sections).  And no, it is not always harmonious, but that too is okay.

This time we are returning to the Brukkaros Crater, which is a very unknown gem not far from the border.  We were there in 2015 for a single night and I have longed to go back with a bit more time to spend. We will try get up to the upper campsite, but apparently the road is incredibly bad.  It was hairy when we went up previously!  We want to do the hike into the crater and see all the incredible crystals in the rocks.

Simon watching the sunset from the Brukkaros campsite.

Then we are going to Luderitz, which we haven’t been to yet, to visit Kolmanskop.  We will take the kids into the surrounding dunes and then down to the Richtersveld while hopefully seeing the Wild Horses on the way.

Now  the food plan and shopping starts as we have to take pretty much everything along.   I love the prepping and planning and food sorting.  I truly believe that just because you are in a remote spot doesn’t mean that you can’t have truly delicious meals.  I am going to try my friends soda bread that can be cooked in a pan on our gas stove.  Am hoping it works out as that will be so brilliant not having to knead and leave to rise and knead again and then still cook in the fire in the cast iron bread pot.  I will post the results when I try it 🙂

So count down begins to the next awesome adventure!!!!

#namibia #overlandnamibia #overlandingwithkids #namibiawithkids #overlandingwithchildren #brukkaroscrater #travellingwithkids #africa #familyonamission #vannierop #remotetravel #remotecamping #campfood #cookingonafire

 

 

Overlanding as a Family

We are by no means the hardcore full time overlanding family.  We live and work in Cape Town and have our own business.  So our holidays have been windows into this amazing continent we live in.   We decided when the kids were little that overseas holidays were just too costly from South Africa and to rather explore what is literally on our back doorstep.  In order to do so, vast distances have to be covered.  We took some French students to Namibia with us two years ago and they could not get over the huge distances we needed to drive.

IMG_6503

I used to hate car trips!  The quicker we got somewhere the better and heaven forbid we had to stop.  My husband and I used to see how quickly we could do these stops but that had to change when we had kids.  Doesn’t matter how you prepare, a trip always takes a million times longer with children.  The one needs to wee, you stop to do so and then just as you get going typically the next one suddenly needs to wee.  Doesn’t matter that you specifically asked them and they categorically said they didn’t need to!  So when we invested into our overland trailer with these long trips in mind as a family, I had to change my mindset.  The journey had to become part of the holiday.  Stopping for tea alongside the road or a wee break with a 20minute play all became a part of the holiday.   So when heading off on those road journeys with children, give yourself extra time on the trip.  Reduce the distance and if necessary make it in stages instead of pushing it.  Suddenly it won’t be so stressful anymore as you are not chasing such a tight deadline.  When you are relaxed, your kids are relaxed which makes for a much more pleasant time.

IMG_9669

On these trips we go with our Toyota Fortuner D4D 4×4 and our Mission Trailer.  The trailer makes travelling with kids so easy, as we can pull over anywhere for lunch and not have to unpack half the car to access the kettle.  There have been many late campsite arrivals where I have been able to immediately start cooking and am done by the time everyone else has just finished setting up as our kitchen is immediately available off the side of the trailer.  Also, when we are in spot, we can setup and then go off with the car to game watch and not have to pack everything up.  The draw back with the trailer in very remote places on bad roads is that unless you are a champion reverser (like my husband), you can get into some very tight and hairy situations.  It is also heavy and hard work on those very sandy roads, like in Botswana, and travelling with a second vehicle and a snatch strap is a necessity.

IMG_9692

My husband, Simon, has threatened often to sell it but I refuse.  As a mum, it makes my life so easy.  Also, we are invited along on many trips because of our useful kitchen accessibility and the extra storage which means we can carry that extra drink to watch the African sun go down.  Cheers!

#familyonamission #overlanding #overlandingwithatrailer #travellingwithkids #overlandingwithkids #missiontrailer #4x4family #campingwithkids #childreninafrica #africawithchildren #travellingmum #dontrush #makethejourneytheholiday