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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

Irish Soda bread in a pan

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Our recent trip to the Richtersveld was magical and this is a pic from our buschcamp at the fluospar mine.

When you are in the middle of nowhere your options for buying bread at a corner shop are….well….not possible.  So you are either left with stale Woolies rolls which last so long because I dread to think what is in them.  Otherwise dry provitas or rice crackers….which lose their appeal after a few days.  Wraps last pretty long and are lovely with salads and veg.  Again, fresh ingredients are limited in the middle of nowhere and there is only so much tuna mayo you can eat in a wrap before gagging.

We do have a cast iron bread pot, but by the time you have set up camp and got supper ready the last thing you feel like doing is kneading bread and leaving to rise etc.  I always have these grand ideas to make bread everyday and pre kids I did it quite a lot on our trips.  But the reality with kids and camping make it seriously unlikely.  My time is now spent finding toys left in cliff holes or rounding up kids from chasing the locals goats up the mountain or stopping them from scorpion hunting without gloves..  The glamorous life of parenting!

Yet again my friend Elaine came to my rescue!  She gave me the amazing beer bread recipe.  I was moaning about the limited option while chatting through logistics on one of our sanity cycles (she is my cycling partner, so many hours are spent together on our bikes).  She then said her family had a recipe, one of those passed down from the grandmother to mother, where you make a semi flat soda bread in the pan and it all mixes together in one bowl and no rising and kneading needed.  I begged and pleaded and promised lots of chocolate in repayment for the recipe.  Woohoo!

So I tried it on our recent trip to the Richtersveld and it was amazing…well the third attempt was.  In typical me fashion I didn’t read the recipe properly.  I was so eager I scanned over it and assumed by the name that baking soda was used….a whole whopping two teaspoons!  The first ‘loaf’ looked amazing and I thought it smelt a little strong, but without trying it I promptly made a second (we were having bacon and eggs for breakfast).  My husband sneaked past and nabbed a piece…and promptly nearly threw up.

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It tasted disgusting!!!!!  I re read the recipe and suddenly realized it was baking powder and not baking soda.  Stupid name!!!!  It was also a weird yellow color when done with the baking soda but I had ignored that as well.

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Anyway, attempt 3 and 4 worked out a dream and what a brilliant, quick and tasty bread.  I made it a few times on our recent Richtersveld holiday.  So without much ado, here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

2 Cups Flour

2 tsp Baking POWDER

pinch of salt

(mix dry ingredients through with a fork)

270ml warm milk

(will flop if milk isn’t warm)

METHOD TO MAKE

Put all dry ingredients in, run a fork through and add the warm milk.

Mix together using a spoon.

I used a 25cm pan and I lightly olive oiled it but you can use butter too.  We just didn’t have much for our trip.

Pour batter into pan.  It will sort of lump in the middle.  I then dusted my hands in flour and could then spread it out on the pan with my fingers.  You sort of work it outwards.  Put over a medium to low heat and cover and leave.  When the sides start to look more ‘cooked and firm’ and you can get a spatula under, then flip.  Roughly 5mins a side….very roughly as I never timed it.

Then slice horizontally and eat warm with whatever you have available or wrap in tinfoil and keep for lunch.

I made 2 ‘loaves’ and they comfortably served 4 adults and 5 kids.  You cut the loaf into 4 triangles and then in half horizontally.  You then get 8 ‘slices’ per loaf.

As I said before, it’s the small things that make trips to remote areas heaven 🙂

 

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’.

 

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

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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Overlanding with kids and their toys

My son Jesse has two passions which come with us everywhere.  First is the infamous DoggyDogg.  He has had it since birth and if you picture Calvin&Hobbes…that is Jesse and DoggyDogg!  We have had near bloodshed in our house when my husband and Jess went for a walk and came back without DoggyDogg (he was found a day later sleeping with a homeless couple)!  And do you think we can find a second one as backup?  The internet has been searched high and low across continents.  Come hell or high water, he will not be left behind either.  This is because he needs to come along on adventures, according to my son, much to the chagrin and trepidation from my husband and I.IMG_8288

Secondly are his dinosaurs.  We have lost many a dinosaur which has been left hunting in a sand dune or digging in a desert.  Last weekend we had to kayak back to shore from our sail boat as Jess had suddenly realized that he had left his prize dinosaur along with 5 others on shore, even though we had told him repeatedly to pack up (or rather not take them at all).

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A dinosaur crosses the Gamkab Canyon in Namibia

I am a big one for taking responsibility for your actions and learning from the consequences, but when your child is literally ugly crying from the loss and you are able to maybe send out a rescue and retrieval then I am sure I am not alone in attempting a harmonious reconciliation.  Obviously only if it is within my capabilities, hoping that he (or rather us) will learn from this and not do it again….till the next time.

So it is all very good and well to go search for the toys down the road from our house or at a friends place, but when you are moving everyday on your holiday covering vast distances the options of going back aren’t really possible.  So we have tried to make our lives easier by doing the following:

Tammy’s Top Tips for Toys:

  • Each child has a small bag that all their toys for the holiday have to fit into.  They have to be able to carry this easily.  Those fancy caricature wheelie bags are all very good and well in airports and hotels but not in sand and bush.  They also aren’t easy to open and close in the car and store at their feet.  Our kids have a small shoulder bag each which is light and soft and zips closed.
  • When playing, the bag goes along to the spot so that everything can be quickly put back into it when done.  No carrying individual toys from A to B!
  • Only take a few items of one sort  Ie: we limit Jesse’s dinosaurs to around 5 as he can count them and keep track.
  • Try to not have toys which have 5million gazillion pieces…..they will get lost.  They also take forever to pack up when tipped out of the bag.
  • Beloved sleep toys remain in the trailer/tent/boat and don’t get moved from car to sleep place and back daily as it will invariably get left somewhere en route
  • Also, nothing that can get sand in it!  This is because the kids will take them out in the car after playing, and it is really hard to valet your car in the middle of nowhere!
  • NO LEGO!!!!!!

Kids do not need to take a lot.  I find it amazing how many times we have taken things along but only a few ever really got played with.  They will make do with what they have where they are and imagination is a wonderful thing when left to bloom.

Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you Everywhere

—Albert Einstein

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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