Sunday, 14 June 2015

May 21: South to Windhoek

We had to leave Etosha by 8:20 AM, so we were on the road early as usual. We were hoping to see more lions or maybe a cheetah on our way out of the park, but it was not to be. “All” we saw were zebra, kudu, impala, jackal and springbok. How jaded we have become; last week, those would have been exciting. 

This could be an ad photo for Nomad
The drive south was pretty uninspired. South of Etosha are lots of termite mounds. 

There are +20 termite mounds in this one field 
The shape reminds me of something
There are some mountains…

But not a lot of mountains 
Another shape that reminds me of something
But mostly it’s just flat bush land, with the odd place making charcoal.

Not much of anything 
And there's lots of it
We made Windhoek by 3:30 PM. While on the drive through, I thought it was a pretty city, the general consensus is that it’s not a great place. I could not tell why.
Coming into town 
Government buildings can be nice 
Dutch colonial 
A pleasant enough looking town 
There's also Robert Mugabe Ave plus...
...there's roads named after Salk and Banting and Best and Pasteur and Curie and Roentgen -- and Strauss and Verdi and Bach and Wagner and Puccini and Mozart and Liszt and Schubert -- and Freud and Pavlov, and streets named after constellations (Taurus, Gemini, Aries, Virgo, Andromeda, Hydra, Sagittarius) and birds (Albatros, Oriole, Osprey, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Sunbird). Cool town.

A downtown park 
A classic '50s building 
Pretty art gallery 
Even more impressive new National Museum 
Right across from this church 
Now that's a juxtaposition of eras and architectural style 
Pretty building 
Nice gardens
Across the street from that church was the Parliament Buildings and it’s pretty gardens.

The front 
A peaceful garden 
Laid back and impressive at the same time 
Not sure who this guy is but he's leaking 
The steps
We mostly all stayed in tonight and ate at the hotel restaurant, celebrating the departure of the new friends we have made in the last few weeks. There were exchanges of e-mail addresses, hugs and even some tears as our truck family “breaks up”. I think we will miss the camaraderie we have built up over the last 2 weeks.

Tomorrow, we head to Botswana (and lose an hour in the process due to time zone changes).


Today’s Africa Travel Tip: Game Lodges

It’s tough to make a living ranching in many areas of Namibia, Botswana & even some areas of South Africa. Cattle yields are low (assuming you can run them), sheep are worse and goats are worse still. So imagine you’re a farmer with a big tract of land (and the farms in the desert areas are huge). Why not quit farming, sell your cows, build a few guest cabins (which are built for an incredibly cheap price of R800 per square meter) and start a game ranch and lodge? Voila, farmer to the tourist business in one easy step.

All you need to do is put a big fence around your property and whatever’s inside – kudus, oryx, lions, springbok, elephants, zebra, and any other critters – are now “yours”. Now you don’t need to do anything except provide a water hole, as all the native animals live just fine on the land. You could go full "eco" and host your own game drives on your property, or you may even hunt most (not all) of the animals on your own land, so you could advertise yourself as a game and hunting lodge; all you need is a professional hunting guide designation to lead hunts on your own farm. Most trophy hunters just want the head; you get the rest of the oryx they kill, and you can sell the meat to restaurants (or you can charge more if the hunter wants the whole thing stuffed).

Game farms or lodges don’t actively farm the animals; they just don’t provide other animals to compete with them for precious water and grass resources. Some don’t even put up fences other than to keep critters off roadways. Some get together with other ranches to build huge private game reserves (there are a couple surrounding Fish Canyon, like the Gondwana CaƱon) that are in some cases bigger than the national parks themselves.

Farms turned game lodges are everywhere in Namibia, and there are a lot in South Africa, too. Some are proud to announce that they have cheetahs or rhinos. Namibia considers this a conservation success as land is reclaimed back to native animal habitat. It also explains why it’s OK to eat game meat in restaurants.

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