Pg 8 – Khaudum National Park to Ngepi Camp – Day 8

Day 8 – 07 August 2013 – Khaudum National Park to Ngepi Camp, Kavongo Region, Namibia, camping at Ngepi on the banks of the Cubango river, Co-ordinates for Ngepi Camp: S18 06.58 E21 40.14  – Distance: 243km – Duration: 10h54min – Descending in elevation: 1041m

Taking the D3309 out of Khaudum National Park, north entrance/exit, turning right onto the B8 then turning right at Divundu, turning south onto C48/D3403 road for 10km till you see Ngepi camp on your left, 4km later you’ll reach the camp.  The C48/D3403 road ends up at the Mohembo Border Post for Namibia/Botswana.

Trip Report – 

We’d slept through the night with one ear open and woke up to the sound of the birds, in the distance, scavenging around in the thicket for something to eat.  The perfect start to the day with a warm cup of coffee and a rusk in our hand while we absorbed the crisp stillness of being in the bush.  A breaking of a branch in the distance and the scuffling of something walking through the forest awakens your senses as its so peaceful and quiet otherwise. It was so chilly that when we spoke to each other, the warm air that was coming out of our mouths turned into mist.  It was very chilly just before sunrise which is typical of the extreme daily temperatures that one endures in the desert.  Thankfully we were well prepared with our beanies, scarfs and gloves.

We all helped with taking the Bedouin tent down and managed to drive out of our campsite by 8 am.

We had heard that the road leading out to the North of Khaudum could be quite treacherous and that it would take a lot longer in time than one would usually anticipate making to covering the short distance. We had never travelled this road before and were all looking forward to the adventure!

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Loving all the huge trees and grasses alongside the road less travelled.

The most bizarre thing happened to us while we were driving along the dry riverbed.  We had passed one watering hole full of elephants and were coming up to another one that was also full of elephants drinking.  They were quite a distance from the track that we were driving on, and they spotted us.  They lifted their trunks into the air as if they were signalling to us or smelling us.  One large Bull Elephant immediately made his way towards the road.  We stopped right where we were, in our tracks to watch him.  Once he reached the road, he stopped and faced us.  He was around 50 metres away.  With his trunk up in the air, he swayed his body and fanned out his ears to make himself look bigger to us.

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A few minutes passed, then out the corner of our eyes to the right, we saw a mother elephant with her baby coming out of the bushes and making their way down to the watering hole.  They had needed to cross the path that we were on, and the bull elephant had ensured their journey would be a safe one for them.  Only once they had crossed our path and joined up with the rest of the heard at the watering hole did the bull elephant decide it was safe to move on.  He looked at us in a thankful manner and made his way back to the watering hole to be with his heard. It was an incredible experience.  He had put himself in the line of danger to protect his offspring.

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The North side of the park is a lot greener with its abundant trees that make up the woodland forest.  The trees have so many scars on them where the bark has come off the tree trunk due to the elephants who rub their bodies and tusks along them.  As we drove, I tried to see if I could spot a cat lazing on a branch somewhere in the trees, or possibly underneath a tree in the long grass that is everywhere.    At one point, we had to stop our cars as the road had been blocked off by a large tree that had been broken in half and was lying across the road.  The elephants are incredibly destructive when it comes to their surrounding vegetation.  The tree was still attached to the tree trunk.  Flo was the brave one who jumped out of the vehicle and used his strength and height to lift the tree up just enough for us to pass our cars through underneath it.

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The road was getting considerably worse the further North we drove.  The sand was soft, thick and profound with grooves of past tyre threads eating away at it, leaving a protruding hump of sand in the middle and on the edges of the track. It was impossible to reach a decent speed for any decent amount of time.  The vehicles were thrown off guard with all the bumpiness in the tracks.  It was a bumpy ride of being shaken in your seat for a few hours in the end.  The suspension of our Gem was taking the strain with its body grinding left and right while carrying a heavy load. This pounding of our Gem and the damage caused by wear and tear showed itself to us a few days down the line.

The amount of sand dust being thrown up from the car in front made us all hold back as much as possible to the car in front of us.

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We were about two-thirds of the way to get to the gate when we came across this cement block on the road with its faded signage.  We stopped to stretch our legs and to contemplate our choices.  Some got a bit carried away with using their friends as public leaning posts. We were all hungry and could do with a break so we decided to take a detour and to do a  pit stop where we could make a wholesome brunch.  We took the road to the right which ended up at another watering hole.

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A perfect place to stop for an hour.  The table, gas bottle and frying pan was set up, and we whipped up bacon, egg, onion and tomato brunch with homemade bread.

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We were back on the road with the spectacular woodland savannah forest surrounding our path. The dried out, richly red leaves that had fallen from the trees to the paleness of the white sand on the ground formed a lovely contrast to the blueness of the sky above and some evergreen trees in-between.

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We came across a large dry riverbed that we drove alongside for a while and crossed it nearer the end of its other side.  The road took us up a steep sand path in-between lots of tall trees.  There are a few options of sand roads that you can take.  We presumed we were on the one with the shortest amount of kilometres for us to get out of the park.

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We were bumping around so much that our bag of wood that was tied down onto our roof was working its way loose.  It ended up falling off a few times until Jo helped us out with taking the bags of wood and strapping them down securely on his Landy’s roof where it stayed safely for the duration of the drive.

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We drove along another dry river bed.  We crossed it at the end when we’d arrived at a fence.  This fence ended up running alongside us for quite a while in the end.

The vast field area of long grass with their variation in soft hues of colour remind me of velvet material that is soft and luxurious looking. It is particularly the case when there is a little breeze blowing and their soft rabbit tail tufts at the end gently sway together in the wind.

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Arriving at the North gate of Khaudum National Park and still having a long way to go before reaching the tarred B8.  The condition of the road progressively started getting worse the further North we drove.

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There was no way to reach any decent speed for any decent amount of time as there were too many corrugations in the sand and crisscrossing tyre tracks across the path that end up shaking the car and your body around. The sand got progressively thicker and softer in places.

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We arrived at this local village.  They must have us coming as they all had made their way to the roadside by the time we got there.  They stopped us and showed us their arts and crafts.  They asked if we had any clothes, sweets, pens or anything we could give them.  I was happy to part with something that they could use and handed over a few pens, some paper and some clothing for this lovely lady to share and use.

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We bought this unfinished basket.

It’s a good idea to travel with anything that you can part with for the villages that live far off on the beaten track.  They appreciate any gift or assistance one can give them. I found them incredibly friendly, inquisitive and happy people.  They have lots of natural talent they have learnt from living in the land, and it comes out in their weaved craft, bead and woodwork abilities.

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The last stretch was the most gruelling on our bodies.  We were taking strain having to endure the severe beating it had on us.  It was the final time before reaching the B8.  We came across a broken down car in the middle of the sand road we were on.  We had to bundu bash into the bush a bit to make our way around.  It was in times like these that I felt euphoric to be driving in convoy with our friends in the other cars.

The local clinic/hospital is at the end of the sand road, just before you reach the B8 main road.

We were relieved to have finally reached the tarred B8 and knew that the rest of the drive should be a smooth and comfortable one.  We didn’t have far still to go to reach our next destination.

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In the picture above you will see a little shebeen that is situated right opposite the road from where we joined up to the B8 from the sand track out from the North side of Khaudum National Park.

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The locals have fenced off their kraal communities by using the long reed grass that is grown and harvested locally.

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The Caprivi Strip is one long tar road with a wide variety of dense brush and trees on either side of the road.

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A few of the locals are selling off their bundles of long reeds alongside the road.

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The garage by Divundu where we filled up with fuel but found the Spar shop closed.  We stocked up on a few refreshments from the takeaway cafe, and it wasn’t long till we were back on the road.

We turned right here onto the C48 or D3403 which travels from Divundu to the Mohembo Border Post between Namibia and Botswana. We were stopping for the night, only a few kilometres down the C48.

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The Kubang/Cubango/Kavango/Okavango river. I will explain this name confusion in my following page at Ngepi while sitting alongside this river.

The river was running alongside the road, and it was so good to see some water again.

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A kraal with a few different design ideas, on the outskirts of Divundu.

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The turnoff for Ngepi Camp.  The road leads you down to the river, reception, restaurant, bar and accommodation.

There are many insightful sayings along the way that guide you down the 4.5 kilometres stretch and approximately 20 minuites of driving time to get you to Ngepi.  Some of the sayings are just to reassure you that you are on the right road, that “You are almost there!”

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This sign gave us all a good laugh! Land Rover 2x4s to the left and Toyota 4x4s to the right!  No guessing which one we decided to take.

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We arrived at Ngepi where we hadn’t booked a campsite but were fortunate enough that they had one available for us.  We booked ourselves in, went to the bar and got ourselves all a deliciously refreshing sundowner drink.  We then went to enjoy sipping it while soaking our feet in the cooling waters of the river, with thanks to their famous croc pool.  We watched the sun getting low in the sky and absorbed the beauty of our surroundings.  It was time for us all to relax and to feed our minds, bodies and souls.  Our bodies were longing to get horizontal, an early and deep nights sleep were for all of us.

We had a lovely braai at our campsite alongside the river then Ian and I went to enjoy a fresh, open air, natural shower.  You enter a tall reed fenced circular enclosure where you find yourself in front of a huge tree with its trunk coming through the raised, wood slatted decking with lots of fleshy green plants all around you and a milky way of stars above. It was refreshing feeling the hot water warming your body while the steam from your body floats off you due to the coldness of the air around you. We have had a few natural showers in our travels, but this one had the extra titbits, space and lushness about it. Our bodies felt refreshed inside and out. It was a magical and memorable experience.

I had packed away my camera, not too long after arriving at Ngepi so most of my pictures of our stay here, you will find on our next page.  The next day we were going to be on the road again, driving to another, off the beaten track, National Park where we will be camping in the wild again, in a self-reliant way.

If you’d like to see the route we travelled today with pictures linking up to our GPS tracks in my Garmin adventure, please follow this link:

http://adventures.garmin.com/en-US/by/earth-wanderer/namibia-2013-khaudum-national-park-exiting-out-north-to-ngepi-camp/#.U8mR2Far38s

Information regarding Ngepi Camp:

It is on the upper reaches of the Okavango Delta panhandle in the western Caprivi Strip, Kavango region, Namibia. It is nestled between the Mahango National Park which is a few kilometres to the South and Bwabwata National Park which is across the river from Ngepi camp. They are 200km from Rundu and 320km from Katima Mulilo.

They have tree houses, bush huts and campsites situated alongside the river with well-established trees and bushes allowing you your privacy. You have a choice of camping on the grass for an extra fee.  We parked in the parking area alongside our campsite with our rooftop tents ladder leading onto the lawn area. They provide a fireplace area, a tap with water supplied from the river and solar powered electrical points and ambient lighting.

The ablutions are soul energising with water produced by their solar geysers. The ablution facilities walls have been made out from the reeds growing alongside the camp.  They are open to the sky above.  They have very funky ideas like the throned toilet, that stands proudly on a landing, a few stairs up from the ground, enclosed on either side but entirely open to the bushes behind the loo.   Giving you the feeling of being as close to nature as possible but in true royal style!

Ngepi offers the following attractions to its visitors:
  • Sunset and sunrise boat cruises
  • Fishing
  • Mokoro trips on the river
  • Guided nature and village walk
  • Game drives
  • Dragon river rafting excursions
  • A chance to relax around their world famous croc pool
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, booked in advance from the bar
  • You can buy wood for your fire on the premises.
  • A tap behind the reception building provides UV filtered water where you can fill any water bottles.
  • Namibian game braai packs are available for sale from the bar.
Tips:
  • Ngepi is in a malaria area so be sure to take precautionary measures of which there are many.
  • The closest ATM is in Divundu but doesn’t always work
  • You can buy essential supplies and fuel in Divundu

Their campsite fees are N$ 100 per vehicle, trailer or caravan per night if you park on the grass but free if you park next to the lawn. Plus N$100 pp.

To me, I could see that Ngepi Camp are making an effort by being consciously aware of living with and respecting nature while using it to its best advantages. They have an unusual, naturally made, water/air cooling system close to their parking area,  behind their restaurant which looks good and more importantly, works well.  Well done Ngepi for educating and giving back to your local community.

You can contact Ngepi Camp, Namibia directly at:

P O Box 5140, Divundu, Namibia

Tel:  +264 (0)66 259903 or +264 (0)81 2028200

Fax:  +264 (0)66 259906

Email:  bookings@ngepicamp.com

or visit them at http://www.ngepicamp.com

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