Rivers of plenty

Richard van Ryneveld Richard van Ryneveld

Part Two

In last month’s issue, Richard van Ryneveld put us in the front seat on a wonderful trip along the dry river beds of north-western Namibia. That first instalment ended at Camp Xaragu near Twyfelfontein. Join the happy travellers on the last leg of their trip through Palmwag, Purros and finally Outjo. Words and pictures by Richard van Ryneveld.

From the moment you open your leather information folder at the beginning of a Mondjila Adventure trip, you can be in no doubt that Johan has done his homework. He knows practically every nook, cranny and track in the Kaokoveld. A case in point was the ‘bottomless’ sinkhole, or ‘wondergat,’ that he pointed out on our way to Camp Xaragu.

Camp Xaragu is one of those magic places that pop up in the middle of nowhere. Run by Koedoe and Rina Kruger, the camp is populated by a menagerie of habituated orphans – including a manic meerkat named Xaragu.

The venue offers great shaded campsites and really comfortable en-suite tented rooms. I wasn’t in the least surprised to learn that Rina has been made an honorary member of the Damara people and runs the camp in conjunction with them. Rina and her staff have a choir, which came and serenaded us at our campsite, adding another special moment to our memory banks.Soon after leaving Xaragu we stopped to watch a soccer match at a place called the Tora Conservancy. It was a colourful affair, with hordes of kids and adults sitting around the dusty gravel field, a couple of battered speakers pumping out the music, and the game on at full steam. Continuing to Palmwag, we passed herds of cattle as the road wound its way between flat-topped hills dotted with thorn trees.

Palmwag Lodge, with its stands of waving palm trees, is situated on the banks of the Uniab River and offers nine comfortable and well-maintained campsites. After trundling off to the swimming pool for a swim with Alfie and the kids, Dom and I went for an evening drive in our trusty Land Rover to take photographs.

In last month’s instalment I described our meeting with the black rhino shortly after leaving Palmwag that morning: “Then the two Defender 130s were bumper-to-bumper. Stupidly, I climbed out to see where Leonie had spotted the black rhino, by looking in front of the lead vehicle. I couldn’t for the life of me see the beast, until Johan shouted, “Not in our direction…. Look RIGHT… It’s charging towards YOU!” It took me an alarmingly long time to spot the five-ton grey behemoth approaching from some 100 metres away. Luckily it broke off its charge and, with a small branch still in its mouth, the black rhino lumbered out of the dry riverbed on the rocky slope to our right.”

Dominique’s diary notes of the rest of the day: huge amount of game – zebra, gemsbok, large springbok herds, eight giraffe, a juvenile Martial Eagle. A dead zebra; looks like a very recent kill. Stopped under some Ebony trees for a break. Found fresh lion spoor but couldn’t spot the lion. It took us eight hours to drive 120 kilometres. The scenery changed from golden grasslands, to bush with Mopane scrub, to bare expanses of rough stony plains down to the Hoanib River.

We’d set up camp out in the riverbed in the desert dunes, so – being close to the sea and the Skeleton Coast Park – we woke up to an early morning mist. Dominique was certain she’d heard the loud grunting call of a lion. Driving down the riverbed, we spotted elephant; and Johan picked up lion spoor. We fanned out in the vehicles on both sides of the thickly-treed riverbeds, on the lookout for the elusive cats. Suddenly the radio crackled to life. “Come quickly – two lionesses with five cubs. They’re moving out of the riverbed; follow our tracks.” Like the miracle sighting of the black rhino the day before, our tightlyknit team was treated to the sight of two collared females, with their five cubs, slowly making their way up into the stony canyon on the southern side of the Hoanib River.

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