On roads that are drawn with a ruler over hundreds of kilometers we drive to Aus. There we stop for the night at the Klein Aus Vista Campground and make a beautiful hike to a viewpoint in the rocks with a view of the endless expanse of the Namib-Naukluft NP. Here there is actually still a herd of wild horses of about 100 animals that live here in this inhospitable area and have come to terms with the adverse conditions. In the sand someone has drawn a horse with stones that you can see very well from above from 600m height.
On the Trans Kalahari Highway, we quickly reach Namibia, together with Mongolia, the most sparsely populated country in the world. Until the First World War, the former South West Africa was a German colony and in many places one encounters German cultural heritage, be it the naming, the architecture, or the cuisine. Today, about 30,000 ethnic Germans live in Namibia in the fourth or fifth generation and surprisingly, most of them speak accent-free High German, which is strongly encouraged by many German schools. For us it is a bit unusual to hear German almost everywhere or to be addressed in German.
In Windhoek we go to the Urban Campground which almost every traveler knows, and where one can drink in the good restaurant a freshly tapped Hansa beer, brewed after German purity law. There we also meet Ivonne & Rene again with whom we have already spent a few nice days in South Africa at the beginning of the year.
But now our MOMO has to be serviced in the workshop. Unfortunately, it turns out that the bearings of the rear axle were made only provisionally in South Africa, which means that the complete rear axle is no longer usable. After the first shock is digested we take it easy and book ourselves into a guesthouse for a few days. There we spend our time at the pool or in one of the numerous good restaurants nearby. In between, we take a look at the city and stroll through the pedestrian zone.
The border crossing to Botswana near Kasane goes smoothly. Because of the foot and mouth disease we have to undergo a disinfection procedure for us and the tires of our car. The soles of our shoes are bathed in a puddle, then the nice lady wants to have a look into our refrigerator, but she can't get up the stairs because of its considerable volume. Without further ado she looks at the whole thing from below and Karin shows her some ice cubes from the freezer. She is satisfied and we are allowed to pass.
After a few kilometers there is already a supermarket that finally has an offer without asking horrendous prices. Then we get a new SIM card with 15GB data and we are ready for everything that may come.
When Botswana became independent in 1966, it was one of the 25 poorest countries in the world. But then diamonds were discovered in the Kalahari in 1967 and that boosted the economy. Just 20 years later, the country boasted the world's second-highest economic growth rate. However, diamond reserves will be depleted in less than half a century and already the global economic crisis shows how devastatingly dependent Botswana is on its diamond exports. Already today, one in four people of working age is unemployed, and among young people as many as one in three. Due to the natural beauty of the country, such as the Okavango Delta, the Kalahari and the huge salt pans, it is obvious that tourism is of great importance as a foreign exchange-generating economic factor. However, the focus is on luxury tourism with prices of 500 euros/person/day and more. The country has little interest in individual travelers and makes traveling difficult with extremely high park entrance fees, which were increased again by 100% in April of this year. So it is no wonder that the average tourist spends just 5 days in the country. We are now faced with the challenge of finding the best way to visit this country.
In Kasane, we settle in at the campground of Thebe Lodge and take a very nice 3-hour boat trip on the Chobe River.
After a relaxing 10 days in the Forever Resort with hot pool and all other amenities of civilization, we make our way to Zimbabwe at the end of August. Shortly before the border we have to wait two days because of a general strike and spend them with Arno & Carmen who run a butchery here on a huge farm area. In the season, the hunters deliver freshly shot game almost daily, which Arno then processes directly with his helpers. We fill our fridge with fresh Oryx steaks and sausages from Kudu and Impala and thank them again very much for their hospitality.
Today we go again into the Kruger Park. We take the Orpen Gate, about in the middle of the park. Already after a few kilometers we discover a bird of prey sitting on a branch fork and eating its prey. A little further on we see two cheetahs, but unfortunately they are quite far away. Only with a lot of imagination one recognizes their outlines on the pictures. Otherwise not much happens on the 70 kilometers and around eleven o'clock we arrive at Satara Camp and settle in for two days. In the late afternoon we go for a sunset drive and see elephants, giraffes, hyenas and an ostrich, but unfortunately no big cats. Well, it can't always work out.
For Manfred's birthday we want to spoil ourselves and book two days in a safari lodge. The private game reserve Balule with the Pondoro Game Lodge lies in the area of the so-called Greater Kruger Park and is no longer delimited by fences for some years, so that an unhindered migration of the animals is possible. On the day before the birthday we arrive at the lodge around noon and are given a very warm welcome. Our suite is much larger than MOMO and from the terrace we have a beautiful view of the Olifants River.
Kruger Park is 20,000 square kilometers in size and stretches from south to north for a good 320 kilometers with an average width of 60 kilometers. Here are the most animals, but also the most tourists. For almost everyone who spends a few weeks in South Africa, a few days in Kruger Park are on the program, because the chance to see the Big Five in one day is the highest here. For the first seven days we will visit the southern part of the park. Without reservation there is hardly a chance to get a place on one of the campgrounds, but the WEB site of SanParks is very professionally designed and makes it relatively easy to find a free place, if what is free at all. Especially the south is always well visited due to its proximity to Johannesburg, especially since many South Africans also like to spend a long weekend, or the vacations there. From mid-June to July, for example, there was not a single place free because of the winter vacations. In front of Malelane Gate is a golf course with a small campground where we spend the night before it then starts in the morning at 6 am before sunrise. At the gate there is a traffic jam because more people had the idea to leave early. But the friendly staff quickly works through the manageable queue and then we are already inside. For the first two nights we have reserved the Lower Sabie Campground and on the way there we see elephants, rhinos, giraffes, impalas and many other small animals to the right and left of the road. The main roads through the park are paved and the side roads are well maintained dirt roads. Where you see which animals is left to chance and also requires a little luck. It is safe to say that where there is a traffic jam, there is definitely something to see. If there is a bigger traffic jam, you can usually assume that there are predatory cats to be seen. After all there are 1600 lions, 2000 leopards and 150 cheetahs. Around noon we reach our campground, check in and secure a place.
We stay almost a week in the beautiful bush camp before we continue to Eswantini, formerly Swaziland. The border crossing is no problem. Everyone is very nice and friendly and nobody wants to look at the car. Because of the foot and mouth disease there are some restrictions on food and we have hidden our meat as a precaution. Eswantini is a small kingdom in the middle of South Africa of only 17,500 sq km and 1.4 million inhabitants. The king lives in luxury while his people are bitterly poor. More than 70% of the people live on less than a dollar a day and over 40% are unemployed. Meanwhile, each of the king's 15 wives has her own palace. In one of the world's last absolute monarchies, only the king is in charge. Political activities are strictly forbidden and violators face a 20-year prison sentence.
As a tourist, you usually don't notice any of this. The people are friendly and open-minded and laugh a lot. Our first stop is at Mabuda Farm, a coffee and vegetable plantation in beautiful surroundings. On signposted hiking trails you can explore the area and watch the workers picking coffee beans. In a cafe small dishes are offered and of course the excellent coffee. No wonder we stay here for almost a week and enjoy ourselves.
The seven weeks in Germany flew by. We spent a lot of time with our grandchild and celebrated a beautiful wedding of our son Felix and his wife Melina. But then we had enough and wanted to go on tour again. There is a bit of melancholy this time, because unfortunately we will not see our grandchild for a long time.
We leave the Cape Town area and drive up the west coast. At the campsite in Gaanzekral we meet Verena & Wolfgang from Austria again who have been on the road for several years and who supported us so great when we had the problem with the rear axle at the beginning of our trip. We spend three relaxed days together, cook and barbecue and have a lot to tell each other. On the last evening we are joined by Yvonne & Rene, whom we already met at the Cape. With heavy hearts we say goodbye to each other and hope that our paths will cross again sometime.