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Travel Gallery

Outjo & Khowarib Schlucht

Outjo & Keith's Elephant Project

On our trip to Namibia in 2003 we had met Dr. Keith Leggett at the fuel station in Sesfontein, and a discussion about his research project with desert-dwelling elephants ensued. This time, we had arranged to meet him for a drink in Outjo, his home base.

We met at the Bäckerei Outjo, a nice German bakery/café located at the road towards Kamanjab, with tasty German cakes and coffee. The strudel was as good as the one in Solitaire.

Meeting Keith was great. We talked a lot about desert-dwelling elephants and his project, and about what we had seen on our trip so far. After an hour, Keith invited us to join him for dinner and stay at his place for the night.

The desert-dwelling elephants project aims to identify and monitor desert-dwelling elephants in the Hoanib River catchment, to investigate and improve the interactions of increasing numbers of elephants with increasing ranges on one hand, and the communities that live on the same land, on the other. For more info on the project, read this abstract. And if you want to invest some money into a satellite tracking collar for elephants, and have some real fun joining Keith during the actual collaring, get in contact with him...

Keith's desert elephant project is one of the Earthwatch expeditions (like my meerkat expedition), so he has accommodation available. The twin rooms are basic, with shared bathrooms. They can also be booked by other travelers, if they're not occupied by Earthwatch volunteers (70 N$ pppn).

We had a great evening with Keith, having drinks and a braai and long discussions. Keith showed us charts of the movements of some of his satellite-tracked desert elephants (one radio-collared bull walked for 90 km between Amspoort and Hoarusib in one day, without food or water!), and told us lots about the habits of those guys. "Just let them come to you" would be a phrase we remembered often during the coming days... He gave us advice where to look for elephants - September being the best time to see them! And lots of other stuff not to mention here. And he gave us many more ideas on what to do during our 2 weeks of holidays - enough for 4 weeks at least. Well, we'll come back to Namibia anyway...


Khowarib Schlucht

The next morning, we went over our maps again with Keith for last directions, and then left towards northwest - with two Berliners (kind of German donuts) from the German Bakery. One nice route Keith had suggested was "going west in the south-western corner of Etosha", towards Khowarib. Only very much later, we realized that this was Khowarib Schlucht we were aiming at - we had heard about this beautiful region on our earlier trip!

From this south-western corner, just as the Etosha fence starts, we turned left onto P3223. We followed a fence (of the Hobatere concession), which had been torn down many times - by elephants, as there are migrations between the arid regions in the West and Etosha in the East. The fence led to a veterinary gate, Kamdescha. This is noted on the Shell map of Kaokoland, so we could use this map from there. While standing at the gate, JJ suddenly noticed that one of our tyres lost pressure. An quick investigation showed that the valve of this tyre looked different, and it stuck out in a strange angle - the tyre lost its air there. Mr. Paulus, the kind officer of the gate, helped JJ to change the tyre, and he also showed me a very detailed map of the region to Khowarib (contact me if you want a pic of it).

Nevertheless, we took the wrong direction just after the first riverbed, after 6 km - right instead of middle (no, you do not question my map-reading abilities!). We followed this track northwards, not a very interesting trip, just a few long-horned cattle. After ca. 10 km we met another car. The gentleman told us to follow him, and he led us back, through a beautiful little valley with several zebra, giraffe and springbok, to the right track. We wouldn't have found this without my remarkable map-reading abilities! This track eventually leads to dust holes (deep worn-out sidearms of a river, very sandy) and then over a wide plain called Otjingambo - and Little Serengeti on another map. And right, we met lots of game, and also several Kori Bustards which we hadn't seen since our last trip to Etosha.

The track took the direction of a cleft between two mountains, and we passed a little village to enter the Ombonde riverbed. The scenery changed immediately, instead of a wide plain, there were now mountains with terrific geological features, folded all over. On the other hand, when we stepped out of our car, we saw that it had lost all its features - being covered in dust all over...

We drove on down the riverbed, and eventually came to a place where water ran. There were cows, and some Himba huts to the left. We took this direction - this is actually a nice communal campsite (not the "official" Khowarib campsite, but some 5 km upstream), but it meant we had ended up on the wrong side of the river. Crossing the river was not bad, but it was difficult to find a way to get on the high sand banks again. One, two - both of them too steep to be tackled without lowering tyre pressure. So we went up the third and succeeded - only to fall down into a little ravine to our left just after the top of the bank! The track made a sharp right turn which we hadn't followed. So I ended up sitting way lower than JJ, with our car uncomfortably tilted to the left - maybe at a 45° angle?

Not knowing how much tilt this car would take before it would fall over, we carefully got out. And, well, we took the spade down from the car and started moving sand to try and get the car even again... After about an hour, we heard a man singing - Mr. Karunga who looks after the community campsite on his way home. He agreed to help us get the car out. So we three dug for a few more hours, moved several cubic metres of sand and actually built a little road of stones and twigs for our car to get out unscathed. Close to 10 pm it succeeded!!!! We were exhausted, the car looked dirty but otherwise fine, and Mr. Karunga got the agreed salary plus a bonus for after-hours work, a t-shirt and some Swiss chocolate - and we built camp just were we were and fell asleep. Well, next time I will get out of the car and investigate tricky tracks also after the 10th time...

The next day, Mr. Karunga - very kindly - asked us to pay the camping fee of 20 N$ pppn - we still camped on the community campsite. We took Mr. Karunga out to Khowarib, and drove on to Sesfontein. We had a rock shandy at the Fort - the garden and pool there are really nice, but JJ had stayed there once for a night and really didn't like it. Plus the rock shandies where rather expensive... The Fort does also have a workshop, but we nevertheless had to go to a small tyre repair booth near the main road. The service there was excellent - including support of ca. 5 year old Ronaldo, the son of the shop owner who will be a famous football player in 15 years from now... Bad thing was that we found out that we had had a problem with a tyre which had already been repaired! Instead of a tubeless we were given a tubed tyre - not nice if you consider that Asco asks customers to replace punctured tyres instead of just mending them (this was no problem for us, however, when we gave back the car).

From there, we drove on Northwest, to Ganumub and Hoanib...


Last update:  22:59 11/03 2007
Kalahari Meerkats
Augrabies NP
Naries - more flowers
Kleinzee diamond mine
Namibia's South, Orange
Fish River Canyon
Koichab Dunes
D707 scenic route
Büllsport & Naukluft
Windhoek & Waterberg
Outjo & Khowarib Gorge
Hoanib & Amspoort
Desert Elephants
Purros, Hoarusib & Khumib
Huab, Doros, Ugab
Erongo, Boshua, WDH
Travel facts
Gallery of this trip

Kamdescha tyre repair

Dust holes at Otjingambo

Kori's Bustard

Camouflage car in Khowarib

Entering Khowarib Gorge

On the wrong side of Ombonde river

5 p.m.

Sunset with Mr. Karunga

10 p.m.

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