Letters to Florence
Letters to Florence. Letters describing great adventures, from a large floral canvas tote bag travelling in Africa to another large floral canvas tote bag in Australia.
24th April 2022
I am leaving for Africa tomorrow. South Africa, to be precise. I will be away from Australia for six months, and plan to do some wonderful safaris, a lot of hiking and having fun, as well as visiting family and friends.
At the moment I am enjoying my last sundowner on Busselton beach. It is a warm and balmy evening, and there are plenty of hungry seagulls about, hoping for morsels of food. I often see people sitting around on the sand eating fish and chips and tossing bits of their dinner to the birds. It is a pity as they are spoilt now, and expect everyone, including me to do the same.
I brought a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses, snacks and a thermos of ice with me. It is all gone now, and it's probably time to wander off home. The sun has set and and it’s bound to get chilly soon.
I shall carry on with my packing. Being a large, canvas tote bag - this should be a breeze, although I am so worried that I may leave something important behind. The fact that I am actually going for so long has not hit home yet. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the time to reflect on my good fortune. I expect that once I am on the plane, I will be hopping up and down with excitement.
I shall miss you my dear. Do give my best to Phoebe and Helena at the next ladies luncheon. I shall miss those get-togethers too, but I am sure there will be many opportunities to have fun in Africa.
Keep well and stay wild.
25th April 2022
The journey has begun. I am sitting at Perth domestic airport waiting for my flight to Sydney. I know this is a roundabout route - flying east and then west again to Johannesburg, but there are no direct flights from Perth to South Africa.
Bernadette, a large, canvas tote bag.
It is going to be a very long journey with about four and a half hours to Sydney, a layover of three hours and then a long fourteen hour stint to our destination. It is late already, our flight leaves close to midnight. The flight is full. I expect everyone is so happy to be able to travel again with Covid, that they are all rushing to go somewhere.
Being a large, canvas tote bag, I am carrying two cameras and a heavy canon camera lens, as well as an iPad, two phones (one for South Africa and my Australian one), four pairs of reading glasses - you know how I’m always losing my specs, two pairs of sunglasses, a scarf and my wallet, with ease. I do of course have hand sanitiser and a couple of spare masks and my bag of jewellery as well as my box of medicine, which i need to take twice daily. One can’t be too careful these days and all precious items should be part of carry-on luggage and not put into the hold where they could be stolen.
25th April 6.30pm
I am now sitting in Sydney airport lounge. There are a lot of people around for four in the morning. We flew forwards in time, so three and a half hours became only one and a half hours on the clock. Soon we will be flying backwards in time by six hours, so we have lost our gain and then some.
Everyone seems happy and excited, and I must say - I am too.
There is a lovely lady who keeps staring wistfully at me. I think I have a fan. I am flattered as there are some very lovely stores in this airport with designer bags galore; tote bags, travel bags, gym bags and even some baby bags. You name any kind of bag, and it is here. This lady has a lot of choice. I have decided that she is my perfect owner avatar; chic in a fun way, a lover of life and a little bit wild.
I don’t mean to brag, well, maybe a little bit, but I suppose my quality craftsmanship, versatility and beautiful design are shining through.
It’s almost time to go now, they have called the Johannesburg flight, so I bid you farewell for a while. I am already missing you and the rest of the Wild Things Lifestyle ladies.
Goodbye for now and keep well.
26th April 2020
My dear Florence
I just had to write again to tell you about my journey from Perth to Johannesburg.
Large canvas tote bag, perfect for travel
On boarding, I was placed into an overhead locker, which was the perfect space for my bulky load. Being full to the brim, I did wonder for a bit, if I would fit in. Ha ha … I needn’t have worried as I was designed to meet carry-on luggage specifications.
The fourteen hour flight was restful and very comfortable, and I was only disturbed once, in order to give up a pair of multifocal reading glasses out of my internal zipped pocket. It was obviously film-watching time in the cabin.
We arrived mid-afternoon at Oliver Tambo Airport, between the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, with a smooth touchdown, I’m happy to say - this being my very first trip on an aeroplane. Disembarking through a tunnel which was attached to the aircraft door, we then proceeded for a long way through corridors and down escalators to customs where I was instrumental in providing the necessary documentation from my outside zipped pocket this time.
My detachable cross-body strap came in handy for this part of the trip, and I was whisked along effortlessly, in hands-free mode, and finally placed into the top basket of a large trolley, the base of which was soon filled up with suitcases and diving bags from a nearby carousel.
On the way out of the airport I met up with the statue of the famous O.R. Tambo himself, and just had to pose for a photo.
I am so happy to be here Florence. This is going to be a wonderful vacation, a return to my roots, a celebration of my heritage. I know I am now part of the global family that is Wild Things Lifestyle, but I feel it is very important to take time out to ‘come home.’
Send my best to Phoebe and Helena and do write when you get a moment. I have the last photograph we took of us all together, tucked into one of my pockets, and this keeps you all close to my heart.
2nd May 2022
What adventures I am having! I have just travelled by car from Johannesburg to the Western Cape of South Africa, and am now in Hermanus enjoying some early winter sunshine.
The trip through the Karoo was amazing. Semi-desert, with the strangest looking mountains called ‘koppies.’ They are large pyramid shaped hills topped with a ridge of solid dolomite, which looks like a little hat. The days there were hot, and the nights, very cold. We stayed in a tented camp in Camdeboo game reserve for the first night, and drove way up a mountain the following morning to look at some dramatic rock formations.
After that, it was onwards to the little town of Montagu for the night. This town is completely surrounded by huge folded mountain ranges, one can just imagine the forces of nature millions of years ago, that created these incredible waves of rock. We stayed on a lovely farm and walked in the fynbos (native bush land), finding a few early winter proteas and a few other flowers here and there. The town is full of quaint architecture, lovely little houses, mostly painted white in the old Dutch style. I met your cousin at one of the local cafes and she posed in an old ox-wagon for a photograph.
The trip a few days later to Hermanus, a coastal town in the Western Cape, was good. At one stage, I sat on the edge of the road and a whole flock of sheep came rushing up to me, baa-ing and carrying on. I can only suspect that they thought I was full of food for them.
adventures of a large canvas tote bag
After a stop at the Napier Farm Stall, we continued, armed with gifts of melktert (a local sweet tart made with milk) for our Hermanus hosts, to our destination for a couple of days.
Wish you were here, you would have especially loved the milk tart.
Keep well and have fun.
6th May 2022
My dearest Florence
I am at last in the beautiful city of Cape Town. I am very privileged to have a view of Table Mountain from my hotel room - what a spectacle to wake up to every morning.
Large floral canvas tote bag in Cape Town
The last few days were spent in Hermanus with family. It was good to catch up after years apart. On leaving, we drove around the coast past Pringle Bay where we had spectacular ocean views - and then on towards the city to old friends near Muizenberg. One morning we went for breakfast in Constantia, and I was very pleased to see that one of the dishes (a berry bowl), incorporated all my favourite colours. I felt that I had finally met my match in beauty and elegance, ha ha!
We are staying at the Waterfront for a couple of days and catching up with more friends and relatives, which is always fun, and will be going to see a brother's yacht moored close by, and a niece's house in the colourful Bo-Kaap today, both of which I am looking forward to immensely.
I am proving very useful on this trip, carting around shopping, computers, articles of clothing and the odd picnic. We are hiking, having lovely brunches and spending our short time here doing as much as we can possibly fit in. The Waterfront is a fun place full of talented buskers and huge steel sculptures.
We will be leaving tomorrow and heading north. I will most definitely update you on the next leg of our journey soon. In the meantime - do look after yourself and check up on our two dear friends, Helena and Phoebe. I worry about them, needlessly I expect, as I am sure you would get word to me if all was not well in these times of Covid.
Until next time
9th May 2022
Thank you for your letter. I am thrilled to hear you are all well. I must say, I am missing you girls more and more as my journey continues.
From Cape Town, we traveled north through the Karoo. The early settlers described this region as a frightening place of great heat, great frosts, great droughts and great floods. A place of great extremes to be precise. I found it to be quite beautiful, with lovely bush veld, fat sheep and large koppies, which are those strange pyramid shaped mountains I mentioned in a previous letter. We drove through quaint towns and visited a few charming farm stalls - one of which sold ketties, the local name for catapults, presumably used for slinging stones at unwary animals.
We spent the night on the banks of the mighty Orange river in a lovely little chalet and set off the next morning via Bloemfontein to Golden Gate Highlands Park, stopping en route for a speedy breakfast at one of those iconic South African roadside restaurants - the Wimpy. One might ask, ’why the roundabout trip.’ Well, the answer is, ‘to visit a long-ago seen sister who lives on the Orange river.’
We arrived at our evening's destination in time for a two-hour hike into spectacular gorges, before settling down for a chilly night in a rondawel (round African hut, often with a thatched roof.) This was my first time here and I must say, it is mighty impressive, with soaring cliffs all around, in ochre colours, hence the name.
Large floral canvas tote bag at Golden gate.
We left Golden Gate early this morning in heavy fog. It was quite a challenge avoiding potholes under those conditions. A lot of the South African roads have deteriorated immensely since my last visit, which is a huge pity as it tends to add hours on to each part of the journey. The early morning temperature was one degree Celsius, a bit cold for my liking.
We are at present descending a high mountain pass into Barberton, famed for its daisies and gold. This is where the first South Africa gold was found. From here we will proceed to Malelane in the lowveld where we will do a bit of shopping and then enter into the Kruger National Park, where we will be spending the next month. As I am a large canvas tote bag, I am proving very useful for carrying all sorts of things on this huge adventure.
Oh. Florence. I am so looking forward to being on safari. I am afraid that you may not hear from me for a good while, as the wifi signal in the park is notoriously poor. Be certain, - I will write when I can as I am sure you will find this part of my trip very entertaining. Be sure to share my letters with the other ladies. This should be very nostalgic for Helena, being of South African origin and Phoebe, like yourself should find everything quite fascinating.
Until next time.
1st June 2022
Florence my dear,
I cannot express in words, what a marvelous time I am having on safari. The animals are magnificent, and the scenery - just as awe-inspiring. We have traveled through wooded areas in the south, thornveld and savannah grasslands in the centre, mopani trees further north, and right up to magnificent, forested areas at the top of the park, in the Pafuri area.
Here, the baobabs are enormous and quite elephant ravaged. Those huge beasts are partial to nibbling on the juicy bark. Luckily the trees are vastly greater than the elephants so manage to survive these onslaughts. Gleaming yellow/green fever trees stand out in the morning sun, and birds of every shape and colour flit about with not a worry in the world.
large floral canvas tote bag on safari
We have stayed in some lovely camps, most of which have charming, round huts, which I mentioned in my last letter. It is so lovely to lie on the bed at night and look up at the intricate patterns of the thatch-work ceilings.
I have sat on a large animal skull, met some lovely park employees and encountered a huge bronze elephant. I was also fortunate enough to sit on top of the Crooks Corner beacon which was considered no-man's-land in the old days as it is on the border of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. If the long arm of the law started to catch up with an ivory-poacher, all the crook needed to do was run behind the beacon where the law couldn’t reach him for fear of violating an international boundary. If three officers from three countries approached the crook at once, he could jump up and sit on top of the beacon and be safe from all of them.
My favourite camp so far is the Pafuri Border camp which is situated on a high hill above the border post between South Africa and Mozambique. This is the old recruitment station for the South African mines. Mozambicans who applied, were given a medical examination and if they passed, they were sent off to various mines. There are only three dwellings, Mockford House, Mockford Cottage and the Doctors House, all beautifully renovated and nestled amongst enormous trees. I am happy to say that there are no monkeys there, as they are a real problem at other camps and in most of the picnic areas. They steal food from right under one's nose whilst preparing lunch. They are clever enough to open cupboards and boxes, and everything containing edible delights needs to be battened down or locked away.
Another very beautiful camp was Shimuwini, where we stayed in a rather nice house which looked onto a river. We were awakened by elephants roaring at each other, I hear it's the young bulls trying to assert themselves. We had a big old bull buffalo come and graze in front of our house every evening and one morning we woke to find a giraffe, all but sleeping on our front lawn. There was a big electric fence in-between us, luckily. Herds of elephants, including tiny babies, traipsed past every day and many different types of antelope cavorted around, keeping us well entertained.
There has been an inordinate amount of unseasonal rain here, resulting in water everywhere, as well as thick leafy vegetation. This reduces one's chances of seeing game, but we have been very lucky so far. We have seen many hyenas, glimpsed lions, witnessed a leopard eating an impala and spent a good while watching two magnificent cheetahs right next to the road. We even saw a huge python in a tree. I do love the zebra too, with their beautiful striped coats and rotund forms. Many of them have babies at the moment.
It does get frightfully dusty at times as we are often travelling on dirt roads, but that does not worry me, as a quick wipe with a damp cloth and I am good as new. As you are aware, this is due to our canvas exteriors being treated for water resistance. I am fortunate enough to be sitting at the window in the back seat of the car, so have a good view of everything. As usual, being a large canvas tote bag has proved extremely useful for carrying around all sorts of gear for our daily forays into the wild. Oh! The thrill of it all.
I have enclosed some photographs to give you a sense of the place. I am sure you will enjoy them, and I sincerely hope to return with you and the girls one day, as this is an experience not to be missed by anyone. Sending lots of love and wishing you were all here.
Your dearest friend
9th June 2022
I must say I was total devastated when I heard that it was time to leave Kruger. I am getting to love this place, and the safari life. My disappointment was dissipated somewhat, by the fact that we will be returning for two weeks in October. I was even more thrilled to hear that we are visiting another game reserve, albeit only for 2 days, on the way to our winter abode in KwaZulu Natal.
The last week in Kruger was as amazing as the previous three weeks. We saw a lot more game, including crocodiles feeding on fish at an overflowing drift, stayed in other lovely huts and chalets and had many more picnics. The birds, as usual were a big part of the picture.
On our very last day we happened on some lionesses on a kill right next to the road. I had to crane out of the window to see them down below, they were that close. There were a couple of hyenas standing by waiting for their turn at the spoils and even a small jackal was skulking in the bushes nearby. Here in Africa, everyone gets their turn, ending with the vultures, who come later and pick the bones clean. I must say, I did feel a little sorry for the wildebeest that provided this feast.
I am packed full of computers, iPads, phones and camera accessories for our journey south. Being a large, canvas tote bag, I am durable with a very spacious interior.
Our next stop will be Mkhuze Game Reserve in northern KZN, and I will update you once we have done with that part of our adventure.
13th June 2022
Here we are in the little coastal town of Mtunzini, an hour and a half north of Durban by road. You do know where Durban is, don’t you Florence? If unsure, ask Helena to show you on a map seeing that she has been here before. But first let me elaborate on Mkhuze where we spent the last two days.
This reserve is very different from Kruger. It is hard to explain, but the light seems softer somehow and the bush is lusher and more tropical. Bright aloes were flowering in the camp. Great, towering fever trees abound as well as enormous fig trees. We were very privileged to be taken for a walk through the mighty fig forest by an armed guide called Patrick. He warned us not to run if we happened on an elephant of buffalo. He did not seem too worried about lions and hippo, though I must say I was a bit wary, especially when we got close to the crocodile infested river. We walked over rope bridges and through thick mud and unfortunately never got to see the very rare Pel’s Fishing Owl which is a specialty of this place. We also spent a lot of time in hides, photographing birds and animals that came to drink in the waterholes.
There is a huge pan there, filled to the brim with water and teeming with waterfowl of every description. Hippos grunt continually and crocodiles lie around lazily in the sunshine. It is all quite marvelous. For the two days I was mostly carrying around picnic stuff and water for our game drives and walks.
As I said before, we have reached our little rented cottage in Mtunzini where we will be staying for the coldest two months of winter. It is warm here, much warmer than Perth so I am extremely happy about that. The house is called Nkawu Cottage (Nkawu meaning monkey) and only yesterday while we were out, one of the pesky animals got in through a window that we accidentally left open and ate half a loaf of bread and made a big mess of every single room.
There is a lovely nature reserve at the lagoon and here zebra roam freely and unfenced. They are said to be found in the main street of the town every now and then. Tiny red antelope called Red Duiker, are plentiful and one can get very close to them before they scurry back into the dense dune forest. The beach is endless and oh! …I could wax lyrical for hours about this place, it is so magnificent.
I hear we will be doing quite a few day and overnight trips to various other spots using Mtunzini as our home base. I will certainly come in very useful here, as I can carry a lot of clothing and all sorts of things in my roomy interior.
I will update you on further news as we progress from one exciting trip to the next.
As usual, send my love to Phoebe and Helena and of course love to you too.
23rd July, 2022
How are you getting on in chilly Perth? I am so sorry that I have neglected to write for so long, but I have been extremely busy having fun, here in Mtunzini and surrounds. Holidays can be hectic you know, what with rushing around, seeing and doing as much as possible.
We have been in our little Nkawu cottage for over a month now and have been using it as a base to go on adventures all around Kwazulu Natal.
Every morning I wake up to the sound of beautiful birdsong. The birds have much gentler voices here than our squawking parrots and crows in Australia. We have large trumpeter hornbills flying over the cottage on a daily basis. Their beaks are so big and heavy, that they have to flap their wings like crazy to stay in the air. There are beautiful robins and wagtails and many other species that wander around on the lawn and the constant kok kok kok of the purple crested touraco is very soothing for the soul.
We recently spent a couple of nights at a small game reserve which is a couple of hours drive north, through the most beautiful hills full of flowering aloes. Our little hut there was very nice and comfortable, and we had a wild bush-pig visit our dinner table one evening. It was huge and hairy with small shiny eyes. I hear they can be quite aggressive, so we shooed it away. We saw the critically endangered White Rhinoceros every day during our drives, and one day were rewarded with seeing twenty-two of these magnificent peaceful creatures that are mercilessly hunted for their horns. I am sad to say that they have been poached to extinction in most of the reserves in Africa, which is a terribly sad state of affairs.
We have had many trips to the beach for walking and fishing and also a couple of good days out on a friend's boat for some spearfishing adventures. I must say there is a lot of fish eaten in this cottage, and many friends are invited around to share in the bounty.
Large canvas tote bag makes the perfect beachbag - being water resistant with waterproof lining.
After collecting more mussels, a week ago down south, we bumped into a great aunt of Helena and, amazingly, a cousin of our Phoebe who was visiting friends in South Africa. They were both on the beach at Salt Rock. What a small world this is.
Our hikes in the beautiful coastal dune forests have been good, with plenty of birdwatching on the way. Last week we went on a trip with a local bird guide called Junior, up into the high grasslands and the pristine Ngoye forest. It was four by four territory, and a friend took us in her vehicle over rough tracks to what seemed like the top of the world, from where we could see for miles and miles. The rolling yellow hills were dotted with clusters of colourful Zulu huts, wild bananas and cycads, with the odd, bright red, flowering coral tree in between. The forest itself was magnificent with enormous trees of many varieties towering over dense clusters of twisted vines which are called ‘monkey ropes.' We saw a lot of birds including a couple of specials that only occur in this particular forest in the whole world. What a treat.
A camping trip at Cape Vidal nature reserve was another huge adventure. We stayed in the Parks board camp site with a bunch of really lovely friends and had a lot of fun. Game drives and walks during the day, sundowners in beautiful places in the evenings and some fishing and collecting of black mussels to add to the pot. Just like in Western Australia, the beaches here are endless and deserted, once you walk away from the camp area. It is all so wild and free and wonderful.
Today is going to be a glorious twenty-seven degrees so I must rush to get ready, to go walking with a friend.
Until next time, dear girl. Do keep well and warm.
Your great friend
19th August 2022
It’s been a while, but what a while! We have been rushing around to places I have only ever dreamed of.
Our days in Zululand have come to an end after two wonderful months of fun with friends and plenty of exploring and adventure. We capped off this part of our journey with a trip to Tembe Elephant Reserve in the far north of KZN. We had three glorious nights in the Tembe Lodge, residing in a very well-appointed safari tent with en suite, including a luxurious outdoor shower. Being a large canvas tote bag, I was tasked with carrying all our daily items such as binoculars, phones and cameras, to and from the game drive vehicles.
Large canvas tote bag outside a safari tent.
The alarm went off at 5.30 every morning and we had to be in the dining room for coffee and a light breakfast at 6am. We all piled into open game drive vehicles at 6.30 and were driven around for three hours, through the most beautiful sand forests and grasslands. Our driver, Philemon, was extremely knowledgeable and pointed out birds, trees and animals at every turn. We saw lion three times and had elephant coming so close that we could have reached out and touched them, though obviously we didn’t do that. Ha ha! These mighty beasts are the biggest elephants in the world. We even stopped in the middle of the bush, and all got out for mid-morning coffee and rusks, with buffalo grazing peacefully nearby.
A huge breakfast followed a few hours later by lunch, and then another three-hour game drive with sundowner drinks in the bush, took us to 6.30 pm. Time for a quick shower before dinner. So much food, and all in such a lovely setting with a vast open thatched dining room and a big log fire. This is a ‘must visit’ for you when you finally make it over here. It is all quite reminiscent of the old tales of colonial living.
Our next stop was for three nights in the Drakensburg, at Didima Camp in the Cathedral Peak area. Staying in lofty, strangely shaped thatched bungalows, we were very pleased to have fireplaces inside, as the mornings and nights were extremely chilly. The days warmed up somewhat and we enjoyed long hikes through the soaring mountains and into gorges with massive yellowwood forests and huge boulders. The scenery was quite spectacular, with rolling yellow grasslands interspersed with cabbage trees and waboom (a type of protea, so … part of my heritage), cladding the valleys and foothills of the great mountains of sandstone and basalt. Herds of Eland roamed freely, troops of baboons barked constantly and many colourful birds flitted around everywhere.
The next leg of our journey took us halfway across the country to a truly lovely game reserve in the middle of the Orange Free State near Kimberly. Mokala reserve is a hidden gem teeming with antelope of every kind you can imagine, from herds of Sable and Roan to the tiniest Steenbokkies and everything in-between. Buffalo, giraffe and other plains game were abundant too, and we saw quite a few White Rhino which was wonderful. These massive animals had all been dehorned and marked with bright painted numbers as part of the anti-poaching effort. The scenery was quite spectacular - miles and miles of golden savannah grassland dotted with Kameeldoring (Camelthorn trees) on bright ochre-red soil.
Our accommodation was a lovely spacious chalet with a good outdoor deck and braai area, overlooking a fast-flowing river. From our deck, we saw Kudu with the biggest horns ever and even a Cape Silver Fox.
A very early and chilly start on the third morning took us another good distance to the town of Upington in the northern Cape. The scenery en route was really quite stunning with low velvety golden hills bedecked with pastel hued shrubs in sage and pale turquoise. The sky was covered with sparse, low cloud - softening the light and creating an almost ethereal landscape. It is very hard to describe all that I am experiencing, and I hope to keep my memories alive with all the photographs that have been taken along the way.
We are now in a lodge outside Upington on the road to Kgalagadi National Park which will be our next stop. It is bitterly cold this evening and I am looking forward to a bit of sunshine tomorrow.
Do keep well and stay warm in wintry and wet Perth. Love to Phoebe and Helena and lots for you.
25th August 2022
How are you faring in chilly Perth? It is still cool here but getting warmer every day.
The nights are very cold, in fact they have been going down to 1 and 2 degrees Celsius just before dawn. One has to dress warmly to begin the day, and strip off layers as the heat builds.
A short note on our experiences in the Kalahari. Please share these letters with Phoebe and Helena, as I am sure that they will find them terribly exciting.
Kgalagadi game reserve lies on the Namibian border of South Africa and is comprised of two vast valleys covered in silky golden grass, stretching for miles and miles in a north and north easterly direction respectively, from the very grand entrance at Twee Rivieren, which means Two Rivers. The rivers are underground and at regular intervals, boreholes have been set in order to bring water to the surface in concrete pools called waterholes. The animals and birds flock to these sources of refreshment and one can park at these spots for a good while to see what happens by.
We spent the first three nights in the tented camp which comprises a series of well-appointed tents with en suites, separate kitchens and braai areas. These are all perched on a high ridge overlooking a golden valley with a waterhole which is lit at night. Gemsbok, Springbok and Gnus can be seen wandering back and forth down below and a vast variety of birds flit about and can easily be photographed from the outside deck area. It is all extremely entertaining.
The jackals (I like to call them foxes as they have the dearest little faces) are a pest here, and one has to be on constant guard as they will jump up and steal anything they can chew. We were informed by the camp manager that they hauled off someone’s iPad, that he left lying on the wall of the deck area and chewed it to bits.
Large canvas tote bag meets a black backed jackal
We spent our mornings and late afternoons driving up and down spotting game and birds and cooking our breakfasts at one of the lovely picnic sites. I have some special news for you Florence; Quite by accident, I bumped into your great aunt Maud during one of our meals, and she agreed to pose for a photo in front of a nearby historical building. She is looking really good and sends you her best, trusting that you will visit one day.
During the heat of the day, we retired to our shady deck to rest up, update bird-lists and drink cool drinks. The ground squirrels come up close and are quite mischievous and many varieties of colourful birds come a-begging for crumbs. We are not allowed to feed them of course.
The following days were spent at Mata Mata Camp in a comfortable chalet. Late evenings after our braai dinner we would amble over to the hide in the camp and wait for animals to come to the floodlit waterhole. One evening we saw a lion there, and I must say, we heard them roaring most nights all around the camp. After that it was on to Nossob, where we had quite a grand riverfront chalet with a large verandah overlooking that camp waterhole. We saw Gemsbok and Jackal those evenings, and on one occasion a large Spotted Eagle Owl flew down and sat right next to me on the low wall of the verandah. During the days we saw plenty of Cheetah and even an African Wild Cat which is quite a rare sighting.
These wild places are really growing on me and I have decided that regular safaris are very good for the soul. Our next stop is Namibia and I am so looking forward to that too.
Keep well and do write to your aunt as I promised you would. I must say, I am missing you and the girls but it is only a couple of months until I return.
Best wishes to all,
I have been out of Namibia for a while now, and have been extremely busy visiting friends in Cape Town. This is not a good excuse for not writing sooner though, and I hope you will forgive me for my tardiness.
Namibia was a truly amazing experience and I will tell you all about it now. It may be a good idea to gather the girls and read this letter to them, as it will most definitely whet their appetites for a trip to Africa.
We entered the country through the Ariamsvlei border, just south of the Kalahari. Our first night was spent at the Quiver Tree forest in a strange fibreglass rondawel hut which looked small from the outside, but was actually very spacious and comfortable inside. A host of new birds greeted us there, and we spent quite a bit of time wandering around in the very strange forest as well as in the Giants Playground close by, which is an amazing dolomite block formation. One could swear that a giant piled all the rocks on top of each other, but it is totally natural, I have been informed.
Our next stop, after a lovely drive through more golden grassland and strange rocks, was the Desert Horse Inn for two nights. Here we upgraded from the Inn to a small stone house built into a huge boulder, around the other side of the mountain. It was very secluded and heavenly, with vast grassy plains as our view, and huge granite rocks as our protection from any wind. It is amazing how the stone heats up in the sun and keeps one warm during the cold nights.
During the day, we drove down through the Namib-Nakluft park which consists of very flat yellow grassland interspersed with what looks like dark floating granite hills. Quite spectacular scenery with incredible contrasts. We picnicked in the middle of this park and then carried on to Kolmanskop which is an old, deserted, diamond mining town near Luderitz. It consists of a whole bunch of derelict houses full of desert sand, a museum and a restaurant, and is a very busy tourist spot. Photographers love to take photos of the light-and-shadow play inside the old ruins. It really is quite famous.
We then drove a few more kilometres to the port of Luderitz, had a quick look around and then returned to our chalet via the desert horses. I was expecting wild and frenzied beasts but we were greeted by docile, half-asleep, well-fed creatures. Their history is a bit hazy but one theory is that they were let loose by the retreating German Army during the First World War. They have survived as feral horses since then, which is truly remarkable.
Our next port of call was for three nights at the famous Sossusvlei, where the red desert begins. We were lucky enough to stay in the amazing Dune Lodge which comprises a long row of lovely chalets set all along the edge of a granite koppie (small mountain), all connected by a raised boardwalk. The central dining and lounge area and the swimming pool are set into the mountain and very beautiful. Our lovely host Loide upgraded us to the honeymoon suite which was lovely and spacious and situated half a kilometre from the central hub which meant a lot of walking to and fro. Very good exercise for all. We had a beautiful suite with a hanging bed on the deck overlooking the desert.
Being inside the reserve allowed us a head start for Dead Vlei, at the crack of dawn in the pitch dark. The idea was to get to the famous vlei before the sun came up, and it was an hours drive with a fifteen minute walk over the dunes to get there. Luckily we had an hours head start on the next group so had the place all to ourselves which is a rare privilege. The vlei is an ancient clay river bed dotted with skeletal camelthorn trees that died during a drought seven hundred years ago. I have enclosed a couple of the amazing photos taken there.
The red desert is vast and very beautiful. Huge shifting dunes move a few millimetres a year consuming all in their path. The light plays tricks here, and one can take a photo with a number of different colours of sand, whereas all the sand is actually the same ochre red. The highest dune in the world is Big Daddy at three hundred metres, but Dune 45 is the most popular to climb. People that walk up it can be seen as miniature dots against the sky. I have enclosed a photo of me at the base of this dune.
Large canvas floral tote bag at dune 45 in Namibia
Our next stop was Swakopmund, where we wandered around admiring the old architecture, had sundowners in a restaurant that stuck out over the sea and dinner at a German pub. It was cold here after the steaming hot desert. This country is really a place of contrasts in many ways. You would love it here Florence.
The following day, we headed off to Spitskoppe, which comprises a group of granite mountains of the most amazing structure. Enormous rounded boulders balance precariously on top of each other, and seem to cling to the sides of smooth rock cliffs. An awe-inspiring place to walk around, climb and camp, though we stayed in a small ensuite tented unit which was extremely basic and not very nice. The sun beat down relentlessly in the camp, and there was no shade to speak of. There was a swimming pool though, which was icy cold and very welcome.
After two nights there, we headed to a tiny town called Uis where we stayed in a nice chalet attached to a pub with a lovely covered outdoor area and pool. Early on the first morning we drove off to the foot of the Brandberg mountain and joined a tour group to hike up to see the famous White Lady. This is a world renowned artwork that was discovered by a wandering German fellow who was hiking through the mountains. It is a truly beautiful bushman painting done on an overhanging rock to protect it from the elements. After thousands of years of remaining pristine, it has deteriorated rapidly due to tourists throwing water or cool drinks onto it to make it shine for photographs. One is now only allowed up with a guide. The walk was wonderful and scenic with very pretty flowers and more amazing rock formations.
That afternoon, we persuaded our host, the owner of the lodge, to take us in his ancient beaten-up land cruiser, to search for the elusive desert elephants. We drove at breakneck speed along rutted gravel roads and through dry river beds for a couple of hours before we spotted them in the shadow of the mighty Brandberg. They were wandering around in the last bit of swampy river, some rolling around in the mud, all the while eating succulent grasses which would soon be gone until the summer rains start.
From there we moved on to the much anticipated Etosha National Park, but that is a story for the next letter my dear.
I hope I have whet your appetite and that of Phoebe and Helena, presuming you have read this letter to them.
Keep well and wrap up warm. I am loving this heat and don't envy you the cold.
15th October 2022
Here I am again with more exciting news. Do gather the girls around so that you can all enjoy this together.
Our first stop in Etosha National Park in Namibia, was for three glorious nights at Dolomite camp near the western border of the park. The weather was hot and dry when we arrived and on parking our car at the base of large rocky hill, we were picked up by a driver in a small open buggie and driven up a steep hill to reception, and then on to our chalet. The chalet was built into the side of the dolomite rock mountain with spectacular views across the thornveld plains. The predominant tree in this area is the camelthorn, and they are pretty stunted in size due to the harsh conditions.
After settling in, we went for a late afternoon drive down to the waterhole at the base of the hill.
We were happy to see four lions lying in the shade of the only bush around. To our delight, they soon got up and came striding right past our car to the water to drink. After a while, and many photographs, they trundled back to their shady spot to await the cool of nightfall before going hunting.
Soon after that a black rhinoceros came shuffling out of a distant stand of camelthorn trees, straight towards us and the lure of a cool drink. The weather conditions here make one extremely thirsty and it is advisable to take heed of the animals and drink many litres of water a day to prevent heat stroke.
The next few days were filled with game drives, amazing sightings, picnics, swims in the pool and sundowners with a view.
Then it was onwards to Halali camp, where we had been booked into one of the honeymoon suites. This was not at all how it sounds, and we had a good giggle about the state of the place. The ‘jacuzzi’ was an old derelict tub, full of leaves and sand and no water. The electric controls were hanging out of their sockets and looked positively dangerous. Not to be outdone, we switched off the electricity, filled it with ice cold water from the garden tap, floated all the leaves and insects off the top and leapt into the blissful coolness, with gay abandon. This became our own private swimming pool.
The huge skylight over the bed made the room so hot that we had to lay a blanket over the top of the mosquito net in order to create shade. With these changes made, we had a very enjoyable stay. The camps are all old and some require a bit of attention but after all is said and done, if you don't have too high expectations, you will have a delightful time here.
There is a waterhole in this camp which is wonderful to visit after dinner in the evenings, or very early in the morning when the game are most active. We walked along every evening and sat around on huge rocks arranged in a kind of arena, looking down onto the dimly lit water. We were richly rewarded with sightings of many black rhino and large herds of elephant and even a leopard that came to drink for a good long while. Our morning sojourns to the same spot were from five to seven when the gates open for one to go driving. Vast herds of zebra and antelope came along and entertained us and many species of birds flitted around happily.
Our next stop was Namutoni Camp where we were housed in a spacious comfortable chalet with a lovely outdoor shower, which is ideal for this weather. We enjoyed several sightings of leopard and lion and many other animals including the beautiful Damara Dikdik which is a tiny antelope with huge liquid eyes.
We drove around Etosha Pan, a large depression that periodically fills with water when it rains which is not often. This pan stretches chalky white to the horizon, coloured here and there with swathes of the palest pastel greens, blues and purples. It is indescribably beautiful.
Large canvas floral tote bag at Etosha Pan in Namibia
One of the evenings, on our way back from our afternoon drive, we decided to stop in at one of two waterholes close to camp. Hearing impala grunting and performing, we searched around for the cause, only to find a young leopard trying to stalk the antelope. He gave up once his cover was blown and sauntered off. We then decided to try our luck at the next waterhole, even though we had very little time before the camp gates closed for the night. As we arrived, a bat-eared fox rushed off into the nearby scrub, hastening away from a large leopard that crouched down and drinking at the hole. We were thrilled, two leopards in one day, and as the beast strode off into the bush, and we were preparing to leave and hightail it back to camp, a large male lion arrived for his evening refreshment. Well, that just floored us Florence. What a fitting end to a very exciting holiday. We will certainly be back one day, hopefully with you, Phoebe and Helena in tow.
Do start saving soon. These are adventures of a lifetime and should be experienced by all.
And then it was - off to Cape Town to visit all my old friends. This adventure will be relayed to you in the next letter.
Keep well and I sincerely hope it is warming up for you there in Western Australia.
My name is Jean Hattingh and I have travelled extensively throughout South Africa and Australia. I can show you some wonderful, affordable holidays and hikes in both countries as well as further afield.