After the emotional high of Sossusflei I was concerned that the rest of Namibia might be a bit of a let down. But that notion was dispelled almost immediately on day 5. We'd made an early departure and had bumped along for about 20 minutes when we spotted some animals running on the road about 100 yards ahead of the bus. I thought they were jackals or domestic dogs. But suddenly I realized they were cheetahs! I shouted it out and everyone on the bus jumped up and scrambled for their cameras. It was a family of a mother and 3 adolescents. We soon overtook them and they leaped off the road and ran along side in the brush, darting to and fro. Soon they started going through, under, or over the fence and scattered into the bush beyond - disappearing as quickly as the lizards in the sand back in Swakopmund. One had gathered and jumped gracefully and rather majestically over the fence - a good 4-5 feet high. It will be one of those indelibly imprinted memories of Africa, I'm sure. The last cheetah ran along for another long stretch, finally ducking under the fence in a little gully - you could tell he knew he could get through there. He quickly disappeared into the brush to join the rest of his family. Our guide told us seeing a family of cheetahs is extremely rare - in 6 years of guiding groups in Namibia he has never seen it.
We know they were a family because the adolescents were smaller (probably teen-agers) and because adult cheetahs are loners, never traveling together in a group. Its hard to put into words how exciting it was - the group was atwitter for the next 30 minutes as we reveled in the experience. No one got a good photograph - but all agreed the memory will need no external reinforcement for longevity.
Not very long afterword, we stopped to see a huge weaver bird nest in tree close to the road. Hardly as dramatic as loping cheetahs a few yards away but fascination none-the-less. We had seen several of the giant wads of what looked like hay in the trees. Imagine a hay bale, from 4 to 8 feet in diameter, in the branches of a tree. We could hardly believe it when our guide told us they were weaver nests. I've seen weaver nests before, but they were about 5 inches in diameter. Turns out these are huge colony nests - like a weaver bird condo. The doors to their individual homes are underneath. Our guide told us their natural enemies are raptors, owls, and cobras - yowza! We were all very careful where we stepped while taking our photos! The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful. We saw a few zebras, an owl on a pole, a soaring eagle, some baboons far away on a railroad track, a number of herons, and a few ostriches. We arrived about 3PM at our hotel - very nice. Another oasis in the midst of nowhere, this one is decorated with old vintage cars. Old rusty ones with plants growing out of them in the yard, nice polished ones inside. There was a lovely but small pool, a fun bar, and lots of T-shirts and tourist knickknacks for sale.
At 4PM we gathered to go the Fish River Canyon. It was really big! In fact, it is the second largest in the world after our Grand. Who knew?? We had a leisurely hike along the rim - much like one does at the Grand Canyon. We hiked from one view overlook to another - and when we arrived at the 2nd, I had arranged for the guide to be waiting with Champagne and snacks. We drank, toasted, nibbled crackers and cheese, and then watched the sunset on the opposite side.
On day 6, our shortest driving day, we departed at about 8:15 and drove the morning to the Orange River - which is the natural border between Namibia and South Africa. Not much excitement on the road, but miles of lush, green vineyards once we got to the river. It seemed almost strange after days of brown and sand. The Felix Camp Hotel was the most picturesque yet, with thatched roof bungalows overlooking the river and a scenic overlook pool.
Each thatched-roof bungalow has a table and chairs on a private patio overlooking the swirling waters of the Orange. Very peaceful to write, read, or relax serenaded by the sound of the rushing water. After lunch we piled into a rickety old bus which pulled a trailer upon which 8 canoes had been stacked. We drove 15 minutes upriver and put in. The river is beautiful at that spot - dramatic stony cliffs on the southern bank, big sweeping turns and just a few mild rapids. No wildlife to see on the river but lots of birds. Herons again, of many varieties and lots of swimming/diving White Breasted Cormorants. Our river sojourn lasted about 2 hours of easy paddling, but even so I was exhausted and had tired arms and shoulders. In the evening we had a fun happy hour by the swimming pool with its brightly colored umbrellas. As we had left the desert, it stayed warm in the evening so we ate outside. The canoe ride was nice, but simply relaxing at the riverside was the real pleasure of yesterday. Clanwilliam, South Africa was our last stop before Capetown. Day 7 was largely a travel day and we welcomed the paved roads of South Africa. After an early departure on Day 8 we drove 2 hours into the nearby Cederburg Mountains. We have seen mountains and mesas from the very first moment in Namibia (putting one much in mind of the American Southwest) but the Cederburgs are quite different. The rocks are different than any I've ever seen. They are unusually and dramatically shaped and jumbled in fantastical combinations and configurations. We burned through flash cards and batteries at a furious pace as we slowly climbed the once again unpaved roads over passes to high meadow. At a vineyard we bought some award-winning wines for our picnic lunch before arriving at the real excursion highlight - ancient San Tribesman Rock Art.
These petroglyphs, thousands of years old, are truly impressive. I expected some faded, hard to identify stick figures. Instead, we had to be assured they'd not been "restored" with modern pigments. A small group of San hunters approach three, bright orange colored elephants. Rather sophisticated representations, at least of the elephants. It was a bit of an adventure to climb up to the art and the photographers in the group seemed to relish clambering around the boulders and cracks for the best angles for shots. Another fantastic picnic, prepared by our guide and driver, finished off the morning and we headed back down to the main highway.
Our Namibia adventure concluded with our arrival in Capetown. We drove to the northern suburb of Table View, appropriately named for the reason of our detour. We walked along the Atlantic beach snapping late afternoon shots of iconic Table Mountain and central Capetown across the bay. Everyone was happy to check into our Long Street hotel, knowing we'd not have to unpack again for 5 days.