Our Honey Badger Always Has The Last Word
As we all know, Honey Badgers do not take kindly to being ignored. They’re feisty, resilient and crafty. Only she knows why her nose twitched out of joint. It could’ve been the Khoudom corrugations, tall trees, narrow roads, or a field mouse that might’ve done the trick. We’ll never know.
Shortly after our trip through the rugged terrain, when our batteries failed, we had them replaced in Katimo Malilo at great expense. Keep in mind, this wasn’t our first rodeo. They’d all been replaced five months earlier after our trip to the Kgalagadi. Call us naïve. We always believe our problems are solved when we have work done.
Ever the sceptic, Butch started keeping a close eye on our power gauge and noticed that we were not generating the necessary power on our road trips. Fortunately, our solar panels were doing their fair share of work, but this was the rainy season, and we couldn’t be caught with our lights out and pants down.
There would be no more wild camping, and we would only set up camp where we could plug in and charge. Fortunately, that’s not a problem in Namibia, where facilities are generally top-notch.
Alas, our holiday in Namibia was grinding to a halt, and it was time to turn our heads homewards. Gloomily we sipped our drinks on the banks of the Kavango, envious of other overlanders who were embarking on journeys to Botswana, Angola and Zambia. The border post’s lights were twinkling suggestively just a few kilometres away from us. So near yet so far has never been more apt.
In Rundu, my beloved once again had to wriggle himself under the truck to get to the tyres’ valves so that we could make sure our tyres were at the correct pressure. With them checked and inflated, we were ready to roll. Thousands of kilometres back to our Boland home and other adventures.
We called it a day when we spotted the signage for Roy’s Rest Camp a few kilometres from Grootfontein.
This rustic, eclectic, shabby chic camp offers guests a unique Dorsland experience, a fabulous pool, and thatched communal Lapa where guests can meet up, relax, put their feet up and quench their thirst. We dipped in the pool until we complained of goosebumps. On the veranda, a young couple from the Netherlands perused their maps. Butch soon got acquainted and recommended places to camp, sightsee and go game viewing.
We stretched our legs in the hope of finding the real Honey Badger; unfortunately, he was still holed up for the day, but we did see a rabbit, some interesting birds and two bushbuck. The unexpected cloudburst brought some relief to us, but our neighbours had to put their tents out to dry.
The thing about making every minute count while on a road trip is that one extends the holiday, allowing one to enjoy attractions along the way. And so it was that we had the opportunity to stop over and see a meteorite!
After a proper 30km goose chase by our SatNav, we found the Hoba Meteorite.
“The experts all agree that the Hoba Meteorite is the biggest meteorite found today.
The meteorite came down about 20 km west of Grootfontein about 80,000 years ago and remains at the same place, which is not surprising, considering the estimated weight of 60 tons.
The boulder, which has an area of 2.95 x 2.84 m and a height of between 122-75cm, is estimated to be between 200 and 400 million years old. (Vogt, p3)
It consists mainly of iron (82,4%) and nickel (16,4%), and some trace elements such as cobalt. Its name is derived from the Hoba Farm in the Otavi Mountains.”
I was impressed! But, humans never fail to astound me. Over the years, a few kilograms of iron have been chiselled away by tourists as souvenirs. Mind-boggling. Butch tried picking the meteor up. If we’re going to thieve, we may as well go the whole hog he reasoned.
We soon pressed on to our next destination in Gobabis, the Goba campsite and Restcamp situated on the outskirts of the small town. I was delighted to find that we’d be able to dine “out” at the resort’s restaurant that evening—a lovely meal on the veranda. The new barista assured us he’d been trained sufficiently, and the iced coffee he served would be worth the wait!
We set off bright and early the following day, hoping to make good time and possibly even close to the border post. But first, we needed to fill our tanks with fuel, our fridge with beautiful Namibian droêwors, biltong and a few bits and bobs before turning our backs on this beautiful country.
The most common mode of transport along the way we found to be mule driven carts. Our route was often very quiet, and the road dead straight and frequently very dull. Seeing a cart (karretjie) would pique my interest immediately. Fortunately, I was able to capture a few in motion! They would reach a good clip when the mules were on a quick trot. At times though, the driver struggled to get his beasts going (steeksdonkie). That’s when he’d be forced to crack the whip. Ponies are very popular too!
We realised we’d not make it to our planned overnight stay at the White House near Grunau during the afternoon. We decided to overnight at the highly recommended Kalhari Game Lodge in the Koës district.
We stopped in a cloud of dust at the gate, only to realise we’d not pass under the height restriction. Fortunately, we’d seen the service entrance 500m before the main gate. I would walk, I told Butch and open the gate, and I needed to stretch my legs.
While he turned around and headed that way, I walked, trudging through the thick red Kalahari sand. The sun was still high, and once we’d settled, we could go for a long walk exploring the place, I thought excitedly while I walked.
A thick chain and huge lock bound up the colossal steel gates. There was no way to get through, and we had no telephone reception either. Butch, who had also alighted the truck, got back in while I retraced my steps. I’d meet him at the guests’ gate where he’d dropped me. We’d have to search for alternate accommodation.
I heard the clang of the door as I walked back and nothing else. Butch called “The truck won’t start” a few seconds later! What? Impossible! I scuttled back. Yes, the madam, she was going nowhere. The only sound was the stubborn click of the turning key. Click. That’s it. There was no oing-oing, no grate, only a deafening silence.
Remember: We were in the Kalahari. Thick red sand and flat. In front of us were massive, locked steel gates and an incline to the gravel dirt road behind the badger. By the looks of things, we were boxed in. The chances of me pushing a six-tonne truck are zero.
Butch, in a last resort attempt, put the truck in reverse gear while keeping his foot on the clutch, released the handbrake and a miracle happened. The truck moved backward and lurched, spluttered and started. We were dumbfounded. That should not have happened!
The Garmin Overlander GPS pointed us to the nearest campsite, a farm just ten kilometres away. We would have to keep our wit’s about us and not switch the engine off until we knew with 100% certainty that we could start up again. There was no doubt we had severe problems; we had more than just electrical/battery failure.
The Kalahari Farm Stall was our next port of call. The owner, a farmer, assured us that he would be able to help us should we need it. The Farm Stall is no longer operational due to Covid lockdowns and travel bans, but the campsites are kept in good nick, and visitors are welcome to stay over.
We unpacked our table and chairs and set off to explore the dunes before sunset. An exhilarating hike into the desert. We identified some lovely birds and tracked antelope spoor but didn’t find signs of life. Although we didn’t say it, we were both exhausted and stressed, especially since we didn’t know what our problem with the Badger was.
Back at the camp, we set a fire, relaxed with a drink and settled to listen to the night sounds of the Kalahari. The neurotic cry of a jackal, the bleeting of some Dorper sheep and the mournful moos of the cattle soon quietened down as they settled for the night. The Barn owl called a few times before swooping past us on his nocturnal hunts.
The campsite was equipped with an electrical point, enabling us to plug in and connect. Our batteries went up from 75% (they hadn’t charged during the day.)
We woke up before the birds the next day, packed up quickly, and with trepidation, turned the key in the ignition. The Honey Badger fired up without a hitch. The kindly farmer informed us that he had phoned ahead to his auto electrician, who would be standing by for us in Keetmanshoop. He suggested we get to him asap.
Within half an hour of leaving Kalahari Farm Stall the radio died, and all dials (speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge, you name it) stuck in the position they were. We had the ultimate electrical failure. The rest of the journey would be on a wing and a prayer. Engine failure would be disasterous.
In Koës, a small farming community, we stopped to fill up, check our tyres and enquire about replacing the truck’s engine battery. Fortunately, they were out of stock, and we needed a diagnosis, not another plaster, we agreed. The truck was the talk of the town as bemused onlookers speculated about our troubles.
The auto-electricians were waiting for us, the current meter in hand, when we stopped in Keetmanshoop. After a thorough examination of our batteries, the technician thought to look beneath the vehicle to see whether he might glimpse the alternator. Sure enough, he saw an electrical cable’s wire hanging by a thread.
In a jiffy, the cable was repaired. Our batteries charged immediately, and the engine fired up perfectly.
To get out from under all the expert’s feet, I took a stroll down to the museum, where I perused the artefacts.
We made it back to the White House campsite at a leisurely pace. Our journey had come full circle, and we were once again back to our overnight starting point in Namibia a few weeks ago.
Before the Noordoewer border post, we filled up both our tanks (Namibian fuel is much cheaper than ours). The passage through border control went without a hitch, and I survived my fourth PCR test. We were on our way home or so we thought.
Have you ever felt like telling a stranger to mind their own business? When Butch turned to address the truck driver next to us, I counted to ten. “Sir, your back tyre’s flat” Why? You may ask? Because he was the third person to tell us.
We limped to the nearest filling station to check the damage—a slow leak. In Springbok, Butch replaced the valve. Like my feet on a hike, our tyre woes are the bane of our lives. Fortunately New Knee is equipped to deal with these shenanigans.
Last but not least. “You may never hear these words again,” I told Butch after my shopping spree in Springbok. “The new Checkers in the Springbok Mall is on par with any Woolies.” What a surprisingly delightful experience it was to shop there. Next time I travel in that direction, I’ll do all my shopping there.
The Honey Badger has been for a check-up, and all her vitals were checked. The cable to the alternator was replaced and secured. We were told that we’d missed a calamity by the skin of our teeth.
Right now, she’s having a few cosmetic enhancements done, and she’s being patched up and checked from bumper to bumper, from her solar panels to her undercarriage. We’re sure our girl will be back to her old self with all this attention, and she’ll be right as rain ready to roll in a few weeks when new, exciting chapters open up for us..
Places to stay:
Kalahari Farm Stall and Campsite
The White House Guest Farm
DOLF JNR & NITA DE WET
Cell: + 264 (0) 81 2856484
Tel: + 264 (0) 63 262061
Fax: + 264 (0) 63 262061
Phone Number +264 63 222960
Fax +264 63 223639