Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Germany in Namibia!

PHIL: Day 15/1 March.

By now we have decided we couldn’t stomach two days of this charade so, after Allie watched cheetah and a leopard being served their breakfast, we fled into Omaruru. Not, however, before chancing upon yet another balloonist based in Namibia – this time a 130kg+ German, who just happened to be spending the night at the same lodge with his family en-route to the coast.

Omaruru town gives an even stronger sense of ‘Germany abroad’ than did Swakopmund. Shops, official buildings, churches and hotels all bore names and instructions in German (despite English being Namibia’s official language), and indeed the Central Hotel receptionist could only speak to us in German. Apparently over 500 people of German origin still live in this town of 3000.

Omaruru church
Daytime diversions include a nicely preserved war memorial commemorating German victory over the local Herero tribe in 1904, curiously (in PC Africa) proclaimed as a Namibian Heritage Site. A German here also runs the only winery in Namibia (4 hectares of vines, and cacti for his schnapps), whilst an Afrikaans lady has what must be the world’s tiniest hand-made chocolate enterprise – just three employees – producing Belgian-style confectionery in an unlikely-looking tin hangar.

Dinner menu at the Central is straight out of Bavaria – schnitzel, wiener wurst, obstsalat. Hoping Allie gets a good night’s sleep after disruption by my snoring last night, otherwise we may be booking into separate rooms from now on.

ALLIE: DAY 15: Thursday, 1st of March

Fighting the internet, a deserted airstrip, a winery and a chocolate factory

We decided that we wanted to escape from the zoo. But at least I want to see the leopard and the cheetahs. They are fed each morning with a bit bloody piece of Kudu meat. Within seconds they dig into the meat groaning and purring like real cats. But you wouldn’t want to mess with them. The leopard has already killed two females that we supposed to mate with him! Even trying to take a picture of him seems to be out of discussion with him. We leave.

Book ourselves into the much cheaper and friendly German run “Central Hotel” in central Omaruru and battle with the non-existing internet connection at the local Telecom shop. The national agency itself has to ring up Windhoek headquarters and book a line to get access, incredible!
In the afternoon we search for the remains of the “Runway Pub” and the local flying club, but all we can find – again to the great disappointment of Phil – are three dogs and a closed hangar.  The public swimming pool or the local golf course are also devoid from any signs of activity. It seems to me that the 500 Germans and 2500 blacks are mainly interested in their huge department store “Spar” and possibly in religious affairs. I count at least five churches from different denominations.

To console my husband we drive to the “Kristall Kellerei”, a winery. A grumpy looking and very reserved man stands behind a bar and doesn’t say anything. So we shyly ask for a wine tasting. He pulls out a bottle of white, a red and then some Schnaps. We especially like his “cactus Schnaps” and end up in buying two bottles of the digestive. Very tasty indeed. Maybe even to nice to give away as presents…

For 17 years he has been living here running a plumbing business on this farm. The he got the idea of producing wine. He tried and succeeded. His Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other grapes turn nicely into good tasting wines under the hot sun of Africa. The problem with too little rain is solved by watering systems from the ground.

After the alcohol, we need some food. So we visit the chocolate factory. How anybody in the world can make a profit of producing chocolate in a hot desert country like this? But the Urte and Kallie Doergeloh do. “We are busy all year round,” she explains to us whilst we taste some of her delicious hand made pralines. And then she shows us her “production line”. They consist of exactly three persons: one who oversees the ovens where the chocolate is melted, the next one pours the hot melted Belgium chocolate into a mould whilst the third one wraps each single praline into a piece of coloured paper. Not daring to buy chocolate in this 38 degree heat we decide that we can at least buy some of her side products: foot cream for “dry and smelly feet”!

Rock formations at Spitzkoppe and drive to Omaruru

ALLIE: DAY 14: Wednesday, 28th of February

Fascinating rock formations at Spitzkoppe and onwards to Omaruru

Our journey takes us across more empty dust roads towards the “Matterhorn of Namibia”, the Spitzkoppe. We can see see it from afar. In the middle of flat and deserted countryside there is the “spitze” mountain. As we enter the National Park it is clear that nature has again created some amazing structures. Little round balls of rock sit like eggs on the soft but steep slopes of these granite rocks. We climb up to “Bushmans paradise”. A steep ascent on a  rope. Underneath the shelter of a overhanging huge rock there are some wall paintings. Not as clear as the Brandbergs ones, but still quite nice to look at. We leave Bushmans paradise for the bushman (this certainly not being paradise for my dear husband with no Cider and having to climb a steep hill) and drive a bit deeper into the area. And there I find my paradise: a little pond set within the red rocks with splendid views over the Spitzkoppe.

On past the little ex-German town of Usakos where only the historical locomotive from 1912 still stands in front of a desolate railway station in memory of more glorious days. Its 30 km on a tarmac road to the gold town of Karibib. The B2 is the main highway of Namibia connecting the coastal area of Swakopmund and Windhoek the capital. So it’s a bit of a shock to see huge trucks and even having to queue to over take them!

We leave Omaruru and search for our “Game lodge”. A few not very tasteful huts are set in a park full of zebras, Oynx, Wilderbeast and Kudus.

The similarity of being in a zoo is quite obvious. But the ex-property tycoon from Chur in Switzerland, Thomas Domenig, now owner and creator of this lodge, explains to us: “The difference here is, that the animals are free, but you are protected to watch them.” So indeed a zoo, but an inverted one!

Domenig always had wanted to set up a animal farm and in 1994 he and his wife realized their dream by buying this 3400 hectar land and 300 animals. Today he has got 3000 wild animals, including three elephant, two rhinoceros, two hippopotamus named Hermann and Hermine, and many others. After sunset the animals come to a waterhole to be fed by the local wardens and the boss himself. We are lucky – in the end even the 2,5 tons heavy rhinoceros slowly walk in to collect their share of the food.

They are pretty to watch, but this is certainly not the real Africa. Am debating whether I want to stay another night in the zoo or escape to the real world again.

PHIL: Day 14/28 Feb

Off to Spitzkoppe, a group of wildly eroded conglomerate mountains with bushmen cave paintings.At 11 a.m. we are the first visitors of the day and only see three other groups of tourists in three hours of delighted wanderings through deserted the rock formations. Of course Allie finds a bathing pool in a rock cleft but her urge to swim naked is tempered by a rather prudish-looking German family (whom I thought looked like a pastor and his wife and young daughters anyway) so she retreats to her bikini.

Allie is also in a ‘driving’ mood, which means her looking mostly at the passing scenery whilst performing some kind of contortion to keep her bum off the seat and legs in perpetual motion. All this whilst she holds the steering wheel and searches, mostly in vain, for a gear two cogs higher than required by road conditions. I fight to prevent myself offering useful tips like “ for Christ’s sake look ahead and ‘read’ the road” because she so rarely wants to drive other than brief stints first thing in the day when I am also fresh, and when she does she complains constantly about wanting to stop and take some form of exercise.

We make it to Omaruru via the two uninspiring townships of Usakos and Karibib by late afternoon.The settlement at Omaruru seems to offer more enticing German colonial style – but no working Internet facility – which we promise to investigate tomorrow. To our dismay the Omaruru Game Lodge at which we are booked begins to look increasingly ‘Disney-esque’, with animals in zoo-like enclosures, set feeding times for animals and humans alike, and house rules on dress style at dinner etc. Not ‘us’.

First impressions were confirmed by a proudly displayed press cutting about the Lodge’s wealthy Swiss owner in which a suggestion that his establishment was in fact ‘a zoo’ were angrily dismissed. We watched as the self-same man hand fed a selection of ‘wild’ animals culminating in a pair of rhinos who allowed their horns to be stroked by excited tourists.

Monday, 27 February 2017

A microlight flight over Uis and walk to the 'white Lady' of Brandberg

ALLIE: DAY 13: Tuesday, 27th of February

Micolight flying over Uis and a walk to “The white lady” at Brandberg

rock Art at Brandberg
Didn’t sleep well, too hot again. The more of a shock is my alarm at 6.00. Oh yes, we wanted to do a microlight flight with Nico. Still in the dark I am to board his tiny flying maschine first. We take of at his private little air strip in the pitch dark. The flight takes us up toward the mines and after 7 minutes Nico makes a sharp turn and landes on top of a little sand mountain overlooking the town. I am left there whilst he flies back to fetch Phil. Shortly afterwards we all stand there with a cup of coffee and watch sunrise. Magic. Nico also seems to love stories. He never answers questions but tells you a whole lot of other things. The next flight takes us (again in sequence) over the hills and riverbeds of the area. We spot two kudus grazing. Nico explains the story of the poisonous Euphorbia plant, that can kill people, and indeed did kill 16 travellers a couple of years ago when they grilled meat with the dried branches of this shrub. But especially the old dead looking plants are so poisonous that they contaminated the food and all of them died on that same evening of eaten the meat. We fly over their graves. A macabre story.
Well, that was an exciting and very rewarding experience – even though I feel a bit dizzy afterwards.

On to search for the famous “White Lady of Brandberg”. After 30 km on a dirt road we are at the foot of this protruding mountain. A guide leads us along a 2,5km trail toward the cliff painting that is said to be between 5000 and 2000 years old. The whole mountain is full of paintings, over 45000 of them have been found in the steep granite rocks of the highest peak in Namibia. 

In the evening we stroll around the tiny village in order to discover another bar. But except for the next door lodge – where we meet Basil! – and ours, there isn’t anything worth mentioning.

PHIL: Day 13/27 Feb

Nico, the Afrikaans microlight, pilot has the aircraft ready at the end of his own private strip as we arrive in darkness just after 6.He takes Allie off to another strip he has created on top of one of the old mine tips, leaving me to wait for his return to shuttle me up there too. Up on top, some 500ft above Uis, the backdrop of the massive Brandberg mountain gradually turns pink as we sip strong filter coffee and listen to Nico’s tales of ultralight aviation in Africa. His Windlass microlight was built in Durban, South Africa, and is powered by the ubiquitous Rotax engine.

Both Allie and I get separate trips round the area, spotting springbok and kudu – I even had ten minutes of ‘hands-on’ (probably ‘unofficial’) instruction before return to the short gravel strip for breakfast. She is feeling queasy after taking sleeping pills overnight, but I think there is a residual thrill nevertheless and, worryingly, she begins to ask what it takes to get a microlight licence. I pour cold water on the idea, perhaps a little unreasonably.

Next plan is to drive to the Tsuib Valley where we hire a guide for the 2.5km hike to the White Lady painting site. We arrive along with a Portuguese couple, but it is otherwise deserted. The guide, a Damara tribesman with the unlikely name of Colin, is very knowledgeable about local flora & fauna but starts to ramble about shamanism when tackled on the dating of the site and more complex issues. It is my first experience of such examples of art, having been to neither Altamira nor Lascaux before their effective closure to the public, and whilst the scale is surprisingly small the change over time from monochrome to polychrome is impressive.

To Uis and the Brandberg Rest Camp

ALLIE: DAY 12: Monday, 26th of February

Shopping in a German environment and on towards the Brandberg, to Uis

A leisurely day. We do some shopping in the “Buchladen”, the “Afrika-Boutique” and at last pig out in the “Konditorei” with fresh Brezeln and Berliner. Hmm. Around lunch we hit the road towards the north driving along the coast on a nice firm saltroad. The stop in Henties bay is not really worth it, but we are in need of a cold drink and find “dry premium Savanna cider” and salt and vinegar crisps in the “De Dune Bar”. This is probably the only place you can face living in this desolate place unless you are addicted to angling or playing sand golf on the 9 hole course (the greens and the tees being the only green spots on that course).
After a hot drive through quite unspectacular and flat countryside we arrive at the tiny town of Uis near the Brandberg, which prouds itself in having the highest mountain in Namibia, the Koenigstein with 2581 meters.

Balloons flying over the Brandberg Rest Camp
Check in the BrandbergRestCamp and our posh 5-bed and self-catering apartment. Who is taking which bed? We could have a family in here. But even more surprising is the Olympic sized pool. Phil has a hard time in finding his wife again for the rest of the day.
Our host, Baisel, a hippie looking man with a long beard and a band around his head, invites us to join him and his nephew for a sun downer tour around the mines and sand dunes. He tells us the story of this mining town: in 1920 a German discovered tin in this area and started mining. 

The place was at its peak in the 60is when sanctions against South Africa – and Namibia then was part of the country – didn’t allow any imports of tin. 2000 workers lived here at the time.

Map of Namibia
But when Namibia became independent in 1990, South Africa could import tin much cheaper from abroad and didn’t want to depend anymore on Namibia. The mines were abandoned and the town became ghost towns. Basil drives us to the top of a white sandy looking tantalite hill. “I love this place” he says, “let’s enjoy sunset” and he hands out a bottle of cider to each of us. The sun drops behind the Brandberg and leaves the sky glowing with red clouds.

PHIL: Day 12/26 Feb

Shopping and internet morning before leaving for Uis, former tin-mining town, via Henties Bay which turned out to be a bit like Clacton-with-sun. Salt roads along the coast much smoother than their desert counterparts so listened to a Bee Gees in Concert CD bought cheap in Swakopmund.

Uis was, until 1990, centre of Namibia’s tin extraction industry but is now almost a ghost-town supported by tourists visiting nearby the White Lady primitive rock drawings. Our accommodation is in the former mine company social club with a 25m pool (much to Allie’s delight!) run by Basil, not Fawlty, but a latter-day hippie who had the unlikely previous profession of  having been a thatcher.

An evening 4x4 drive up (and 45deg down!) the ‘dunes’ of discarded pegmatite elicits the information that there is a chance to fly in a microlight at dawn tomorrow which we eagerly book. We also learn that tantalite, a rarer component of pegmatite, is now being processed to manufacture parts for replacement hips.

The world's oldest plant: Welwitschia Mirabilis

PHIL: Day 11/25 Feb

Desert drive to find the rare and ancient Welwitschia plant, which persists only here and in Angola. Triffid-looking , it is (erroneously) reported to be man-eating, which would be easy to believe.

Allie persuaded me to take a dip in the Atlantic, but at 16 deg or so it was a very quick event. There were seals and dolphins around, however, which added to the sense of the unusual.

Evening drink with the local balloonist, Lowe Potgeiter, who I hadn’t heard of before. Turned out he was born in Kenya and ran a dive school in Malindi about the same time as Pops and I were there (late ‘60s) before moving to Zimbabwe where he fell foul of ‘Uncle Bob’(Mugabe) like so many other Europeans. Now flies an ancient Sky 160 (7-pax) balloon supported by his Welsh wife from Llandudno.

ALLIE: DAY 11: Sunday, 25th of February

In search of rare Welwitschia Mirabilis and a swim in the Namibian sea

The probably longest drive just to see a plant! It’s only 60 or so km outside of Swakopmund but the roads take its time. We want to see one of the rarest and oldest plants in the world, the great Welwitschia Mirabilis. This plant is only to be found here in the desert near the coastline where the morning fog provides some little moisture to the ground so that this plant can absorb it with its fine roots underneath the sand. The scenic drive takes us first through the “Moon Valley”, a deep gorge with rock formations that could indeed be straight from or at the moon.

Welwitschia Mirabilis
Then finally we see our first Welwitschia. A quite ugly looking green thing spread out on the ground with a few green and half rotten leaves sprawling out from its centre like a octopus. Really not the prettiest plant in the world. Its rather funny sounding name come for the botanist Friedrich Welwitsch, an Austrian who first discovered and described the plant in 1860.
Finally we stand in front of the oldest Welwitschia in the world: a tall heap of leaves, about 1,5 m high, surrounded by a fence to protect it. This plant has witnessed 1500 years of history and by God who knows how many wars and battles.
A bit exhausted from our botanical excursion we make just “a little detour” to see what is there at the airfield of Swakopmund. Swaping airfields for walks is on of our little games. I had my walk up the dunes yesterday, so my dear husband should get a visit to an airfield! All is equal in our wonderful marriage!
And later I finally get to enjoy a real good refreshing swim in the sea. Not too cold (just for Phil!), only around 19 degrees. I am surrounded by dolphins and seals that sunbathe on the rocks.
For sun downer (what actually never seems to happen here, because the clouds always come in by 5pm) we meet the local balloonist and his wife, Lowe and Marian Potgieter. They are born Kenians, lived in Rhodesia and had to flee under the regime of Mugabe now setting up their new home with a ballooning operation. He describes the flying as very challenging because of strong winds and changeable conditions but the actual flying sounds fantastic.
Later Phil and I enjoy the “Tug”, nice restaurant directly set along the coast. The food isn’t as great as expected but the bar makes up for it!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Mola Mola fish and drive to Swakopmund

PHIL: Day 10/24 Feb

Changed our mind about taking a boat trip round the bay and jumped on Molo Molo’s boat with a skipper called Billy who turned out to be excellent. An old-style Afrikaaner, he knew everything about the wildlife & commerce, not to mention politics, of Namibia. Fascinating story of a fleet of former USSR fish factory ships which stayed on after the breakup by invitation of Namibia’s grateful new Government whose revolutionary armaments had been supplied by Russia. Some left after an initial ten year permission, but a rump stayed, still crewed by mainly Ukrainian officers, on six-monthly shifts in charge of the vessels as they fish and freeze their catch.

Lucky to see the peculiar fish Mola Mola after which our boat took its name. A rare leftover from ancient times it cruises the world’s currents providing ‘valeting’ facilities for other fish and mammals. Lots of seals & dolphins too luxuriating in the plankton-rich Benguela Current.

Seafront at Swakopmund
A short drive to Swakopmund up the coast. Billed as a town of crime which could not have been more inaccurate, it is in fact a pretty collection of turn-of-the-(19th) century German colonial buildings. Apart from suffering the African disease of street renaming according to political correctness, Swakopmund can’t have changed much since it was snatched from German hands in 1918. Signs, shop names and even war memorials reflect an undeniably Teutonic past.

Unlike industrial Walvis Bay, Swakopmund has elegant cafes, restaurants, boutiques and a promenade reminiscent of some Baltic resort. Wide avenues were presumably, as in South Africa, built to allow ox-carts to turn in the width of the street.

A significant European population bolstered by visiting German tour groups re-enforces the seaside appearance. Dinner at the Lighthouse Pub with two young French schoolteachers from Paris. My long-rusted French was sorely tested.

ALLIE: DAY 10: Saturday, 24th of February

A boat excursion into the lagoon and moving on to Germanish Swakopmund

I need some exercise! So I put on my trainers and jog along the very fishy smelling bay in the early morning hours. Thick clouds over the coast, but sunshine further inland. The flamingos still in their one-leg sleeping position. I wonder whether it was the right decision to go on the “Mola-Mola” boat trip that Erik hat recommended to us. What if I get sick on the boat or if the weather stays as cloudy and even rainy as it is now? But we booked the tour, so we go…

German Luther church in Swakopmund
It actually turns out to be a great trip! Billy, a white Namibian with German ancestors, is our boat- and tour guide. We board the small skipper and set our for the fishing harbour of Walvis bay. The only deep water harbour in the whole of Namibia. The first birds that follow us are some pelicans. They wing span being 1,8 meters and quite graciously they fly along our boat and snap fish out of Billys hands. Then we suddenly have another guest on board: Flipper, the seal. He jumps on board – only male seals would do that, the female do never get on the boats – and begs for fish! Of course he gets his share and we are allowed to touch his soft skin and tail. Funny feeling. With his big eyes and charming looks he manages to beg for a few more fish, then jumps back to the sea. We later stop at a sandy beach where most of his thousands relatives are enjoying their time by either dozing at the beach or playing with each other in the water.

Billy has great talent to entertain us. His main focus of course are the oysters. So first he lectures about them, then he cracks a few sexy jokes and at last we are invited to taste them. So we learn that oysters we first imported from Chile. They couldn’t breed here because of the cold icy Benguela stream. A minimum of 24 degrees water temperature is needed to reproduce, some of the oysters are hermaphrodites. So now the Namibians breed them for a while in artificial water containers and then bring them out into the sea where they grow on little baskets suspended from poles or platform in the sea. After only 8 months an oyster is ready to be eaten. 
Since only 70.000 thousand of all Namibians are white people and the blacks don’t eat oysters they are now selling oysters to China. And the Chinese being mad about all sorts of aphrodisiacs pay huge amounts of money to import them. So if you even happen to be served oyster in Beijing – it probably comes from Walvis Bay, Namibia.

The Germans also played their role here in this town. A German called Adolf Winter had the idea of building a huge platform into the sea to attract all sorts of birds – for shitting! The shit is called Guano is used as a fertilizer. 1 kg of Guano being as efficient as 10 kg of cow dung! Unfortunately the birds didn’t like to come in the beginning. He nearly went bankrupt, his wife divorced him. But after some time, the birds did indeed come and soon was a millionaire. And of course he married again, this time a much younger girl (thus the story that Billy told us!).
“And see how fantastic Guano works!”, Billy proudly holding up a picture of one of his radishes. “This thing grew within weeks of using Guano on it to about 70cm. It won the national prize!”

The Mola Mola fish (source: wikipedia)
Today we are lucky. 
We also happen to see a rare species of fish, the so called Mola Mola. A real ugly round thing without a tail. It swims like a drunken duck but the meat must be delicious. But be careful, some parts of it can be poisoning.

Later we also encounter a few small white and black dolphins that swim around our boat. The trip culminates in a feast of oysters (Billy cracking more jokes about the effects of oysters on your sex life “it only works after sunset, so don’t worry”) and a few bottles of Champagne. We can’t complain. This trip was definitely worth its money (only 390 Rand) and lots of fun.

A bit dozy from the boat journey, the effects of oysters and too much champagne we drive on to Swakopmund. Before we reach the city, we climb another sand dune and I get my first swim in the rough waters of the Namibian sea.
We check in the “Villa Wiese”, a nice, clean and cheap guesthouse in the middle of the orderly looking town. Swakopmund was run by the Germans for many years and it still has some lovely old buildings, nice broad boulevards with palm trees and street names that remind you of its former times. Here we pass the Christuskirche, the Bismarck Street, the restaurant “Weinmaus” and end up at a inviting looking beach full of people bathing and enjoying the sunshine.
In the evening we meet a nice French couple from our boat tour at the Lighthouse Restaurant near the harbour. Great seafood and good African wines make it another really pleasant evening.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Flamingo lagoon at Walvis Bay

ALLIE: DAY 9: Friday 23rd of February

Exploring the coast and what is downtown Walvis Bay

Finally a good nights sleep revives my energy. Not that we do much today, since we have decided to spend a full day here and recover and do some computer and email work.
The bad weather of England seems to have changed into a more friendly day. We stroll along the esplanade and watch some of the alleged 34000 greater flamingos who feed here in the Lagoon. Walvis Bay is the only major lagoon of that sort in the whole of Africa and that’s where 83% of all flamingos of the continent stay. 

The birds look quite majestic when they fly, but funny when they try to snap something out of the water. They triple with their long legs on the spot like a step dancer.
photo from internet
But not only flamingos come here. A multitude of North European birds come here for the summer months in Africa crossing more then 14000km from the tops of Siberia or Europe. Some of them cover more then 3000km in a single stretch. But why do these birds make such an effort to come here? The reason is breeding. Whilst they cannot breed here in Namibia because wild dogs would eat their eggs, the winters in Europe or Siberia are so harsh they also could not survive there. Amazing facts!

We leave the flamingos picking insects and worms and drive into the town of Walvis Bay. Well, I guess, the flamingos are indeed the best there is to Walvis Bay. The town is so boring and full of tacky shops that we quickly do our emails at a internet café and escape again towards the sea.
photo from internet
This time driving a bit towards the south where three white peaks stick out into the blue sky like sugar cones. It’s the salt works. Some hundred square meters of this part along the coast are salt basins with amazing colours and shapes.
A relaxing walk along the deserted beach makes me want to try the water. But 13 degrees and many jelly fish let me decide otherwise. Maybe a coffee on our lovely balcony or a dip into the hotel pool will be a better choice.

With a second visit to the Raft, we already feel like regulars chatting and talking to the pub owners, Gary and Sarah Goldsack. Could there be a more appropriate name for someone who is running a very successful pub?

PHIL: Day 9/23 Feb

At last a decent night’s sleep! Our brains were finally up to  coping with the backlog of e-mails since leaving home, but the system was still painfully slow at what seemed to be Walvis Bay’s only Internet café. Rang Mum to discover that Auntie Doff, one of her twin sisters, had died of cancer a couple of days ago. Not unexpected but rather more sudden than might have been hoped, though apparently she went peacefully.Mum seems to be taking it well so far but the funeral isn’t until 27th so we shall see.

Drove to see the local salt works by the South Atlantic and then the deserted ocean shore beyond. It crossed both our minds that this might be a location for al fresco sex until a 4x4 loaded with fishermen broke the illusion of isolation.

In planning our next few days I rang several air charter firms to see if a trip from Windhoek to Etosha (the best Namibian game reserve) was within our budget. It wasn’t.

Another excellent meal at ‘The Raft’ .

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Drive to Walvis Bay via the 'tropic of capricorn'

PHIL: Day 8/22 Feb

Early start to the Sossusvlei dunes about 100km away before the long haul via Solitaire to Walvis Bay. Approach to the dunes is via a wide, flat, valley with sand rising to nearly 300m on each side. At the location itself, however, we were disappointed (but not surprised) that there were coach-loads of tourists being ferried in by 4WD and trekking in long school-like ‘crocodiles’ up the once knife-edge crests. Dead Vlei seemed less frequented so Allie scrambled to the dune top after I gave up with aching calves after only 50m or so climb from the salt-flat crater it surrounded.

Driving on to the coast we stopped at the Solitaire settlement for fuel and ‘apfelstrudel’ for which the place is justifiable famous. We missed the turning to a refuge built be two Germans trying to avoid internment during WWII . Allie showed her frustration at being deprived of a ‘walkschen’ to break the drive by insisting she walked for a kilometre or so along the dusty main highway whilst I waited by the roadside.

Approaching Walvis Bay we had been warned that there might be a sea fog and indeed the place was shrouded in low stratus and we shivered as we emerged into 15deg..Paradoxically a flock of tropical-looking Greater Flamingoes was circling the bay where we  to stay overnight.

Balloon landing on the back of the trailer (day before)
Evening saw us eating at a restaurant on stilts, The Raft, run by two unlikely refugees from suburban Surrey. In this otherwise rather characterless and rather forbidding former whaling port there appeared to be little else.Even the French owners of our guest house admitted that the Brits had transformed the restaurant into a first-class establishment with excellent seafood (from the adjacent Benguela Current) and wine (from the Cape).

ALLIE: DAY 8: Thursday, 22nd February

Into the sand dunes and a scenic drive across mountain ridges to Walvis Bay

Early start again. We are setting out for Sossusvlei National Park. But what a shock when we get there: at least 10 cars and dozens of people are queuing at the entrance to pay their fee and get the permit to enter the park. It rather spoilt our impression that we were the only visitors in the whole of Namibia. Another little but pleasant shock when we drive into the park, are 64 km of tarmac road. The rather expensive fee of 180 Rand (18 €) seems to have been mainly used to built this road which already was in need of repair only after a few months.
The last bit of the journey has to been done by 4-wheel drive shuttle busses. And we realize why: the sand on this track is knee deep. But a few stupid tourists obviously ignored the warning signs and are now stuck in the sands. The drivers of the busses just laugh at them. ”It happens every day. We leave them in there for a while. When they ask for help, we can make some good money!”

The hike up to Devils Vlei proves to be a challenge. One step up and three down. That’s the pace and price you pay for trying to climb up a 250m high sand dune. But its worth the effort. The view is spectacular. For hundreds of miles nothing but sand dunes around us. The contours and changing light conditions of the dunes are stunning and give me a feeling of being on a different plant. Down the steep slope is a white clay pan with a few black and barren tree trunks. A ghostly scene. But after heavy rains this inhospitable place can be transformed over night into a heaven for thousands of ducks and other animals.
Now already being late morning, the temperatures rise quickly and its time to move on and find some breakfast and a cold drink. (The only food we manage to find are salt and vinegar crisps and some sweet cookies).
The rest of the day is mainly spent in our car battling the dusty roads and fighting the heat. The only proper stop we allow us is in a place called Solitaire, which indeed is a VERY solitaire  place. Nothing there but a deserted camping site, a fuel station and a shop that is run by a Dutchman baking the most delicious apple strudel that one can imagine – especially here out in the desert! But we are not the only ones enjoying it. A group of rather overweight Dutch arrive on a coach load and savour the rest of the cake.
We escape driving through two “passes” (Gub and Kuiseb) that turn out to be indeed deep river gorges. The landscape with its always changing rock formations keeps us awake. At last we pass the “tropic of capricorn”, take a picture of me (since I am a goat according to the Chinese calendar), and finally arrive at Walvis Bay at the coast. The weather could not be more of a contrast: deep clouds hang over the sea, the temperature is down to a mere 16 degrees and its drizzling. We could be back to England!
Check in the “Lagoon Lodge” but see nothing of the Lagoon. The probably best thing of Walvis Bay, is the “Raft Restaurant” where we end up having a wonderful seafood dinner and a couple of good drinks at the bar. And indeed meet the owners, who are from Surrey England! Wonder why they have moved all that way only to have the same sort of weather…

Monday, 20 February 2017

Ballooning over 'Stonehenge' in Namibia

ALLIE: DAY 7: Wednesday, 21st February

Another magic balloon flight across the sand dunes and landing at 'Stonehenge'

It was impossible to sleep tonight. Not a breath of wind and baking heat in our room (no AC, no ceiling fan, no nothing, except a lot of bugs). Just when its getting a bit cooler and we possibly could fall asleep the alarm rings and calls for another ballooning adventure in the desert.

Today we fly from a different area called Mwisho. The drive at dawn is actually quite beautiful because we see herds of darkish brown mountain zebras, oryx and jumping gazelles. Oh and three jackals. Our pilot today is William Kotze. A young South African who was trained out here by Erik. It turns out to be a bit breezy as we take off with sunrise. But the flight is stunning. 

We float across the sand dunes and William rises our Adrenalin by coming really close above some hills. The light conditions are fantastic and the visibility endless. After 55 minutes William steers the balloon to what’s called “Stonehenge”. Indeed showing a striking resemblance of the real Stonehenge in England. These are a pile of round shaped rocks sitting on top of each other like something out of a Japanese garden design. Same procedure as yesterday: we are welcomed by the crew with a wonderful breakfast and toast to the flight with nice cold champagne. What other job in the world starts a day with having to drink champagne every morning?

One good reason for wanting to become a professional pilot we all agree.
In the afternoon temperatures hit the 46 degrees mark. We are in desperate need of a cold drink and drive to the “Mirage” Hotel. This strange building resembles an English fortress and would rather fit in the countryside of the Scottish highlands then into the middle of this desert. Nevertheless we find a bar and some good “Windhoek draft” which actually turns out to be in a can!

Not much else can be done in this heat except hiding in the shade and catching some wind. A little stroll along one of the many tracks in the evening makes us feel that at least we have done a bit of exercise before we share a last meal with the Hesemans who have been so hospitable to us.

PHIL: Day 7/21 Feb

Another chance to fly from a different location over the iron-red dunes – this time with second pilot Willem. Allie had hoped to get some ‘hands-on’, but as navigational requirements meant a low-level flight (down to 25cm at times) at a reasonable speed (8-10kt) the opportunity did not present itself. Some great photos, though, and another spectacular breakfast location amongst ancient rocks.
More fruitless attempts to sleep. The temperature is expected to be 52deg C today!

Final dinner at Eric’s where we, rather sheepishly, handed over our only available ‘thank you’ gifts – some chocolate and a copy of ‘Safari by Balloon’ on DVD. What we expected to be a muted reception was transformed by Eric & Nancy realising that it was seeing this very film back in 1986 that had stimulated their enthusiasm for balloon operation in Africa and which accounted for their present successful and happy situation at Sossusvlei.

Our wedding anniversary celebrated with a stunning flight in Sossusvlei/Namibia (and Bagan!)

PHIL:Day 6/ 20 Feb. 07

Allie’s and my wedding anniversary – a contrast to that brisk day three years before when we married in Quakers’ Friars, Bristol. Up at 0500 to go for our first balloon flight in Namibia in Eric’s Spanish-built Ultra-Magic N-315 balloon, built to carry 12.

It soon became apparent that I should do all the flying, under Eric’s watchful eye, with a mix of South African, Canadian and British tourists (plus Allie) on board.
Quite spectacular dune scenery – red, stationary erg desert – backed by ancient Gondwana mountain ranges. I had little time to gaze around, however, as Eric was niggling about how high to fly and which burner to use in a way I found unnecessary and unsettling. I just like to ‘get on with it’. Anyway, I reckon I did a pretty good flight with nicely controlled landing next to some 100m + dunes, dropping the balloon neatly onto the trailer for deflation. Superb breakfast ‘al fresco’ with champagne, of course, to celebrate the anniversary plus my 90th country of balloon flight.

Back to Eric’s to sleep, but by now it had cooked up to nearly 50deg C, so neither of us could get any rest. Had to console myself with Bill Bryson humour in ‘From a Big Country’. The evening spent fighting a very sluggish internet access and a rather late meal with Eric’s mother-in-law and wife Nancy just back from Windhoek.
 Another terrible night of intense heat and no air circulation in our room.

ALLIE: DAY 6: Tuesday, 20th February

And 10 years on? We are still happily married,
 love travelling and ballooning and our GnTs by 5pm!
  Celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary
 with a stunning flight across the temples of Bagan!
Our wedding anniversary and Namibia as country no 90 and 22 in the logbook!

Our third wedding anniversary! This morning I could have slept for years, but we have to get up at 5.00. At 6.00 we are on the road with Erick and his team driving to the launch site only a few kilometres from the great dunes. We rig the 315 cubic feet balloon (V5-HAI) and after the passengers have arrived we are climbing gently into the rising sun. Magnificent views over the dunes and the mountains make me forget my tiredness. 

Phil is doing the flight whilst Erick explains to us the area and specific features. We catch a good view of the “Devils hole” – a place where you definitely don’t want to land. “I had to land there some years ago,” Erick tells us, “and it took 20 people, three trucks and two weeks of pain staking effort to get the 700kg kit out of there”. We are certainly having more luck with the winds on this flight not though with the sun which doesn’t really want to appear behind the clouds. And an hour later we touch down on the back of our retrieve truck! A perfect landing.

Flying over the Irrawaddy river with barge underneath
Celebration of Phil’s 90th country with a balloon, my 22nd and our anniversary. ( am now at 81 countries and Phil at 113!)

A fantastic breakfast is laid out in front of us and we indulge in smoked Zebra, butter fish fillet and fresh fruit.
It is getting very hot. 52 degrees in the sun and 40 in the shade! No wonder our much longed rest back at the lodge turns into a battle against the heat and dripping sweat.
Hardly able to move the afternoon is spent with writing, doing emails and waiting a bit cooler air.

Nancy, Erik’s wife, and her mother arrive at sunset time from Windhoek with a truck full of goods and groceries. Everything has to be bought up there. A mere 400km away from here! We spend a cheerful evening talking about mothers-in-law, falling in love and - of course - ballooning.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

DAY 5: Long drive through the desert to Sossusvlei

NOTE: Due to the fact that I didn't anticipate to start this blog whilst being out here in Burma for the last 5 months I sadly don't have access to all my original photos from our 2007 world tour (only the 'best of the best'). I will revert therefore in the meantime to occasionally fitting in photos of our more recent exploits. Once back in Bristol I will add the appropriate photos to each day. We especially lack pictures from our drive around Namibia as we were robbed of our camera and lost most of our photos! (see story in about a week's time).

Whilst Allie climbs the tallest mountain in Chin State (western Burma) with its 3079m tall peak, Phil explore's wintery (and -20degree cold) Mongolia.

Views from an ovo hill across the Mongolian steppe in snow 

Allie and the top of Mt Victoria in Chin State/Myanmar

ALLIE DAY 5: Monday, 19th February

Waiting for our luggage and a long drive through desert to Sossusvlei
Another sleepless night. Feeling rather trashed. We decide to wait for our luggage which is due to arrive at lunchtime. Fighting a very slow internet connection and try to stay in touch with the world. Quite surprisingly our luggage does arrive at 12.30 and we set off to drive to the south. Our route takes us 100km on a good tarmac road to Rehoboth. From there on its gravel for the remaining 300km. We hardly see another soul in this deserted half desert place and even the animals seem to hide. My only encounter with African wildlife are three monkeys, lots of donkeys, some horses, cows, goats and at last two ostriches.
Half through the journey we stop at a little deserted place called “Conny’s Restaurant”. A big elderly lady being Conny welcomes us and offers us some good coffee and home-made cookies. She has been living in this remote place for 36 years. Her husband died 3 years ago and she struggles to make a living by catering for the handful of tourists who drive through this area. We talk about the weather and she says that they had a lot of rain just a few weeks ago. Three people even got killed whilst walking in some of the dry wadis when suddenly a flush flood hit them. We leave the old lady feeling quite sorry for her rather nice but ever so desolated café and continue our drive towards the Naukluft Mountains.
Spectacular rock formations now follow our trek. Driving is quite dangerous. Loosing control over your car in the sand or the deep wadis that suddenly appear is one of the major reasons for possibly what is the highest accident rate in the world. We were reminded of that fact when we pass a German guy sitting beside the road amongst his belongings with a dirt covered face. He just escaped a nearly fatal accident by falling asleep whilst driving and getting off-road. We offer help but his friend is already on the way.
Enjoying a rest on top of the sand dunes
Towards the evening we finally arrive at our friends house which is set infront of some of the worlds most spectacular sand dunes. Erick is Belgium born but brought up in Kongo. He was then working in Zaire and Ruanda until he finally found his African home here in Namibia. Sixteen years ago he started to set up a hot air ballooning operation in this area near the dunes of Sossusvlei. This year he employs three other pilots (his son also being a pilot) and around 16 crew. Every morning on around 300 days of the year he flies over the national park with its stunning dunes. We hope to go flying with him the next morning.

But for now we are happy to enjoy a good glass of white wine whilst the sun is setting behind the dunes creating a magic light.

PHIL: Day 5 / 19 Feb

After a morning spent chasing Air Namibia our bags arrived just in time for us to feel comfortable leaving for Sossusvlei in time to arrive before dark, and despite empty but mostly gravel roads we reached Eric Hessemans’ house at about 6.30. Set in an isolated part of his 30,000 hectare estate the stone-built Moroccan’style house was almost completely camouflaged from any distance.

Eric’s welcome included a couple of brandies and several glasses of wine with a fixed-wing pilot friend of his from Holland.After swapping ballooning tales we fell exhausted to bed only to be kept awake again not by noise, as the location is almost totally devoid of sound, but by the high residual temperature without a/c or fan.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

DAY 4, Sunday, 18th of Feb

Farewell to Cape Town, a belated flight to Windhoek, no luggage and rain!

A howling wind kept us awake during most of the night. To my eternal surprise my husband suggests another walk up a hill!! So we take a cab and drive up to Signal Hill which allows fantastic views to the coastline and Cape Town itself. I ask the taxi driver when the last fires here destroyed all the trees and bushes – the answer is: not now! I ask him what all this storm was about last night – the answer is: what wind? So far to my fragile attempts to communicate with the locals. We walk along the ridge of the hill and pass a few Muslim graveyards, a deserted model gliding strip and Sunday strollers with their picnic boxes.

But for us its time to say Good Bye, pack our belongings and go out to the airport to board our flight to Windhoek, Namibia. A new country for both of us. But from here on luck is not in our favour: we sit in the aircraft waiting whilst I am fighting for space in my seat with a snoring and gorilla looking fat guy next to me. After one hour delay without being told the reason for it, we finally take off and catch a last sight of Table mountain, this time covered with its notorious white “table cloth”, a long band of clouds. How lucky have we been yesterday! But that was yesterday and today is today. So when we get our food (“here is your seafood meal, but actually its vegetarian!”) Phil's table is loose and coffee drips all over our cloths. But that’s not all: opening his pen to write, it explodes and leaves us covered in black ink!

Image result for windhoek in rain
Windhoek in stormy weather
(sadly from now on I have to revert
 to using a couple of internet photos as all my other world'tour pictures are in Bristol and we are still here in Burma)
Then suddenly the sky blackens and we see a strikes of lightening and disappear into pitch-black clouds. We land in a downpour of rain and its freezing cold. Welcome to Namibia! Well, this is indeed VERY different to whatever I must have imagined to arrive in a desert country.

The next experience of Africa follows shortly: we all wait for at least 40min at an empty luggage belt that occasionally starts excitedly to move but not to produce anything. Where is our luggage? It finally turns out that that Namibian Airline has offloaded all of our luggage in Cape Town allegedly due to “weight problems” – well the guy next to me certainly had one. Now chaos breaks out. Nobody has a clue as to what should happen next and the airline boy only shows a stoic face not knowing how to handle a twenty angry passengers. We finally leave the airport having filled out a report file and move on to our hired car. Well, its not quite a posh Mercedes. A tiny dodgy looking white mobile box will be our vehicle for the next two weeks of exploring Namibia. That might become very interesting. Driving for 45 minutes through heavy rain we finally arrive in Windhoek city. The town seems to be deserted and we have trouble to find our “Chameleon Backpackers Lodge”. Exhausted and relieved we are finally let into to quirky lodge and “warm up” (its freezing cold!) with a good local cider.

18 Feb/Day 4

Well we didn’t get to Robben Island after a night made sleepless by howling mountain winds which made us nervous both about the comfort of the 45 min. boat journey or even the possibility that the return might be cancelled thus  risking missing our flight to Windhoek – which, as will later be revealed, we rather wish we had!

Anyway, a walk on Signal Hill overlooking the city and adjacent coastal resorts was a great substitute offering quite different vistas of the encircling mountains.

The day began to go downhill on the way to the airport Allie revealed she had forgotten to bring her driving licence, meaning on our several planned car hirings would be with me alone as approved driver. This had happened before on our US trip and led to some fractious exchanges then. I had reminded her several times to pack the document for the RTW trip but…..This made me irritable, a feeling compounded when our newly set up iPass internet access failed to work as advertised at Capetown Airport. After a 40min delay we took off for Windhoek squashed in to our seat row by a snoring 150kg man and at the end of the two hour flight descended through a violent electrical storm to be told (after further delay) that our bags had been offloaded in Cape Town due to excess aircraft weight (probably extra fuel to allow for the storm). They would, we were told, arrive next morning, but meanwhile Air Namibia didn’t feel inclined to be of much help.

Into town in torrential rain to find downtown Windhoek looking dreary and frankly threatening. After a bit of a trail around we found Chameleon Backpackers – an oasis of hippie life but with a nice bar & pool and quiet , clean rooms.A bad night for Allie, disturbed by my snoring, I suspect.

Friday, 17 February 2017

DAY 3: Saturday, 17th February
A hot and tedious ascent to Table Mountain and rewarding views from the top

Dead woman and dead dog after the climb 
The crocodile seems to have helped! We did it! Woke up at seven in the morning. The bright morning sun already shining on table mountain. The climb up was indeed as our trekking map warned us: “a sustained, unrelieved climb with a view that slowly shrinks between dark, forbidding walls as you (at last!!!) near the summit”. We were though not the only ones trying to put a climb up table mountain in our “done-it” logbook. A line of people from all ages and races were fighting like us against the high steps, heat and never ending steep rocks. Finally emerging out of the Platteklip Gorge we enjoyed the most stunning views over the city, the surrounding coastline and the table mountain ridge towards the south. Cape of good hope and the very southern most point of Africa cape of Agulhas lay beneath our feet. An exhilarating moment.

Praising my dear husband of his super mountaineering skills (indeed much fitter then my last hiking group that I had guided to Burma!) I subtly made it clear, that we actually hadn’t quite reached the top of table mountain. The REAL top is named Maclear’s Beacon is is another 1hrs walk and 19m of a climb further ahead of us. Resigning into his fate we followed the Hoerikwaggo Hiking Trail and walked along moors and fascinating vegetation with beautiful flowers and amazing rock formations. 

Phil not really liking heights (except when being in an aircraft or balloon) had to face his toughest route on our way back towards the cable car station when we climbed along the mountain ridge where the cliffs plunged a mere 1500ft down to the city of Cape town. Escaping the weekend crowds at the mountain restaurant we went down the mountain in only 4mins by a revolving cable car. We could have done it with less effort but with also less rewarding memories!

Celebrating our ascent we enjoyed a glass of gin tonic a the Pub “Mixa Schwarma” and then ended up with trying Mozambiquen food at a hippie looking restaurant all painted in yellow. We tried their curries with coconut, but all we could taste was a spiciness that turned your inside out but left the desire to cool off with the taste of coconut. In the meanwhile a black African tried to sell us funny looking self-made grasshoppers, two girls next to us chatting about making careers in South Africa with dubious university degrees whilst I got seduced by a girl to try out a great “Stumpen” of  a Spanish cigar. What a fantastic, unforgettable day!

17 Feb. Day 3

Well the crocodile got eaten after all, accompanied by a bottle of Fleur du Cap. No doubt preparing my stamina for Mountain Task Number One – climbing Table Mountain. Now Allie suggested that this would be from half-way up and so not quite so daunting as the whole 3500ft. She omitted to mention that the chosen route involved an additional 2km hike along the base of the mountain followed by a near vertical (my words, but not far wrong) ascent to the top via Platteklip Gorge.We were overtaken by several other hopeful groups of climbers bu, I’m glad to say, eventually still beat them to the summit. Once on top I was all for heading straight to the café by the cable car station for urgently needed refreshment, but Allie had noted that the highest point on the mountain was, in fact, 19M higher than our current level and so must be achieved with a further 2km ‘loopschen’ (her word for any allegedly small extension of an already exhausting expedition).

Eventually we reached the café only to find that all the unfit fatties who chose to ascend by cable car were already in a monumental queue for beer and ice cream. We abandoned the quest and, after photographing a George VI pillar box cast in Derby in the 1940s, set off for the city again.

Evening meal at a Mozambican restaurant filled with a mixed crowd of locals and run by a middle-aged hippie lady. Back to the hotel to embalm limbs wracked by muscular pain and sunburn.

Plan to visit Robben Island in the morning before we leave for Namibia, but I’m not sure if time will allow.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

DAY 2: arrival in Cape Town, South Africa 16.2.2007

ALLIE DAY 2: Exploring Cape Town

Friday, 16th of February

Arrival in Cape Town and a stroll around the old town and harbour side
Flying across the whole of Africa during the night.  Don’t sleep well, since it’s a very bumpy flight. Seeing the oil refineries along the African coast and watching the various countries and strange capital names passing. Africa is still a blank map to me. Touch down exactly on time at 8.45 local time and after nearly 10.000 km in Cape town, South Africa. This is probably the southern most point I have ever been to in my life. Thrilling thoughts. We are taking a taxi into downtown passing the slums of Cape town. A bit depressing. But then we catch the first glimpse of that fascinating steep and majestic famous mountain towering over the city: table mountain. Our driver drops us off the “Lady Hamilton Hotel” a small boutique hotel in a side road at the foot of the hill. We would like to crash to bed, but the room is not ready. Start strolling along the lush botanical gardens toward the city center admiring the mixed architecture of the city with its old dutch and British buildings and modern sky scrapers. I feel a bit detached. This is clearly NOT Asia. The population in mainly black, but we do hear a lot of German, English and Dutch.
Sipping a coffee near the old market square watching real hippie and weirdo life passing by thinking: this is great. That’s life. And the temperature is just perfect. Not too hot, even a bit too cold when the sun disappears behind the clouds.

This is actually NOT the crocodile gazpacho nor leopards
 soup but plantanas and sticky rice
Afternoon stroll down to the harbour side.  That’s where Cape town life happens on a Friday afternoon. Pubs heaving with the “great and good” of this city enjoying their booze and good seafood. We join in fighting against the seagull who also seem to love a good draft beer and fresh fried calamari.

The walk back through “Long Street” turns out to be indeed very long. Exhausted from not having slept proper and the huge variety of impressions we encountered in only a few hours walking around, we sip a cold glass of white wine and watch the sun disappear behind signal hill.

I could fall asleep now, but my husband drags me out to try crocodile gazpacho and leopards soup – maybe with the hidden hope that that will help us to acquire the required strength to climb up table mountain tomorrow!


DAY 2/16 Feb 07

The South Africans could teach the Americans a thing or two about making visitors welcome. Easy (but thorough) inbound Immigration & Customs completed in 10 minutes.

Rather hi-jacked into a limo to our hotel (the Lady Hamilton in uptown Gardens area) but there in time to find the room wasn’t ready. A downtown walk through lovely Company Gardens (Dutch East India Company/VOC) and later to the V&A Pier area – very reminiscent of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Absolutely gin-clear viz across the Bay and up to Table Mountain. Allie has a plan to climb the latter tomorrow if my feet aren’t too sore. The German manageress of our hotel says it’s quite safe to do so in daylight. Text message from Irish balloonist Joe Leahy suggesting he’d like to equal my recently achieved 2000hrs P.1 but doubts if he’ll make it because “the good die young” (!)

Sundowner wine at incredibly cheap prices (£1 a glass) on Kloof Street where we may well return later for crocodile gazpacho or kudu steaks. Apparently this won’t put us on the wrong side of CITES.

Allie got her swim in the hotel’s miniscule pool but now unconscious on the bed. Crocodile gazpacho may have to wait for another day…..