A couple of years ago I took my wife and 2 girls on a safari to Kenya. The lads stayed at home as it was the first time they really thought that going on holiday with your parents was really uncool. Now, some time later and on reflection, they wished they had gone. This was brought to light even more, especially as I was going to go back to Africa to film my latest and final two films for Phil’s Worldwide Cookout series.
We had been to Peru and also Norway, so this fitted perfectly into cooking in fairy extreme places. My memories of Kenya were very nice ones, fantastic scenery, animals and of course food. We even flew into Jo’burg as we were to do on the first part of our 10-day trip.
I met the crew, Janice (boss) Ritchie (sound) and Matt (camera) at Heathrow’s Terminal 3, car picked me up on time and it was a nice pleasant day. Flight was an overnight one at 8.30pm, and was a nice change from flying to Peru with it's time difference.
After a quick drink and a bite for the crew, I abstained, preferring to eat on the plane (something I would later regret) we boarded the Virgin Atlantic flight. The staff were charming and courteous. My seat was perfect, and comfy. I’m not a big drinker at anytime but did like the glass of Signal Cannon Chenin Blanc. Menu’s arrived and I chose the beetroot cured salmon and the slow cooked feather steak.
The salmon dish was fine, nice salmon, and perfectly okay. The feather steak was cooked perfectly (in a bag) which is fine with me provided the meat tastes good to start with. Sadly it was bland and tasteless. The tiny amount of sauce was not enough to try and rescue the poor thing. The carrots and fondant potato (dry and tasteless also) I was hungry and ate too quickly, so feeling a bit full and uncomfortable skipped the dessert and cheese trolley, yes trolley. Two nice touches though did impress me though. Firstly the napkin with a small hole in one corner to button onto your shirt, secondly the cool wine holders that the staff can walk around the plane with holding 3 bottles, like it. I set out my bed and tried to sleep, but did not sleep too well due to my indigestion, my own fault..
Next thing I know it's breakfast and feeling slightly better ordered coffee, orange juice and a bacon butty. All fine and perfectly acceptable.
We land and gather all the kit together, always a bit nervous that it's gone to Australia or somewhere else (see Alaska) we have to declare all our stuff in and have a carnet to get signed. A sort of checklist to make sure what we bring in is going out. We then have to check in for the next step of the journey to Windhoek, pronounced Vintook. That all done and getting slightly confused and in the wrong departure gates we head off for some more food and a coffee. I use the loo and as I walk in I’m cheerfully greeted by the attendant who welcomes me to ‘his office’ now that’s what I call service. I take a few pictures in the airport of planes and get used to my new camera. This weirdly is a BA flight, didn’t realise they did internal flight in Africa and will take approximately 1½ to 2 hours.
As we take off and fly out of Jo’Burg it’s not long before we are flying over nothing but scrub and parched earth as far as the eye can see. It’s very sunny and does have a certain beauty to it. As we get closer to Namibia it gets even more desolate. Food was okay, nice salad, some lovely baked fish in tomato and pepper sauce. Vegetables are good some boiled sweet potato, and patty pan squash. Desert was a malt tart? Like a small cheesecake, it was very nice. Staff charming and were very good.
We land into the tiny airport in Windhoek about 2-ish, so already have been travelling some 20 hours. Getting through passport control and also immigration is a nightmare. It's takes about an hour including several changes in line, plus a rude confrontation with some ‘diplomats’ as we refused to budge. Next we have to pass through declaration in customs, carnet again. This was okay this time, I’m not really sure they understood what to do, but hey ho we were in!
We meet our two fixers on the ground from 'Sense Of Africa', the company who had organised a lot of our trip. Carlos, our guide and Desiree guide us to the pickup point for the 2 cars that we had hired for our long trips between the game reserves. Carlos insists that we have 2 extra wheels (something that would be very handy later in the week) Two Toyota Hi Lux trucks are just the job here, although I’m a Land Rover man at heart. Carlos explains that 80% of the journey is going to be on gravel roads! And full of dust so be warned.
Matt and Ritchie take one truck and me, Janice and Carlos the other and we head off out of Windhoek. The scenery is really baron and very dry. We chat about rugby and former players also; Carlos is funny and pretty much what you would expect an African tour guide to be.
Our first stop was to be the game camp Intu Afrika Kalahari Private Game Reserve near the town of Mariental. This place has a lot of history, formally known as Zaragaebia, meaning dusty in local dialect (no, really) a lot of people died here from 1903-1907 as the colonial and Nama forces tried to gain control. Now it’s a sleepy open space, and the focus is on beef exportation.
Most of the trip to the reserve is on tarmac roads. But for the last 25 miles to our first stop we experience our first taste (literally) of what the next 1,200 miles were going to be. Gravel, dust filled roads that stretch for miles and miles. There really is no let up, it's goes on forever.
We finally arrive at the reserve after dodging Mongoose, Springbok, and Ibex, to an idyllic, quiet beautiful place.
We check into the very small lodge and we are all assigned our rooms. We are it's only residents and each of us has a detached chalet/hut set in the bush.
On our 3-½ hour journey Carlos was very careful to explain that Namibia is a dangerous place. There are many wild animals and insects that are quite deadly. Scorpions are everywhere, so are many species of snake including the Cape Spitting Cobra and the Black Spitting Cobra. If you are unfortunate and get bitten by one of these two you’ve probably got 45 minutes to get help or you're dead. He tells us a story of a certain German lady who was bitten by a snake in her shower. They had to drive to the nearest village 40 minutes away to get help, she just made it....
I check the room and shower, all clear, I keep my bag zipped up and wash bag also. I then head off to meet the rest of the crew for dinner as the sun was setting and it was getting late.
Our dinner tonight was to be a ‘dune dinner’ this is where you drive in to the bush and up onto one of the many deep orangey red sand dunes. Here whilst the sun sets, staff set up a Braai, a sort of bar-b-que. The table is laid and we sip cold beers, all very welcome after nearly 24 hours travelling. We all start to flag, but soon get second wind and exited by the brilliant sunset.
The dinner is really nice we have Oryx, a sort of Zebra with long black horns, very lean local lamb chops, beef and local spicy beef sausages, all delicious.
Offerings also included vegetables in cheese sauce, very popular here; salad and braised potatoes all cooked in deep, cast iron Dutch oven pans. Believe it or not desert was sponge and custard. By the time we finish it's pitch black, the sky is full of stars and we are full. Back to the lodge, quick chat and off to my room. I check all the areas again for any unwanted guests and climb into bed.