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Memories from Namibia

  • AllanStephan
    AllanStephan on

    Firstly, I would like to compliment you on a great mag, and also take the opportunity to share my story.

    My earliest caravan experience goes back to 1961, when I was a child. My dad bought a Gypsey Silverline which we towed with a ’41 Chev down to Park Rynie, which I think was a whaling station at one stage.

    In my time, I have had a Sprite 400, a Musketeer, and a Gypsey 5. The advances in technology over the years have been unbelievable. Who remembers those canvas tents with wooden poles and pegs, and no built-in ground sheet, so that you had to dig a trench around the tent in case of rain? And we have gone from a van with a primus stove and paraffin lamps, to everything electric − microwaves, fridges, you name it.

    But the one thing that has not been lost is that “snug as a bug in rug” feeling that a caravan offers.

    We must also not believe that things from overseas are always better – a friend in Scotland bought a new caravan, which he had to return to the dealer for another because of all the leaks. I think our local manufacturers are doing a very good job − from the tiny Sherpa to the latest Jurgens.

    Anyway, on to my story about Kaokoland. In 1981, I was flying as a commercial pilot in Namibia for Namib Air & West Air Hire and Fly. On my first charter, I headed to Opuwo, which I understood to be a small town. How wrong I was.

    As a result, I passed over Opuwo and went on to Ruacana Falls, before I realised that I was lost. I backtracked and landed at Okangwati, which had just been commissioned as an Air Force base. Keep in mind that the Angolan conflict was on. The officer in charge was a lieutenant from Ficksburg, doing his national service, and after exchanging pleasantries, he pointed me in the direction of Opuwo, just a short distance away.

    As a result of this experience, I now knew just how tiny some of the towns in Namibia were. Bear in mind that there were, then, virtually no navigational aids; but on subsequent trips, I found Opuwo quite easily just by following the dust road leading to the town. A charter to Opuwo was always considered the “booby prize” compared to some of the other places − there were the rare desert elephants in the Kunene region, a stark contrast to the Knysna forest elephants, and also the Welwitschia plants considered to be the oldest plants known to man; some of the larger specimens are believed to be a couple of thousand years old.

    Reading about all the places mentioned in the Kaokoland article in the February edition, brought back such fond memories − there was probably not an airfield/town in Namibia that I had had not been to by the end of my stay.

    As I remember, the flying time from Eros (the small airport in Windhoek) to Opuwo was about two hours in the small Cessna twins, depending on conditions.

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