Ngomakurira, an ancient crag near Harare, will provide a first taste for many of rock climbing in Zimbabwe. After we leave Harare, if people want to, we can head south to visit the Great Zimbabwe ruins, the most impressive ruins south of the Sahara. This great stone city built from the 11th century onwards lies across a boulder strewn hill complex. The enclosures and towers constructed of granite blocks are of tremendous historic importance. We can spend a day in the campsite to boulder and explore the ruins.
Alternatively, people may want to head straight for the beauty of Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. First discovered by Livingstone in 1865, the falls are 1.7km wide and drop 107m into the Zambezi gorge. The local population know the falls as 'Mosi-oa-tunya', which means 'the smoke that thunders', and it really does. The noise is incredible, and the spray is visible miles above the savannah.
We will spend a while in the central campsite in the small town of Victoria Falls, and there really is a lot to do in this adrenaline junkie's paradise. With some of the world's best rafting and river boarding, it's time to get wet paddling the big grade 5 rapids that the Zambezi is famous for. Then there is the 111 m Bungee jump off Victoria Falls bridge, where you'll dive through the rainbow produced by the spray.
If that's not enough you can start a skydiving course, go game viewing on horseback, go to crocodile farms and lion sanctuaries, or spend some time relaxing on a sunset cruise on the upper Zambezi. There are micro-light, helicopter and ultra-light flights, and you can even go for a spot of golf out at the Elephant Hills hotel. Even if you don't play golf it's worth it, as where else do you get hippos in the water features and elephants on the greens? Night times inevitably see the masses of adrenaline-saturated travellers descend on the Explorer Bar after the sunset cruise (known affectionately as the booze cruise on account of the free bar).
There is some rock climbing in Zimbabwe's Vic Falls gorge but if you look closely you will see David Bellamy types driving around with JCBs, smiling at the amount of vegetation that thrives in the spray from the falls, so it is probably best to rest those fingers for a few days. From Vic Falls, we will head for what is many people's favourite African country, for the sheer majesty of the landscapes, Namibia. We will drive through the Chobe National Park in Botswana, and the geographical oddity that is the Caprivi Strip, wedged between Angola and Botswana. On route we can also stop to see the 2nd biggest meteor crater on the planet and maybe camp at pretty Popa Falls.
Our first major Namibian destination is the Etosha National Park Many people rank Etosha as the best game viewing they've ever experienced. Last time we sat up all night watching rhino and baby giraffes drinking from the pool as lions roared unnervingly nearby. The saltpans and savannah of the park are astoundingly dry and arid, with a small number of watering holes providing the only source of moisture for many groups of animals. This makes game viewing very easy - drive to a watering hole, park up, and just wait for the animals to come to you.
Sat next to these watering holes, it is possible to view a staggering variety of animals, including elephant, leopard, lion, giraffe, zebra and rhino, and many species of bock and gazelle. We will stay in the game lodges and we'll escape the mid-day sun in their pools and cafes. From here we will drive south, via a cheetah orphanage where we can watch these breathtaking animals in action as they are fed in the fading light of dusk. We pass via Terrace Bay on the Skeleton Coast, the final resting place of many of the ships that try to round the Cape of Good Hope and enter the Southern Ocean, the roughest waters in the world.
It is an amazing sight, this shipwrecks' graveyard in endless mighty, wind-blown dunes. Those wrecked here were doomed - the waterless desert runs right down to the raging sea. And as we hit this sea, it is time to celebrate the fact we have successfully crossed Africa from one coast to another. We’ll follow the coast southwards for another day, to Swakopmund. If Victoria Falls was an adrenaline junkie's paradise, Swakopmund truly is Pepsi Max Heaven. I am sure you will go straight out to the drop-zone to meet Craig and sexy Jo-Jo. It's a great place to get your freefall sky-diving ticket or do a tandem dive and fall at terminal velocity towards where the vast Namib dunes meet the Atlantic.
A day must be taken out to go sand-boarding, either on snowboards or, even better, on flat pieces of polished plywood that can have you hurtling down 150m hills at speeds in excess of 80kph! If that's not enough there is jet-skiing and micro-light flying from our base in a youth hostel (with bar and showers) in the centre of town. Or you could just relax and lie on the beach with the seals. This will be our opportunity to put our feet up, relax a little and stock up on supplies before we hit our big destination for rock climbing in Namibia – Groote Spitzkoppe.
Rising to 1759m, and towering 700m or more above the desert floor, it's known as the Matterhorn of Africa, with huge soaring sheets of folded granite. It was not climbed until 1946 when an extremely bold attempt succeeded on the VS (5.7) line that is now the easiest route to the summit. Rock climbing on spitzkoppe involves about 5 pitches of climbing plus a lot of difficult and intricate scrambling. At one point you squeeze through a cave and emerge on the other side of the mountain looking down a sheer 500m face. The summit book lists fewer than 400 people that have ever been to the top, but those few will never forget the extensive view of the barren desert that it affords.
We will spend more than a week camping in one of the sheltered, shady bush camps in amongst the scattered boulders below. With about 50 sports climbs established on the 10-30m high boulders, there is plenty to do around camp. You could take on one of the many multi-pitch bolted routes on the granite slabs of the Sugarloaf, Hippo Rock or Klipdachswand, or one of the trad routes on the Pontoks peaks. For a real challenge, you could attempt one of the more serious undertakings that the SW face offers, such as the 18 pitch 'INXS' (E4, 5.11 c) where every pitch is on your toes and high stepping fun.
There is always somebody lounging around camp to keep an eye on your tent and gear, and dinner is cooked for you at the end of the day (unless it's your turn to cook it - cook duty operates on a rota system with everybody doing their bit to feed the group. Days settle into a pattern of morning climbing, relaxing around camp when the mid-day sun beats down at its hottest, then a bit more climbing as the sun falls low in the sky. Evenings are a time to write the diary, crack open a can of beer, compare destroyed fingertips and trade friendly insults between different nationalities. We’ll feel ready to rest our tired muscles and grow back some skin, not to mention be in need of a shower (!) by the time we leave Spitzkoppe behind and head to Windhoek for our next changeover point.
Note: If you want to come rock climbing on the Spitzkoppe but want to join for the next section instead, this can be arranged. Contact me.
Prices include food, accommodation, transport and most national park fees throughout Africa. You need to add visas, insurance, flights and beer! I can provide further info on all this on request.
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Africa Zimbabwe Namibia Outdoor: Mountain Ranger Mountain/Rock Climbing Multi-activity
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