Berkshire explorer Lee Farmer's close encounters in Namibia

PUBLISHED: 08:33 10 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:48 20 February 2013

Berkshire explorer Lee Farmer's close encounters in Namibia

Berkshire explorer Lee Farmer's close encounters in Namibia

West Berkshire mountaineer and explorer, Lee Farmer, experienced major vehicle troubles and a big cat close encounter, during a five week exploration trip to Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia.

West Berkshire mountaineer and explorer, Lee Farmer, experienced major vehicle troubles and a big cat close encounter, during a five week exploration trip to Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia.


In Namibia, Lee, (38), a mountain guide from Woolton Hill, led a group of 12 Home Counties teenagers through the arid desert environment of the 50,000 Km2 Namib-Naukluft National Park, on the remote 120 Km Naukluft trail, renowned as the toughest trek in Southern Africa.



The trail, set in the oldest desert landscape in the world, is totally uninhabited. Lee said: Theres a common misconception that nothing lives in the desert, but whilst humans cannot live there, theres so much wildlife. From tadpoles and frogs in natural springs, to bigger animals such as zebras, rhinos, and even leopards.


The group had a very close encounter one night, when a herd of rare mountain zebra took a shine to their tents and rubbed themselves against them keeping the tired team awake for hours. Another night we heard a leopard calling near our open camp. Its roar reverberated around the whole valley, which was pretty chilling, said Lee.



Exhilirated at completing the trail the group boarded their pre-arranged transport; a large Mercedes 4x4 Unimog. Bouncing along the dirt desert roads, they had a shock when one of the front wheels came off and disappeared down the road ahead of the vehicle. The vehicle skidded for 300m on the axle before literally grinding to a halt. It was a real white knuckle incident. Fortunately, there were no injuries so we evacuated the vehicle and I set about a rescue plan via my satellite phone. said Lee.



Vehicle troubles didnt end there though. After completing a community based project at a small village in the Kalahari Desert, a pre-arranged coach came to pick the team up in the late afternoon. Lee said: As darkness fell we realised the coach had no lights, and this made driving on the dirt roads extremely dangerous because of the high risk of hitting obstacles - even cattle or antelope. Instead, the group ended up camping in a local schools playground for the night, whilst locals tried to change the coachs battery and alternator.



Transport improved when the group entered Botswana and explored the reed beds of the Okovango Delta by Mokoro a type of open canoe. Switching over to Jeeps, the group spent a few days in one of the national parks and discovered ancient Sans Bushmen rock paintings some 1500 years old. Camping nearby in the bush, they had another encounter with big carnivores, when a pack of spotted Hyena circled the camp. Lee said: We were surrounded, with yellow eyes reflecting back in our torchlights, and in the morning their tracks were all around our tents.



Crossing the mighty Zambezi river the group entered Zambia. Here they witnessed the awe-inspiring vastness of the world famous Victoria Falls. Close to the falls and the town of Livingstone, Lee was invited to visit a lion and cheetah breeding programme charity. Both big cats are listed as a vulnerable species. He had the chance to walk with three 20-month old lions and play with a five year old cheetah.It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful cats, but I was sad to learn that in some African countries the cheetah is classed as vermin and can legitimately be shot by farmers.



Lee concluded: It is a real pleasure to take teenagers such as these and teach them expedition and life skills, watching them develop and, gain confidence, perhaps preparing them for their own gap year adventures.


Next year sees Lee tackle North Americas highest mountain Denali in Alaska. If successful he will become part of a very exclusive club of 200 mountaineers worldwide, who have completed the Seven Summits Challenge - of scaling each continents highest peak.


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