Fair warning: images of dead animals on this page.
A Day’s Drive Through Namibia
(Sunday 14th November, 2018)
This morning we had to leave at 8:00 from the hotel. I couldn’t find my wallet so I spent my time searching every inch of our hotel room instead of having breakfast (I did manage to find it in the end, tugged in a bag that wasn’t mine..) A bit silly.
We met the new people this morning. There’s a couple from the UK, a couple from Germany, a man from Germany and another man from Switzerland. We suddenly had this German influx, which seems to be a common phenomenon when travelling anywhere in the world, really. Keith is also getting pretty full by now so I’m no longer occupying two seats on my own – bummer.
So, we drove off after a quick meet and greet, leaving Windhoek behind for now. Gradually, the landscape turned flat again but at least now you could see some wildlife on the road side; antelopes, baboons, guinea fowls. We made a couple of stops for shopping and refuelling and some of us had to use an ATM.
First we visited a craft market where they sold predominantly woodwork and fabrics. I found a beautiful kudu in wood but unfortunately it’d, again, be too big to bring with me. It was quite a large market and it was nice enough to walk around there, although some of the sellers were perhaps a little too persistent for comfort.
Since I missed breakfast, I had to eat my snack popcorn during the morning drive and then I bought some coffee from a coffee shop near the craft market. Lesson: Don’t think you’ve lost your wallet and avoid the morning panic 30 minutes before departure.. Next stop was at a supermarket which was really huge, and some of us agreed it might just as well have been taken out of the US and dumped in Namibia. They also already had the mandatory Christmas decoration up.
We then had our lunch on the roadside, teaching the new Family members the ropes of how to pack and unpack the truck. The food was pasta and tuna salad, coleslaw and some rice and it was pretty good.
When we drove on, little mountains broke up the monotony of the landscape a bit. Namibia has fences along the side of their highways, I wonder if that’s to keep wildlife in (and away from the road) or if it’s private land, or if it’s to keep cattle away from wildlife. I saw some signs along the road, too, which warned about elephant and rhino crossing. When you’re used to deer crossing signs along the roads, these seemed a little crazy.
We came to the lodge and it’s a very nice place. The camp grounds have grass so it’s a nice and soft bedding and also a welcome change from sand. We pitched our tents and then relaxed before dinner. After our dinner a choir group from the lodge came to the camp and performed a few songs for us. It was pretty fun and nice, and they also had a drum with them, playing out some nice rhythms.
After the performance some of us, predictably, went down to the bar to catch up and maybe have a proper chat with some of our new Family members. The owner of the lodge was there, and he was feeling very generous so we ended up probably drinking more than any of us had planned and at no-to-little cost! At some point while sitting in the bar, a big, beautiful eland bull was standing right outside the watering hole (being the bar). He was joined a bit later by two younger bulls and it was quite nice to see them so close. We haven’t had the fortune to really see eland until now.
A Dramatic Day in Etosha
(Monday 5th November, 2018)
I woke up rather early so I had plenty of time to kill before breakfast, which was at 7:45. The times when you wake up before you have to.. Today we had fruit salad, cereals, toast and eggs. We left by 8:30 and made a quick stop in Outjo to hit the ATMs and shops. It’s a touristy place, a sort of gateway to Etosha National Park, and the shops in this area were looking quite fancy and reflecting that.
Commencing our drive through Namibia, the landscape once again became flat and dry with shrubbery. An hour and a half worth of a drive later we made it to the gates of Etosha National Park. It seems to be surrounded by fence but I’m not sure it could go all the way around. Simba got our permit sorted and we started our game drive in the Nomad truck, going towards Okaukuejo camping site for lunch.
Etosha is very arid so you view animals mainly by the waterholes where they gather. Some of these are artificial waterholes (made to keep the animals in the national park area) and a few of them are natural. At the first waterhole we saw:
– Wildebeest – Kudus – Impalas
– Oryx – Steenbok – Ostrich
Kudu and oryx are just some of the most beautiful creatures, I love watching them. There were a lot of antelopes around the park on the whole, and it is supposed to be one of the great parks for game viewing.
Getting to the lunch place we saw that it was this huge camp area which had a large pool, a kiosk, a restaurant, many holiday huts, etc. – plus a waterhole just outside the camp area beyond the fence, where they had fixed benches and other seating arrangements to enjoy the view.
While Jojo was preparing our lunch I went to check out the waterhole and found springbok, oryx and different small birds. After lunch I went to buy a can of coke and then walked back to the waterhole to enjoy our bit of free time. Now there was an elephant, which after a while was joined by a whole long file of elephants – I think there was 29 in total, frolicking in the water and mud, some of the smaller ones rolling around in the muddy water. It’s still amazing to see. Some more modest zebras joined in the drinking, too.
Pulling ourselves away from the elephant show, we had to continue our game drive taking us to our camp for the night, Halali camp within Etosha National Park. It was still a couple of hours away. On the way there we saw an old, lonely elephant bull enjoying his day. Also two male lions lazing around under a tree. Overall we saw:
– Hartebeest – Wildebeest -Springboks
– Zebras – Giraffes – Lionesses
– Elephants – Steenbok
However, during some point of our game drive some of our Family in the back of the truck yelled out. I turned around to see one of us being very sick, looking extremely pale and eyes just staring unfixed and blankly into nothing, seeming not present. It was pretty scary, he was just limply and weakly sitting there in his seat. So we naturally interrupted our game drive and went straight to our camp site. When we got there, we luckily had a doctor travelling with us who could advice and use some travel remedies he had on hand to help. After “treatment”, the ‘patient’ got some colour back and was able to stand up and walk, supported, to their room to rest. It was a bad scare and most likely a result of dehydration. Once again we were reminded to be serious about our water intake!
After we pitched our tents I went to the waterhole near by this camp. It was located a bit further away along a road and then a path, but was also equipped with benches and seats and some lights. You’d also sit a bit elevated on a small rocky hill so you had an excellent view over the waterhole. There were a lot of people enjoying the view and nature and the group of zebra drinking, although they left when I arrived. Sorry everyone!
Back at the camp, at dusk after dinner, we were visited by a couple of honey badgers. They were opening the trash cans and knocking them over, searching for food scraps. One lady walked really close to them to have a look (thinking they are cute, probably…) and one badger sniffed her leg. Our guides, and anyone with just a bit of knowledge about the fierceness of the honey badger, really, agreed that she was pretty damn lucky that it hadn’t taken a chunk out of her leg for disturbing their feeding time.
At 20:00 we embarked on our optional night game drive in Etosha, costing us 750 Namib Dollars. Our driver used an infra-red lamp and then if he spotted something, he’d switch to a regular light. We saw a couple of owls, a gennet, African wildcats, steenbok and a springbok. Much to our surprise we also saw a rhino, and then suddenly there were two more. On the drive we saw in total 9 rhinos, which seemed crazy lucky to us.
We also drove up to a waterhole and found a pair of male lions munching on a pretty fresh giraffe carcass/kill (from this morning, according to our guide). Scattered around in the deep dark were 4 other lionesses and one other young male. It was a very fascinating experience, barely could believe our luck. There were a bunch of rhinos hanging around there, too! The game drive was definitely worth it and we only made it back at 23:50, meaning we had an extended drive with all the things we managed to see.
After thanking our guide we felt we weren’t quite ready for sleep yet, so we decided to walk up and check out the camp waterhole. Lo and behold; another two rhinos having a drink there, bringing our sightings of rhinos for the day up to 11. Crazy! It was really nice with the clear sky and still water, reflecting the rhinos.
The lion part of the night was a bit intimidating as we drove up to them pretty close. And we could only see one or two of the pride at any one time with the light from the truck, darkness creeping in from every other angle. One lioness got up and walked back around the car, disappearing into the blackness of night. That was a bit of an ‘oh shit’ moment, but overall it was such an awesome experience. To think lions can bring down a giraffe..
The Wonders of the Waterholes
(Tuesday 6th November, 2018)
Because of the game drive at sunrise, we left early and had breakfast at 6:00. We left in our respective safari vehicles at 6:30. We had the option to do the game drive in Keith for no extra cost, or do an optional game drive in proper 4by4 vehicles with another company for an additional fee. Most of us went for the 4by4s, including me, because Keith is really limited to the main roads in the national park.
Etosha really is very dry and flat, mostly open savannah, salt pan and then some trees here and there. I’m not sure how the leopards would find a good tree to sleep in, though, because most of the trees are so small. But supposedly there are leopards here, which you see if you’re extremely lucky.
Anyway, we had a 5 hour drive, making our way on detours from Halali Camp to Okaukuejo camp. We were fortunate enough to see another 4-5 rhinos and we also saw the lions from yesterday hanging around their giraffe carcass. The carcass didn’t look fresh at all this morning, in fact it looked very dried up and all black. Yesterday we could see the red flesh and even blood – what a transformation in one night.
Furthermore, we saw:
– Zebras (large herd) – Ostriches – Wildebeest
– Black-faced impalas – Elephants – Springboks
It was a nice drive despite the safari vehicle not having the best buffer this time – it was a bit of a literal pain in the backside on the bumpy roads. We made a stop on the edge of the salt pan in the park, which was quite impressive and seemed to stretch endlessly into the horizon. Just plain, dull, white flatness. I thought it not a very pretty landscape, though others disagreed with that opinion. Another thing I noticed about Etosha is that the ground, dirt and rocks are very brightly grey/white nuances, which reflected the sun back, taking a strain on my eyes. Overall, the game drive was enjoyable, though.
We met up with Keith and whoever chose to game drive in him at Okaukuejo camp where we once again had our lunch. After eating we had a bit of free time like yesterday so I, obviously, went down to the waterhole again. It’s funny, because I had thought to myself that I hadn’t yet seen a giraffe crouch down to drink, but one was approaching the water just as I came there to observe so that was another nice coincidence. It was quite busy by the waterhole again:
– Zebras (many!) – Giraffe – Springboks
– Oryx – Elephants
Birds in the trees like yesterday. What a magnificent spot! Imagine to be able to enjoy wildlife like this, in such a manner, every day or even every week/month. Would be fantastic.
At about 13:30 the large group of female elephants and their youngsters/calves of varying ages approached again. It was clear to see that the elephants have first rights to the waterhole. The other animals hurried out of the way, lingering at a distance while the elephants bathed and drank. They form such a long, single file as they walk into the picture. The male elephants were still hanging out at the waterhole and some of the females went over to greet and touch trunks with them. It was pretty cute. It seemed like they greeted each other by stuffing their trunks into the other’s mouth. It was great being there to see them splash around again, for the last time on this trip. But I hope there will be more for me in the future.
There were a few grunts, trumpeting and commotion around the two bulls today, which I guess is because they are not really part of the herd. There was also a baby springbok/impala with impossibly long legs which tried to walk off alone to graze. That was also very adorable.
At 14:00 we drove off to leave Etosha behind and go towards Toko Lodge where we will meet the Himbas tomorrow. On the way out of the national park we stopped at one waterhole and saw the same lions as yesterday (from Keith, not night drive/the ones with the carcass), only this time 3 of them were all brown and dirty from taking a bath. A nice closing note on the last game drive this time around.
After we drove out of Etosha there was still some game at the road side. We could see giraffes, impalas, springboks and wildebeest as we drove by. Couldn’t make a stop on the highway though, of course.
We drove for some hours before pulling in on the dirt road which would take us towards this night’s lodge. It was in a nice natural area with hills around – it’s a private farm with lots of land around it and the camp site is situated a few minutes drive away from the lodges (and consequently, electricity!). First we dropped the accommodated Family members off at the lodge, then drove on towards the camp site. It was a nice spot and we were the only ones over there.
We pitched our tents and collected firewood for a campfire.
After dinner, and the discovery of some rather large, white spiders (that were nonetheless not mature size, oh god) which are poisonous but not deadly (attracted by the fire or picked up with collection of firewood?!), a few of us sat around the campfire a bit after everyone else had gone to bed. We had a nice chat, watching the dying embers and with another gorgeous starry night unveiled above. It was especially impressive when the lights on Keith were turned off and it was just real dark. These evenings/nights are the best.
A Disappointment and a Drink
(Wednesday 7th November, 2018)
We had breakfast at 7:30 so we could go to the fake Himba village located on the farm’s property before driving on towards Outjo for the night. We picked the accommodated people up at the main house, then drove like 50 meters down hill (which was quite dumb and unnecessary) to the village entrance.
They have this staged Himba village on the lodge property which they let tourists into. Apparently, there are Himba people actually living there on the property – so they say – but I had my doubts. Once we entered, it didn’t seem like the Himbas were doing anything productive. More like putting on a show for us, pretending. All we really did was walk around with our guide, shaking hands and saying hello to everyone in the manner that we were instructed to, using Himba language. Then it culminated with us watching how a Himba woman might take a shower, using smoke with well-smelling herbs.
I didn’t like or enjoy it. So obviously inauthentic and a tourist trap, and then in the end they clearly brought all the stuff out which they’d like you to buy, having a small market with touristy stuff. We didn’t even really learn much about the tribe. I think I’d have rather not met the Himba tribe at all than to have visited this village. I was quite glad when it was over and we could move on.
After this disappointing experience we drove on back to Outjo which wasn’t too bad of a drive. We made a stop in the supermarket first, restocking on drinks and whatever. At the lodge we pitched our tents and Jojo prepared lunch for us.
The afternoon was free for us to do whatever we liked, and most of us went to the bar/Wi-Fi and pool area. I wasn’t in the best mood today so I just worked on some things on my own, then went back to the truck to do some reading and writing. At some point a Family member came into the truck to get something, and he told me that they were having drinks by the pool and I should come join them. Even if I didn’t feel particularly up to it, I decided to go over and check it out. Most of the Family were sitting there already, drinking wine. We just sat there and drank and talked until dinner time, in the end joined by the whole Family, I think. It was a lot of fun and everyone was tipsy – it was really the first activity since we become a larger group, where you really felt like a solid group, doing something together. Dinner was also a lot of fun and goofing around as a consequence.
Scorching Sun in Spitzkoppe
(Thursday 8th November, 2018)
A leisurely morning with breakfast at 7:30 and without a hangover (surprisingly) later, we left Outjo to make our way to Swakopmund. It was a long drive which was mostly boring with dull landscape, though it got broken up by hills/small mountains here and there.
We made a stop in Spitzkoppe about noon. I had initially thought Spitzkoppe was a town – which it also is, a very small one – but mainly it’s the name of the rock formations and two small mountains there. It was a very pretty landscape with the sand coloured rocks looking almost smooth in the semi desert. Just a few trees and bushes around.
We met our walking tour guide there. In the hot, hot afternoon sun we began walking. He took us to some bushman paintings on the bottom part of a rock, saying they dated back 2000-4000 years. The rock functioned as a message board for bushmen passing by. There were some animal paintings and a lot of people paintings. They looked quite faded and against the granite you sometimes had to look hard to see them. Nothing is done to conserve them so eventually they will fade away completely and wither into a forgotten past.
While there he also talked to us about the clicking sounds used by 3 of the Namibian tribes, trying to teach us how to make them. Most of us gave it an honest try but it is very difficult to get it right!
Then he took us to some plants, explaining how they’ve been utilized by the bushmen for cleaning, poison and medicinal purposes. Enjoying the landscape and the scorching sun, we walked in the bare terrain over to the stone arch. It looked nice and pretty cool and we sat there under it in the shade for a bit. Going back to the truck for lunch was a bit of a walk and I started to feel not very good/dehydrated despite drinking a good amount of water. After lunch, which I forced myself to eat despite no appetite, I had to go sit down in the truck and recover, drinking more water. I don’t much like these walking tours in the middle of the day and they don’t agree well with my health, either. We could’ve maybe woke up a bit earlier to avoid walking around in the worst heat of the day.
The drive to Swakopmund was partly dirt road and partly normal, paved road. The dirt roads were a bit crazy and you were allowed to drive 80 km/hour on them. The villages by these roads looked very shabby, little structures with tin roofs, no ‘real’ houses. I wonder why that is and if they are permanent housing.
As we drove into Swakopmund the air suddenly became quite cold, unpleasantly so. People began putting on jackets. In Swakopmund there was a mist, making everything even more cold and wet; totally different than anything before on this tour. We stopped by Desert Adventures’ (a tour company) activity centre so that people could book their activities for tomorrow. Horseback riding would’ve been nice but I was the only one who wanted to do it and that would be too expensive. I opted for no activity and a day of rest, personally. T decided to go sand boarding and I’m sure that will be fun.
After this, we arrived at the accommodation for the next two nights. No tents but a big room. A king size bed and a small bed and a bathroom, and then a little tea kitchen area. Quickly went to the shop before a fast shower and dinner with the group at 19:00 at a restaurant serving local dishes.
Simba and Jojo were also at the dinner. After dinner, some people went back to the accommodation but quite a lot of us moved on to a bar in the town. There weren’t a lot of people there but we met some other group from another tour company doing a similar trip from Victoria Falls to Cape Town. We danced a bit, sang some karaoke and just had a good time.
A Lazy Day in Swakopmund
(Friday 9th November, 2018)
Today was a bit of a lazy day, which was probably well enough considering yesterday’s debauchery. Missed out on breakfast with the others because I overslept, so when I woke up by 10:45 I was alone in the room; T was sand boarding. I went over to the supermarket to get something to eat, then came back and did a bit of work, listened to some music. When T came back at about 14:00 we decided to go for a walk with some of the other Family members.
The walk took us to a clothes shop, a book shop and just around Swakopmund in general. Neither of us were very impressed with the town, which is very sort of ‘dead’ while also being touristy; it looks like a mix between a German and Spanish coastal town that somehow took a detour to the African continent. Most people are very white. It just seems a little weird. Without character, almost. It’s very clean and the houses are well-maintained, though. It’s not the worst place but also not the best one – but it is safe so there’s that!
We found an ice cream shop, too, and sat there. The ice cream was home made and was quite nice, although not on par with the Italian ice cream from back on Fanø. After eating our scoop we decided to walk on the beach to get back to the accommodation. Some wild waves splashing ashore there. They have nice garden/park areas around the walk paths which are neat and flowery. It was nice enough, no one really using the beach, though. There was a board that stated that the water was only 15 degrees so that may explain it. The weather here is also noticeably cooler and sometimes even cold (despite it being sunny today), maybe because we are used to the heat by now. It also seems quite unpredictable.
This evening was spent having pizza for dinner, then meeting up with one of the Family members who will be leaving us tomorrow, having a good time and saying our goodbyes.
An Intoduction to the Namib Desert
(Saturday 10th November 2018)
After breakfast we all got into Keith for our briefing with Simba. As he was briefing us about the next leg of the trip, our Family members who left us in Swakopmund came by to say goodbye to everyone. It was really nice because they had both had quite prominent roles in the group structure and we’ll miss them.
First stop on today’s drive was at Walvis Bay, which there had been quite a lot of talk about among the Family. Turns out it is just a breeding spot for flamingos (in a harbour town setting), but there weren’t even that many of them today. Wasn’t anything too special, to be honest. But, we had new people join our tour in Swakopmund; there was another young German man and a couple from Brazil. The ones we ‘lost’ were the young guy from New Zealand and the man from Spain. We’re still quite international. I thought it was a strange time to join but to each their own!
Next stop was as we drove through ‘The Moon Landscape’ in the Namib desert. It was a strange sight with black rocks and mountains stretching out far, but I definitely didn’t find it beautiful. I like a lush, green landscape too much.
For the third stop we pulled in by a sign that said The Tropic of Capricorn, but honestly I can’t remember right now what that is all about. Something with the Sun and the Earth, I guess. We also made a stop at a sort of station in the desert where we would have our lunch. Before lunch we would have a short ride in a truck, taking us around the surrounding desert landscape. This ride offered some nice views and we saw some mountain zebra, ostriches and oryx. The sand was burning hot when it got into your sandals. Even though it was another very hot day, it was also a very informative and enjoyable tour because we had a very cool guide, who had a quirky accent spiced up with clicks, gestures and mimics. He gave us a good laugh as he demonstrated how people dance on warm sand, or how zebras got in the middle of the pool of water to kick the others away.
Lunch was some nice home made burgers and apples for dessert. After eating we continued our drive on bumpy dirt roads infested with potholes. Then we made a stop in a micro town (smallest in Namibia, we were told), which is supposedly famous for its apple pies (from what apple trees, though?! It’s a desert that only has acacia trees in it..). Anyway, bought a slice and it was absolutely nothing special, maybe my own apple pie is even better. But I think they marketed themselves well because there were a lot of tourists stopping to buy apple pie in Solitary. I think the town consisted of 2 cafés and a toilet building so it was pretty micro.
Last stop for the day at about 17:00 after driving through some rather wonderful landscapes with mountains in the background, was our camp for the next two nights. It’s a private farm of some sort which seems to take care of wounded wildlife before rehabilitating them? There was an oryx here, anyway, so you could view it very up close and personal.
The campsite is quite nice, surroundings-wise, as there are mountains around and the tents are pitched on a small hill, providing a good view point. Now we’re waiting for dinner, most people chilling by the pool/in their rooms. The Wi-Fi is not working; the horror.
After dinner, Jojo had arranged a cake because one of our Family members had their birthday (and the Australian couple had their anniversary a couple of days ago). We sang them happy birthday and it was just a really nice gesture which was appreciated all around.
Most went to bed pretty early. I felt a little melancholic that we are slowly approaching the end of this trip of a lifetime, so I wanted to sit outside and enjoy the starry blanket above for a while. So touchingly beautiful, even more so with some beautiful music in my ears. Who knows when you get to see so many stars in a wilderness setting again. At least I have one more night with this all-engulfing night sky.
Dunes and Desert
(Sunday 11th November, 2018)
As we were going to climb Dune 45, we had to get up early to avoid doing so in the worst heat. We were due to leave the camp at 5:15 and to have breakfast after climbing. The dunes are large and impressive with an orange/red colour, but it is not the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. I liked how the dunes in places looked soft and silky, sort of like they were draped in fabric.
We got to Dune 45 just after the sun appeared over the horizon so it wasn’t too warm yet. The dune is somewhat tall and steep at times, and climbing the steep parts in loose sand is quite demanding and tiring. I got some of the way up but we were only given an hour for the project, so I think that I would have taken maybe 40 minutes to get to the top with breaks on the way, and then I’d only have a few minutes up there before I’d have to climb back down again. It didn’t seem worth the struggle and hassle, so I turned back down after a bit – yes, I admit defeat. T made it to the top and he also ran down the ‘undefined’ path on the side of the dune. Lots of fun, he said.
There was a good view of the desert and the dunes and walking around the bottom side of Dune 45 was also pretty interesting and impressive. At 8:00 when everyone was back we had our breakfast at the bottom of the dune. I still found it a little cold in the shade at this time of day but it got plenty hot later on.
Next on the programme was a walk in Sossusvlei to go in and see Deadisvlei. We drove to the entry point and got taken to the parking lot where the walk to Deadisvlei would begin.
It was another barefeet walk in loose sand, though without steep or long ascends. I didn’t find Deadisvlei itself that spectacular – a small salt flat with dead trees where the river bed/lake used to be – but the scenery with the dunes in the background was pretty okay to look at. We enjoyed this for maybe 20 minutes before we began walking back to the entry point. The sand was getting heated up and almost started to burn my feet as I walked (sandals didn’t drop the sand once it got in so they got too heavy/bothersome to wear). We were taken to the entry point and back in 4by4s because Keith couldn’t drive on these loose sand roads. Our driver on the way back liked to speed through the desert which was a little freaky at times.
Next we made a stop near Sesriem Canyon by a café/campsite. We had lunch there and then also a bit of free time until 13:00. It was very warm by now so we just spent it looking at a big weaver’s nest for a bit and then sit inside the cooler restaurant for a while.
Then we drove to the viewpoint of the canyon itself (it is a small canyon). There was a path down to the bottom where past water streams had eroded the canyon/canal. From here we were supposed to be able to walk left but as we made it down to the bottom, there was dirty, still water on that side from a recent rainfall. One of the Family members braved the water and made it to the end of the left side, but he did have to wade through water that was at thigh level at times. We’re guessing the end wasn’t that special after all.
After seeing Sesriem Canyon we had a 1 hour drive back to our campsite. Seemed like most people had a little nap in the truck but to be fair the heat of the day was one to make you lazy and sleepy.
Back at camp we had like 3.5 hours to kill before dinner. Most people went to the pool (and are still there). I took a shower, read a bit and then went to write this. Then I went on to help Jojo prepare dinner.
Milkshakes in the Middle of Nowhere
(Monday 12th November, 2018)
This morning we started early again with breakfast at 6:30 so we could get an earlier start on the Fish River Canyon walk. In the end, we didn’t do that today anyway as some people didn’t feel they would be able to do it in the midday sun. Therefore it was postponed until tomorrow.
Today we mainly just did a fair bit of driving. Our first stop was in Bethanie, a small town which has a Christian church dating back from when missionaries did their early work in Namibia. Other than that we just used the toilets and visited the small shop in the town.
Next we had lunch at the road side under a little tree. At the lunch stop someone found a small skull from an animal. Someone guessed a goat, I figured it was from a baboon – according to Simba I was the one in the right.
The drive to there had been rather picturesque, definitely more than anything in other parts of the country. Rock formations and mountains on large steppes. Very cool.
Between lunch and our next longer stop, we had a brief look at a quiver tree, which Simba told us about. Local bushmen used to carve out the inside of the branches, close it off with leather and then use the cylinder as a quiver for their arrows (hence the name). On the same occasion we also took a tiny walk for some pictures as the setting was pretty nice.
After this we pulled in at a small, private farm called Canyon Road Farm (or something close to that). It was a very Americanized sort of restaurant/café with very American items on the menu, also having a sort of country-side American feel to it decorations-wise. Quite odd to find in the middle of nowhere in Namibia. Everyone had been craving ice cream but they didn’t have any so some of us opted to go for milkshakes instead. They were delicious on this day.
Driving further we made it to our campsite at 16:30 so we would have some free time there. They had told us that there was a hotspring, which had me thinking of a natural one; but they had it indoors in a spa-like setting with nice tiles and everything, and they also charged 15 Namib Dollars to use it. That’s a bit of a bummer; it’s a swim I might have otherwise gone for.
Instead I went to transfer some pictures, have a drink and a chat with some of the other Family members, enjoying the view. The campsite is nice, an oasis of green and palm trees in the desert, located in a tiny valley and closely surrounded by mountain walls. It’s really quite windy, though, guessing it works like a wind tunnel.
Dinner was at 19:30 and after it we had a briefing from Simba and a warning about a very early start tomorrow morning (4:45). Despite this, quite a few people stuck around during/after dinner and tea/coffee, just having a chat. It was another very good evening.
Fish River Canyon at Sunrise
(Tuesday 13th November, 2018)
On this last day of ours in Namibia we packed up tents to be ready for departure at 4:45. Earliest one yet on this part of the trip. The ground under the tent and our mattresses was pretty warm, I wonder if that’s related to the hot spring(s). You wouldn’t normally expect such a warm night in this altitude, really.
I was pretty tired during the drive towards Hobas view point by Fish River Canyon. We were to observe the sunrise there and avoid the worst heat, hence the early morning. We got there in time despite some Family members being a bit late in the morning. The sunrise itself wasn’t all that spectacular, just golden; but it is always nice to see, I guess, over the mountains.
The view from Hobas view point was really nice, though, and although a very barren landscape with only minimal water in the river, it was pretty magnificent to see with the rising sun casting light and shadows throughout. After a little stop (they also had a great, windowless toilet there with an excellent view) we were driven to another view point a bit further down so we could hike back and enjoy the canyon on the way. The idea was that we’d then have breakfast once we made it back to Hobas.
The view was great all along the hiking route. Pictures barely do justice to the place, how grand and enormous it really is. It’s the second largest canyon worldwide, only Grand Canyon being grander. The sun wasn’t fully out of the clouds while we were there, so lighting could have been more ideal, but nonetheless it was pretty awesome. I was even the last soul to make it back to Keith for breakfast, which I then ate overlooking the mountains and with my new, feathery friend watching me (waiting for me to drop food).
Afterwards we made a shortish drive to Otenga town, which is basically just a grape farm property, privately owned. They grow table grapes there, and it’s quite fascinating to see the barren desert broken up by large areas of green vegetation. They irrigate this farm via Orange River. This farm also employs 30.000 people according to Simba, and they have all put up temporary homes in the ‘town’ near the shops, made out of either reeds or tin. There were a lot of these houses across the hill; to be perfectly honest, it kind of looked like a slum neighbourhood.
Another short drive further we were at our camp site for the night. It’s a nice, green place (pitched tents on grass!) next to the Orange River. We booked the canoeing on the river in the afternoon, most of the group opting to go for this optional activity. It cost 280 Namib Dollars per person for a few hours with a guide.
We had a couple of hours to spend before the canoeing, which we spent sprawled on the lawn, eating ice cream and relaxing. At 14:00 we were taken in some weird bus with a trailer full of canoes to our departure point up river. We’d then canoe back to Felix United Lodge.
After the canoes had been unloaded and the bus + trailer had driven off again, our guide discovered that there weren’t enough paddles for everyone. As such, some of us had to make do with one paddle – 3 boats with one paddle. It was okay but slowed us down a bit.
In our canoe we didn’t have two paddles so T was doing all the work for the first bit of the ride. While it was nice scenic-wise, it was also a bit boring and not as expected. About half-ways we got a second paddle from another canoe and then it became a lot more fun. Some were a bit slow after the break we had on the shore so we had to wait around. There was headwind so for those with one paddle it was understandably hard – and as such we had to switch one of our paddles away again.
We had dinner at 19:00, which was mashed potatoes, pumpkin, beef goulash and fried vegetables. The German couple would be leaving us soon (before Cape Town) and they had bought two bottles of wine to share at the dinner table, which was very nice of them. The man from Switzerland had moreover bought a bottle of Amarula that he shared among the group, and we all had a good time. It’s nearing the end which is a little sad.
But just before dinner I was lying in the grass, good music in my ears, watching the sky above me. A few light and frail clouds against the light blue, light green leaves on the trees, the clean and clear moon up above – and it was so peaceful and beautiful. I had a very good feeling sweep over me.
As I was sitting at the dinner table, that feeling continued as I looked around at my fellow Family members; their tanned, pleased faces as they chatted about the day and our shared experiences, and I felt quite thankful for being there.
After some chatting and a few drinks after dinner, I decided that I wanted to spend this night finally sleeping under the stars; with the grass there would be no big spiders or scorpions like in the desert. So I pulled my mattress out of the tent and crawled into my sleeping back, watching the glimmering stars above. A bit later I got joined by a few others and it was lovely.
The Last Meal (South Africa)
(Wednesday 14th November, 2018)
Leaving at 7:00 this morning to cross the border from Namibia into South Africa. Orange River is right on the border between Namibia and South Africa so we only had to drive about 10 km to get to the exit point of the country. Got an easy exit stamp and it was pretty quick (although with one slow/very conscientious worker), then we drove 100 meters to get to the entry point of South Africa. That was quick and painless, getting the entry stamp, although the police had to look through all our passports too, which took about 20 minutes.
Next stop today was the town of Springbok, which is the capitol of the Northern Cape region in South Africa. We just had a supermarket break where cake seemed to be the Family’s choice of the day. Also got some SA Rand from the ATM there. The drive from Springbok and onwards became very pretty with mountains and hills and canals and lakes and tea farms and vineyards. I enjoyed the view once more. We had another stop by a small shop which had homemade salts, jam, cookies etc., but also coffee. This was also our lunch spot where Jojo served up a round of home-made hotdogs. On the mountains you could see the so-called fairy circles, bare circles on the grassy mountains. While the reason behind them is apparently not fully known, Simba said the theory is that it’s termites that eat the green around their nest to keep their home clean. In any case it looked curious, almost like a giraffe pattern on the mountain sides.
Before our final stop for the night and our final night together, we had a refuelling stop. We got out and a lot of us decided to go for ice cream. Turns out that was a good choice, for the shop had 2 x magnums for 35 Rand. It was funny to see us all standing around, eating magnums.
Our camp for tonight is at a private orange farm where they will also serve us dinner. Beautiful surroundings in the mountains, a pool, green grass, lots of orange trees and it just feels peaceful. And then we have Wi-Fi in the camp area, which we all jumped on asap, of course.
For dinner we went down to the lodge’s common room and they had fixed a ‘braai’ for us. ‘Braai’ is the South African version of a barbecue. When we got to the table they had put 3 bottles of white wine on ice for us, which was a nice touch. Dinner was barbecue chicken, 3 different types of salad, and then they gave us a small dessert, too.
During the dinner we reminisced about the trip, took some pictures of everyone together, having a good time and enjoying our last evening together. I was very happy, actually, always with a big smile on my face. They closed the bar on us at 22:15 but some of us continued sitting around and having a nice chat with each other. It was a good last evening with the Family.
Reflections on Namibia:
I didn’t like Namibia as much as some of the other places because of the people and the landscapes. Mostly boring landscapes; there were some very cool/funny and memorable people standing out but mostly I found they weren’t as welcoming or open. It also kind of felt more European at times, which is not something I really associate with or was looking for in Africa. Very sort of German, touristy and sort of impersonal – without personality, so to speak. Having spent 12 days there, I don’t think I would need to come back. There were some nice landscapes and the game drives in Etosha were fascinating, but what makes Namibia stand out to me is mainly as a backdrop for the experiences that I shared with my fellow travellers. Those interpersonal memories are the strongest ones for me from the country.
The top picture is taking in part of the Namib desert.
Last updated 3rd January, 2019.