What's is the draw of Namibia? The people or the scenery?
07.07.2009 - 23.07.2009 32 °C
I left Vic Falls on a sunny Saturday morning on the 4th July, I was feeling a bit home sick as everybody back home would be at my good friends Danny and Gemma wedding and I would be missing out on not only the party but as they have been living in the land down under for the past few years an opportunity to see them. Still not much I could do about, guess you cannot do everything Jamie (one of my Mums favourite sayings) and from the sounds of it a good time was had by all! Congratulations Mr and Mrs Davy and hope you have a long and happy life together, look forward to seeing you in Sydney in a few months!! Danny I am also intrigued to see if paying for this wedding and also time has been good to your hair line, I am assuming not.......
I got a lift back into Botswana with the tour that I was already on, as they were travelling back to Jo'Burg. They dropped me off at a fuel station in a place called Kasane and i managed to get a local bus into the town centre! Within Botswana and Namibia there are many opportunities to hitch hiking, I had thought about it on many occasions but as you normally pay about the same as getting a bus its usually not worth it. As I wanted to get to a town called Katima Mullio in Namibia I soon found myself at the local hitching point and ended up in a car with 3 other people hitching a lift, one lady and her baby and two guys. I would love to say that this was a hi-light of my time in Africa and that we were engrossed in tantalising conversation for hours, but the fact of the matter was nobody spoke on the whole 4 hour journey, we all just sat there listening to the drivers CD collection. In Katima I book into a hostel, it was as if I was living someone's front room and I was the only white person in the whole town I think! I got down to business and went about working out what I wanted to do in Namibia! The first thing I noticed about Namibia was that how dry it was, sand everywhere, even the streets looked like one big sand pit. I don't know if it was just because it was Saturday or if it is just the Namibian way but music seemed to be coming from everywhere gardens, cars, pubs and cafes all had some African vibe emitting!
I quickly decided I should head to the capital Windhoek so the next day I took the 17 hour overnight bus journey, which compared to some previous bus journeys was a walk in the park. Windhoek was a nice capital with quite a big backpacking scene. After speaking to a few people I decided to put a notice in a couple of hostels to try and find some fellow travellers to hire a car, in the meantime instead of waiting around in Windhoek I would go on a 3 day trip to Sossusvlei and see the worlds biggest sand dunes. The trip was good, met some nice people and got to see my first ever desert and its one of the worlds oldest ecosystems to boot. Some of the hi-lights were running down dune 45 and the hike to the Dead Vlei!
Here are some of the group when we got back tucking into the likes of Oryx, Impala, Ostritch, Kudu, Zebra & Warthog! As much as I loved watching these animals in the wild in Botswana, I can honestly say they all tasted better than they looked :-)
When I returned to Windhoek, 3 Israeli's had left their contract details about hiring a car. They were in Swakopmund which was going to be my next stop anyway so we arranged to meet. The next day I was in a local bus (a combi) on the 5 hour journey, the bus was jam packed and the stereo was banging out hit after hit, Lionel Richie, Phil Collins, Brenda Vassey and various other African and Namibian tunes. I realised there and then that without doubt all black African people seem to be born with rhythm, all 20 adults plus 3 children sat on their mums knees had some part of their anatomy moving in time with the music. I recall recorder lessons with Mrs Lister at Middle School, I don't think even the teacher could keep time, never mind the 30 tone deaf kids (I acknowledge that certain members of my year have grown up to be very good musicians, though Mr Davy must get a second mention in this posting, unfortunately to this day I still take great pleasure in watching your non rhythmic, fresh prince Carlton moves on the dance floor! Poor Gemma on her wedding day!) !!
In Swakopmund I met the others and eventually over dinner we decided on a route. My evening meal of the 10th July I will never forgot, whilst the two girls Luli and Shy were not religious, the other Israeli guy Eli was a very religious person. That night I ate my first Shabbat! In the Jewish faith Shabbat's chief root lies in the Torah's account of creation, whereby God creates the world in six days and on the seventh day God rests. In this way, Judaism gave the world it's 7-day week - ending in the Sabbath.. The cooking itself was left to the girls, purely because they knew most of the rules, there seemed to be many rules, some such as I must not use the kosher knife and folk, all the food must be kosher are fairly straight forward, others were not. Before we ate Eli and the girls sang various songs, lit candles and made prayers, after eating Eli should not do anything strenuous and must adhere to numerous rules for the next 24 hours. These rules seemed very odd to me and ranged from him not been able to rip toilet roll to not allowed to turn lights on and off. Whilst the girls were not religious, they could help him with these tasks as it would be deemed rude. This did mean us sleeping the whole night with the main dorm light on as I had turned it on and just assumed that they would turn it off, whilst I have no problem with people who want follow religion and maybe I don't fully comprehend it, but in my book that is just a blatant waist of energy! That aside I did find myself intrigued by the Jewish faith and would subsequently learn lots more about how they live life!
The next day whilst Eli rested we went to Walvis Bay to go whale, dolphin and seal spotting. Whilst we didn't see any whales we did see dolphins, many seals and loads of pelicans. One of the hi-lights was the massive pelicans flying along side the boat! After the trip we drove around the salt fields and saw all the sand dunes before going back to the hostel to get ready for the road trip. Another Swedish guy Martin had also travelled to Swakopmund to share the very expensive car hire costs! The plan was coming together!
The route we had chosen involved me visiting Sossusvlei once more, none of the others had been and I thought the place was very beautiful so I didn't have a problem with it! Early the next morning we set off in our jam packed two wheel drive Nissan to Sossusvlei, we even stayed in the same campsite that I had previously stayed at. The next item on the route was to do a shortish hike in the Naukluft mountains, we chose the 11km Olive trail and after getting the car over some bordering needing 4WD tracks we got to the trail on a cloudy Tuesday morning. Almost familiar Scottish looking mountains awaited us and by 10am the clouds has gone and the temperature was great hiking weather, we did the quite hard trail (one part you had to climb along the side of the gorge using chains) in good time and hit the road back to Windhoek to drop off Eli!
The next morning after saying good bye to Eli and doing some shopping we started the drive up to Etosha national park, after a night in a very nice campsite, we were the only people there, it had hot running water using the donkey system (basically a cylinder of water heated up using a fire burning underneath it) and as much good firewood as we could burn!
I have often wondered if I had been an arsonist in a previous life? Fires were an integral part of my childhood, I am pretty sure my folks new this, but if not here is my confession. In the early days Mark (my brother) and I used to light little controlled fires in our local woods, in the later high school days Bu66y (name disguised to protect Daves identity) and I used to light probably slightly bigger, but still controlled fires usually in the valley, size didn't always matter (though where fires are concerned, bigger is always better), we just loved the mesmerising and potentially devastating effect of fire! So here is where my obsession with fire was born! Now after just turning 30 I find myself lighting camp fires just about every night, sometimes to cook on, sometimes just to keep warm (you maybe surprised that certain places in Africa can be very cold at night in the winter) and sometimes for both, we would often just sit round the camp fire and do nothing but stare at it and maybe harness its power by brewing a good pot of five roses tea. It probably sounds a bit autistic but I was in my element!
The next 2 nights and 3 days were spent in the Etosha National Park, whilst I had already done alot of safariing in Botswana, Etosha was a different experience altogether, firstly the place was dry as a bone, secondly it was accessable by 2 wheel drive and thirdly the three plush campsites within Etosha all had their own waterhole, which would also be floodlit on the evening!! Mainly because it was so dry you would find animals congregate around natural and man made water holes. Whilst the Etosha way of doing things takes the edge off the ruggedness that was Botswana. That said it did mean that we got to see a female lion chase a herd of Zebra, whilst she didn't catch anything that time, a few hours later we think the very same lion killed a Zebra some 200 meters from where we were camping, the warn noises from all the other animals were deafening. At the flood lit water holes we saw rhinos, leopards and cheethas all drinking and through the day I saw many of the usual elephants, zebra, various birds and antelope!!
After driving out of Etosha we drove to the town of Oshakati, it was here we said goodbye to Martin. On the way to Oshakati we also found time to stop for a very colourful political rally that was going on! We were received quite a lot of attention, must of been something to us been the only white people in a 200 mile radius.
There was now just three of us left, the two girls Luli, Shy and Myself! After a quick visit to the Oshakati market we spent most of the day driving through small Namibian villiages, saw a really big hollowed out Baobab tree and then even stepped foot on Angolan soil at the Rucanna Falls. Whilst the falls used to be one of Namibia's great sights, since the falls is used to provide most of the power requirements of Namibia and has been diverted to the nearby hydro electric power station it has become trickle of its former glory.
Whilst driving we past numerous Himba people, the children would often run out to great us, though \they are not stupid and know how to eye up and ask for everything in car! The Himba people are a nomadic, pastoral group who live in northern Namibia! The Himba wear little clothing, but the women are famous for covering themselves with a mixture of butter fat, ochre, and herbs to protect themselves from the sun. The mixture gives their skins a reddish tinge. The mixture symbolises earth's rich red color and the blood that symbolises life, and is consistent with the Himba ideal of beauty. Women braid each other's hair and cover it in their ochre mixture.
That night we eventually got to our campsite, up till this point although our two wheel drive car had been over some rough terrain... I went I mean tough I just don't mean the odd pothole! At least 90% of the driving we had done thus far was on sand roads, in fact the inside of the car had pretty much a much dust as the outside, it was filthy! The road into the campsite was about 6 kilometres of big boulders and even a riverbed at one stage!! After carefully negotiating the driveway we decided to dump the car at the ford next to the campsite and go by foot, by this time it was pitch black! After the girls had a slight tantrum about having to walk though the water we eventually arrived at our camping area, which was just next to a dry riverbed, no electricity, but they did having running water and a place to get a good fire going! It was only really next morning that we realised how beautiful the campsite was, built next to a waterfall, it was an opportunity too good to miss and I went for a swim in the plunge pool, must have had warm thermals coming from somewhere as it was a very pleasant and unexpectedly warm, a well over due soak!
On the subject of hygiene, travelling through Botswana and Namibia, mainly due to the fact that I have been camping for 90% of the time, I have found that my hygiene standards do slip from time to time, I guess its like one big festival! The underwear tends to get an extra day or so use and showers are certainly not daily by any stretch of the imagination. Whilst this is some peoples idea of hell, I actually think it makes you appreciate a good shower all that more...
The next few days we travelled towards Swakopmund, taking in various rock paintings, wonder gats, petrified wood and ship wrecks. Rock paintings are fairly self explanatory, a famous one that some of you may have heard of is the white lady. For people not in the know, the wondergat is basically just a massive hole or a sink hole, we were very careful driving upto it, whilst the hole is big I am pretty sure its not ever ending, I was pretty sure if such a hole existed in England it will have been filled up with trash years ago! Also petrified wood, which was also a bit of a mystery until I visited the petrified forest near Twyfelfontein, petrifed wood is wood that has been turned into stone and is a type of fossil, the particular tree trunks that we saw were thought to be about 280 million years old!! I actually don't know how they can call it a forest, as there is more trees in Manny park, still amazing to see how it still has so much detail!
That night we camped next to Namibia's biggest mountain, Brandberg! Standing at 2573m above sea level its not exactly the biggest mountain in the world, but impressive still. Early the next morning we did a short hike up the mountain, saw some more rock paintings and started the drive back to Swakopmund, the drive back via the skeleton coast was flat and desert like, on the coast the upwelling of the cold Benguela current gives rise to dense ocean fogs for much of the year. The winds blow from land to sea, rain fall rarely exceeds 10mm annually and the climate is inhospitable, along the coast are many shipwrecks and anything metal rusts in days! Many people call it the coast of hell!!
After saying good bye to the girls, all was left was to get the bus back to Windhoek for one more night and then pick up my lift to cape town!! Be warned the South Africa blog will hopefully be very soon, I have been very lazy with my blog over the past few weeks, just to give you an idea I am writing this blog on a train through Malaysia, some 19 days in front of my blog!! Maybe it was because of the bad internet connections or simply because I had too much fun in South Africa......