Week 9 and heading into the end of what has been a crazy overland adventure through Africa. Traveling from Etosha National Park game driving in ridiculously dry heat, to weird and wonderful canyons and mountains to adrenaline-junky activities in a chilly beachside town, Namibia quickly became my favourite country for its boundless diversity.
Day 57: The second to last border crossing
Today was a long drive day, crossing the border from Botswana to Namibia.
Day 58: Etosha National Park
PHEW! WHAT A STINKER! We arrived at Etosha National Park today (after a quick detour to the world's largest meteorite!) and I have never felt such intense heat before. We were all stripped down to shorts and tank tops, windows of the truck down and it still felt as though I could barely breathe. It must've been almost 50 degrees! Juda, our driver, took us on a quick game drive through the park but the heat was so unbearable we begged him to cut the drive short and take us to the campsite. Immediately we found a sprinkler and ran around like little children in the summer.
It was Peter's Birthday so we threw a special Birthday dinner for him and attempted a cake at the campsite kitchen. Etosha is known for its famous waterholes that are lit up at night with a floodlight so that you can sit in the viewing area behind the fence and wait for the animals to come to you! We saw one owl and a few jackal playing around the waterhole before I fell asleep on the bench. After about an hour, the group was ready to go and woke me up, I missed a few hyena but apart from that not much luck.
Day 59: Not the Waterhole!
Today we got a sunrise start to beat the heat and hopefully spot some wildlife! It was so beautiful, with all of the creatures frolicking in the mild temperate morning. The terrain was so dry but we managed to see plenty of giraffe, zebra, kudu and jackals, but the highlight would have to have been 2 juvenile male lions guarding a wildebeest kill by the waterhole. They had obviously had their fill for breakfast, but were guarding the kill as there was plenty of meat left on the bones.
We continued on to a new campsite for the night. I was on cooking duty, but kept taking breaks to watch the incredible, fiery sunset. Halfway through sunset, a sandstorm hit and blew a huge gust! Luckily, our campsite had an enclosed kitchen area so the pasta was saved, but I had to abandon the food to save my tent from flying away. Just when you think the overland's starting to get cruisey, mother nature reminds you TIA (This is Africa!)
This campsite also had one of the night-viewing waterholes and I was determined not to crash and burn like the previous night. I brought a blanket, a water bottle and set up for the night. After another hour with no luck, everybody headed to bed but I stayed up for hours to try and get a good viewing. I watched a few more jackals play by the water, but no Big 5! Just as I was about to head to bed, two jackals started frolicking right under my feet, on the wrong side of the fence! I watched them as they ran around the viewing area and into the campsite to wreak havoc. I finally admitted defeat and headed to bed. I started to fall asleep when I heard lion roars close by so I put my shoes back on and ran out to the waterhole, hoping to get a glimpse but they weren't there. I waited for another 20 minutes or so and then went to bed. I fell asleep to the sound of lions roaring and the cheeky jackals right next to my tent who had found somebody's empty water jug to roll around.
Day 60: A good day for spotting leopards
Today was a huge game-drive day! We had unti early afternoon until we had to be out of the park, so we did what I think was our longest game drive ever. There were a few naps had but I'm so glad I was awake to spot a leopard right up close! The beautiful specimen was walking along the road right infront of our truck, and then wandered off into the distance, he was absolutely gorgeous!
Day 61: Up close and personal with cheetahs
Today we visited a Cheetah Park. After reading through the trip notes, as cool as it would be, I decided not to pay to interact with the animals like I had decided with the Lions at Antelope Park. However to my surprise when we got there, it was actually included in our trip. I followed the rest of the crew to a farmhouse where three cheetahs were roaming around the garden like house cats, it was odd to say the least. It was incredible to be so up close with these majestic animals, and great for a photo-op but it just felt a bit off. The two men at the farm then took us for a drive, where they had 30 cheetahs, separated into different large enclosures over the sanctuary. They explained that all of these cheetahs had been rescued from farms, who would otherwise have been shot by farmers worried for their livestock. They threw fresh carcasses to the cats, that they had gone hunting for that morning. While the men claimed that this was a sanctuary and had saved these cheetahs, I couldn't quite understand why these wild cheetahs couldn't have been released into a National Park rather than being enclosed? And I think the owners a). enjoyed the fact that they got to go hunting every morning to kill poor baby deer for feeding b). just thought it was cool to have pet cheetahs and c). were capitalising from the profits made from silly tourists who wanted to get a photo with a cheetah.
I always encourage people to make their own gut decisions about eco-tourism and visiting places like these taking advantage of wild animals but this one really felt iffy to me! As beautiful as these animals are... Given the choice again, I would have pitched tent, read a book and sat the experience out.
Day 62: Himba Village + Spitzkoppe
Today we headed from the Cheetah Park towards a local Himba Village. After feeling like silly tourists being stung to visit the Masai Village in Kenya, most of the group wasn't interested in paying to see the Himba tribe. At the last minute, I decided I wanted to see how another local culture lived as our trip neared to an end. I was cautious of paying to feel like the tribe was putting on a show again for the tourists, but I had a few donations of pencils etc. left that I wanted to give to some kids. Immediately a few kids ran up to suss us out, and held our hands to lead us to the village. It had a completely different vibe than when we visited the Masai Village. Rather than being harassed by the people trying to sell us things, the women sat around going about their business. They all had rugs out to sell their goods, but there was no pressure. A local guide showed us into the huts and how the women prepare their skin and hair with ochre and mud... You think girls these days spend a lot of time contouring and applying fake tan? You should see what these women do every morning!
The children were so joyful, and were just genuinely interested in what we were doing and wanted to play. Unfortunately the visit was limited to an hour so that we wouldn't disturb their daily activities too much and we had to be on the road again. If you're ever planning on visiting Namibia, I highly recommend visiting this interesting culture for as long as you possibly can!
We drove on to Spitzkoppe, a rocky region of Namibia that looks like it's from another planet! We had the BEST HAPPY HOUR EVER, cranking the tunes, driving into Spitzkoppe! The party was real, but also so surreal... we rocked up to this bizarre place in nature with our modern music pumping, though it felt like we were driving back in time or something.
As soon as the truck stopped, we jumped off, laced up and were ready to do a bit of rock-climbing. I felt like a kid again, full of boundless energy climbing and running around the rock formations. We sat together to watch the sunset behind the large rocky outcrop, then headed back to camp for dinner.
We'd been told that Spitzkoppe is one of the best places in the world to go star-gazing, so we pulled the mats and sleeping bags out to sleep under the stars. Just our luck, it was a hella windy and cloudy night with shit going everywhere! We snuggled up in a long row of mats and nodded off to sleep in our sleeping-bag cocoons to avoid the wind hitting our face.
Day 63: Swakopmund
Off to Swakopmund today. Where the heck is that you ask? I had no idea either. Swakopmund is an old colonial German coastal town of Namibia. I immediately fell in love with it. It was like being in a little European town by the beach, bordering the Namibian desert. Every place so far that we had been to in Namibia was just blowing my mind, it is like a different world! After checking into our hostel, I walked around the town and shops with Manuela and enjoyed an ice-cream by the beach. We convinced a few of the girls to come out for a nice seafood dinner with us, at a restaurant we had spotted next to the jetty earlier. We were seated on the deck at 'The Tug', overlooking the waves at sunset and it was just magical. I have never had such good customer service as we did at The Tug: We were brought blankets and a heater as the evening grew colder and our waiter diligently explained all of the specials, with such passion in his voice I was salivating. The menu was so affordable I splurged on some divine seafood and a nice bottle of wine. I am already dying to come back here someday soon, but absolutely kicking myself that my boyfriend is allergic to seafood!!
We had been told that there was a casino in town and walked along the beach home from the restaurant trying to find it. We ended up at some weird underground slot machine-room and quickly headed back to the hostel to admit defeat in attempting to find the casino. We caught up with the crew and head out for some more drinks at an Irish pub. It was there we met some frequent South African tourists who pointed us in the right direction of the actual casino. Drunk, and being too stingy for a taxi, we walked a few kilometers to find the Casino. It was much more impressive than the Casino in Victoria Falls, that's for sure! The American boys taught me a few blackjack strategies and I fluked a few wins (and here I thought there wasn't any more to it than just trying to add up to 21, boy was I wrong!) As any good night ends, we stumbled out of the casino after a couple of hours and stopped by a servo (service station for all you non-Aussie folk!) to stock up on some snacks (Biltong) and eventually found our way home.