Category Archives: Namibia

Damaraland

For some reason, the second I step out of a plane and onto foreign soil, I develop a ravenous craving for Pringles and it suddenly becomes my mission to try every local flavor offering. The most unique one so far has been cream of mushroom soup in Hong Kong. Africa seemed to cater more to tourists – salt & vinegar, sour cream & onion, cheddar cheese, and BBQ. You know, just in case any of you were wondering. Now that I’m back in the U.S., Pringles hasn’t entered my mind a single time until now. Curious.

Spitzkoppe, Namibia

As soon as we arrived and set up camp, the majority of us went for a hike while some decided to chill out on the rocks and drink beer. I went for the best of both worlds. One of the girls was geocaching and we all excitedly followed along. A lot of us weren’t wearing our hiking shoes, though, because we thought they’d be simple hills. Wrong. The rock face was too smooth for our Chucks and while most of us made it up halfway, the way back down was scary AF (yes, I’m actually using this acronym). Phil, probably the nicest guy ever, had to help each one of us down. (Photo credit: H)

Due to the lack of scary animals, we were allowed to drag our mattresses and sleeping bags out onto the rock and sleep there for the night. The sky was slightly cloudy around 11pm but when I awoke around 3-4am to go pee, it was beautifully clear and sparkly. I tried to stay awake to stare at it but blinked my eyes to suddenly find the sun on its way up.

We visited the Damaraland Living Museum where we learned the ways of life of the Damaras, only to later find out that they go back to wearing shirts and pants and live in a less primitive looking setup somewhere else. (We also met some Himba people selling handmade jewelry on the way here.) The Damara men demonstrated how to start a fire by repeatedly turning a stick left and right against a stone which most of our guys failed at doing. The locals have been egging Chris and Ashley on for not being “man enough” to try out their other demonstrations, so Chris decided to shut all of them down by being the only guy to successfully start a fire. Booyah!

Twyfelfontein is the site where thousands of rock engravings were found. The exact origin is unknown but one thing I can tell you is that these drawings may be better than mine. [Hides animal rock garden.]

The guide then began to explain the different animals when she was interrupted by a misunderstanding.

Tanja: “Oryx lay eggs?”

Nope, ostriches do. But, thanks for a quote that we will be repeating almost everyday for the remainder of the trip. Note: oryx are a species of antelope.

Etosha National Park

I must say, we got pretty damn lucky with all of our game drives. We spotted a lion napping in the shade of a bush on our very first day. SQUEAL.

Impala, springbok, and other kinds of antelope became so common that we’d excitedly spot an animal only to disappointingly say “Oh, just another springbok.” But, at this point, they were still quite exciting. We even saw one springing (or stotting, pronking) which was a treat until we realized it was most likely a warning sign to scare us off.

At night, we camped ourselves by the watering hole with our cameras and beer. First show on prime time was just a casual herd of elephants following a casual sunset.

Then came the giraffes and black rhino. Still casual.

Then, two male elephants engaged in a full showdown of manhood, with their manhoods later fully erect as if to finally settle the matter. It always comes down to that, doesn’t it?

And, as if the male springbok caught onto the idea, we encountered this the next morning. The females were probably somewhere getting actual life done.

I was later chased by a giraffe into the horizon of nothingness. Chyea right. This is the most exercise I got during the 54 days and it was for the purpose of posing for a photo. It really was the middle of nowhere, though, and this is all you could see for miles.

Beautiful creatures and the unfortunate mascot for Fruit Stripe gum. Google it if you don’t know what it is. That zebra’s name is Yipes, as in “Yipes, the flavor has disappeared after the first chew.” I’m starting to feel like Sean Spicer and his rant against Dippin’ Dots. Anyway, ignore all that commentary and look at the magnificent grazing zebras in the wild.

Oryx out, wildebeests in! And, okay, you too, springboks.

Wonder what the gossip is like around this water cooler. Hm, a lot of grunting. Must be about current politics.

“Damn, Zeb took my headrest.”

This was Chris’ paradise. He was the ultimate lover of giraffes and every time we saw one, we’d shout “Chris!”

The male giraffe kept trying to get it on but I think the presence of our vehicle ruined the romantic moment. The female kept inching forward every time the male tried to enter.

George: “Okay, guys, it’s time to go.”
Phil (in his German accent): “Nooo, we cannot leave until the male is inside the female!”

10 minutes pass, and still no luck.

George: “Okay, let’s go. Are you guys ready?”
Chris: “No, I’m not listening to you!”

We passed another 4×4 from which a man shouted in 3 syllables, “Le-o-pard!” It made me think of Bugs Bunny as the conductor, Leopold. And, sure enough, there the leopard was, quietly napping in the camouflage of the grass. Can you spot (ha ha) him? (Psst. Bottom, middle.)

To top that off, Joseph spotted a honey badger with his hawk eyes. A sole honey badger, a lone ranger more badass than Chuck Norris.

George: “How many of you are going on the night drive?”
Tanja: “What is a night drive?”
Robyn: “It’s a drive…at night.”

But, a drive at night that involved awesomeness in the form of jackals, a lion, lioness and her 3 cubs.

Windhoek

This is probably the only time we went “glamping.” The tents were “permanent,” meaning they set up nice individually standing rooms and put a tent-like structure around each of them to give it a camping feel. We still had to use communal bathrooms, so I suppose that counts? But, anyway, here is where the first leg of our trip ended and we said goodbye to Kristina, Phil and Rukshana…and then added 3 new people.

History tidbit: We didn’t find out until later (after we left the country) that there was a forgotten genocide of the Herero and Nama people during the German colonial rule (early 1900s) of what is now Namibia. Apparently, the methods used here in Namibia were the first experiments of what would later be used during the Holocaust. The officials in Germany didn’t even acknowledge it as a genocide until mid-2015, over a century later, and the remaining descendants of the Herero and Nama are still seeking reparation payments.

Happy Days – Cape Town to Swakopmund

Cape Town, South Africa

I always thought Africa would be something I’d do in way older age. It seemed daunting in terms of time and cost. But then, I realized that by camping and cooking your own food everyday (well, helping to cook), costs can be kept relatively low. And, I had time. So, I joined my 11th trip with G Adventures. Can you tell I like this company? No, I don’t get paid to say any of this. This blog barely gets visitors anyway.

54 days, 10 countries, many hours spent on the road. There were 21 of us to start (+ the G CEO and the driver, George and Joseph, respectively), and only 7 of us were going the entire distance.

Travel tip: Visas were not required for up to 90 days for U.S. citizens in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

Trawal/Cederberg

Our first stop was a wine farm and camping site called Highlanders. There was a pool here but, it was getting late in the day and we all opted for the wine tasting instead. Here, George taught us how to put our tents up and take it down, something we’d be doing almost everyday to the point of it becoming an automatic, involuntary action. Like coffee in the morning. Or morning poo.

At night, we all sat around the campfire and went through several rounds of Would You Rather. Among the dirty ones, there were some serious questions, like “Would you rather be the only one to transform into a T-rex or be the only human living amongst them?” Well, what if you were a homeowner? Would you still retain the deed if you became a T-rex? Is estate planning necessary? Are you still covered under the Constitution? I know, serious.

We camped our last night in South Africa by the Orange River, where we could see Namibia just on the other side.

And, the next morning, we went canoeing for about 2 hr in the river. I agreed to partner up with someone without realizing what I was getting myself into.

“Ah, this is nice.”

(10 minutes in…)

“So, how long more do we have to go? I’m tired.”

She then proceeded to stop rowing. Just like with Trump’s presidency, I was exhausted within minutes. I seem to have bad luck with canoeing/kayaking partners [Re: Odda, Norway].

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Fish River Canyon is Africa’s largest canyon and a magnificent beast to watch a sunset over. We didn’t have permits to hike down into it (apparently, it’s a 5-day hike that you need to book in advance).

Rachel taking photos that I won’t get to see for another decade (hehe).

As we were walking towards our dinner spot, “someone” needed to relieve himself but the only coverage available in this vast canyon was this one tree (and luckily the darkening sky). But, as he tried to do his business, strong winds began going in the wrong direction and ultimately prevented him from doing so. Nature didn’t want his nature. Nor did he want his nature on his nature. Savvy?

Namibia’s night sky was incredible. We cooked and ate dinner against this backdrop and George treated us to boxed wine. Not a bad capture for a point and shoot, right?

Namib Desert / Namib-Naukluft Park

En route to our next campsite, Sossus Oasis Campsite, we stopped for lunch by the only tree that we could see for miles. It provided adequate shade and pleasantness as long as you didn’t inadvertently walk into one of the low lying thorny branches.

Desert for miiiiiiles. We had to cover our noses and mouths every time an occasional car or truck passed by. No matter how frequently you washed your clothes, there was always sand and dust embedded in the fibers.

According to this Evolution of Man, I clearly haven’t progressed much (I am second from the left). I’m also wearing my banana shirt so, I guess that’s fitting.

The campsite where we were staying made a poor choice of fencing off areas with a thin metal wire not too far up from the ground, about mid-calf level. It was easy to forget to step over it, especially when going to grab your 3rd or 4th beer. I tripped and face-planted onto the sand in said scenario and slightly damaged the camera I had slung over my arm. So, yea, I really haven’t progressed much in life after all. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, half asleep with a head torch, proved to be a serious challenge and others have tripped and fallen also. Just not in front of everyone else like I had. Whomp whomp.

Dune 45, nature’s Thighmaster.

We made it just after sunrise and the red hue was on full blast. We sat here in complete wonderment…before we littered the undisturbed sand with our footprints as we ran almost uncontrollably down the slope.

By the time we reached the bottom, I had grown a sand dune inside each shoe. Hayley was smart to have taken off her shoes and walked barefoot.

We then took 4×4’s to Sossusvlei, a salt and clay pan, where we then embarked on another thigh-mastering journey into…

…what appeared to be a Dali painting, minus the melting pocket watches. Officially, Deadvlei.

Me: “I walked halfway up the dune where you can get a more panoramic view.”
Courtney: “You mean, you walked a quarter of the way up…”

She was right. But, my legs felt otherwise.

At our next campsite, the guy running the camp took us on a walk to show us the desert and talk about how the Bushmen survive. Various desert plants can remain dormant for a long time while dry and sprout again with water, an adaptation clearly useful with unpredictable rainfall. The surrounding sand contained black iron which can be maneuvered around with a magnet. Beetles are able to hydrate by collecting condensation on their backs in the wee hours of the morning. And, there are hideout spots within the sand where spiders hide. I have no idea how he spotted them but he stopped at a seemingly random spot, kneeled down to reveal the teeniest tiniest hole in the ground, opened up a small flap with a blade of grass to reveal a slightly larger hole, dug into the hole with his hands until he reached a white ball, then provoked that white ball enough until the legs popped out of it to reveal a highly alert creepy ass white spider. GAHHHH. Quite loudly.

We then took a drive around the desert to see zebras galloping among the neighboring oryx with the African sun setting in the distance. There are sunsets, and then there are African sunsets. Ahhh.

This campsite also had a watering hole that animals frequented late at night. So, after dinner, we grabbed beers and chairs and sat silently a good distance away for almost an hour. A group of zebras finally came by. They were like little kids fighting for the water fountain after their gym period. Then came the farting, as if water was the last component to add in their bodies to cause a chemical reaction. It was a whole chorus of the flattest, thinnest sounding passing of gas. If sound can be described as 2-D, this was it. It took a whole ab workout for all of us to keep our laughter silent. Whatever our age, farting noises are always hiiiiilariousssss.

First came the Arctic Circle. Then came the Tropic of Capricorn. HRC (standing as CRH), crossing imaginary latitudes, one by one.

Our amazing group, standing by our overland adventure vehicle, lovingly named Lando Bloom. Because it’s not a truck, it’s a Lando. And if I heard this line one more time, I would’ve exploded.

Left to right: George (CEO), Rukshana, Rachel, Isabelle, Hayley, me, Kristina, Hayden, Ashley, Chris, Phil, Joseph (our driver), Courtney, Connor, Kate, Robyn, Viv, Erin, Mandy, Shani, Nadine, Alex and Tanja.

Flamingoes!

Swakopmund

We took a break from our tents and slept in actual beds for 2 nights. Except, 15 of us girls were stuffed into one room stacked with bunk beds, while the 6 guys enjoyed a more sprawled out space. Something seemed unfair. At least we were able to catch a part of the Olympics on TV and watch a replay of Usain Bolt’s win! We also tried oryx, kudu and zebra for dinner. That was creepily delicious. Although it’s not really different from eating beef, I still felt some guilt while eating it.

Now in the city of adventures, we did everything from skydiving to quad biking to sand boarding. Being on a budget limited me to just sand boarding and I almoooostttt landed that jump. Almost. If I hadn’t said anything, I could’ve just had you believe that I did. Hm.

Then, we did the other kind of sand boarding. Remember to keep your elbows and feet up. Oh, and your mouth closed :T (Photo credit: H)

On the way to our next campsite, we stopped for lunch by the Skeleton Coast, a graveyard for ships that were unaware of its craziness. It was also endearingly dubbed The Sands of Hell by early Portuguese sailors. The Bushmen called it The Land God Made in Anger. I will name it The Gentle Giant…Who Will Then Rip You To Shreds.

August 7 – September 29, 2016: Ultimate Africa