Don't mention ze war!

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
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74
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Namibia  ,
Thursday, October 26, 2006

For my first proper job - by proper I mean one where you couldn't wear white socks and believe me after the first day I never wore them again (gimme a break I was 16 and it was the 80s) - I stamped the backs of cheques at a bank in London. Oh yes it was as thrilling as it sounds, but the one slightly interesting thing was that the cheques were from banks all over the world drawn on their London branch. There were petite ones from France, totally like awesome ones from America, smelly ones from Turkey, lotsa lotsa ones from Italy, and ones trying to draw on frozen assets from Iceland.

I also remember getting a few drawn on SWABank, whereever the hell 'SWA' was, so I had to find an atlas - remember them? - to look it up. It turned out that SWA stood for South West Africa which happened to be a country just to the west of South Africa, surprisingly. It also turned out to be a German colony so I naturally lost interest.

Fast forward a few years and I hear of a country called Namibia, whereever the hell that was, so I got onto the internet - duh - and looked it up. It looked fantastic. As the Germans could no longer be trusted the country had been administered by South Africa since World War II, but it wasn't until 1990 that it finally gained its independence and the Republic of Namibia was born.

So here I am. First stop just over the border was at Zelda's Guest Farm where we pitched our tents and watched rescued cheetahs and leopards being fed, animals that would have otherwise been shot by farmers. Let's just say I was glad to be behind the fence.

The next morning it was off down the Trans-Kalahari Highway to Namibia's tourist jewel: Etosha National Park. 'Etosha' means 'Great White Place' not because of all the wobbly western tourists belly-flopping in the swimming pools (of which there are plenty) but because of the massive salt pan that makes up a quarter of the park which, at over 22,000 square kilometres, I wouldn't want to cut the grass. Luckily there are thousands of animals that have nothing better to do than exactly that.

Because of its popularity the authorities have built three rest camps with great facilities, each with a big swimming pool, relaxing bar and decent restaurant, although unfortunately there are a disproportionate amount of Germans running around who think they still own the place. The best feature is the floodlit watering hole just outside the fence that attracts animals throughout the day and night.

Well they should attract them, but this past week has seen a lot of rain resulting in the animals - including the world's largest elephants - having other sources of water in the park and so we didn't get to see much either at the hole or on our game drives. The highlight however was seeing a family of three white rhinos waddle over to the water hole one night whilst a giraffe inelegantly (it's the only way) splayed its front legs so it could also drink.

Next stop was the coastal town of Swakopmund, Namibia's adventure capital. This is where Brad and Angelina decided to have their baby earlier this year and so it has become quite a popular place. Together with another guy off the truck I spent a couple of hours quadbiking over the shifting dunes with the company that Brad used thirteen times - as the guide gushed to us. It was an awful lot of fun, but unfortunately I didn't have time for twelve other trips (and neither was Angelina waiting back in my tent to lick the sand out from between my toes).
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