Adventures in Namibia

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
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Trip End Dec 22, 2013


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What I did
Alter Action Sandboarding www.alter-action.info

Flag of Namibia  ,
Saturday, November 3, 2012

My time in Namibia really started when we got to Grootfontein and stayed at a great camp site called Roy's Camp for two nights. It was very whimsically decorated and had a lovely pool and bar area.  The real bonus was free wifi, or better known as bush wifi.  Literally it was an area within some bushes with some chairs and that was the only place you could get reception. It was a funny sight to see 10 people crowding around one area for internet.  There was more people here then at the bar.

During the day we had the opportunity to visit a San Bushmen homestead (Ju/’Hoansi Living Museum) where we spent time with them walking and listening to their stories of how they live off the land as they probably have the deepest understanding of all cultures of nature and ecology and being able to live in harmony with their environment, presented in their unique clicking language. We learned about all the different roots they use for medicine to cure different ailments and they dug up this root that they then shaved down and squeezed to be able to make water.  This is how they get their water during the dry season.  When done they re-plant the root so it will grow again.  We also got an opportunity to do a traditional dance with them.  There were lots of laughs between us and them as we tried to figure out the dance.  The Bushmen are the oldest ethnic group in Namibia having inhabited Southern Africa for an estimated 20,000 years. Around 30,000 San live in Namibia, but only 2,000 of them still follow a traditional way of life.  I was leery of going to see the Bushmen because I thought it would be commercial and tourist but it was quite the opposite.  It was truly a unique experience and you could feel from the Bushmen people that they were genuinely happy to have us visit.

The next two days were spent in Etosha National Park which is home to a wide range of Southern Africa's wildlife, including all the big carnivores and five rare or endangered species: black rhino, Hartmann's mountain zebra, black-faced impala, roan antelope and the tiny Damara dik-dik. The wildlife is prolific and Etosha has every right to proclaim itself as one of the world's pre-eminent wildlife areas. Game viewing in the park is relatively easy due to the man-made waterholes and the large sparsely vegetated pans. The bush land surrounding the pans is difficult to see through but there are enough clearings, pans and waterholes to usually allow for some sightings. Namibia has protected its game reserves against poaching so there are large herds of elephants, antelope and other herbivores. Our first night in the park was spent at Namutomi rest camp which was originally a German fort. The fort overlooks a man-made watering hole which normally would provide maximum viewing of animals but we arrived during a thunderstorm.  The rains lifted for our afternoon game drive where we happened on a pair of lions (brothers) who were lounging under a tree and then wandered over to watering hole to grab a drink before meandering off into the sunset. We hadn’t seen a lion since Serengeti so we were all thrilled. Back at camp for the evening and another thunderstorm rolled through that pretty much sent us all to bed early for lack of anything better to do. 

The next day we drove 150km through the park to reach another original German fort camp site called Okaukuejo. Before arriving to set up camp we went for a game drive and on a tip given to our leader we came upon a pride of no less than 16 lions and lionesses; a male, many mother lionesses and 2 batches of cubs.  We were able to watch them cross the road and make their way to the watering hole.  What a nice way to end our last game drive of the trip.

A nine hour driving day got us further west in Namibia to Spitzkoppe otherwise known as 'the Matterhorn of Namibia’.  The mountain, which is 700 million years old, is 1987 metres (5857 ft) high.  It was a beautiful setting for a bush camp and we had a rare opportunity to watch a film crew from Peru film some shots for a movie called Blue Frontier.  Who knows maybe it will be premiered at TIFF next year. Another thunderstorm greeted us in the middle of the night; the rainy season has indeed started.  For a very beautiful setting this was more or less our last pit stop before making it to the west coast of Africa.

Driving for 3 hours the next day we caught our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean as we made our way to the Cape Cross to see, hear and smell the thousands of cape fur seals that make Cape Cross their home. There was definitely a lot of mating going on as the birthing season of late Nov is slowly approaching.  After visiting the seals we traveled a bit further south along the errie Atlantic Coast and had lunch by a ship wreck.  Here is where I got to stick my feet in the "refreshing" Atlantic Ocean and declare that I have traveled the continent of Africa, coast to coast.

For three nights we stayed in the town of Swakopmund which is right on the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by massive dune fields of the Namib Desert.  Swakopmund had oodles of German culture and architecture much like all the major settlements in Namibia.  At times I could almost think I was in Germany as opposed to Africa.  Swakopmund is also the place to go if you are an adrenaline junky. I thought I’d get my adrenaline rush on and went sand boarding in the dunes.  The same equipment for snowboarding is used with the exception that they coat the bottom of the board with Formica to make the boards more durable and we had to add a coat of wax before each run.  We did about 5 runs, with the unfortunate part of having to walk back up the dune in between runs. For two of the runs, I attempted to do a jump, both times landing on my back side. Falling in sand is much more forgiving then snow.  We also got to try lie down sliding which is much like tobogganing on your belly. We were able to get 2 runs in and they clocked our speeds as we went down. My first run was 72 kms/hour and my second was 71kms.  I and one other were the fastest in the group.   All in all a fantastic experience and I would highly recommend it.

So if that wasn’t enough of a rush for the day, five of us also signed up to go skydiving. No sooner as we got back to our accommodations we were picked up and whisked to the office to sign our lives away and then on to the dunes about 20 mins away to the jump site.  We got a very quick briefing about what to do, what not to do and what to expect and then off we went.  Five trips (loads) were made and I was in fourth load with Jesse.  Sitting around waiting and watching for the others to jump surprisingly did not make me nervous. Putting the jump suit on and getting the harness on did not make me nervous. Getting on the plane (yes something I’m very accustom to doing) made me nervous.  Perhaps because there were no seats, a wobbly sliding door on one side and you are sitting backwards. My diving partner (the guy who will prevent me from going splat) was so excellent and totally made me experience as good as it was.  I was half strapped to him as soon as we got on the plane and then at about 6,000 ft I was completely strapped to him.  He sensed I was getting very nervous and kept me in a bear hug until he told me to “open the door”.   Having really no choice I opened the door and slid my legs out and tucking them under edge of the plane. I did have a fleeting moment of putting my feet on the edge of the door and refuse to put them out, but he was much bigger than me and was essentially going to take me with him anyways.  There was a countdown and before I know it I was tumbling out of the plane and free falling for 30 seconds.  Out of fear I was giggling like school girl for the entire free fall.  Another countdown and the parachute was pulled; feeling like the breaks were put on full stop. My body kind of went into a peaceful state as my partner said “Welcome to my office”.  That lasted for a few seconds before he had me twisting and turning for what seemed like forever.  Again out of fear I was screaming the whole time and was told after landing that they could hear me from the ground.  He then let me control the parachute for a bit.  It was extremely difficult to handle as you have to really yank hard to make you move.  At this point we were going through the clouds, which was really surreal.  We could see a reflection of us against the sun and there was a rainbow around it.  Pretty cool! Then he said let go, I didn’t believe him at first and was scared too but he insisted and I’ve trusted him this far.  Before I knew it I could see the landing site and we were coming in pretty damn fast until we literally put on the breaks mid-air completely freaking me out for about the fourth time. He wanted me to practice lifting my legs up for landing.  Passing that test, he released the breaks and both I knew it I was standing on the ground. I survived!  I think I was in a bit of shock about what just happened but had the craziest grin on my face.  What a rush…but don’t think I’m going to sign up to do it again anytime soon.

Nights in Swakopmund are pretty much all about hitting the bar or dance club, which is really one in the same.   Most of us being in celebratory moods from sand boarding and skydiving off to bar we went and had a really fantastic evening, dancing up a storm with all the locals. Our final night in Swakopmund was actually Halloween so after our final group dinner at a german pub were I had the most delicious steak and spatzle, we went to a Halloween party at an Italian restaurant ( I know….remember this is Africa)  As expect it was low-key and really put on for the tourists or non-locals living in the area. Still it was good fun and met a bunch of people many who are into town for the filming of the new Mad Max movie.

Leaving Swakopmund we headed further south to Sesriem Canyon which is in the middle of the Namib Desert region. This canyon was formed when the Tsauchab River carved a gorge 30 metres into the gravel deposits about 15 million years ago. It's thought that this river once flowed to the Atlantic Ocean but its course was blocked by the encroaching sand dunes.  The next morning we hopped on the truck at 5am to drive to dune 45 in time to catch the sunrise.  Walking 800m up the dune was a tough task at 6am in the morning but really worth it to see the spectacular sunrise. Running down the dunes was also worth the hike.  I felt like a little kid.  After breakfast in the dunes we took some 4X4’s out to see the clay pans of Deadsvlei and Sossusvlei which is where the Tsauchab River flows out to the dune fields and ends at these clay pans.

The next day as we continued to make our way to South Africa we made a stop at Keetmanshoop to get some supplies and then visit a cheetah reserve were saw a couple cheetahs lounging under their perspective trees. As well we got to take a walk through a quiver tree forest, which I wouldn’t say was really a forest as you can see for yourself in the pictures.  Otherwise known as the Kokerboom tree, the San Bushmen use the soft, pulpy branches to carve their arrow quivers.  And lastly we visited Giants Playground named because of the way the massive dolerite boulders are placed on top of one another by some gigantic force, creating strange rock formations and series of mazes.

There are only 2 million people living in Namibia but the size of the country is 825,400 km squared.  This means there is has not been much to see along the side of the road aside from landscape and the landscape is basically large rock masses and crushed rock, making it challenging to have a bush toilet stop. As well there are no villages have developed along the roads like in previous countries and the roads we have been travelling are not paved; more like crushed gravel.  So we’ve been having lots of “African Massage” all through Namibia. Despite the desolateness of travelling through Namibia I’ve really enjoyed my time in this country. The people are so friendly and I have had some really great first time experiences.  I would definitely like to come back and do some more travelling in Namibia; more in the North and the city of Windhoek.
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Comments

Deb Dorsey on

Hi Molly,
Your trip appears to be that of dreams. You won't need to watch another episode of Wild Kingdom - ever. The weather in Toronto is remaining quite mild - the prelude to what is anticipated as the coldest and snowiest winter in 80 years. Life in the hood is status quo. Ron and the boys are playing the el Mocombo tonight which should be good for a laugh and some fun. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience and keep it up. Deb

Claudia Baskerville on

Hi Molly: I will never ever ever skydive, so was quite in awe of you. What an amazing trip you are having.

Lee Ann on

You go girl! Living vicariously through you at the moment :)

Uncle Don on

Hey Molly:

What fantastic adventures. Keep on blogging! I print them for your Grand mom. She sends her love and she absolutely loves your blog!
Peace and Love, Don

Aunt Nancy on

You're amazing, girl. I envy your skydiving experience. I'm really enjoying your blog - keep writing and having fun!

eddim
eddim on

Thanks Nancy. Skydiving was absolutely petrifying but I'm considering doing it again...I must be crazy.

Love to you, Tom and Ryan!

eddim
eddim on

Thanks Don. Give Grandma a big hug for me please. And Lisa too!

eddim
eddim on

Good to hear from you Lee Ann. I'll do my best to keep you busy ;-)

Hope all is well, xo Molly

JoJo on

Loved that Sand Boarding Picture!!!

Sky Diving... You Crazy or CRAZY!!!

JoJo on

btw... your new boyfriend just looks like the old one ;)

eddim
eddim on

Lol...just about. A little darker, and shorter and older :-)

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