Welcome to the desert!
Etosha National Park
We left Windhoek and headed north (not quite the direct way to Capetown) to visit the Etosha National Park. It was a long drive day and the Kiwi boys got a bit of a party going on the long ride up. Etosha is one of Africa’s best game parks and we spent 2 days doing game drives from our big yellow truck. We would game drive in the early morning, spent the mid part of the day relaxing in the comfy campsites (with pools!) and then do another game drive at dusk. The game was really great and rivalled the Serengetti and Crater (Tanzania). We saw loads of giraffes, new kinds of antelope, zebra, wildabeast, warthogs, and lions. We saw dikdiks for the first time, which are miniture antelope – very cute! We saw a few prides of lions hunting, although we never saw a kill. Each campsite in the park, had a flood lit watering hole, although we weren’t patient enough to really see anything there. We heard lions one evening outside the perimeter fence of the campsite, and Paul saw their eyes in the darkness. It is very cool at
night in the park and we were finally bringing out our fleeces.
We headed south and stopped at Cheetah Park campsite, which has tame and wild cheetahs. We could do a tour, but skipped it since we aren’t huge fans of animals in captivity and we had already done the lion thing. Continued south and really entered the desert. It is still the wet season, so the desert has grasses covering a lot of it, that would not normally be there. We stopped at a petrified forest and then continued onto Twyfelfontein, which has some of the best rock paintings in the world. They are 1,000-3,000 years old and are actually rock carvings that depict giraffes, lions and even seals. The different artists would put their footprint by their picture, as a signature to show who carved it. Namibia is full of dirt roads because it is one of the least densely populated countries in Africa. To get to Twyfelfontein, we had to cross up a dried up river bed of sand and so we had to use sand mats (metal runners) to get across – lots of hard work in the extreme heat. At one point
it was above 40 degrees and we had to cross a stretch of 200 m, which took an hour. A fun, teamwork experience!
The Skeleton Coast is sometimes used to refer to the whole Namibian coastline, but there is a stretch that is actually known as the “Skeleton Coast” because ships were known to crash onto the shores. The Skeleton Coast is where the Namib desert meets the Atlantic Ocean. We stopped at a small shipwreck and played in the freezing cold water. The title of our tour is called “Coast to Coast” and it is crazy that we have now gone from the Indian Ocean side of Africa to the Atlantic. The Namib desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world with some of the largest sand dunes.
Cape Cross Seal Colony
On the way to Cape Cross, we decided to just go for it, through a dried up muddy river bed instead of getting the sand mats out. And we of course got stuck pretty badly. It took a while to get out and some girls decided to have a mud fight while we were waiting. (I didn’t
let Paul add these photos!) Cape Cross Seal Colony is a protected area where there must be millions of seals that inhabit the beach and waters of this coast. We have never seen so many seals and let me tell you, they really smell! It was cute to see the pups, which were born in November. But there was only so long that we could stand the stench!
We arrived into Swakopmund, which is a German town on the coast in the middle of the desert. It is known as an adventure sport place, like Vic Falls. We were staying in a hostel here, which was a nice break from our tents. Amazing to think that a hostel actually felt like luxury! No sighting of Brad & Angelina, although I don’t suppose that they hang out at hostels.
The only activity we were doing was the sandboarding (Paul, I just went to watch). There are huge sand dunes just outside of town and a whoel group of us from the truck were going. You can either do sandboarding (like snowboarding) or lie down (like toboggoning). It was hilarious to see everyone is snowboard boots with
their shorts and t-shirts. It was an east wind that day, which brought incredible heat and winds to the dunes. The east winds blow from Mozambique across Africa and produce cold temperatures across the eastern part of Africa. When they come across the desert, they pick up all the heat and create really warm weather on the west coast. It was one of the hottest days of the year, well over 40 degrees. Sandboarding is just like snowboarding on sand and it was a really cool experience, because where else in the world can you do this???? The only negative thing is that they of course do not have lifts up the dunes and so you have to walk up in the sand in horrendous heat. I don’t think either of us have felt heat like this before. A few girls were sick because of the heat and exertion. Paul picked it up really quickly and was very good! He also tried the lie down, where you go face down and can reach speeds of 60-75 km/hr. I was just happy to sit at the top and take pictures and was glad that I only had to climb up once.
Paul managed six runs and they have a jump built on one dune and he managed a nice indy grab jump. We got a free DVD, which is awesome – we’ll have to show you later! Really cool experience and Steve – I’m sure you would have totally loved it!
As we have headed farther south, things have become a lot more developed and Westernized. As a result, we have also seen large populations of whites as well. We find the disparity between blacks and whites here very disturbing. The whites own all the businesses and the blacks are the labourers and it is very much a relationship of haves and havenots. There is very much a servantish feel to things and we don’t particularly like being a part of this. Security is obiously an issue as all windowns have bars, you have to get buzzed into shops to enter and there are car guards for the parked cars. We realize that this will continue into South Africa, where they are only 15 years out of apartheid. It makes us miss the Africa of up north, which seemed more authentic and friendly. Although we have to say, that we
are enjoying the Western niceties like shopping centres, fast email and nice restaurants
We have less than a week left on our truck tour and it will be really sad to say goodbye to the people we have spent the last 8 weeks with. We leave Africa in 10 days and although we will be sad to leave a continent that we have really enjoyed, we are already looking forward to Asia for the next chapter in our trip.