As I write this, we are sitting on a grassy tall bank of the Okavango River, watching eight hippos occassionally peer out from the water, yawn, and honk their nasal bark about 50 meters from us. And then locals float by on some mokoros (wooden boats). And then the hippos grunt at them for coming too close…
It all feels a bit surreal. We’re in a completely different environment than we were even a few days ago.
Waiting at Walvis Bay
I was of course on a high most of the week coming off my birthday on Sunday, though the rest of the week went by quite uneventfully as we waited for the Landy to be checked over and to hear something – anything – about Moreno’s passport. There’s taking a time out to relax, and then there’s waiting around, and by the time we left Walvis Bay Thursday morning we were so ready for a change.
By that evening we were back in the capital, and, after some more dramatic emails between the embassy in Pretoria, DHL, and the Consulate in Windhoek (the passport temporarily went ‘missing’), we were given the go ahead to come and pick it up Friday morning. Finally!! (*applause and cheers*)
So with that, we headed north east towards the Caprivi Strip, where we are now, bordered on the north and south by Angola/Zambia and Botswana respectively.
The Time Issue
Unfortunately, finally being able to work out the timing for the rest of the trip resulted in us calculating out how much time we in fact did not have. Consequently, we started doing exactly what we were trying to avoid – madly skimming through the guidebooks and maps all over again to determine how fast we could rush everything and/or what we were willing to cut out. We still don’t know anything for sure, and there’s a lot of dependent variables at play, but we now have three contingency plans based on various administrative limitations and differing timelines.
We started off the week a few kilometers from Etosha at a campsite that had some predators for viewing. We’re actually not quite sure why or how they came to be there so we’re not sure how happy we should be about the whole thing, but in the least it was really interesting seeing some of the animals up close. Like cheetahs – not as delicate as they looked from afar, they actually look like they could rip your face off if they wanted, but then they meow like kittens when waiting for food. Or brown hyenas – pretty much look like something horror movies are based on, but up close, the young ones are just like puppies. And leopards – terrifying with an angry purr and hiss that you can feel deep in your gut.
Giraffes at Etosha
Then it was on to our second day at Etosha National Park, but what we were looking forward to was the view at the waterhole by our campsite – a waterhole floodlit at night where you can watch animals come to drink 24 hours a day. Didn’t quite get the shot I wanted, but it was still amazing to watch the giraffe (my current favourite) and rhino so close and at night.
Lions at Erindi
Then we opted to splurge for a couple of nights at Erindi Private Game Reserve and invited Brian along. The three of us spent the next couple of days lounging by the pool, getting sunburned, photographing animals at the much more realistic waterhole, and waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of lions grumbling. Once you know what it is, a lion’s hum is the most unmistakable sound that cuts through right into your brain, but it is remarkable to listen to.
Birthday George Bush Sr. Style
By the end of the week, we left Brian in the north and headed back to – wait for it – Walvis Bay, probably the least exciting place we’d visited up to this point. Originally, we were supposed to be in Zambia by now, where I was planning to possibly bungee Victoria Falls for my birthday, a bucket list item for a long time, but as we’re still in Namibia waiting to hear about Moreno’s passport, we figured we’d wait somewhere we knew and somewhere closer to the capital.
Walvis Bay fit the bill, though I wasn’t sure if it would exactly deliver on the enormity I was trying really hard not to place on my birthday. But Moreno came up with an idea he wasn’t even so sure about: Walvis Bay may not be the adrenaline capital of anywhere, but Swakopmund, a mere 30km away, is the adrenaline capital of Namibia, and maybe signing up for a skydive would ail my adrenaline fix.
Our fifth week in Southern Africa took us from the dead heat of the Sossusvlei desert sand dunes back to the windy Atlantic on the Skeleton Coast.
Red Dunes of Sossusvlei
We started the week off in Sossuslvei, the oldest dunes in the world. The red giants (some 300 meters high) are probably the most famous thing to see in Namibia, but even though at one point there were maybe 60 of us there, it still felt completely deserted. (Literally). We climbed up one of the dunes shortly after sunrise and then ran down (awesome fun) to the dead vlei (flat land) to take some photos there.
Sossuslvei was HOT so the next day we hit up the coast again and went to Walvis Bay to do nothing. Walvis Bay is really just a harbour – it’s actually the biggest and most important one in Namibia as it’s close to the capital, and it’s the port used by Zambia and Zimbabwe – but there isn’t too much else there. Except flamingoes. Real ones, just walking around.
We desperately needed to de-dust the inside of the Landy as everything was covered in white gravel and sand dune dust, so we rented a little bachelor chalet and did nothing for a couple of days. (Well, I hunkered down in bed feeling sick, and Moreno dealt with credit card fun). We did meet an awesome Canadian couple, Vic and Deb, who have been on the road for a few years since they’ve retired. Their black and white striped rented camper (which they nicknamed ‘the wounded Zebra’) was falling apart and Moreno spotted another wound – a deflating tyre – so after joining forces to change the tyre, we bonded sharing our various travel adventures over beers. They were a hoot, so when we did eventually leave, we followed them to a campsite in Swakopmund.
Swakopmund is just 30km north up the coast and is the local holiday vacation spot in Namibia. We had a great seafood dinner the first night with our new Canuck friends before we parted ways. The next morning, we went on a catamaran cruise and it was really good – we saw pelicans, seals, dolphins – and got completely sunburned (it’s hard to tell with all the wind!).
And then I went sand boarding in the afternoon and got completely sand blasted! Swakopmund is the adrenaline capital of the country, so I had to try something. But it gets so windy here in the afternoon that we had to call it a day after half an hour!
To finish off the week, we started making our way further north towards the infamous shipwreck-laden Skeleton Coast. We made it as far as Cape Cross, which is home to one of the biggest colonies of Cape fur seals. They’re fast! And, not gonna lie…so smelly.
We found camp at Mile 108 and ended up being the only ones camping there (the sign actually said the campsite was closed, so we’re thinking the guy at reception just pocketed the money). The beach campsite was massive, and there were hyena and jackal tracks near the edge of the camp, and no fences. There was also a seal carcass on the beach. Yum. It actually would’ve been a great star gazing opportunity as there was no electricity anywhere in the area…if we weren’t totally creeped out.
Next: We’re heading up the Skeleton Coast to see shipwrecks, and then either back to Swakopmund for some Landy parts (turns out our snorkel is just for show), or some of the areas just off coast, including Twyfelfontein – the largest rock engraving site and one of Namibia’s two World Heritage Sites.