Wonderful Namibia, how we love thee! We’ve had a marvelous time in tourist friendly Namibia, indulging in several adrenaline based sports such as quad biking, sand boarding, skydiving, and hiking. In four weeks, we visited Ruacana Falls (magnificent waterfall straddling the border to Angola), Opuwo (a great base to see Himba tribes), Etosha National Park (where we spotted lots of wildlife), Twyfelfontein (6000 year old petroglyphs), Swakopmund (fantastic activities available here such as quad biking the sand dunes, skydiving over the desert or dolphin and seal spotting from nearby Walvis Bay), Spitzkoppe (a pristine hiker’s paradise), Windhoek (Namibia’s laidback capital), Luderitz (a quaint seaside town with the nearby ghost town of Kolmanskop), Fish River Canyon (the second largest canyon in the world), Sossusvlei (don’t miss the dead pan full of petrified trees and Dune 45), and last but not least, Camp Otjitotongwe Cheetah Park (where cheetahs licked our arms and sniffed us like dogs). Lots of great times in this beautiful country and we strongly urge everyone to visit.
15 Mar: For some reason, Nancy had to ride in the back of the truck as we drove into no man’s land, as she wasn’t supposed to be a guide in Namibia. It was easy to get stamped into Namibia, which is left hand drive. Welcome to the Promise Land! Much had been hyped up of Namibia over the past few weeks and we were all thrilled to finally be in this beautiful country. Lunch of tuna, crackers and tomatoes followed our border crossing, and it was a brief drive inland where we got permission to bush camp in a farmer’s orchard. After setting up our tents, it immediately started pouring down rain at 1730. Nearly everyone took showers after filling up water buckets and the coolers with rainwater. Becky washed up in a nearby quarry area which had a warm water pool. Cook group tonight prepared sausage casserole with vegetables and mash. Over the bonfire, Chris burned Matt’s elephant happy pants, Lars burned his much beloved but absolutely filthy Mancora t-shirt, and Lucky sacrificed his striped shirt. It was a fun night, and we hit the sack once the rain started on us again, pelting us all night long. We predicted there would be plenty of soaked tents in the morning!
16 Mar: Happy Birthday Dowelly! Since KFC was on the horizon, Hoff called Ruth a “chicken lickin’ bucket muncher” after she said she wanted to eat an entire bucket of chicken. We hated to pack our soaking wet tent in the rain, and for breakfast ate leftover potato patties and oatmeal and peaches. As we were leaving the locals gathered around and begged for left over food. It was heartbreaking to have to tell them no as we ended up chucking the leftovers in the bushes! From our bush camp, we drove directly to Oshakati where Robby’s cook group went shopping and Becky was finally able to withdraw money from an ATM (first successful transaction since Senegal!). We bought some much needed supplies (soap, baby wipes, toilet paper, alcohol and snacks) and enjoyed Greek Lamb flavored chips and hamburgers for lunch. Everyone else went to KFC where they dropped big bucks on their lunch. We left at noon and Luke and Dowelly had some extra KFC so they gave us some (Luke was a complete glutton with his chicken sandwich meal and 5 piece chicken bucket). We had an early afternoon drink in honor of Dowelly’s birthday, and admired the landscape of wetlands hugging both sides of the road, complete with loads of donkeys, goats and cows wading in the water. There were plenty of colorful bars along the roadside everywhere, with some humorous names. Nancy had advised us to prepare for a 6 hour drive to our campsite, but at our first pee stop, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were only 40 KM out so we’d arrive much earlier than expected. Our early afternoon destination was the lovely Hippo Pool campsite in Ruacana, where “beware of crocodile” signs put us off from swimming in the water. Instead, we set up our tents, did a quick load of laundry, and hung it out to dry while we still had a rare moment of sunlight. After that, we started drinking to celebrate Dowelly’s b-day. Luke’s cook group made an excellent beef noodle stir fry for dinner (it was absolutely yum), and after dinner we sat around in the rain and drank. Finally when the rain was absolutely relentless and refused to let up, we got on the truck to escape the rain, only to have the boys think it would be funny to light their own farts while videotaping it. Needless to say, it was a crazy night celebrating Dowelly’s birthday.
17 Mar: Yeah, a late breakfast of 8:30! Unfortunately, it was in the rain so everyone scrambled on the truck to finish eating breakfast. Robby was feeling a bit hungover, so after breakfast we went back to our tent and napped till noon. Just before lunch, we got up and scrubbed our thermarests mats, hanging them on our laundry line to dry. After lunch, we (Tim, Bree, Lucky and us) decided to be a bit active and walk to the nearby waterfalls. Unfortunately for us, a mere 15 minutes after setting out for the falls, it started pouring down cats and dogs the entire slog up the hill to the falls which were 4 KM away. When we got to the falls, we were dismayed to find that our Olympus point and shoot camera (the tough, ruggedized, shockproof and dustproof one) had finally conked out and died. To add insult to injury, Robby’s SLR had moisture on his lens, so his photos were all crap. It was extremely frustrating! We took a few photos and walked back to our campsite where we snacked before dinner. We also discovered that Norma and Pam had seen the waterfall from the Angolan side and Pam showed us her awesome photos. At at nearby bar, they had befriended some Himba tribe members and were allowed to take photos which were really cool. Just before dinner, Nancy briefed us on some major trip changes (due to a new ruling in South Africa, foreign commercial vehicles can no longer be driven into the country). Nancy briefly discussed our new itinerary and there was much cheering and joy when the 23-weekers learned that we would be visiting Etosha National Park on the ride down, in addition to Swakopmund and Luderitz. To see all that, we would be cutting out two sights in South Africa (Kimberly Mines and Addo Elephant National Park), but none of us were perturbed with the proposed changes. Lucky for us, Oasis was going to hire a truck so that we could continue to Capetown as planned (we later found out that Africa Trails did not such thing for their passengers, who had to make their own way by bus to Capetown), making the best out of the situation. Dinner tonight was a treat, with Chris and Nancy grilling up an incredible treat: BBQ chicken, sausage and steak and salad with feta cheese, yum! It was a great St. Patrick’s day. Dowelly and Kendra made a St Patty’s day Irish play list and the late night partiers consisted of Hoff and Lucky who stayed up past 1 am.
18 Mar: Breakfast at 8:30 am consisted of ramen noodles and peanut butter on toast. At 9:30 am, we headed for the falls again since it was a spectacularly sunny morning. Instead of backtracking to yesterday’s lookout point, we headed directly to the place that Norma and Pam had recommended we visit and the view from the Angolan side did not disappoint. It was truly awesome. Luke and Dowelly said the Ruacana Falls were the biggest falls they had ever seen. After taking a series of photos, we joined Lucky to head towards the nearby bar while everyone else went to see the waterfall from the other viewpoint. At the bar, we linked up with Hoff and Ruth and they gave us a sip of their ice cold coke. There was a group of Himba people there and they looked so photogenic with their mud baked skin and carefully arranged hair. We attempted to negotiate a price to take their photos but in the end didn’t feel comfortable so we ended up walking away. It just felt way to commercialized as we originally offered $5 for each of us to take a photo, and they counter offered with $100 and then immediately settled for $20 but ultimately we declined. It rained as we walked back, and the other group passed us by (they had hitched a ride back to the campsite). We did the last of our laundry and washed our sweaty pillows, gambling on the fact that it had been a sunny day and the rays would hopefully last the afternoon to dry our wet gear. Lunch consisted of sandwiches, and we rinsed and scrubbed our laundry afterwards, hanging it out to dry. By the end of the day, our laundry was dry, but our pillows remained damp much to our chagrin. Evening thunderstorms threatened, and we thought it best to pull our pillows into the tent rather than let them hang on the laundry line all night long. It was a good call as rain came pouring down heavily, soaking everything in sight and flooding the cook area. For dinner, Hoff’s angels created a delicious grilled chicken, potato salad and garlic bread meal. It rained so hard that everything flooded and the boys had to cook in the rain under a tarp. Everyone crashed after dinner and it continued to rain heavily all night long…we regretted not setting up our tent fly to keep our tent dry.
19 Mar: We had a 7:30 am breakfast, consisting of delicious leftover chicken broth (we added ramen noodles) and toast. We departed at 8:30a m and drove straight from Ruacana to a supermarket in Opuwo where Becky’s cook group had a brief 45 minutes to shop. The boys had to shop fast since they had to return to the parking lot early to prepare lunch. The town of Opuwo was full of tribal people everywhere, and it was a surreal experience to shop in the market next to Himba and Herero tribal people. The Himba tribe was characterized by their ochre/cow fat glazed skin and hair while the distinguished Herero women wore long dresses and a neat scroll shaped hat. Several Himba women surrounded our truck attempting to sell us their arts and crafts. We ate lunch quickly and picked up our local guide who escorted us to the nearby Himba village of Ohungumure. She brought a bag of maize and gave it to the village chief as a gift. To visit the village, we paid $50, of which $10 went to the tribe and $40 went to our guide, who gave us an explanation about the Himba customs, beliefs and village life. We were all freely allowed to take photos, and enjoyed our visit to one of the homes that had a Himba lady with a one month old newborn baby girl. In another traditional dwelling, a Himba lady demonstrated how she used tree bark smoke for perfume and ochre to redden her skin. (a mixture of crushed ochre stone and cow fat). The village ladies laid out handicrafts for sale and urged us to buy their stuff. Becky ended up getting two Himba bracelets for $45. The village kids have picked up high fiving everyone, so we left with an entourage of high fiving kids. They ended up chasing Robby as they loved giving him high fives all the way out the village. From Ohungumure, we drove back to Opuwo where we dropped off our guide (Becky ended up getting a bracelet and necklace set for $30). Our destination tonight was in Opuwo at the lovely campsite of Kunene. It was a clean campground with power charging points, hot water showers and western style flush toilets…awesome! After setting up our tents, we immediately charged our batteries, dried our bedding and worked on downloading and sorting our photos. Fortunately for us, we were also able to get photos from Bree, Marie, Lars and Pam. We ate a delicious spaghetti dinner made with cheap red wine and beef. Poor Marie cut her finger making dinner, so she took a time out to deal with the pain. Her sacrifice was worth it though, as dinner rocked! We stayed up late with Lars and Marie at the charge point swapping photos before eventually calling it a night. It was a real treat to take steaming hot water showers before crawling into bed.
20 Mar: Breakfast of do it yourself eggs was served at 8 am. We packed up and departed Opuwo and backtracked to Oshakati. Chris took the opportunity along the way to stop along the side of the road to cut up some dry firewood. We worked together as a team to lug the firewood back to the truck where Robby packed it as best he could. There was so much dry wood that we filled up the wood container, the wheel wells and five large plastic bags with wood. Two of the bags had to be stored on the truck where we gave them their own seats and strapped them in with seatbelts. Our new passengers were immediately dubbed “Dick Woody” and “Sticky Johnson”. After our wood gathering, we drove onward in the direction of Oshakati but lost a bit of time when heavy winds threatened a ferocious downpour , forcing us to stop to put up the beach before our gear got soaked. Lunch was salad sandwiches and soft boiled eggs (eat at your own risk), and we ate quickly before hopping back on for another drive towards Ondangwa. Our bush camp was near Ondangwa, where Chris scoped out an ideal spot. However, the soft sand prevented him from backing up the truck fully so we essentially just parked off the road. Becky’s cook group made chicken stew with prawn crackers. The boys found large wooden stumps to burn on the fire, and cook group used the leftover garlic butter to serve up with two loaves of wheat bread for dinner. The stew was a huge hit with everyone who enjoyed its rich tasty broth. The vegetarians enjoyed their meal as well (curry chickpeas). After dinner, marshmallows were roasted over a large stump until we were all stuffed and called it a night.
21 Mar: It was an 8 am scheduled breakfast but everyone was up well before because of the braying donkeys. It had rained most of the night, so we welcomed the morning sun to dry out our tent before packing it away. The bonus about this campsite was the soft sand which made digging for a poo easy. Breakfast was do it yourself eggs, pears, toast and leftover chicken stew…yum. As we were leaving, the truck got stuck so we had to scavenge around for twigs, branches and rocks to fill in the sandy hole and eventually the truck was able to pull on out. There was a giant long dark cloud looming overhead and someone made the comment that we were driving into hell. We drove towards Tsumeb and had to close the beach and bring down the flaps before the rain inevitably came, this time with a fury. Thankfully, the heavy rainstorm didn’t last too long, and it had stopped before we arrived to the city of Tsumeb. Unfortunately for us, Tsumeb was dead today because it was Namibian Independence Day! Even though it was a Monday, the supermarkets wouldn’t sell alcohol on a holiday or weekend, and most of them closed at 1 pm. Since we only had 40 minutes to spare, we opted to hold off on making lunch until after having a chance to shop at the ShopRite. We rushed around and in no time at all, had loaded up our shopping cart with a multipack of Nik Naks, cheese, batteries, a South Africa power adaptor, white chocolate and chicken mushroom pie. On our way back to the truck, we spotted a Hungry Lion and Robby snagged 2 chicken burgers which we devoured over lunch. While Becky’s cook group was preparing lunch, some drunk youths attempted to steal our food but Lucky became aggressive and scared them off. After lunch, Becky volunteered for truck guard during the second shift. Gustav from Africa Trails paid us a visit and we learned about their eventful trip (a girl had caught malaria and was in the hospital, they had overstayed their Angolan visa by 3 days and were fined $100 US day per day, their company didn’t arrange for a truck to take them to Capetown so they were catching a local bus directly there and back). After truck guard was over, we headed towards a nearby restaurant/hotel complex, Dros, where the Africa Trails folks were camping at. There, we were able to get internet access (a pricey $10 per 20 minutes) and it was disappointingly slow for how expensive the access was. After only 30 minutes online, we headed back to the truck to buy alcohol and cheesecake at a Spar supermarket. Amazingly, they were still open and sold alcohol, score! We left Tsumeb at 1630 and drove to a bushcamp near Namutoni. There, we camped at a rest stop on the road, and Nancy’s cookgroup made burgers (supplemented by our cheddar cheese). It rained that night and luckily, we had the foresight to put our fly on the tent so all of our gear remained dry.
22 Mar: We had an early 6:30 breakfast with a 7:15 am departure where we headed directly for Etosha National Park. Robby and Luke were up on the beach and immediately after entering the park, Robby spotted the first giraffe, which was unexpected as we were so close to the main entrance. We ended up seeing dozens more giraffes, followed by zebras, springboks, kudus, impalas, blue wildebeests, gemsboks, jackals, steenboks, ground squirrels, warthogs, ostriches, mongoose, fox, black korhaan, helmeted guineafowl, kori bustard, vultures, kestrels, a lion and a leopard! It was freaking awesome and Etosha is one of the nicest game parks we have visited. Just before lunch, Bree spotted a young male lion making his way across the long grass. He walked across the road to drink water from a puddle while staring directly at us, and slowly sauntered across the road to the other side. We went to Halali Rest Camp for lunch, which was a brilliant spot with a gorgeous swimming pool, watering hole and wonderfully warm showers. It was pure bliss but we only had a short 90 minutes to spare here, including lunch of salad sandwiches (supplemented by tuna/sardines). We managed to charge up our electronic gear briefly before Luke prematurely pulled them out due to a light drizzle. There were two other overland trucks here (Absolute Africa). After lunch, Lucky’s eagle eyes spotted a cheetah crawling in the grass. It was hard to distinguish exactly what we saw but thrilling nevertheless. We finished the game drive around 1830 and exited via the Okaukuejo gate. Chris drove for a bit until he found a suitable bush camp site near Okaukuejo. Pam, Tim and Lars made canned meatball and tomato sauce with pasta. Bless them for cooking it in the pouring rain! Everyone ate on the truck since it was raining so hard and Nancy gave us a heads up on the next few days’ itinerary.
23 Mar: Happy Birthday to Lars! We had a 8:30 am departure towards Outjo. Hoff played the Stevie Wonder “Happy Birthday” song for Lars while he read his birthday card that Norma had put together. Robby’s cook group had to go shopping while Becky checked email in the quaint town of Outjo. After cook group shopping, Robby stocked up on alcohol which was put into the ice filled cooler, alongside new guidance on drink limits per person. Becky was late for the departure as she incorrectly assumed that we had until 11:15 when in reality we were supposed to leave at 10:55…oops! Lars started drinking early in the day, having a celebratory beer before 11:30 am. We stopped at a rest stop for lunch, having a cheese and tuna sandwich. A full on truck party ensued at 2:30 pm, with lively music, and a Dowelly-Robby concoction of Birthday Tang (papaya, orange apple Tang, orange C’Bon, lemon vodka) which was surprisingly drinkable. Everyone drank a bit and passed it around, and Hoff supplemented it with his personal stash of white wine. Lars shared his snuff with the truck, and Ruth used Lar’s “Black Chic Hair Food” to style the boys’ hair (Robby, Dowelly, Matt, Lars, Luke, Hoff, and Lucky). A gecko truck passed us by and everyone waved liquor bottles in the air, so they must think either we are a bunch of alcoholics or party animals. We drove on towards Twyfelfontein and had a scenic bush camp near there at around 4:30 pm. The Lar’s b-day party continued, with cook group making bangers and mash for dinner, Norma getting completely blitzed and splitting her happy pants while attempting to carry Lars, and Hoff running up a small hill and pooing in front of everyone (or pretending to). The sunset was spectacular and the party continued around the campfire. The hard core party animals stayed up past midnight but after 7 solid hours of drinking, we snuck off to bed at 10 pm.
24 Mar: It was a hot uncomfortable night since we had the fly on the tent and it never rained. Robby got up several times to pee making for a very restless night for Becky. Breakfast was at 7:30 and it was hangover central with several people feeling unwell. Dowelly had some interesting Luke photos on his camera which he was sharing for all to see. We left at 8:30 and drove to Twyfelfontein, which has 6000 year old petroglyphs carved on nearby rocks. We paid $30 plus $5 tip to enter the park, and did the longer “Lion Man” walking tour. The rock formations were quite scenic and the carvings were interesting (although the carvings at Dider in Algeria are far superior). We left Twyfelfontein around 11:30 am and started heading towards Swakopmund which is our next destination. Lunch was enroute just after we had a river crossing where we were unsure if the truck could successfully navigate the gushing river. Everyone got off the truck and it made it to the other side of the river…yeah. We had a brief snack stop at Uis to use the toilet and get snacks. Robby stepped on some poo behind the men’s toilet and stunk up the truck (which he subsequently cleaned up with baby wipes). The scenery changed from rocky greenery to flat desert and we spotted our first sand dune by mid afternoon. The temperature seemed cooler in the desert, and we pulled over for a bush camp approximately 90 minutes out from Swakopmund. The Hoff’s angels made “Sandy Hilly Namibia Chilli” for dinner. A few folks roasted marshmallows after dinner and everyone was in bed before 9 pm.
25 Mar: Drove to Swakopmund, got activities video and briefing at Far Out (part of the Gruner Kranz Hostel). We checked into our room and opted for loud room, which was a 10 bed dorm. Great news, the hostel came equipped with free wifi, good times. We started website updates and Robby and Dowelly got chicken and fries for lunch at the takeaway joint “Berryl’s”. In the afternoon, Robby joined a group for quad biking (500 Rand) while Becky opted to stay behind to work on updating the website in the pool room which got crowded with the afternoon crowd. After getting most of the website updated, Robby was back from the afternoon excursion which he proclaimed was awesome and a must do. After quick showers, we joined a large group at the next door restaurant Napolitana..Food here was incredible and great value for portion size…everyone was stoked and satisfied with their meals. Becky loved her seafood pizza while Robby raved about his lamb chop and chips. After dinner, we joined a group at the hostel bar (Gruniz) where a group was playing pool.
26 Mar: We woke up and headed to a nearby Pick n’ Pay for breakfast food. A group (Luke, Dowelly, Bree and us) signed up for sandboarding with Alter Action at 9:30 am. Because the road was washed out, we had to walk across a pipeline bridge. Sandboarding was fun but hard work! We had lunch, drinks, and a video included for the price of 250 Namibian dollars each, and were happy to hear that repeat customers get 50% off. The boys (Robby and Luke) did stand up boarding and soared off the high jump while Becky and Bree set records on the laying down bit (76 and 77 km/p/hour respectively). After sandboarding, we headed back to the hostel where we had just a few minutes to spare in taking a rush shower (sand was literally in all our crevices) before our 2 pm pick up for sky diving. From the hostel we had a short drive to the sky dive shop where we completed all the necessary forms and provided a credit card for payment. We both opted for a photographer, handy cam and video of our first ever jumps which wasn’t cheap, but we felt the extravagant price would be worth it. Since there were so many of us diving, the team was keen on getting us to the drop zone, so we left our cards behind and took off for the tiny air strip in the middle of the desert. We had been forewarned that the drop zone bar no longer existed so we were advised to buy our own beer to put in a cooler on site. We had a crazy driver who drove like a maniac but was good fun. Robby was the first sky diver and he looked absolutely crazy with his poofy curls and tight sky diving outfit…hilarious. When he came down, he was pumped and full of energy, stating that it was an awesome rush and he loved it. Becky was next to last and got her jump in before the sun started setting. It was well past 7 pm when we were all done so Nancy coordinated for us to be dropped off directly at Napolitana (our post sky diving restaurant). For dinner, Becky enjoyed a game T-bone steak and Robby had a game pizza…yum. Back at the hostel, we did a bit of uploading and called mom with magic jack. First phone call in over 4 months but the connection was lousy. The late night party animals returned to the room late and were laughing hysterically at Hoff’s underwear and Lar’s room clearing fart. Thank God we were on the other side of the room and smelt nothing!
27 Mar: We had to get up early to watch the sand boarding video at 8 am. We selected a few good photos at a pricey N $20 a pop and had a quick shower before the 10 am checkout. After loading our gear back on the truck, we headed over to the Sky dive shop to complete payment, retrieve our credit card and sky diving videos and photos. Robby was given a refund of 400 Namibian dollars as his handy cam didn’t work and we stayed on site to watch the videos of each other. They were absolutely hilarious and we laughed out loud at all of them. After splitting off from the group, we headed to Woolworth’s and Mr Price for a bit of shopping, and got lunch from Pick n’ Pay which we ate back at the hostel over a bit of interneting. We had an on time departure at 2 pm, driving to Spitzkoppe. The Happy Birthday song was played for Ruth and some drinks were started. It rained just after we set up our tents and we had spicy chicken curry and rice for dinner. It was the spiciest dinner of the trip thus far…HOT! After dinner, we had the craziest party on the back of the truck. The party started with Ruth giving everyone sour monkey shots…and then there were strobe lights, pole dancing, music, dirty rum and the bonus was getting 3 members from Drifters to join our party. Dowelly gave them 2 options, to either pole dance or drink dirty rum and it was awesome that Ralf (the German who went sky diving with us the day before in Kendra’s plane) got up and danced! Good on him. We had forewarned them about how strong and potent Senegal Rum was but the advice went unheeded. End result: one German passed out on the truck, one very inebriated Drifters tour guide/driver, and one very blitzed but upright and happy German. The poor guys became so drunk and disoriented that they kept insisting our truck was their truck so Becky and Robby grabbed Matt to escort them back to their truck. Only Matt and Luke would go to pick up girls and come back with 3 dudes! We crashed around 1 am.
28 Mar: We had a bit of a sleep in since breakfast wasn’t until 8:30 am. It was a slow moving morning as we weren’t ready to hike Spitzkoppe until 10 am, but armed with hiking boots, sunscreen, water and some snacks, we (Bree, Dowelly and us) left for the highest peak right at 10 am. We passed by the toilets with a view, and climbed up the incline immediately behind the toilets. Amazingly, the view looking back on the campsite and beyond was amazing even a few minutes into our hike, and we just knew that if we kept going, the views would get better and better. Katherine, Matt and Luke started up the mountain a few minutes behind us, and we spotted Sean and Sara making their way as well. There was no real path leading to the summit of the mountain, so Robby ran ahead scoping out the best and most navigable route. Looking back upon the campsite was fantastic, and we were all very glad we made the effort to scramble around Spitzkoppe as it is such an amazing place. After a rather steep climb (on all fours) to the summit, we took our time admiring the panorama and snapping up a few photos before Matt and Luke caught up with us (Katherine turned back around as she wasn’t feeling up to it after last night’s partying). For some reason, we decided not to backtrack on the same path we had just taken but to descend along an unknown route which Bree had heard through the rumor mill to be an easier route down. How wrong we all were, it was TOUGH getting back down as the new path was extremely steep, slippery, and nerve wracking. Almost 2 hours of leg quivering muscle failure later, we finally descended into camp but realized that we had missed lunch. Thankfully there were plenty of leftovers for us, so we hung out on the truck and had our fill. After lunch, Becky and Luke passed out on the truck while Robby hung out by the chickens on a spit, taking 10 minute turns rotating them. Chris and Nancy bought 5 chickens to roast as well as corn on the cob and potato salad for the dinner they were preparing for us tonight. The chicken was roasted for several hours in 10 minute rotation intervals, braised with a sweet chili sauce. It rained all afternoon off and on and when dinner was finally called, the rain was on and it came down hard. The chicken was served a bit on the pink side but didn’t last long. After dinner, we hiked up a small hill for sunset and got some nice photos of the evening’s rays. Robby found an arrowhead in the road which he kept as a souvenir, and no surprise, everyone crashed to their tents by 8 pm after last night’s hard core partying.
29 Mar: We had a 9 am departure and drove directly towards Windhoek, which was about 220 KM away from Spitzkoppe. Skipping lunch, we eventually arrived around 2 pm to the Cardboard Box Backpackers Hostel in central Windhoek, and it started pouring down with heavy rain as soon as we set up our tents. Unluckily for us, we had chosen a spot that appeared to have a river running through it, so the ground beneath our tent was absolutely soaked. Becky had to go cook group shopping with Lucky and Sara and it was still raining when they headed out (accompanied by Bree, Sean, and Robby) with the cook group deciding to make mac n cheese. Thankfully, the Pick n’ Pay was only a few minutes walk away, so shopping didn’t take too long. After coming back to the hostel, we relocated our tent to a concrete pad in the corner, away from the swampy middle ground. The mac n cheese was impossible to cook as the hostel’s kitchenette had small burners and the pot being used to boil the pasta was huge. It was an arduous task for the three girls (Bree substituted this week for Lucky) but in the end, dinner was served up late and went over well (there was tons of it served up with coleslaw, tomatoes, and wheat bread). We ended up with lots of leftovers and everyone started feeling sleepy after such a heavy meal so it was an early night after dinner.
30 Mar: Breakfast at 8 am consisted of pancakes (cinnamon and sugar) and tea courtesy of the hostel. We packed a bag and went into town, with our goal today to accomplish as much shopping as possible. We figured with several free days to spend in Windhoek, we could scope out all the malls and do a bit of price comparisons and some shopping. Our first stop was to the helpful Windhoek tourist information office where we got a map and information on the main sights, shopping areas and best internet cafe. Becky scored some new polarized sunglasses after scoping out a few options at the various malls. Next stop was the Maerua Mall (on Jan Joncker Road) which was a 15 minute walk from the center of town. The mall was the biggest one we had seen in Africa to date and it was quite posh, with lots of stores displaying merchandise at impossibly high prices. We window shopped for a digital camera (prices for a simple point and shoot were sky high, starting at $250 USD and upwards). There was a movie theater in the mall that had new releases for only $4 USD, a bargain, but we were more keen on shopping so we decided to come back for movie watching later. We ate lunch at Steers, which was having a Wacky Wednesday promo of 2 cheeseburgers for only 25 Namibian dollars, deal. After lunch we checked out several more cameras and Becky bought some Bilabong pants before we headed over to Game where we bought some hard drives, a reasonably priced camera (850 Namibian dollars) and hair clippers. After our shopping extravaganza, we headed back to the hostel where we unloaded our purchases and Becky sheared off Robby’s curls. Everyone was getting ready for Joe’s Beer House, a Windhoek institution that is a must for every carnivore. After a quick shower and change, we hung out waiting for a taxi which Nancy had coordinated but was extremely late. Once it arrived, the seating capacity was for 13 people, and 4 of us had to sit on each other’s laps. Chris was irate and argued with the driver, stating he was late and would not get paid for 17 people since there was only a seating capacity for 13. The price for our ride was N $16 and Chris shortchanged the driver, keeping the fare for 4 passengers as a tip at Joe’s beer house. Joe’s was awesome, with the boys (Robby, Dowelly and Luke) chowing on the Kudu knuckle (a massive bone with over 1 KG of meat) and Becky enjoying a zebra steak. Everyone downed some beer, ate too much food and generally had a great time. The décor for Joe’s was pretty neat, with Jagermeister bottles lined up in a row, zebra skins and animal horns hung up on the wall. The taxi ride back cost us only N $10 each and everyone split after that into deep calorie comas.
31 Mar: We got up at 7 am because Chris was working on the truck all day and we wouldn’t have access to our gear once he started work on the truck. It was a bit of a challenge to think of all the necessary items we needed for the day but we grabbed as much as we thought we needed before breakfast. Robby snagged one of the available washing machines and we did a load of laundry for N $15. It was a bit of a gamble to see whether the weather would cooperate but luck was on our side as it turned into a brilliantly sunny day. We were able to get a booth next to a power point so that we could charge our gear and Robby worked on photo selections for Nancy while Becky did a bit of website work. Happily, we accomplished everything we needed to by lunch. Since we had bought lunch supplies the other day at the Pick n’ Pay, we ate cheese sandwiches, bananas, biltong, chocolate and orange juice..yum. Lucky mentioned that one of the camping stores in Windhoek was selling Buff’s for only N $120 so Becky borrowed some money from Dowelly and asked him to get her one while she watched his gear. We were keen on getting a move on after lunch as we wanted to upload some content to the website and withdraw extra funds from an ATM. It was a quick walk to Game where we discovered that our ATM debit card appeared to be blocked. How frustrating! Thankfully the coffee shop next to Game accepted credit cards for payment and we were able to get on wifi to see if there was an obvious reason for our card to be blocked. All looked in order so we just assumed that our lack of funds was due to a glitch with the ATM machines we were trying. Once Dowelly, Luke and Mattie rolled in, internet crawled to a screeching halt, and we weren’t able to accomplish much so we left to see if we could withdraw funds from the mall’s ATMs. To add insult to injury, Becky discovered while she was online that one of her credit cards that she had had for almost 17 years had been used for fraudulent charges and had been canceled. What a dismal financial day! After no success obtaining funds at the mall’s ATMs, we headed back to Cardboard Box and commiserated with Bree and Lucky. A refreshing dip in the pool followed by a hot shower before dinner washed away our worries, and Ruth, Hoff and Nancy served up hamburgers for dinner. After dinner, we headed over to reception for power so that we could do a bit of work on the computers before calling it a night.
1 Apr: Woke up for breakfast at 7:30 am and got Luke to wake up to accompany us to get money and go sightseeing. After he got some breakfast, we headed out and our first stop was the old train station, which has now been converted into a train museum. The old trains mounted just outside the station were sufficient to keep us entertained (for free) although the N $5 would probably have been worth it. After the train station, we headed up towards the city outskirts to do the Hofmeyer walk, which was not clearly marked but did offer some nice views of the city. A brief lunch stop was in order after our short hike (cheese sandwiches, biltong and niknaks), before we continued on our sightseeing tour to take in Christuskirche (a 1910 church resembling an old gingerbread house) and the nearby Parliament (Tintenpalast) which was built in 1913. Amazingly, we were able to enter Parliament and have a delicious lunch (bargain priced at only N $25 per person) which consisted of lamb chops, chicken and vegetables. Even Luke was able to enter wearing only a wife beater shirt, although he was admonished by the guard that when he visited tomorrow, he must be dressed in a smart shirt! After lunch, we continued on with our tour at the Alte Feste, an old fort that has since been converted into a free city museum. Becky rescued a bird that had flown into a glass case, knocking it temporarily unconscious. Our next destination was a visit to the Maerua Mall, where we decided to watch a movie (Hall Pass with Owen Wilson). However, the price had risen from the reasonable weekday prices to double the norm (49.95 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Since we were still keen to watch the film, we paid the extra money and laughed away the next two hours. It was mid afternoon by the time we headed back to the hostel, where we planned on grabbing a laptop so we could magic jack our bank to resolve our banking issues. According to Windhoek Tourist Information, the best cyber cafe in town was Copy Zone on Fidel Castro street which offered internet for an hour for N $30. We took care of both our issues (stolen credit card and ATM blockage) and headed back to the hostel before it started raining. Celebrating our success with the bank, we indulged in a bit of wine and chatted in the bar until dinner (Tim, Lars and Pam served up a stir fry with eggs and hot dog chunks with noodles). After dinner, we headed to reception to download some pics and do a few backups. A boisterous group was partying up at the bar doing Springbok shots (led by Nancy and Ruthie) and everyone had a great time. They also taught a few other bar guests how to play asshole, so it was a lively night for all. Just before bed, we took wonderfully hot water showers at 11 pm and crashed out, while the party animals stayed up til 3 am having a whale of a time.
2 Apr: Goodbye Windhoek! We were packed and ready to go by 8:30 am and hit the road at 9. Our final destination was to be Luderitz, but we weren’t able to get there on a day’s drive so Chris and Nancy had already worked out that the half way point would be the Naute Game Park recreation area near Seeheim. There, we did a quick ab workout and had some wine before enjoying dinner (Luke’s group made beef stroganoff which turned out really well. Desert consisted of peaches and custard, which was nice and kept everyone awake until 9 pm. It was a wonderfully clear night, good for star gazing. Becky chatted with Matt about property investments in the UK while Robby and Dowelly star gazed.
3 Apr: Everyone slept well after a chilly night’s sleep. On our departure we saw ostriches, springboks, and a baboon. During our first pee stop, the group came up with the idea of pee stop exercises which was to include squats, lunges, dips, and jumping jacks. It was early afternoon when we finally arrived to Luderitz and Robby’s group was supposed to cook group shop but everything was closed on a Sunday. Chris drove us around the deserted town twice before finally heading over to Shark Island, where we would spend the next two nights camping. Shark Island is a narrow peninsula attached to the main town of Luderitz, and it is known as the windiest point in town. Its reputation was upheld today as we dealt with battering winds as we erected our tents. After struggling to peg our tent down, we took a walk around town, which appeared to be a ghost town since today was Sunday and virtually nothing was open for business. We stopped by the Goerke House (aka Diamond Palace), which looked interesting from the outside but was closed. It was terribly windy so dirt got in our eyes, hair, skin…everywhere and it was relentless. We had to work hard against the wind to head back to the campsite where Robby’s cook group prepared chili for dinner using truck supplies. The evening wind never abated, so having a hot meal for dinner was much appreciated. We watched Karate Kid in the tent since we had a power outlet nearby and slept well in the night due to the drop in temperature.
4 Apr: This morning we had a bit of a sleep in since breakfast wasn’t until 8:30 am. We headed into town around 10 am and looked for a place to buy “Ghost Town tickets” which we ended up getting at the Luderitz Safari Tours for N $55 (we checked at the Luderitz Wildlife Center but they surprisingly didn’t sell tickets). After accomplishing that mission for the day, we headed to Luderitz’s two main supermarkets to price compare alcohol before finally stocking up on some beer and coolers. Lunch was at Captain Macarena which was amazing and reasonably priced (the calamari and hake/chips were nice). After lunch, Robby headed with the rest of the group to get some beer while Becky booked Robben Island tickets (200 Rand each). We headed to Rumors Bar and Grill to drink the afternoon away, which was fun since almost everyone from the truck was there. It was a merry couple of hours until we headed back to the Shark Island campsite where group 7/1 (Norma, Sean, Katherine and Marie) made an incredible game mince with potatoes dinner…yum! It was absolutely freezing at dinner so we bundled up in our winter gear and huddled in our sleeping bags to stay warm.
5 Apr: Due to daylight savings, it was sunny by 6 am, so we rose early to take wonderfully hot water showers. On our return from the shower block, Ruth and Kendra were busy with their morning exercise routine. Becky handed Bree’s fully charged laptop to Lucky (it had been in our tent getting electricity all night long). Breakfast was OK and we left on time. Our goal was to drive back towards Seeheim where we were staying at the picturesque Naute Game Park where we were to link up with Oasis II (the truck that departed a week after us). But first, we had a detour to Kolmanskop Ghost town just outside Luderitz, a diamond mine town that was abandoned in 1956 and left for the sand dunes to overtake it. There were caution wind, caution sand, and caution jackal signs just before the turn off to the Ghost town. Our tour started at 10:30 am and we had about an hour to explore on our own before the formal portion of the tour started. We took several photos of the sand dunes encroaching on the old town and found the tour to be interesting because we found out how the town came to be, where it got its fresh water from (Capetown), and saw the entertainment hall (a large bowling alley). There was a section of the museum dedicated to the diamond smuggling failures, a good deterrent for future diamond smugglers! Our guide told us that all Namibian workers had to live in special quarters before they were allowed to leave their contract, and consume a bottle of castor oil and wait 3 days to prove that they didn’t swallow any diamonds to smuggle out. Sections of land immediately outside of the Ghost Town are today still off limits and that policy is strictly enforced. After the tour, we drove until lunch (salad sandwiches) and then to our campsite by a large lake in Naute Game Park. We had an hour until the other truck pulled up so we set up our tents and were in our Senegal t-shirts with happy pants before they arrived. Becky was on a combined cook group with Lucky, Sara and Mandy, Lindy and Emma from the other truck. They grilled venison sausages and bratwursts served up with tomato/cucumber salad and coleslaw and bread, which went well. We stayed up late drinking (banana liquor from Angola) and dancing near the campfire. There were lots of giant, mutant looking cicadas which met their deaths beneath our flip-flops and folks started trickling to bed around 11 pm with the last ones crashing at 2 am.
6 Apr: At our 7 am breakfast, there were quite a few hangovers, with Lucky being the most severely affected. We left on time an hour later and stopped in Keetmanshoop for cook group shopping for the next 3 cook groups. Robby was still feeling the after effects from the partying last night so he had to use the supermarket’s toilet. We had a 90 minute wait in Keetmanshoop for everyone to do their shopping and surf the internet before heading off towards Orange River. Not far out of Keetmanshoop, we stopped to stock up on more firewood, and met another Oasis truck on a much shorter Africa trip, where Chris and Nancy stopped to talk to their driver. Our lunch stop consisted of tasty tuna sandwiches, and after lunch, a group of partiers started celebrating Marie’s 27th Birthday. Dowelly bought a bag of gummi worms and shoved a whole bunch of them in his mouth. Marie had some marie biscuits and shared them with the truck. Our bushcamp was just outside Orange River in a nice, scenic area with a desert and some cliffs. Nancy’s cook group made a mean spaghetti bolognese for dinner and Marie celebrated her birthday with Springbok shots afterwards. The late night revelers ended up stripping down to their birthday suits and running around the desert like mad men while waving the wood ax in the air…it was a fun night.
7 Apr: We left at 8 am for our campsite at Orange River called Felix Unite which was a short drive down the road. Nancy explained that the reason why we bush camped so close to Felix Unite was due to their new prohibitively high camping prices (a whopping $18 USD per person a night for camping). Before heading straight for the campsite, we made a brief pit stop so that Chris could refuel, and we didn’t pull into the site until 8:30 am. Despite the ridiculously high camping fee, we did find the Felix Unite compound to be quite nice with new facilities. After setting up our tents, Nancy gave us about an hour to offload our overhead space and locker gear before she had to reorganize the floor boards. A donation pile was set up in the middle of the campsite for the 23 weekers who were leaving us in Capetown. We did a load of laundry for 5 Rand despite the dirty orange hued water (most likely derived from the nearby Orange River) and took a quick dip in the inviting pool before lunch of corned beef, pasta salad and crackers. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing by the pool, and Tim’s cook group prepared chicken stew for dinner. Lucky for us, there was free wifi so everyone crowded around the power point and uploaded photos to facebook before calling it a night.
8 Apr: After breakfast, we met our South African driver, Ben, and saw our smaller truck that was taking us onward to Cape Town. Truck clean started happening immediately after breakfast, and thankfully it didn’t last too long, wrapping up by 10:30 am. We took a refreshing dip in the pool and had lunch of potato salad. It was stifling hot by the power point so we headed back to the pool to cool off and clowned around in the pool with everyone. After worrying about how our stuff would fit on the new truck, we hung out at the wifi zone before a delicious dinner of mac n’ cheese (thanks to Bree, Luke and Kendra). After dinner, we called and briefly talked to Becky’s family and loaded our gear that we weren’t taking to Cape Town back on Nala.
9 Apr: It was an early morning breakfast (6:30 am) but a loud group on the campgrounds had us up earlier which was all just as well since we needed to finalize our packing. We scrambled to get breakfast in between sorting out our luggage, and loaded up both trucks with our respective gear. It was a bit of a crisis just before departure when Katherine realized that she has mistakenly packed her passport in her large pack (now in the storage hold of the new truck). Nancy told her to grab Chris so he could offload everything, but Katherine sought Ben’s help and luckily, her pack was on the outside so it was easy to retrieve her passport with minimal effort. Nancy had given us Namibia departure forms to fill out beforehand, so it was a breeze to clear immigration. Poor Sara got stuck in the women’s bathroom when the locked door refused to unlock. Sean came to her rescue with his leatherman, which she used to unscrew all the screws off the hinge for her freedom. That is the 5th African bathroom that has trapped us since the trip started and now all of us are a bit leery of locking ourselves in an African bathroom!
Note: We left Namibia and entered South Africa for just over a week before returning back to Namibia for part II. Below is the journal entry for our second Namibian adventure.
20 Apr: After crossing the border, we headed directly for Felix Unite at Orange River and sorted out our lockers while the newbies were busy getting a briefing from Chris on how to set up their tents and getting their individual lockers assigned. Nancy prepared a mustard chicken and rice meal for dinner which was delicious. Tonight’s major event was picking out our new cook group rotations, and Robby ended up in another all guy group (Robby, Matt and Damien) and Becky was on an all girl group (Becky, Marie and Ichiyo).
21 Apr: We were surprised when Luke actually got up early for our 6:30 am workout by the Orange River. Today, we did another P90X workout which was pushup intensive (Core synergistics). Thankfully we had done our laundry with Lucky the night before, so all of our laundry was clean and dry thanks to the wonderful breeze coming off the river. We had free time until 11 am and were able to pack up, shower and get caught up on trip notes before our departure. From Felix Unite, we headed directly for the nearest supermarket where the next 2 cook groups shopped, and the newbies were advised to stock up on toilet paper and wetwipes as we had 4 bush camps in a row before reaching Swakopmund. From Orange River, we drove directly to Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest in the world (behind the Grand Canyon). Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to hike the canyon so we had to settle for a walk around the rim between two lookout points to admire the vista. We left Fish River just before sunset and bush camped outside the national park. After erecting our tent in a soft, sandy gully, we joined the rest of the gang for some pre and post dinner drinks. Tonight, the first cook group (Dowelly, Sara and Lisa) made sausage and mash which was extremely tasty.
22 Apr: Today was a full on drive day, departing immediately after breakfast and stopping to chat with another Oasis Overland truck (72 day trippers from Nairobi to Cape Town who seemed young, fun and very sociable). We also stopped to help another fellow overland truck in need…they had run out of petrol and were stranded by the side of the road. Chris pulled over to give them some fuel and we continued on our way, stopping for a delicious lunch of tuna/corn pasta. From lunch, it was another long drive towards Sesriem/Sossusvlei, our destination for tomorrow. We drove until just past 5 pm where we finally pulled over for a bush camp. Cook group two (Kendra, Anna, Naomi) made a yummy spaghetti bolognese for dinner and it was a cool, chilly night. Nancy mentioned over dinner that the scenery tomorrow would be some of the trip’s most spectacular, rivaled only by the legendary scenery of Ethiopia.
23 Apr: After breakfast, we took advantage of the dead wood surrounding our bush camp to increase our stockpile on the truck. Since it was an early start, we were on the road just after 8 am, headed directly for Sesriem and Sossusvlei, which is touted as Namibia’s number one attraction with some of the most picturesque dunes in Africa here. After a few hours of driving, we finally reached the park boundary where Nancy bought a day pass for the truck, warning us that the park rangers would strictly enforce the entry and exit times of the park, so we were on a strict time-line! We drove into the park past Dune 45 (which didn’t look that steep) and headed directly for Sossusvlei, where we pulled into a parking lot and had a quick salad sandwich lunch. Everyone had the option of hiking the 4 km route into Sossusvlei or else catch a ride for a ridiculous 100 Rand round trip. Needless to say, we budget conscious overlanders opted for the free hike. The highlight of Sossusvlei was the petrified forest in the middle of a dried up lake (dead pan) which looked way cool! We had no idea that it even existed but saw an army of tourists hiking through the dunes and decided to follow suit, breaking free from Lucky, Ichyo, and Scott who decided to check out the oasis on the other side of Sossusvlei. The dead pan was awesome, and we were glad that we separated from the group as we had the entire place to ourselves. Since it took over an hour to hike here, we were conscious of the time rushed over to see the oasis with a massive sand dune looming behind it, meeting Damien and Anna along the way. After telling them that dead pan was not to be missed, we headed to the oasis and then started the long trudge back to the parking lot. One of the park shuttles offered us a ride for 50 Rand which we declined and amazingly, just a few minutes later, a super nice Namibian family picked us up and gave us a ride on their tail gate for free! Good times. We hung around waiting for the remainder of our group to get back to the meeting point for our 4:15 pm departure, but they (Marie, Lars, Dowelly, Anna and Damien) were late in getting back, and had to catch the exorbitant park shuttle. Nancy was a bit stressed, telling us that we had to exit from the park before 6:30 pm as it was a non-negotiable time with the park rangers. Therefore, we had about 40 minutes to hike up and see Dune 45. It was fun jumping from the dunes, with Scott getting the best aerial time in his leap from the top of the dune. Thankfully, we were out of the park before closing and headed directly for a bush camp where we set up our tents in the dark and had to wait forever for cook group (Lucky, Melissa and Fi) to prepare vegetables curry and rice with the rice taking forever to cook. Dinner was warm and tasty and most folks crashed right after dinner.
24 Apr: It was a cold drive after breakfast with everyone huddled up in blankets and sleeping bags in an attempt to stay warm. We had a brief stop at the Tropic of Capricorn for a few celebratory photos. Poor Lisa was too nice to tell Robby and Dowelly off for stealing her fleece blanket and half of Gin’s sleeping bag…the boys claimed that the newbie girls are far nicer than the oldie girls (which is definitely true as the oldies would never have tolerated that kind of stuff!) After lunch, we pulled into Swakopmund where we were getting a briefing at Far Out for all the adrenaline activities. Although we weren’t planning on it, we found out that there was the option of upgrading tonight into one of the dorm rooms (130 Rand each) and on the spur of the moment, we figured why not? There were 10 of us who decided the extra money was worth it and we all shared room 5 at the Gruner Kranz. Luke claimed he was lured there by the rumor of a truckful of Norwegian girls, but they were a no show, ha. The most important item we brought with us was the blender, and we had a couple of free cocktails in the room after pigging out on our cheap Beryl’s takeaway dinners. We got caught up on free wifi and left our laptop with the far out reception overnight for some downloads while heading out with the group for late night festivities. It was a fun night away from the truck and we were glad to spend an extra night in pretty Swakopmund.
25 Apr: After breakfast, we picked up our laptop and realized that our download application was being blocked after almost 3 GB of downloads. But at least we got a lot of the data that we needed before we were cut off. Despite this being our second visit to Swakopmund, we had yet to explore this city so we put that on our agenda for the morning, walking around the town, waterfront and down its quaint streets. It astounded us how the town’s planners were visionaries, creating an oasis in the middle of a desert. Swakopmund is a pleasant, safe and friendly destination and we especially enjoyed the waterfront. In the afternoon, Becky went out with the girls (Lisa, Fi and Naomi) for Desert Explorers’s 2 hour session of quad biking which was awesome! The girls were all novices and opted for the automatic bikes after seeing that a 12000 Rand fine would occur if the clutch on the manual bikes were burnt out. Lisa’s eagle eyes spotted a “surf and turf” sign that offered a special deal for quad biking and the dolphin cruise and managed to save herself and Becky 150 Rand just by asking the manager if he could help us out even though we booked with Far Out already. He accommodated our request and we would highly recommend dealing directly with Desert Explorers for any Swakopmund activities as their staff is awesome and super accommodating! The 2 hour ride into the desert was phenomenal, with “roller coasters rides”, spectacular scenery, and a great afternoon excursion that put huge grins on the girls faces for the remainder of the afternoon. Dinner tonight was a group affair at Napolitana and it was super crowded with all of us squeezing in together at 2 tables, making it a really uncomfortable dining experience. The food was great, and Robby scored a free salad as this double rack of ribs was late in arriving. Becky loved her springbok calzone which was a little on the spicy hot side with chunks of garlic and chili liberally mixed into the meal. After our heavy meal, we crashed out for the night, sleeping great as the late night partiers were tired tonight too and called it a night after one drink at the bar.
26 Apr: The boys are never going to fish in Africa. This morning was their 5th attempt to go fishing and Far Out got a phone call at 7 am telling them that the fishing excursion would have to be canceled due to inclement weather. However, Becky’s dolphin/seal cruise in Walvis Bay was still a go as the bay provides a natural protective harbor. The boys were invited to join the dolphin cruise but they opted out, leaving the morning excursion to the girls (Lisa, Becky, Gin, Lydia, and Allyson). Thankfully Becky was standing by the hostel entrance when the pickup ride arrived, as it was 20 minutes early and the girls were thinking pick up wasn’t until 8:30 am. It was a short ride to Walvis Bay and the tempestuous sea calmed down once we pulled into the bay. The Dolphin/Seal cruise ended up being amazing (and fantastic value at only 300 Rand thanks to Lisa’s bargaining) and we absolutely loved it. Starting off with the captain giving us shots of brandy, followed by an open bar with free flowing beer, we watched as pelicans came to feed on fish, a massive male cape fur seal bounded into our laps and accepted a hug, and two species of dolphins jumped playfully out of the water as we cruised along, enjoying free champagne and oysters. Awesome excursion out with the girls and a not to be missed day trip from Swakopmund! After returning a little bit tipsy back to the hostel, we teased the boys on missing out on a great day trip and took an afternoon siesta before deciding to get out and have a bit of afternoon entertainment. Joined by Luke, we headed down towards the Casino where the local theater was playing the highly recommended film “The King’s Speech”. Priced at only 38 Rand, the movie did not fail to impress and we all thought that it was a great recommendation. After dinner, we were keen on Chinese for dinner but weren’t too thrilled with the price so we walked out and after wandering around the entire city of Swakopmund, settled on Ocean’s Basket for dinner, sharing the Soul Mate Platter, which was a massive array of muscles, shrimp, squid, and calamari, definitely worth the long wait for take away. Scott and Ichyo joined us for dinner on the patio of the hostel and we were rather envious when we heard that not only did wifi connectivity reach their room, but they had 4 spare beds! It was an easy decision to swap rooms especially since our party animals were doing a pub crawl tonight. Surprisingly, we stayed up till midnight despite not being in the drinking mood.
27 Apr: Robby got up at 7 am to see if fishing was a go, and surprise, surprise, it was canceled yet again due to inclement weather. Becky had to go cook group shopping at 9 am, so we headed over to Pick n’ Pay for breakfast supplies beforehand, stocking up on biltong, fruit and bread/cheese. Robby’s group went shopping at 10 am while Becky wandered around town to find someone who could help her print, scan, and save her banking document which cost an expensive 26 Rang for only 3 pages worth! After lunch, we wandered town with the quest of finding some decently priced running shoes and Becky was able to get a pair for N $345 before we left at 1 pm. From Swakopmund, it was a long 2 hour drive (the coldest drive day yet, everyone was literally freezing due to the strong cold wind blowing in from both sides of the truck) towards Cape Cross seal colony, where we had just under an hour to spend with the splendidly smelly cape fur seals, laughing at their antics. From Cape Cross, we drove a short way towards Uis where we bush camped at one of our previous bush camps. Everyone on the first half of the trip was astonished to see how green the scenery was as it was more desert like just a month ago. Robby’s cook group made jerk chicken with rice and beans for dinner, which was a huge hit (thanks to Damien’s recipe). It was a decent night as folks stayed up after dinner chatting around the campfire with marshmallows.
28 Apr: We were on the road by 8 am for Spitzkoppe and didn’t anticipate getting to the park so early but to our amazement, we were there by 10:30 am. After setting up our tents, we opted to have an early lunch at 11:30 to allow everyone ample time to explore this area on their own. We hiked up with Dowelly to the summit of another mountain range, and thoroughly enjoyed it, even the steep parts! At the top of the hill, we took a bunch of silly photos which were absolutely hilarious, and it was fun to just goof around enjoying the spectacular scenery all around us. The hike back down wasn’t too bad, and we scared a bunch of dassies which kept scrambling over the boulders in shock of our arrival. By 3 pm we were back in camp and rested until sunset which was mediocre due to the lack of clouds in the sky. We felt bad for the newbies as we had raved at how amazing sunset is here in Spitzkoppe but today, it didn’t live up to its reputation. Luke’s cook group (Luke, Lars and Ally) made chicken stir fry noodles which went over well, with lots of leftovers. After chatting with everyone around the campfire and sharing a few drinks, we finally called it a night as we had a super early rise tomorrow morning in anticipation of cheetahs!
29 Apr: 5:30 am breakfast, seriously Nancy??? Everyone stumbled around in the dark trying to get packed up, eat breakfast and take care of morning ablations before heading out directly to the cheetah park. Nancy had mentioned that it would be a long drive day due to the heavy rains, as the main route had been washed out and we had to undertake a long, circuitous detour. It was freezing on the truck but everyone was amply prepared with sleeping bags and snivel gear in hand. Just after 2 pm, we arrived to the Camp Otjitotongwe Cheetah Guest House, where we learned that the farmer family shot a menacing cheetah over a decade ago, leaving two cubs orphaned. Raising the cubs as their own, they established a cheetah sanctuary, housing over 30 semi-wild cheetahs in a natural reserve (plus 3 “tame” house pets which we were allowed to pet and be around). Our first meeting was at 3 pm, where one of the sons picked us up in the back of a pick up and took us to his house, where 3 very large cheetahs roamed the gardens as if they were large dogs. Becky had the first chance to meet them, and their pink tongues felt like sandpaper as they licked her, causing one of our guides to joke that they were preparing for their next meal! Despite Robby’s allergies, he pet the cheetahs but was rewarded with itchy, red eyes and full blown allergies, so worth it though. After everyone had a chance to play with and pose next to the cheetahs, it was feeding time, and the funniest scene of the afternoon was when a tiny dog got amongst the cheetahs and ate part of their leftovers. An orphaned giraffe nuzzled us as we piled into the pickup to head back to the campsite, and we were given a half hour until our next pickup to see the semi-wild cheetahs in their afternoon feeding session. The cheetah bar was quite cool, complete with old photos of the cheetahs, a massive elephant trunk, ears and penis, and various other hunting trophies. Sean and Sara drilled the two sons on their experiences with the cheetahs and it felt very much like a quaint, family affair, very un-commercialized and comfortable. Watching 30+ cheetahs feeding was surreal, with the more dominant cheetahs asserting themselves over the less dominant ones. All the cheetahs communicated with a series of chirps, that sounded eerily like bird chirps. It was amazing to watch their behavior and see some of the greedier ones attempt to hide their food and return for seconds (thank goodness for the wily owners who knew which cheetahs were trying to score extra food!). The sky darkened on our return trip to camp, and Becky’s cook group (Becky, Ichyo and Bree) had to work fast to prepare noodle bar, which was a huge hit and went over very well (although it was time consuming). After dinner, a group went to the bar for drinks and darts, and Nancy let us all have a bit of a sleep in tomorrow with breakfast at 9 and departure at 10:30…yeah.
30 Apr: Thank goodness Robby put on the rain cover as it poured all night and we stayed dry. Horn bill birds were making a ruckus early this morning so by 7 am, we were up and ready to go for a quick run back to the cheetah compound to take one last look at these magnificent animals. We combined a bit of pushups and situps into our workout and took a quick shower before Becky’s group had to make pancakes for breakfast. Katherine and Kendra had spotted mouse droppings near the beach, so Chris and Nancy had everyone offload all their gear from the overhead space before determining that there appeared to be no mouse threat. The pancakes took forever to cook as the fire was not forthcoming, but it eventually got done. There was enough leftover batter mix for Chris to make two massive pancakes which he smothered in chocolate mix. We left the cheetah park mid morning for Outjo where the next three groups did their cook group shopping. In total, we had 3 hours of free time in the town. Since we had already been here and didn’t want to pay for overpriced internet (45 Rand/hour) we volunteered for truck guard and took Ally’s and Luke’s as well. Drove to outskirts of Etosha park where we bush camped. Cook group 8 (Scott, Gin and Katherine) made a tasty mince and mash for dinner which was delicious. Nancy gave us a full out briefing on all the Zimbabwe and Zambia activities on offer, as well as the upcoming activities in Botswana. It was an early night tonight as tomorrow is going to be a full on game drive day.
1 May: We were up by 5:20 am, tearing down our tent and packing up our gear for our 6 am departure. Since we had camped on the outskirts of Etosha last night, it was a relatively quick ride into the southern entrance of Okaukuejo. Amazingly, mere minutes into our drive, we spotted two lions gracefully leaping through the woods, and stopped to admire this rare and unexpected treat. It was a priceless experience and the lions were absolutely fearless, making eye contact with us before breaking off and playfully jumping on each other as they effortlessly bounded through the forest. After reluctantly tearing ourselves away from the lions, we stumbled upon heaps of jackals, ground squirrels, springbok, oryx (gemsbok), wildebeest, a large lizard, secretary birds, zebra, giraffes, rhinos, a massive elephant (we learned that Etosha elephants are some of the tallest in the world, but with the shortest tusks, which is a strange phenomenon that can be attributed to a combination of factors such as a deficiency in their diet and frequent fighting at the watering hole), a pride of lions resting beneath a shady tree, ostriches, guinea fowl…and this was all before lunch! What a phenomenal morning and we absolutely loved spotting Etosha’s diverse wildlife. After a quick stop back at Okaukuejo for lunch (the security guard questioned Nancy as to why we were eating in their campground parking lot) with time for a pool break which was super refreshing and loads of fun as Team Mali tried to keep Robby off the steps before the boys resorted to 3 and 4 man lifts in the water, making our group the focal point of the resort’s attention, resulting in our photo being taken for future advertising to be sure. By 2 pm, we were back on the road but the wildlife must have sought refuge from the midday heat as nothing was forthcoming. We had a quick break admiring the view over Etosha’s salt pan and then headed to Halali which was our evening campsite. Since Nancy had confirmed that we would not have electricity again until Victoria Falls, everyone was frantic and desperate to charge their electronic gear, resulting in a few tempers as there weren’t enough power strips to go around (the newbies didn’t bring any). Dinner was cook group 1 (Dowelly, Sara and Lisa) and they made a tasty chicken and rice meal. A group hit the watering hole after dinner and were rewarded with a glimpse of a baby rhino crunching its way across the landscape. The mosquitoes here were devastating though, and it was impossible to linger for too long. Thankfully, the Halali campsite is well equipped for hot water showers so we soaked ourselves with a nice long shower before crashing to bed at a reasonable hour.
2 May: It was another early morning rise with breakfast on the go in the truck, and everyone was packed up and ready to go by 6:10 am. We scored the coveted beach spots for the first slot of the game drive (6-8 am) but unfortunately, this was the absolute deadest we have ever seen Etosha Park. Not a creature was stirring, and we strained our eyes uneventfully for over an hour before finally giving up hopes that today would be a repeat of yesterday’s fantastic sights. After rotating beach positions for others to take their turn at spotting the animals, we eventually stumbled upon some antelope, ducks, an especially lusty antelope that kept chasing its female companions around in an attempt to mate, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, and a pride of lions resting beneath a tree. Unfortunately, communication between the beach and the truck was poor, so poor Chris felt like he was being jerked around by having to move forward incrementally or else reverse, etc, etc. The lion sighting was especially annoying as we were trying to get into prime position to take photos but the lighting was poor and we had anticipated that Chris would turn around to give us another go at the lions. However, it was not meant to be as the intercom system became disconnected, and Chris ignored Robby’s attempts to ask him to reverse the truck. Instead, we zoomed off to the Namutoni campsite where we had a quick lunch of salad (what a nice change…thanks Sara, Lisa and Dowelly!). The break gave people a chance to ease their tempers which had been building up towards the end of the drive. A quick shower was the perfect recipe to cool off, and we were back on the road for a bit more game viewing by 1:20 pm. Luckily, we spotted an old elephant straight away after lunch, and everyone got a chance to take photos of him cooling down by throwing dirt over his craggly, wrinkled skin. On our way out of the park, we noticed a bunch of giraffes with their new born babies, making for especially poignant photos. From Etosha, we headed directly into Tsumeb, where the truck was refueled. The bathrooms supposedly cost N $1 but the boys simply gave the attendant a high five, while the girls were suckered into paying to use the loo. Our bushcamp tonight was on the outskirts of Tsumeb, in a thorny location. Setting up our tents was quite a task as the prickly thorn bushes were everywhere!
3 May: Just after breakfast, we pulled into Grootfontein for some shopping to spend our last Rand/N $. At the neighborhood supermarket, we scored on a box of 5 liter wine bargain priced at only $ N65, and were able to pick up another bargain at a nearby bottle shop, where we bought a bottle of coconut wine for only $ N29. Lunch consisted of an excellent salad, which we supplemented with tuna and balsamic vinegar. Our border crossing into Botswana was at the Mohembo border crossing.