Namibia

This was, in broad strokes, our Namibian itinerary…

Upon entering Namibia, after having traveled many kilometers since Kenya, it seems as if we entered another continent. It no longer looks like Africa. Namibia is a huge country with only 2,5 million people. Why? Because there is a lot of desert!

In Namibia we endured very hot weather, but also the worst storm I ever saw. The capital, Windhoek, is quite uninteresting. On top of that, we were there on a Sunday, which meant everything was closed and the streets were empty.

We followed to Etosha National Park, where we spent two full days doing Safaris on the big truck, and the heat was very hard to bear. The distances are huge (we crossed the park from end to end), but the quantity of animals that we saw, compared to the other parks before, was very little. Luckily we saw two Rhinos, the only Big 5 species that we still hadn’t seen! The environment is very dry which means that it’s around the waterholes (some natural and some artificial) that the largest wild animal gatherings happen.

After Etosha we went to Spitzkoppe, known as the “Matterhorn of Namibia”, located in the Namib desert. Here, we discovered a scenery resembling Mars. It’s breathtaking!

In this otherworldly environment, we had the privilege of observing a kind of Rock Art, called bushman paintings, as they were made by the nomadic tribe with the same name which lived in the Namib desert over 4000 years ago.

From what we understood of the guide’s explanations, until some decades ago paintings like these were still made by members of this tribe, that keep to the ancestral ways of their ancestors. Those paintings picture mostly hunts, nomadic costumes, rock paintings and the practice of storing water inside ostrich eggs which are then buried for long term storage.

Swakopmund was the next stop, for two nights, in a hotel and not in a tent! It was as if we had landed in the best hotel in the World. Having a bed and a toilet for the two of us was, in that moment, the biggest luxury we could have wished for.

This seems an European city, and has a great German influence. Furthermore, the most spoken language is German! The fresh air didn’t let us enjoy the beach, but we had time to relax and discover this city between the desert and the sea.

After this “luxurious” stay, back to camping. The next couple of nights were spent in the middle of nowhere, in Sesriem. The campsite was just two blocks of roofless toilets and a small swimming pool with a small patch of grass around it.  There was also a block of concrete playing the role of kitchen counter, a lamp and an electric plug. Around us was only desert!

The first night went well. The second was a different story…

In the morning we climbed Dune 45 and visited the Namib-Naukluft park, where you can find Deadvlei, next to the biggest dune in this park: “Big Daddy”, over 300m tall (one of the tallest in the world). Deadvlei is a clay pan, where there are several trees as if mummified.

[The clay pan was formed after rainfall, when the Tsauchab river flooded, creating temporary shallow pools where the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. When the climate changed, drought hit the area, and sand dunes encroached on the pan, which blocked the river from the area. The trees died, as there no longer was enough water to survive.] in wikipedia

When we came back to the campsite there was already a lot of wind and we had been warned on what to do in case of rain or strong winds.

Nobody told us what to do in case of rain AND strong winds!!! When I started worrying about the situation, it was a moment of panic. I started giving orders to João to put the tend down, to put the rain cover on, then I thought it was worse, ordered to take it off. I didn’t know where to turn! I was literally IN PANIC!

Most of our trip mates had already left their tents and were in the truck. Thunder roared and magnificent lightning filled the skies nearby, or so it seemed.

We had left almost all our stuff inside the tent while we waited for the storm to pass. Since it didn’t seem to move, we went back to the tent and removed everything. We put the tent down.

While the minutes passed, we watched hopelessly as ours and others’ tents became completely flooded as it poured and poured.

Hail also started hitting the truck at some points. How is it possible that this happens in the middle of the desert?, I asked myself.

Dinner was prepared inside the truck, and we came to know that it didn’t rain that hard in that desert since around 7 years. We were unlucky, but the truth is that we won’t forget this episode, that now we find funny. We slept in the truck, although most were brave and slept in the tents, but the night was not calm for them. Also not for us, to tell the truth!

Adventures in Africa are made of this. There are moments that are like a test to our will. In the end, it’s totally worth it!

After a mostly sleepless night, we continued on to Fish River Canyon, the second biggest canyon in the World. Like the Grand Canyon in the USA, this is also stunning. There are no words that can describe the beauty of such a landscape, where the mountains were carved over millions of years. It’s extraordinary to be able to have these encounters with Nature.

Margarida

 

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