Road trip
on Marika VSO-ing in Namibia (Namibia), 07/Sep/2010 13:02, 34 days ago
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The journey: Katima→ Otavi → Namib-Naukluft NP → Walvis Bay → Swakopmund → Cape Cross → Skeleton Coast → Khorixas and surrounds → Otavi → KatimaCompany: Matt, Aniek and Dave (Matt’s Toyota Rav4)Modes of transport: 2 Trucks with 90kmph speed limit, Toyota Rav4, Sandboard, Kayak, hike in a pick-up truck and‘footing’.End of term ends in the usual‘must-get-xyz-done-before-I-go’ manner allowing for a relaxing evening before setting off Thursday morning. It took two days to get to the Naukluft Mountains meeting Matt in Otavi and ‘picking’ Aniek from Windhoek. We camped in a basic campsite with no electricity for three nights allowingfor evening fire-cooked meals with only the threat of hungry baboons. They have become so familiar with tourists in the campsites they have managed to open cars to get to food and were to be heard at the crack of dawn every morning tipping over bins and climbing on to the car. The campsite allowed for use to enjoy two day-long hikes into the subtle beauties of this variable landscape ‘even’ competing with the beauty of the Fish River Canyon. From barren to verdant valleys to running waterfalls, windy canyons, these two walks were enjoyed at a relaxed pace and with a light day-pack (much more appreciated since Fish River), guided by little yellow or white footprints painted onto rocks along the way. It was so peaceful, we didn’t even meet any others on the either of the two days. A beautiful place overall.We then headed North and towards the coast on our way to Swakopmund, stopping at wind-swept Walvis Bay and enjoyed the sight of hundreds of flamingos lining the sea front. We had a mini culture shock as we saw modern building lining the roads, really making it feel not really like Africa, but almost like a Germanic town. An unusual atmosphere comparable to Swakopmund but without the tourists. From Swakopmund we treated ourselves to some fun activities including Sand boarding using snowboards but on sand dunes. We tried to master our basic skills of balancing standing up and controlling our speed down the dune with attempts to change direction. A slow start for us inexperienced at any kind of boarding. The highlight was the lying down sand boarding. Equipped with just a rectangular and bendy thin plank of wood, we lie down face down on the board and get pushed off the top of dune and hope for the best. My top speed was 67kmph and all three descents probably topped my favourite adrenalin rush– ever. I recommend the experience highly. Sticking to a small area of dunes from the whole stretch of the coast allowed for recreation and with no lifts like you might get on snow resorts; I managed several ascents and descents in that morning and continued to be impressed by the beauty of the sea of dunes that surrounded us. It perplexes the mind how you can have sand dunes like this next to this wild and windy ocean. The next day I treated myself to a sea kayaking trip in the sandy peninsula-protected waters of Pelican Point. The route passed along a salt mine and several salt pools that reflected brilliant pink colours and a variety of bird life that would excite any bird-watcher. The kayaking was most enjoyable as it allowed us to get close to small colonies of seals. They were just adorable and such a pleasure to watch at such proximity I could have kidnapped one. The younger ones were particularly playful, curious and fascinating to watch. Their rolling around in the sea, grooming themselves, mannerisms, movement and their unusual noises kept us entertained for hours. The kayaks allowed us to get very close without them even realising we were there and this felt muchless obtrusive than the engine-powered boats that approached later in the morning. The morning was beautiful as it began misty and cold, but then cleared up as the sun rose higher and the waters in the lagoon remained so still and peaceful even with the large numbers of birds wading in the waters.We spent an afternoon taking a drive to the see the famous Welwetchia plants. A plant that somehow manages to survive in this barren and harsh environment growing up to 2 meters wide and the largest one we saw lasting what is thought to be at least 1500 years old. Along the way we enjoyed the amazing feeling of isolation in what is known as the Moon Landscape.We then heading North up the increasingly barren and desolate Skeleton Coast. An environment I struggle to describe or capture. Before entering the part requiring a permit, we stopped at one of the biggest Seal Colonies in Namibia at Cape Cross, home to about 200 000 seals. Quite a sight and quite a smell when the winds were blowing in our direction.We managed just the one flat (or rather destroyed) tyre just as we turned off the coastal road, heading inland, and as we saw the dunes that were beginning further ahead into the part of the park that requires further permits and begins to be inaccessible and privately owned, we really did feel like we were in the middle of nowhere. With the helping hand of a lovely couple we’d spent the night with the night before as we both drove beyond marked campsites expecting to find one more, then ended up crashing in an unused building at the gate of the Skeleton Coast Park. The deed of changing the tyre only took half an hour or so and in good company flew by, and we were later to return the helping hand to an elderly couple on the road struggling to change their tyre the next day.With just the one spare tyre we continued to drive in the gradually changing landscapes, we changed our plans for the day/night and headed towards where we thought we could buy a new tyre and also fill up (as petrol stops are a few hundred kilometres apart in these areas). Little did we realise that the mission of finding a tyre that matched the current ones was going to take us several attempts, miles apart, the rest of the day and the whole next day and approximately 500km, most of which was on gravel roads. Nevertheless, we were lucky to have Joanna (Canada) and Gisela (Philippines), the new volunteers staying in Khorixas that arrived around 6 weeks ago. So with a place to stop for a couple of nights, we managed to enjoy the local sights, consisting mainly of rock formations such as the Rock Finger (Vingerklip), Organ Pipes, Burnt Mountain, Petrified Forest and Twyfelfontein where there are rock engravings dated back roughly 6000 years or so.A relatively straightforward but uncomfortably late-in-the-day return home stopping in Otavi again, I realised that we had covered a lot of mileage last week in order to see some of the remaining highlights of Namibia. With just a few more to see that may be missed, we feel ready to venture out to nearby countries at the next opportunity (i.e. December). Without wanting to count down, 3 months more in placement doesn’t feel so long anymore. The end of holiday/beginning of term feeling is buffered this time by knowing that in a week we’ll all be down South again to Windhoek for a week-long VSO Conference to help with country’s strategic programme. I think I’ll be taking it easy work wise this week. Some recovery time is needed and Katima is hot-hot- hot again. The summer has come as Caprivi and Namibia times have united again, the sun burns and Mavuluma is back to their summer timings (everything runs 20 minutes earlier than last term). I can’t wait to see the delightful faces of my lovely class again. I wonder if they feel the same...