Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - Fish River Canyon - added by Roxy

For me, one of the definite highlights of the trip so far was crossing the border from Angola to Namibia. The difference between the countries is so vast it's breathtaking; for example, Namibia has good roads, with working traffic lights and everything is well sign posted; Namibia has an abundance of incredibly organised and efficient petrol stations; every ATM that we went to worked! These may sound like insignificant things for most people, but for us these basics were incredibly luxurious. It was suddenly clear that our trip has definitely taught me how privileged I have been to have grown up in a society where we take these basics for granted!

We spent our first night in Ondangwa, at the Ondangwa Rest Camp. Falling short of our planned destination for that night we were forced to stop in Ondangwa as the sun started to set. We'd lost our alternator in Angola, and now our batteries were flat; we couldn't use the lights even if we wanted to drive after dark! Upon arrival we quickly noticed that the entire camp site was flooded, consequently the local ducks had literally taken over the whole place! This type of situation hardly bothered us any more, and we decided to stay in the parking lot of the camp site. The decision was based on the fact that the camp site had a bar that was still operating despite the flooding, and more importantly, the bar was showing rugby. Steve couldn't remember the last time he watched rugby, he was very excited! So we parked up and quickly joined everyone who was watching the game. It didn't take long to realise that we stuck out like sore thumbs, mainly because we weren't speaking Afrikaans but we also hadn't downed about 50 Klipdrifts (South African brandy) and coke already! The Blue Bulls won against the Stormers, and the Ondangwa locals were ecstatic. With the game won, we became the next diversion, quickly surrounded by the locals inquisitive as to how we found ourselves in the back of beyond, what on earth we were doing with such a massive truck and why we looked like we'd just climbed out of a bush (which in all honesty, we more or less had!). We nervously answered at first, but it soon became clear that we had passed the 'test' and we ended up having a raucous party with a hilarious and wild bunch of Namibians. Everyone was incredibly welcoming; they even went as far as to promise they would take us to see the local landmarks the following day, we'd be departing for the sightseeing tour at 7am the following morning. I hit the sack at about 1am, and Steve fell into the truck at 4am, leaving the revelry going strong.

Much to our surprise we were woken up by our new friends at 7am on the dot, as promised! We set off to see the Ruacane waterfalls, feeling a little worse for wear. The locals seemed bullet-proof, showing no side effects from the lengthy party the night before! With all the recent flooding, the falls were flowing the strongest they have in 10 years, so were quite lucky to see them in this state. They are the most incredible waterfalls that I've ever seen. The highlight for me was that you can take 410 stairs down to the river gorge (yes, it hurts), where you get completely soaked with all the spray and are almost deafened by the sound of the falls around you. It was an amazing spectacle to behold, and at peak flow the falls are often likened to the Victoria Falls!

We spent the rest of the day having a braai with our new friends, quad biking on the empty dirt roads, and swimming in crocodile infested rivers... although this was quickly cut short when an enormous croc was spotted nearby! After a wonderful and active day we headed home when the sun set. We drove home in 2 cars, but unfortunately the car in front of us ended up written off after it hit and killed 2 donkeys that were in the middle of the road. Luckily no people were hurt, but we were all a bit shaken up. Whilst waiting for the tow truck to come and fetch the destroyed car, we all sat on the side of the road in the dark, hoping the thunder storm that was brewing nearby wouldn't drench us. The situation was far from ideal, but the Namibians really get a ten out of ten for making the most of awful circumstances. Instead of complaining and feeling sorry for themselves, they lit a braai of the side of the road, started cooking some wors, and told dirty jokes for hours. They gave new meaning to the term "'n Boer maak 'n plan". What a day!

The following day we found the first supermarket we'd come across in ages. It was by no means big or special, but after months of eating extremely dull food, it was like manna from heaven! We went to the shop to buy groceries, but ended up buying obscene amounts of chocolates, chips, pies and biltong! We don't even eat chocolate, but bought tons of it simply because we could. And as for the pies, Steve ate his in the shop, and then ate mine in the parking lot outside the shop! We were absolutely in love with Namibia.

We then headed off to Etosha game park. The camp site was wonderful, but because of the rains we weren't too lucky in the game spotting stakes. The reason being that the animals didn't need to come to the main watering holes which were near to the camp sites. The vegetation was also pretty dense which made it difficult to spot anything. We did see a lioness' backside as she headed off into the bush, but sadly that was it.

After Etosha sought out the Brandeburg Mountain area to see the tourist spots in the area, namely Vingerklip, the Organ Pipes, Wondergat and the Petrified Forest. All the sights were nice, but they are unlikely to overexcite anyone. We'd taken this route because the Skeleton Coast route was closed to traffic due to all the recent rain. It involves several dry river-bed crossings, which for obvious reasons were no longer dry. Seeking out an alternate route we stumbled upon a rough 4x4 track through the mountains. Normally semi-desert, the entire area had turned green from all the rain and it looked absolutely incredible.

We ended up spending the evening bush camping in a stunning wild location, and the following morning got the shock of our lives when we noticed zebra and giraffe meandering around right next to us! At first I thought that we'd somehow ended up in a national park, but I was later told that animals do wonder around freely in that area. What a remarkable difference to the other countries that we had seen, where every single animal that is spotted will be caught and devoured by the hungry locals! Unfortunately our 4x4 track met the very river that had closed the Skeleton Coast route, just further up river. We ended up having to find little-used tracks along the river banks, struggling through deep sand for about 30kms before we found a bridge upstream.

We then headed off to a Swakopmund and spent a few days relaxing there. It's a super city and well worth a visit, especially for adrenalin junkies as there is a variety of extreme sports on offer. We went quad biking in the dunes which was very scary, and I was put with the slow group after about 2 minutes of driving. Sadly the slow group had only 1 other person in it, so I did feel like a loser. It was great fun nevertheless.

We also went dune boarding at Dune 7, but decided to do it on the cheap in that we went to the local hardware store and got them to make us some boards out of plywood. In retrospect, it is always worth having a bit of local knowledge when you endeavour to do these types of things. Steve and I rocked up at Dune 7, and soon noticed that there was very little going on. We did not yet know that people were absent because sliding down the dunes in the midday sun was likely to give you 3rd degree burns! Needless to say, we soon found that out!

After fleeing from Dune 7, we went to Sossusvlei, an area deep in the Namib Desert where a small river disappears into the desert sands, leaving a dry and cracked river bed surrounded by some of the largest sand dunes in the world. It is an area of remarkable beauty, and we saw the most amazing dunes in the world.

The following day Steve surprised me by taking me to a stunning private game park called Wolvedans, where he proposed to me... I said yes! We then spent the following couple of days celebrating at the resort, being treated like royalty. If you ever want a luxury holiday in the desert then I'd highly recommend Wolwedans. If you need further persuasion, perhaps the fact the stars tend to hang out there will work. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have stayed there. Brad drinks the house red by the way. Charleze Theron also goes there, and apparently likes to eat pap and wors. Anyway, I digress...

After our couple days of indulgence, we jumped back into Songololo and headed off to Kolmanskop which is a ghost town slowly being swallowed by the desert. The inhabitants were diamond miners who all upped and left when more diamonds were discovered elsewhere in the country. It's a fascinating old town and well worth a visit.

From there we headed for the border, stopping briefly to explore the Fish River Canyon, a huge canyon second only to the Grand Canyon in the USA. All in all Namibia is an incredible country, one of great contrasts. I'd encourage everyone to visit so you too can see impressive wildlife, awesome dunes, thunderous waterfalls and more.

And so, after months of being on the road, it was with a great satisfaction that we crossed the border into South Africa. I certainly felt a prickle of a tear and goosebumps when I saw the sign saying 'Welcome to South Africa', and although I have been living outside of South Africa for years, all I could think was that there really is no place like home!


1 .
Aaaah - what a lovely update!!
Trish - 13 Jul 2009, 16:17

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