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The long road home


NAMIBIA | Thursday, 17 April 2008 | Views [609]

Sand dunes and dead salt pans, Namibia

Sand dunes and dead salt pans, Namibia

So, the Namibian Border opened at 8am and I think we must have been the first through.  We were over Botswana and the rain.  Bring on Namibia!  Our first stop in Namibia was a lovely campsite just over the river from Angola.  All of the toilets and showers in this campsite were outdoor with different themes.  There was the "Loo with a view" (looking over the river to Angola, Hippos in the forground), the "His and Her's" loos (two toilets side by side, his was grey, hers pink), showers were the "Garden of Eden" (set in an amazing little garden - fenced off!) and the "Holiday Inn 4 star shower" all sparkling white tiles and a pair of sunglasses ties to the wall to wear in the shower!

We spent a night at a "Cheetah Farm" where this guys takes in cheetah's caught by local Farmers and has a breeding progam.  He also has 3 tame Cheetahs wandering around his house like (rather large) cats.  We spent an hour patting (they purr like cats)and playing (watch those claws!)with the cheetahs before stopping by a wee orphened giraffe who likes to suck your thumb.  Later that afternoon we went out to watch the "wild" cheetahs being fed.  We stood in the relative safety of the back of a ute while the owners walkeda round the vehicles and offloaded the meat.  The Cheetahs were circling and a couple would hiss and try to swipe the guy, his response was to wave a stick at them ?!?!? I think I would have waved more than a big stick!

The landscape in Namibia is very rocky/sandy and it was probably lucky we knew eachother quite well at this point because the roadside toilet stops had almost no bushes to shelter behind!  We visited the Himba tribe for an afternoon, as part of their culture the women do not wash, rather they "smoke" themselves with Herbs and then rub red-ochre dust and butter fat over their skin, giving their skin a dark red colour.  We bush-camped in the desert and the boys spent the evening hunting for scorpians under rocks (there were several found) and we climbed the famous "Dune 45" sand dune in Namibias extensive desert.

This was all before we hit Swakopmund, on the coast of Namibia where we had 4 days to chill out and loads of activities to keep us busy.  Simon and I both went "sandboarding" down the nearby sand dunes.  Simon opted for the "stand up" version on a proper snowboard.  I opted for the lie-down version on a sheet of waxed-up plywood.  While the stand-up boarders trudged up and down the same slope learning to snowboard (Simon claims his was just as much fun as mine but mine was way cooler!) we shot down 6 different slopes. They actually speed-gunned us and I was clocked at 57km head-first down a sand-dune. Evidently I was a pro (or possibly too scared to move a muscle, which is apparently the correct technique) as I avoided all face-first sand-plants and a rather nasty gravel patch at the end of one of the dunes.  Simon on the other hand was covered head-to-toe in sand after escaping the beginners group and trying to teach himself to turn to the board.

The coast along Swakopmund was very wind-blown with a lot of sea-fog rolling across.  There are a number of wrecked ships along the coast and the sand-dunes reach right up to the beaches, leading to the name "Skeleton Coast".  Simon and I went for a run along the road out of town (the Trans-Kalahari highway) and I felt like I was running along the set of a horror-movie, nothing around for miles, eerie fog and nasty ship-wrecks in the distance.

From here the plan had been to head to Fish River Canyon, apparently the second biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon.  But it appeared the African rain wasn't quite finished with us.  There had been a lot of rain and after two hours int he truck our driver asked us to jump out and walk up a rather steep hill.  This was not unusual, quite often we'd stand aside while Ronnie (we switched our Kenyan driver for an Ozzie in Tanzania) negotiated particulary nasty sections of road.  And Ronnie very almost made it to the top of a rather steep slippery section of road before the truck became stuck.  We were fairly used to boggings by now and set about pulling down the sand-traps and digging out the tryes, but it didn't budge.  Plan B is to collect rocks and stones and put them around the tyres to give the wheels some traction, so Plan B was implemented, also with no success.  After several attempts we were still stuck and the truck had slipped closer to the edge of a small bank and was rather close to toppling over.  We offloaded all tents, bags, jerry-cans, to make the truck lighter, by which time the rain had stopped and we waited for the road to dry out/help to come.  Typically, within 2 hours of being stuck, four small boys appeared from no where.  I've no idea where they came from or where they went to, but they wandered up, inspected the truck, made a few jokes (I'm sure at our expense) and disappeared again. Unfortunatly part of being in Africa is that there is no AA to call when you need a tow, coupled with the fact that there is probably one tow-truck in Namibia that is capable of towing a 15 tonne truck and that was a good 500km away.  So, to cut the story short, 7.5 hours (and several more attempts)later with the help of two passing 4WD's and a whole lot more pushing we managed to get out!  The night actually finished quite well as the lcoal town was also underwater so the campsites were closed.  We had to use the rest of our kitty-money to pay for a rather nice hotel in town (again 4 to a room, so despite sleeping on the floor, it was dry and had a bathroom!). We were comforted to know we were the 5th truck in the last 8 weeks to be stuck on the same road.  Bring on South Africa!

The rest of the trip was a real holiday!  We spent two days driving down to Stellenbosch (the wine region) where we spent a day tasting wine, eating cheese and generally being silly-buggers.  Back in Cape Town we spent a night in the hostel saying goodbye to people before retiring to "our mansion in the hills" (aka: Si's Aunt and Uncles place).  This time we managed to see Robben Island (although I think I spent more time watching the Hells Angels Convention.... you should have seen their girlfriends!) and also a tour of the Townships (basicly where most of Cape Towns black population live). 

We've had an amazing time in Africa and have learnt so much (I now measure civalisation on the availability of Diet Coke - its a pretty accurate measure!) We're sad that Zimbabwe still hasn't finalised the election and have been watching with interest as it was certainly one of our favourite countries.

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