As soon as I was able to move pretty normally again, we left Swakopmund planning to visit some touristic attractions in Northern Namibia, before heading to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.
My friend wanted to see some wall paintings on the rocks, but it implied a long walk under the torrid Namibian sun at 40ºC/104ºF, so I decided to stay in the parking lot, reading and speaking with the workers, all of us trying to get some shade.
When my friend came back, we gave the guide a ride to his village and it was funny to drive almost to the door of his hut. After hitting on me – which was an advance of what would happen later in Tanzania, the country where any white girl can find a husband- he entered his house and we left with the intention of seeing some rock formations. But nightfall came while we were driving and we pulled over to sleep in the car.
The next morning we realized we didn’t have enough gas for all the places we wanted to see – and it’s difficult to find gas in Northern Namibia – so we just visited the Petrified Forest, which wasn’t that great. We gave another guide a lift , and we headed to Windhoek, where our Couch Surfing host was waiting for us.
In Windhoek we had a taste of civilization again; it’s a very interesting city with lots of different cultures. Apart from English, people speak a dialect that sounds like a mix of German and Afrikaans, although I think it also has some Ovambo and Bantu influences.
Our host took us to the local bar, Joe’s, where both black and white people enjoy good beer and meat. Namibians are very proud of their ‘Windhoek’ beer, which I have to admit was pretty good; it’s also pretty famous in Southern Africa. At Joe’s I tried Oryx meat, which was really tasty, although I couldn’t help thinking about the beautiful creature I had photographed in the desert a few days before.
And the time came to leave Namibia! After returning our rental car in Windhoek, it was a difficult mission to find transport to Botswana. Finally we found a 6 a.m. minibus that took us from Windhoek, across the border, and to Ghanzi, in Botswana. In the minibus we met ‘John John’ – I have no idea if that was his real name -, a white Ghanzian man. He offered to take us to town from the bus stop because it was in the middle of nowhere; his father would be coming later to pick him up.
So they took us to Ghanzi and even offered to take us to Maun the next day, which was the place we needed to go to visit the Okavango Delta. Due to subsequent experiences, I’m not afraid to claim that offering rides in Botswana – especially to white people – appears to be customary, even if the person who offers a ride is not what you could consider very friendly, but that’s just how it is. Since accepting that ride meant having to sleep at this man’s farm away from the city, we kindly declined the offer and took a local bus to Maun. Of course, the bus had around 40 seats and there were more than 100 people. I was already used to that, it felt like being back in South Africa.
When we finally got to the camping site in Maun, a dip in the swimming pool was a taste of heaven after those 800km on that extremely hot day. It also allowed us to relax a bit before our next adventure: the Okavango Delta!
After our adventure with the tires, we left Aus and headed towards Sesriem to see Sesriem Canyon, this one smaller than Fish River Canyon.
On our way to Sesriem my friend let me take over the wheel, and I learnt to drive for the first time in my life! I know it sounds sad that I had never driven at my age, but in Spain you can’t learn to drive on your own; you have to take official lessons and they are really expensive.
And believe me, the long, quiet dirt roads of Namibia must be the best place to learn to drive. I enjoyed every second of it and understood why people like driving so much. Of course it has nothing to do with driving in a city (specially a crowded Spanish city); I wouldn’t enjoy that at all.
So slowly but firmly we got to Sesriem Canyon, camped, and decided to enter the canyon and explore what was down there. We stayed there until it was dark, entering every nook and cranny we could find, and enjoying another beautiful African sunset as we were getting lost down there without light.
That night we slept under the stars, with a friendly tree providing us with shelter.
The next morning we drove to Sossusvlei, which is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high dunes and located in the Namib Desert. This is the main attraction in Namibia, due to the vastness of the desert and the colors that the sand creates, especially at sunrise and sunset.
In Sossusvlei the dunes are identified by numbers, and our goal was to watch the sunrise from the top of ‘Dune 45’, the most famous of all, but soon we realized that the desert was not that deserted. Loads of people with their overland trucks had come to do the same, so we left looking for some deserted desert. There was desert enough for all of us.
Some lonely wild animals, a group of springbok running in front of you, a dune that looks close but it’s hours away, never-ending sand, fierce wind, crazy Egyptian-like bugs, the burning sun, and a extremely peaceful feeling in your heart. That’s how the Namib Desert can be described.
We wandered around the desert for hours, jumping and running down the dunes while admiring even the tiniest insect that we could find. Eventually we climbed the highest dune and had a sandy lunch there (after all, sand has minerals), and then we headed down to Deadvlei (literally ‘dead marsh’), which looks like a giant, white, dry lake. Seriously, that place was incredibly huge. There were some trees at the end of it and it looked like they were pretty close, but we walked for about an hour to get there, also experimenting the classic mirage that makes you think there’s water on the ground – and we were running low on water. But the place was magical, and the experience unforgettable.
Since the avid tourist trucks had finally disappeared, we were able to watch the sunset on top of ‘Dune 45’, although it wasn’t as incredible as the sunset in Fish River Canyon. But the sand turning purple everywhere was a show worth watching.
The following day we enjoyed our last moments in the desert before going back to ‘civilization’, and the dangers that were awaiting us there.
No other place has impressed me as much as Namibia did. This vast territory contains thousands of kilometers of emptiness and peace, sometimes with a small surprise when a group of springboks jump in front of the car, or maybe a giraffe that has lost her family, or an elephant if you’re “lucky” enough. In some places you can drive for an entire day without finding any other cars. And the colors… the most amazing colors I’ve ever seen: the orange fire of the desert; the bright purple, red and orange of the sunsets; and the beautiful white sky at night, full with the powerful light of the stars everywhere you look, without any kind of light pollution.
Some of the pictures of this astonishing country: