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!
Saddened by our farewell to the desert, we drove through sand storms to Walvis Bay, the first place that looked like ‘civilization’ after a long time. It was also the first time we were able to see and smell the ocean since we left South Africa.
We ate a VISA-payed pizza -we couldn’t resist the temptation- and then kept driving towards Swakopmund, one of Africa’s most famous extreme sports capitals.
Since we had plenty of time to get there, we stopped on the way and drove off the road to see some dunes that were next to the ocean – a beautiful mix of landscapes. After enjoying the view for a while, we returned to the car and tried to get out of there, but the car laughed at us. We were stuck in sand, and I don’t even know how that happened. The more we tried to get out, the more stuck we were. But suddenly, before we had time to laugh at our misfortune, a messenger of God came to rescue us in his pick-up truck! We hadn’t even been stuck for 5 minutes when he came, a Capetownian middle-aged man who had seen us from the road and thought we could be in trouble. And yeah, we were. But not only that, besides he just happened to have a rope and pulled us out in a second. It looked like he was used to save stupid tourists from their sandy deaths. After thanking him we continued our journey to Swakopmund, where we stayed at a cool backpackers, thinking we had escaped from the dangers of the sand.
The next morning we decided to try sandboarding, which is exactly the same as snowboarding, but on sand. My friend was used to going snowboarding, but this world was completely new to me. We spent the morning going up and down the dunes, it was really fun! We couldn’t slide down many times, because to be able to do that you had to walk up the dune first, which wasn’t easy. But it was an interesting and enjoyable sport that I recommend you try if you have the chance.
After all that adrenaline rush from the morning, my friend convinced me to try quad biking in the afternoon. Big mistake.
First of all, don’t use an automatic quad if you’re driving up and down the dunes, it gets stuck all the time. In flat areas was fun, though.
Secondly, if you see it’s getting stuck all the time, don’t try to go up a steep dune – it will get stuck and fall backwards. And that’s what happened to me. I fell backwards with the quad, which got the best part because it fell on top of me – lucky quad. As for me, having a 200-kilo-monster on my back, eating sand, being unable to breath, and having gasoline dripping on my face was not a nice experience. Those seconds before my friend and the guide got to me were never-ending. But the worst part came afterwards, when we had to go back to the quad station and the guide asked me to drive the quad back there, because we were pretty far away. So in pain and terrified of having another accident, I had to drive that monster back to its cage for what it looked like hours but I think it was 20 minutes. Of course, when there were high dunes I just left the quad there and walk – with difficulty -, and let the guide do his job.
After that, I had to stay in bed with ice for a couple of days, which forced us to stay in Swakopmund a bit longer than we expected. Quad bikes: never again!