Well, well, well. I have made it home from Namibia in one piece! Before I go into details, I just want to say that Namibia was by far my favorite trip I have taken in South Africa thus far. Everything worked out smoothly with our car and accommodations throughout the country, which made the trip far more relaxed than it could have been. The first day we managed to make it 6 hours north to Springbok, South Africa where we stayed at a nice backpacker/hostel for the night. We splurged on a good meal that night at a steakhouse/seafood a la carte restaurant. It is a much different lifestyle in rural South Africa. The World Cup fever hasn’t really reached these areas since rugby is still the number one sport. Afrikaners typically live in the town, which represents a totally different White community than in the city.
The next morning we left early and crossed into Namibia with ease. Nothing but the hood of the car was checked and we were asked if we had anybody in the trunk, which we didn’t, but we could have easily smuggled a few people through, haha. The Orange River is what marks the border between South Africa and Namibia. I have learned a lot about the Orange River and what it represented as a border for the frontier farmers from the Cape Colony. We crossed it and it actually had water flowing, which is weird to see here since most rivers are seasonal and pretty dry right now. The ecology of Namibia changed pretty quickly from grassland/shrubs of South Africa, to sandy/dirt/shrub. The entire time we drove, we couldn’t comprehend how vast the country was. Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world. This was entirely noticeable while we drove and wouldn’t see any person for hours other than cars. Even the towns that we drove through were so deserted and kind of lonely feeling, including one of the largest cities in Namibia. We drove all the way to Ai-Ais, an area where there are hot springs near the Fish River. There isn’t much to say about the hot springs, other than the fact that they were hot! They typically stay about 65 degrees Celsius.
From Ai-Ais we made our way to the famous Fish River Canyon. The canyon is the second largest erosion canyon in the world with the Grand Canyon representing the largest. I have never been to the Grand Canyon, so this seemed huge! It was so cool looking down the vertical rock faces and throwing rocks off the sides, trying to keep your eye on them and watch them explode at the bottom. There wasn’t much to do in the canyon other than look out across the vast area and see how it snakes its way south to the Orange River. We left and made our way across to the town of Keetmanshoop.
Overlooking the Fish River Canyon
In Keetmanshoop, we stayed at Betties Beds, a nice Afrikaner couple who allowed all five of us to sleep in the same room for only the price of one room. They seemed really nice at first, and we eventually realized that they were so nice to us more or less because we were white. The Afrikaner man literally told us that he was happy to see white kids instead of black people come to their door, and continued to explain that “White is wonderful.” It was an interesting conversation, hearing blatant racism come from this person. We didn’t want to get him riled up about race, so we just kept nodding our heads and looking at each other in disbelief. Other than that, Bettie was a really nice lady who provided a nice place to sleep the night. We left Keetmanshoop early in hopes to make it to Sossusvlei by the afternoon.
Sossusvlei is a National Park that reaches the eastern shore of Namibia that is home to the world’s largest sand dunes. We made it to the campsite in the park around 3:00pm and then drove into the desert in search of a dune to climb. What we witnessed and were doing is just not possible to explain in words. The dunes are some of the most magnificent natural things I have ever seen in the world. We stayed on top of Dune 45 (for some reason a popular dune) for the sunset with bottles of wine and just the warm desert sun mixed with the chilly night, making for one of the most phenomenal nights of my life. It was just so hard to comprehend what we were sitting on was entirely sand. The sand is incredibly red and soft. Considering how warm it was as well, it made for a nice place to lay and watch the sunset. We drove back to the campsite and hung out at the park bar for a bit before an early bed time so we could wake up the next morning for sunrise.
Embracing Dune 45
Looking out from the top of Dune 45 with the Sossusvlei pan surrounding
Thoroughly enjoying the sunset and the sauvignon blanc
The five of us in the red of the sunset on Dune 45
Sunset from the top of Dune 45
We woke up around 5:00am to make sure we could get into the park when it opened at 5:30am and then to the dunes for sunrise around 6:30am. We unknowingly continued driving off of the paved road, which quickly turned into deep sand that our two-wheel drive car couldn’t handle and got completely stuck. This didn’t stop us though. We ditched the car and continued on foot up a random sand dune to just enjoy the sunrise and worry about the car after. The sunrise was so peaceful, looking over the Sossusvlei pan, which carries water underneath the ground and has seasonal rivers running through it when it rains. The color of the dunes in the morning sun was unreal. All in all, the vibes of Namibia thus far were all good. And good vibes are what really make a place enjoyable. We left the national park but not before we ran into the girls from our house that had left a day after us. They were just arriving at Sossusvlei while we were leaving. At this point, I was jealous of them because they were going to see the sunset and sunrise, which was over for us. Sossusvlei was an incredible place to say the least.
We drove pretty far back towards the border most of the day during the hotter parts of the day. Instead of camping at a campsite, we ended up parking on the side of the road. It literally was only 20 feet from the main artery of the Namibian road system, which was by the way only a two-lane highway without shoulders. The next largest road in Namibia was a nice gravel road, losing all paved goodness entirely. And then the next type of road in the road hierarchy was complete rubbish, making for an uncomfortable ride. We woke up to the sound of a semi honking as it drove by quite a few times through the night so we didn’t get as much sleep as we hoped for, but hey, it was free! We drove to the Orange River the next morning in hopes to find some sort of canoeing adventure place.
What we found far exceeded our expectations for canoeing. We managed a solid breakfast and a 2-hour canoe down river for a really reasonable price considering we were at some big adventure lodge. The canoeing ended our wonderful trip in Namibia, which went 100% according to plan. We actually didn’t have a plan at all and winged the entire trip. I suppose that works out better sometimes. After canoeing we drove all the way back to Cape Town, which was about 8 hours away. We saw a bunch of beautiful rainbows along the way through the rainy and sunny evening in northern South Africa. Other than the fact that we only had four CDs to listen to for 5 days, our trip to Namibia was a complete success!
Canoeing down the Orange River with a kayak paddle
Only two more days until the World Cup! The city is completely encompassed in World Cup fever. Today I went downtown with Dan and Stephen to buy a Bafana bafana jersey and a vuvuzela. The vuvuzelas are the trumpet-horns that represent a large part of African soccer. Though they are pretty annoying when watching TV, we have mostly tuned them out and embraced the sound. This entire World Cup is going to be so much better if people just embrace what is going on around them, which is what was happening today. Some storeowners were a little annoyed by all of the vuvus, but I just told them to go along with it instead of worrying. How chill of me, right? The entire country has been a party since getting back from Namibia. I cannot imagine how amazing this place is going to be on Friday. ON FRIDAY! I remember almost a year and a half ago when I realized that the World Cup was going to be in South Africa at the time I was looking to study abroad. At the time it seemed so unrealistic to come here. Now, it is a complete reality and is only two days away. I am excited myself, but even more excited for South Africa and Africa as a whole. The continent seems to be tuned in on South Africa and is doing everything it can to present the world with an unforgettable first World Cup on African soil. I have no doubt in my mind that the amazing people in this country will show everyone how wonderful a place it is here.