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Africa » Namibia » Windhoek » Aris
July 4th 2011
Published: August 1st 2011
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We checked in, dumped our bags then headed out to check out Windhoek… it didn’t take long, the CBD is very small. We walked up a street to a famous german church and on the way walked past a street market of touristy goods, a bunch of women were there selling figurines and jewellery, they are called the Himba and wear mud over their bodies and have amazing hair, with almost like thick dreadlocks and wear thick necklaces. We walked down Independence ave, the main street and down a shopping mall. We had lunch in an Italian restaurant and had nice pizzas. We bought dinner from pick and pay, the supermarket nearby.
That night we went to bed early, very tired from not a proper nights sleep the night before on the bus, but our room was right next to the pool which was right next to the bar which was full of Americans as it was the 4th of July celebrations!! Regardless, we slept well. Next morning we were up and had the included breakfast, booked a tour to Botswana for the following week (since Umkulu pulled out at the last minute citing that they only leae with 4 full fee paying passengers, and since we were the only 2 on the date and we had won the tickets, they weren’t going to go!! Not happy!!) and got on our Namibian tour with Chameleon that we had won at the same time… we were also the only 2 people to begin with, but Chameleon honored the prize and off we went, Julia an American and Mark, a Frenchman joined shortly after at the last minute. Ockert was our driver and guide. The vehicle was a 4x4 built for safaris, seated 8 in the back and a giant esky, with a popup roof for game viewing. We had a great time!!
First stop was Etosha national park. We drove north for 5 hours until we arrived at the gates. We saw lots of animals, but it is very different from Kruger, there aren’t animals everywhere, just patches, and more spread out and the terrain changes very suddenly from trees to grassland to shrubland to pan. We saw an elephant at a waterhole, a puff adder, a horned adder, Kudu, secretary birds, lots of other birds, black-faced impala, springbok, wildebeest and oryx. At 5.30 we had to leave the park and we watched the sunset from the side of the road on a hill. 5km from the gate there is a lodge called Etoni-Etosha where we stayed in luxury safari tents, complete with hot (solar powered) showers and toilets etc, all outside but with a clever screen made of branches etc. For dinner, Ockert cooked an amazing meal (all of his cooking was amazing!) of lamb on the braai, with salad and roasted butternut. We shared the last of a bottle of wine we had from the night in Windhoek and after dinner we all went to bed early since the next morning was a 5.45am start.
We had tea and coffee at the restaurant of the lodge before heading to the gate entrance at sunrise when they opened. We saw much of the same that day. We stopped in a specially fenced off area with picnic tables for breakfast at around 9am. Ockert put out the table cloth, fired up a portable stove and we had French toast and cereal for brekky. After packing up, we checked out the local waterhole and saw a bunch of Kudu and Ostrich. Kudu are the second largest antelope in Africa, the largest is the Eland. The males have horns that are very long and can have many spirals in them. We saw lots more game and more elephants in the afternoon. We stopped for lunch at a campsite and had sandwiches. There was a waterhole with a lookout spot adjacent to eh campsite so we went and checked it out, but there were only impala, but one of the males was doing his best to flirt, his white tail was in the air and all fluffed up, but he couldn’t get close to the females since they kept running off! It looked pretty funny. After lunch we went to other sites around the section of the park before going to the headquarters of the park nearby. There is a high tower that we climbed which apparently was built there when it was a police station. The land is so flat that it made a good spot to look in all directions. We drove to another campsite where there is also an adjacent waterhole where the afternoon before there had been a pride of lions with cubs. We waited for an hour and saw lots of other animals but no lions. We saw about 10 giraffe and one giant male elephant came for a drink, followed by another, slightly smaller bull elephant, there was almost a huge confrontation but the smaller bull conceded early and shrank away to drink at the other side. There were so many people watching, and most had giant cameras and tripods, we felt a bit silly with our handheld little digital number.
At 5 we had to leave to make it out of the park by closing time. That night we had dinner together in the restaurant, buffet style. It was amazing!! The starters were lots of salads and cold meats etc, then the mains were your choice of beef steak, lamb, pork, chicken, kudu, impala or oryx… we tried all the game meats and they were amazing!! Of course there was grilled veggies etc too. There was also the option of a stirfry so we had a bit of that too. The desserts included malva pudding, chocolate cake, fruit, cheeses etc. we were very full by the end. We all rolled off to bed. Next morning we had breakfast and left by 8. We drove to a meeting point where Julia and Mark were getting off the trip since they had only booked on the first 3 days to to Etosha. We said our goodbyes and then we had a private tour with Ockert!! We arrived in Swakopmund around 3.30 and checked in to the Dunedin hotel, nice rooms. We saw a snake park down the road when we drove in so we decided that’s what we would do for the afternoon and also booked quad biking in the sand dunes for the following morning. The snake park was awesome!! The owner was there and so we had some good conversations about different snakes. The male Boomslang was so beautiful he had green scales, but the skin between is purple!! They had cobras of all sorts, and for one of them the owner said, here ill get you a good photo… he went around the back, opened the cage and proceeded to pull the cobra out from his stone hiding place, then made him rear up and flare out his hood just from waving a hand in front of his face, I could hardly watch, then realized I should be taking photos so snapped a few. We stayed until closing time and took a pic next to the lower jaw of a blue whale that was laid outside of the building, it was huge!!
Dinner was booked at the lighthouse restaurant down on the beach, we joined Ockert and walked there down the main street. Suddenly there was a horrible stench and he told us that the green public spaces are watered with grey water, but that it wasn’t treated properly, so it smelled like sewage!! It was gross! The restaurant luckily did not smell, and since there was a 50% off night on all pizzas, we both had one, Ockert had a steak. Mine was a seafood pizza, since we were on the coast. Next morning we had the complimentary breakfast (although we were full of pizza still) and at 8.30 the quad biking company picked us up. At the head office we paid and signed our lives away then were taken with another tourist from france, to the quad bikes. Our guide seemed reluctant since he told us the one hour tour is for grandmas, (we had chosen one hour since we had to leave swakopmund by 11am and it was much cheaper) but we each picked a bike (we chose autos)
buffet of game meat! buffet of game meat! buffet of game meat!

yummy kudu, oryx and impala
and got helmets, got taught how to use the bikes and off we went, always single file, 5m behind the rider in front. I was at the front behind the guide. We crossed under an over pass and straight into the dunes. Off we went, full pelt up and down and doing turns half way up dunes, it was mad fun!! We stopped halfway to take some photos and then headed back. At one point Dario did a 4 wheel drift and scared the crap out of himself, very funny!! I managed a few drifts, but the guide was intent on covering me with sand and kept doing lots of drifts to send sand flying in the air off the very top of dunes. We got back to base and someone drove us back to our hotels. We finished packing and checked out.
Ockert told us Julia was rejoining since the tour to Sossuvlei (where we were heading next) had been cancelled by a different company. We met her halfway, someone drove her to meet us. We arrived late afternoon as the sun was setting at Desert Camp, 1.5km from the gate to the national park. Here we had another luxury safari tent, only part of it was made of concrete so it was a nice blend of canvas and brightly painted wood and concrete. Ockert made dinner again, lamb on the braai again, but a different cut, with roast potatoes. We walked (our tents were the furthest from the main area of the lodge) to the kitchenette-braai area that Ockert had commandeered and had a great dinner and sat by the fire talking. Next morning was another early one with only tea and coffee again. We got to the gate along with lots of cars at 6.30 when it normally opens, but were told to wait until 7. So we watched the sunrise from sitting on top of the vehicle and Ockert gave us energy bars to eat, We drove for over half an hour past Dune 45, a massive dune close to the road that people were climbing (the park encompassed the Namib desert) to deadvlei, a dead lake since the sand dunes moved hundreds of years ago and cut off the river. It is an expanse of flat, dried clay which only fills with the rains. There are lots of dead trees sticking up which are 800 years old, but died about 500 years ago from lack of water. We spent an hour there, walking to the other end and noticed how sound travels very oddly there, from many hundreds of metres away it is easy to hear people and what they are saying. We walked to the end where there is a huge dune called Crazy dune, as in, crazy if you want to climb it, but we saw people trudging up the ridge.
From there we drove through lots of sand in the dry river bed to Sossuvlei, another lake that actually had water in it, but was starting to dry up. There were lots of picnic benches and cars. We found an empty one and set up for brunch. After eating we climbed the dine overlooking the lake and ran down the side, unstoppable until you get to the flats at the bottom… Julia stacked it and face planted it into the sand… she was fine, but looked hilarious! And she got sand everywhere!! We drove back to dune 45 after that and climbed it too. IT is much higher and steeper, but we made it to the top!! The whole time on the dunes, we saw lots of tracks from animals and Ockert would tell us what they were, Gerbils, beetles, impala. There were these funny beetles that would erupt from the sand and scuttle off from under your feet sometimes, but mostly we saw then running around on top of the sand, including one that seemed to be racing us up the dune and winning!! On the way down dune 45 Dario insisted on rolling down… I have a video of it.. and he got sand everywhere, it didn’t look pretty!! For the next few days sand was still coming out! We piled back in the truck and stopped at a service station for more water and sweets before heading to the canyon in the park. It is the river in the wet season but was almost bone dry apart from a few gross looking pools of water with catfish in them, apparently they hibernate in the mud at the bottom once the pool dries up until the next rain comes. We walked along the bottom until we were blocked by water near the entrance to the canyon, the boys then started skipping stones for 20 minutes. The stones are all from the walls of the canyon which is an amazing conglomerant of smooth stones from further up in the mountains and lots of sand cemented together over time.
After dragging the boys away from throwing stones we walked the other way to where it widens out before turning back and climbing back up the stairs and out again. We drove back to camp and had showers to get rid of all the sand before having milo and biscuits to watch the sunset. We had a stew for dinner the Ockert cooked with pasta. The meat was in fact Guinea Fowl and was delicious. We watched Madagascar the movie on the laptop after dinner as Julia had never seen it and really wanted to. Next morning we had brekky and left by 8am, it was the last day, and we were heading back to Windhoek. The vehicle was an older model so only had a cassette player and the radio didn’t work so we got our ipods out and the speakers and played music all the way back to Windhoek. We said our goodbyes before checking in again to Chameleon. We did our laundry in a sink, only essentials since it was Sunday and the laundry was shut for the day. Then walked to the supermarket to buy dinner. We wanted to exchange money too but everywhere was shut since it was Sunday. Once back, we had to hang the washing in our room since it had started to rain a little. We ate dinner early while watching the USA vs Brazil match in the FIFA womens world cup with a room full of backpackers. It was the best game ever! Brazil had the lead once they started in extra time but USA scored in the last few seconds of the time. Eventually it went to penalties and USA won by 1penalty! Was a nail biting match the whole way through! We also then watched Pan´s Labyrinth before going to bed.

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