Our Acacia Africa overland tour group met on Friday 17th October to depart the next day. "Overlanding" is basically a tour for backpackers. We're travel on a truck (NOT a bus!), which has a passenger cabin on the back, sleep in tents overnight (apart from the occasional hostel dorm), which we carry in the truck, and eat the food we make ourselves (apart from the occasional slurp in restaurants). Our group consists of 21 "tourists", one guide and one driver. Everyone is in their twenties and early thirties, and most appear to be very well traveled - in fact there seem to be a lot of "travel junkies" in our group and it has been fascinating hearing their travel stories around the camp fire.
Overlanding life is very different compared to the home comforts that I enjoyed in Cape Town but it has not as hard as I thought it would be; there's plenty of fresh food at meal times, each camp site is well equipped, some even have a pool, and I've slept pretty well every night. There's something satisfying about being self-sufficient and surviving on the bare necessities. Even the bush camp, where we camped in the middle
of nowhere with no showers or toilets hasn't been that bad (unless you had to go for a number 2).
We're currently in Swakopmund (day 7, Friday 24th), Namibia's premier beach resort, and enjoying the luxury of hostel beds. To get here we traveled north from Cape Town, through South Africa's lush countryside. My image of Africa had been red dust and barren landscapes (like in Blood Diamond), but this was the opposite: trees, streams and mountains. However, as we got further north, the streams dried out, the vegetation thinned and the mountains disappeared to give way to grassland and eventually, by the time we got to the South Africa/Namibia border on day 2 (Sunday 19th), desert.
On day 3 we passed through Orange River Canyon, the world's second biggest canyon to the Grand Canyon. The scenery is indeed fantastic, but personally having been to the Grand Canyon did take something away from it.
We then moved on to the Sossusvlei area in the middle of the Namibian desert. On the morning of day 5, we got up in the dark to catch the sunrise on Dune (number) 45. This dune is about 120 meters high in
the middle of a group of dunes. At 5:30am there a long thin line of tourists were making their way to the top. Climbing up the dune turned out to be a slog; I thought I'd be able to run up but after a minute it was obvious that this was a foolish idea - the sands were just too loose and left me gasping for air. I was grateful for the exercise though (we spent most of our trip sitting in the truck and the hardest thing we've done so far is putting up our tent). Dune 45 has to be one of my favourite places in the world. I love the red sands and the desolate landscape (if you ignore the other tourists) with dune after dune fading into the background, I've never seen anything like it. After Dune 45, we took a desert walk with a very knowledgeable local guide who gave us a tour of the desert and taught all the tricks of surviving in the desert. Although we all enjoyed the tour I think everyone was glad when it finished at 11am, we were starting to bake under the desert sun (the sands to too
hot to walk bare feet).
The main attaction of Swakopmund appear to be extreme sports, many options were open to us. I decided to throw myself out of a plane, which I was remarkable calm for - it's all 100%!s(MISSING)afe isn't it? We jumped out at 10000 feet and the 30 seconds of freefall was the shortest 30 seconds of my life; I only wished it had lasted longer. On one side there was ocean and on the other there was desert; it was just like in Point Break
! I also took on the dunes on a sandboard, which less intense but lasted a lot longer. The best thing was that falling over on the sands did not hurt and after this experience I will definitely try snowboarding in the future.
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