We left Epupa falls, glad to finally be heading south again. It’s hard to change your habits. The north of Namibia is famed for the Kackoveld –classed as the last true wilderness in Southern Africa, and it stands up to its title. It is remote. There are very few paved roads, and the majority of the routes are made up of 4x4 trails. We chose our route careful, knowing that some of the routes are affectionately called “car killers” and there was no way we were putting Stanley onto one of those routes out of choice. We both enjoy off-road driving, and Stanley has proved himself again and again, but there is something very unsatisfying about driving off and trying to find these routes when they’re not essential. Every road we drove served a purpose, so now we happily waved the huge convoys of white South African Landcruisers off, as we took the road most travelled. Even these, in Namibia, are stunningly beautiful, driving through mountains and deserts, with the threat of desert elephants jumping out at you at any point, and you are completely alone. We came across a herd of giraffes whilst driving, followed by some ostriches feeling real joy in seeing these animals going about their daily life in the complete wild. We camped at community run campsites and wallowed in the strange middle ground we lived in. The campsites, run by the locals tribes, have electricity and hot water and yet we can drive for hours and find not a soul. You can understand why people would love this land, with huge skies full of stars and complete silence when coming from our busy, modern world. However, coming from the bush, I think James and I missed some of its charm. It was just so sandy. And dry. I’m considering taking shares out in Nivea after upping my moisturizing regime from never to four times a day. Call us miserable bastards, but you can keep your beautiful views and starry skies, as long as I get white sheets and a steaming hot shower, with fluffy white towels. And so this is what we headed for.
Before my date with a hot shower and fluffy white towels, we stopped at the Cape Point Seal Sanctuary, where 10000 seals happily live surrounding a pedestrian walkway. Helpful, thanks. What an odd place? You get out of the car to the deafening bark of thousands of seals, lounging all over the sign for the park. We were unable to get into the pedestrian walkway without scaling the wall as the seals had blocked all the doors and we spent a happy hour with them going about their business around us. Well, mostly happy, except having to step over a seal, which had died in the walkway, after having become trapped. Some would question whether this national park had truly got to grips with conservation, if the animals were dying in the constructions made to view them. Not me, I bought a key ring.
Swakopmund is an oasis in the middle of the desert, and seems to be THE place to be in Namibia, certainly if you want fluffy white towels. We drove into this germanic settlement, and could have been just outside the Black Forest, if you discounted the huge amount of sand that seemed to follow us everywhere we went. We checked into a quiet backpackers, and Stanley got a few nights off being clambered on top of, and James and I lost some of our grumpiness, as we showered excessively and got a lecture on the weather, which as far as I could work out was “always sunny”. We visited their lovely restaurants, and even attended a street festival, heavily laden with lederhosen and beer. We heard the shouts of “That is the whitest man I have ever seen – he must be Irish” in a strong Clare accent, and after James had puffed out his feathers and explained he was the brownest he had ever been and some of his freckles had even joined together to be a tan, we spent the evening with an Irish marine biologist and his chums. All went swimmingly until I slapped one of them when his racism went a bit too far and then, well, it’s time to leave really, isn’t it? Well, after another lecture on the weather from the owners of the hostel.
We head off back into the desert, with a somewhat sand laden heart and were planning to head to a giant sand dune on the west coast. After two hours of driving, where we saw lots of sand, we both collectively decided there was a limit to how much sand we wanted to see and diverted away from, as we both termed it, “more sand.” We drove for hours, we crossed our last big geographical milestone - the Tropic of Capricorn. We decided to head to the Fish River Canyon, the second biggest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon. James has been here before, a sentence which I have to say far too often as my boyfriend is the most well travelled person I have ever met, but he insisted I needed to see it. We camped at possibly the poshest campsite. A national park campsite, with the normal (for southern Africa) Braii pit, electricity and spotless ablutions, but this had an ace up its sleeve – a hot water spring which supplied the Spa, the swimming pool and an exceptional pond at 65 C. Well, if ever there was a time I needed a hot spring spa (not a sentence you say every day) this was the time, and it washed away both the dust, and my increasing dislike of Namibia. This was washed away further as we drove to some of the view points over the Fish River Canyon, watching the sun go down and the stunning purple hue over this geological marvel. It was gorgeous. We would have loved to hike it (again for James) but our visas would not allow us. Onwards and leaving Namibia on a high note.
In total, we spent the best part of a month in Namibia. Strange that we spent so long in a country that neither of us are particularly fond of. But it does have some exceptionally beautiful scenery, wildlife and natural phenomena. I leave it with mixed feelings. In some ways, I hated it. It seems to have merged the worst parts of the African culture and the German, and lost so much of what makes each great. There was none of the African friendliness we are so used to and where they have embraced the modern world, with the shopping centres and supermarkets, they seem to have taken on only the worst parts. It is all industrial estates and fast food restaurants, with none of the treats that make African countries unique. In other ways, it is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen. It is immensely privileged with the treats the natural world has bestowed on it, with the Fish River Canyon, Etosha and the Kackoveld. I would highly recommend it as a holiday destination but maybe, for people not to see it as Africa, as it lacks almost everything I have come to know and love about this great continent. There are millions of people who would disagree with me on this but surely thats the whole point of travelling.
We would like to thank ding.com for their continued support throughout our adventure!
Liz Jarman & James Nunan
Our trip from Essex to Cape Town & back again
Km travelled : 50818km
Countries visited: 30