Getting back to nature...or just staying in nature but cranking it up a notch.
05/03/2008 85 °F
Namibia is a country roughly 1.5 the size of California*. Bordering Botswana, South Africa and Angola, Namibia is primarily desert with a sweet coastline that does a number on any boat that comes even close to landing on her shores. The coast is so treacherous that its called "the Skeleton Coast". The skeletons belong to both the ships and the men who made it safely to land only to learn they were stuck in the desert. That's got to be a painful realization. It's also home to one of the largest seal colonies in the world. The Cape Cross Seals (a great name for a band I'll never front) number in the millions and, speaking from personal experience, smell like they number in the millions. It's truly an amazing site to see all of these seals at work and play on the coast. It's also reassuring that you can buy a seal skin wallet and not feel like a jerk because the survival of the colony relies on the reduction of numbers by natural and humane efforts.
Moving on, Namibia has approximately 2.5 million inhabitants. Most of these inhabitants live near the German influenced city of Windhoek. For a while Shiloh Jolie-Pitt was the most famous of these inhabitants (unless you count our friend and blog reader Rachael). I've mentioned the Himbas in a past blog but the other tribe worth a mention is the Herero. Really the Himba are the traditional version of this tribe, the original Hereros if you will. When the Herero are mentioned its usually in reference to the folks who have "modernized" and adapted to a more western way of life. While most of the Herero have taken on the western dress, etc, what really boggles the mind is seeing the woman who still wear traditional dress. They've adopted the clothing of the Germans who colonized the place a hundred years ago. This means they wear this extremely large petticoat with layers upon layers of brightly colored dress. A practical outfit for the desert. The dress has puffy sleeves and is topped with a cool little hat thing that's very hard to describe in a blog. May I direct you to google yet again for visualization. I LOVE this traditional garb but can't help but think it looks like something out of a Grimm's fairy tale. Oh you Germans - bringing the sausage roll and the petticoat to Africa. What will you think of next?
One thing that many of you may know about Namibia is that it's a land of incredibly diverse landscapes. We have covered a LOT of ground here in Africa and I can say with certainty that Namibia is the only country we've driven through that can change it's face in a matter of minutes. Rock canyons that lend themselves perfectly to a Western movie one minute (complete with scary vultures) and rolling hills dusted with a baby fine blond grass the next. Volatile coast lines transform into sandy dunes and then level out to salt flats within a miles drive. Its absolutely incredible. There is no way you can get a sense of the landscape with a picture as no camera could possibly capture the uniqueness of this country. We say this now and we still have the southern region, perhaps the most famous of the country's geographies, to tackle. I can't wait.
Okay, so that was my Namibia 101 just to give you a bit of context for our bush camping story. If you can't appreciate the changing landscape then you can't appreciate how difficult it was to navigate a 4X4 through this diverse landscape with little but a few tire tracks left by past travelers to guide the way. Wow. Bush camping is NOT for the faint of heart. One might say it really "bonds people together" ...if they don't kill each other in the process. The rewards, however, FAR outweigh the difficulties it takes to go from point A to point B.
- UNBELIEVABLE scenery and being the only humans around for miles to appreciate it
- Tracking the elusive desert elephant only to lose it's tracks somewhere in the bush
- Coming across a small hut and being greeted by a woman that looked like a Herero version of a German cook from the 1800s (sidenote: I'm an expert on German cook fashion in the 1800s)
- Driving along non-existent roads and watching giraffe, oryx and ostrich stare at the car as we road by
- Finding the world's best bush campsites and sitting around the fire under a dome of crystal clear stars (seriously we've never seen stars like we have here in Namibia)
- James' delicious camping dinners of kudu, eland and oryx. It's a little weird to take pictures of these animals in the day and eat them at night but hey, such is life in the bush.
- Realizing we were a little lost but that getting lost was kind of the point in the first place
And the lowlights:
- Car number one getting so far stuck in a sandy riverbed that if a donkey and trap carrying 6 local guys hadn't come by we would still be sitting there.
- Car number one over heating in another riverbed while car number two radioed to tell us that she'd "gotten stuck in quick sand and was sinking fast."
- Setting up our tents in the pitch black only to realize in the morning that we'd set up camp near the only hut in a 50 mile radius. Doesn't sound so bad except we realized this while we were going to the bathroom and suddenly noticed a group of onlookers.
- Having to walk across the sand in the middle of the HOT HOT day because the cars would sink in the sand if we actually road in them
- Getting to the absolute middle of nowhere only to find an abandoned research tent with a mysterious rock display marked with an oryx horn. Some say the rock display was a chair for the researcher. "Some" may say this but I ask "where is the researcher?" Hmmm. Looks a little grave-y to me. Anyway, James made the poor decision to move the horn. I believe this cursed us the entire ride back to civilization. Note that the "Curse of the Horn" is only a theory but if you saw this little rock display you'd know where I was coming from.
Of course you could argue that the best part of bush camping was coming out of the bush and landing at Fort Sesfontein lodge for a shower and a Coke. It might have felt that way at the time but this little adventure was definitely a highlight of our African adventure. Our trip through Namibia is not even halfway through and I can tell you without hesitation we will be back. It's truly, truly a magical place.
Stay tuned for more Namibia adventure....
- This is a total guess regarding the size of Namibia. It's big. Let's just leave it at that.