Despite the early wake up we felt better, after 8 hours of sleep. We had a quick breakfast by the truck, very silent since we were all still shocked about being up so early. We then started our drive and arrived at Spitzkoppe mountains, with stunning views as we got closer and closer. Our guide Fonz walked us through the bushmen’s cave paintings (Happy Days!). The walk lasted one hour and a half in the boiling heat but we didn’t complain as everything around us was so beautiful.
As we walked passed, Fonz told us that in this area there are 16 types of snakes, and he showed us a poisonous plant that the old bushmen were using to kill animals by pouring some on the tip of the arrows they used to hunt them. Apparently this plant can kill you in less than 20 minutes if you eat it, or if you burn it and smell the smoke.
Again the bushmen had some very interesting tribe traditions, such as leaving paintings to each other across the neighbourhood to explain how many animals they saw and the dangers they encountered. They also used to steal ostrich eggs and fill them with water and then bury them so that they could have fresh water in the winter. Apparently it is very difficult to steal an ostrich egg since the male and female take it in turns to guard on the nest. So the tribe used to send children to annoy the father while the mother was away to get food, and once the father would start chasing after the children the bushmen went forward to steal the eggs before the mother would get back. Once the mother and father ostrich gathered back to an empty nest they would start fighting each other and argue about their stupidness. Truly fascinating stories.
After the walk in the heat we had lunch by the truck, and then we climbed one of the high rocks all the way to the top. Stunning views from up there. No words really to describe the beauty. Some fresh breeze also rewarded us on the top after a sweaty walk.
We take on the road again until we arrive to our next stop for the next two days: Swakopmund. On the way we did 50km on the skeleton coast, famous for its dangerous currents that provoke a lot of fatalities. In fact we saw a shipwreck and had a walk on the beach to take close up photos.
We arrived in Swakopmund and booked some of our adventure activities for the following day after long minutes of indecisiveness since there was far too much choice. The little town on the coast is very weird, it has little houses that remind you of the German / Bavarian architecture.
After booking all our activities we checked into our accommodation, for the joy of all the campers that, for two nights can say goodbye to their tents and sleep in proper beds.
We then met to go out for dinner all together, since Mama is on holiday today and tomorrow. The choice was an “Italian” restaurant where we ate good fish and many had a nice pizza through a proper wood oven. The downside was the very high temperature caused by it.
One newbie also joined us tonight, and as per tradition we made her a good joke to welcome her to the Nomad family. Rob senior (a lovely chap from Sheffield) made up a story that our wonderful Gerty has been dismissed for bad behaviour, and Tau our driver was an alcoholic. So he would have to take over as Chief Guide for this expedition that will bring us through Angola, Zambia and finally to the capital of Zambia, Cape Town where we would be able to see Mount Kilimanjaro… At that point he couldn’t contain it any more and we all started to laugh!
After that we walked back and went to bed since we were all pretty destroyed, and also having a lot of activities the following day.
A very interesting day and different for everyone since we had a list of amazing activities to choose between. Some of us went on a dolphin cruise (no dolphins but a baby whale was spotted!), others went on a thrilling quad ride at high speed on the dunes, and two actually jumped off a plane and sky dived over the Namib desert (including Rob senior who is 60 and made us all very proud!)
Rob junior (a nickname that he won’t get that often going forward) and I opted for a quad bike in the desert in the morning called “explorer” with a guide that showed us the animals that live in the desert… the so called “Small Five”. We were lucky enough to see them all! The gecko was the first one we saw (glows at night to attract flies), then the lizard, then the spider (white dancing lady spider they call it because it dances to stand the heat of the sand! And rolls downhill in a ball), the sidewinder snake and finally my favourite, the chameleon!
Our guide had captured three beetles, as he knows that the chameleon loves them so he showed us how the chameleon chases the beetles (apparently this is the fastest chameleon in the world), and how he gets them with his tongue before he starts chewing them to enjoy his meal.
We managed to film the chase in slow-mo and its amazing to watch the tongue flying out and grabbing the beetle. Unless you love beetles of course.
The tour was spectacular, and driving the quads in the middle of the desert where all you can see around you is sand dunes is a fantastic experience. Feels like being on the moon.
Rob managed to get stuck in the sand in his quad – something to do with excess weight I think.
After a quick break and lunch, we went off for our second activity, sand boarding in the Namib desert! Since Rob and I never tried snowboarding it was quite difficult to get it right on sand, which is much heavier and softer than snow. The main painpoint was the walk up a massive dune, in the baking sun and against the wind. Rob proved once again his endless laziness by giving up after one descent only (ROB I had a blister!) . I did 4 and got more confident as I went on, and ended up really enjoying it. The best descent though was the one we did lying down and sliding on the sand. It’s like a water slide but much faster, I did 61km/hr! Rob missed out unfortunately as he couldn’t face the walk up hill more than once. Lazy boy! (ROB I was also the oldest by at least 10 years!)
After we got back, I found sand in any possible place and it took me 20 minutes to get rid of it all in a long shower which was possibly the best shower I ever had!
In the evening we got a bit lost but in the end managed to all catch up with each other and watched the sun setting over the Atlantic ocean and had a nice meal at the Butcher and Brewer near the beach.
The few of us that resisted the temptation to go to bed straight after, went for a drink in the only place that was open off season on a Monday night. Surreal dance floor with 90s music and completely empty! On the way home we got lost, and we ended up asking for direction to a guy with a pickup truck and he ended up giving us a lift as we all jumped in the boot. Once he closed the boot we all thought we could easily die there in the boot of a truck in Africa, and nobody would have found us. Luckily the guy was nice and meant well and he got us home safely!
A long day driving 450Km on unpaved roads. But now we are able to sleep in any conditions on the truck, with sand blowing on our faces, wind slapping our cheeks, and sun burning our skin. Nothing can prevent us from catching up on sleep!
We stopped on the way to see the Flamingos over the coast and stopped again an hour later to enjoy the amazing Lunar landscape that we were driving through, and just after lunch we had the best guided tour you can possibly imagine in the desert. The guy that took us around “Boesman” has lived in the desert all his life, so did his dad, so did his grandfather. He told us some truly incredible stories.
The worst thing that can happen in the desert is heavy rain. It kills all the living things in the desert. And unlike many think, there are many lives in the desert. The little five that we already mentioned for example. They all live under the sand, and they can breathe through the and because the sand is very very soft and even if someone walks on them they can easily sink in the sand and they are protected, but if it does rain, the sand gets hard, and they end up drowning in the sand.
Other fascinating stories were told about the bushmen that used to live in the Namib desert (very sad story), and about the story of the dunes of the desert.
Few more hours driving and we got to our lodge finally, covered in sand and dust, and destroyed by the long drive but satisfied after yet another glorious day.
At arrival there was the option to go on a “cat walk”… I said no thanks, since I am actually quite happy to be away from the London Fashion Week types. But it was actually a walk to see Cheetahs, Leopard and Caracal (Lynx?) that are kept in large enclosures near the lodge. Only Rob went.
ROB – I had mixed feelings as the cats were in captivity but they had been raised since birth or rescued and I couldn’t resist getting close to them. I walked around with the Lynx and the Cheetahs – and stroked a Cheetah which was purring. Unbelievable. One minute you relax and stroke them like house cats but then you remember they could rip your throat out in seconds. A bit like Mati.
Truly something I will never forget.
Early night since tomorrow is an early start!
We woke up at 5am, and were ready to go at 530. Ouch!
Luckily it was a short drive, only 150km today. We went straight away to dune 45 without breakfast. On the way we stopped for a quick panorama view at dune number 1 where they start counting them, and it was breathtaking and again different from any other landscape we saw. Namibia is so beautiful.
Dune 45 is one of the 60 dunes in the national park and it has been chosen as the best one to climb for the amazing views you get from the top (it’s 170 metres tall). The sand is very red, and so soft. It’s full of iron, which makes the sand rusty and red. It is fascinating if you stroke a magnet in the sand you get it back with a lot of black granules sand particles on it which is the iron.
The climb took about 20 minutes, with shortness of breath of course. We decided to climb it bare footed as Gerty said this is the real African way. It was only 730am when we started the climb and it was still very cold. But the sun was out and it quickly became warmer as we climbed up.
More than the tiredness, we had to keep stopping to try and take pictures to capture this amazing views of a Mars on earth. It’s hard to describe how beautiful it was and no photo will give it any of the credit it deserves.
We got down after one hour and a delicious breakfast with eggs and bacon was waiting for us made by Mama Gerty who always looks after us so well.
We then left on the way to Dead Vlei with a 4 by 4 since our truck can’t go on the sand as it is a 2 by 4. Dead Vlei is the most famous place in Namibia, any image of Namibia you see on magazines has it as a hero image. It was a water oasis in the middle of the desert, which gradually got surrounded by dunes and got dried up aroud 900 years ago. What is left now is a scenery that looks like a Salvador Dali painting. In between the red dunes, there is a “lake” shaped white rock, on which the skeleton of dead trees look like they are dancing. Another one that is difficult to represent with words, but definitely one of the highlights so far. Even if we say so every day, and then the next day something amazing comes up.
We got back and the walk was a bit of a mission in 35 degrees plus. But the dunes always get a bit of a breeze, and the heat is very dry which makes it more bearable. On the way back to the truck we had a quick stop at Sossus Vlei which is much smaller and still has some green and plants.
Lunch was served from the truck and we then made our way back. En route we stopped at the river canyon, a river that has completely dried up and you can walk down in what is now a canyon. Everyone was reluctant to leave the truck as we were all in the middle of our post-lunch naps. But once we got down there, nobody wanted to leave as it as so beatiful. Just when we though we already had a fantastic day, Namibia surprised us with more beauty.
After the walk in what felt like 40 degrees, although no complaints as it was worth every sweat, we stopped for ice cream and we got back to the lodge. Immediately pool time, and we invented a few games: TWAT and water netball. Very good fun, especially with a cool beer in the backdrop and antilopes munching grass next to our sun lounges. Then there was a game of football 3 versus 3, and finally a lovely dinner with barbecued snook fish (with the biggest bones I’ve ever seen).
It was such a good day it felt surreal, just like the Dali paintings, beautiful and inexplicable. Thankful for what we’ve got. Who needs wifi in Africa.
Early night again as we have 550km tomorrow, and the poor Tau needs to drive 450 of those on unpaved roads.