Etosha National Park

58[1]On Thursday we left ‘Germany’ and headed north east to Etosha National Game Park. Here we spent two nights camping-but it’s more like glamping. We sleep in a tent but there’s an outdoor kitchen and a shared bathroom for all of us. Literally jackals are everywhere and  they kept coming in to our camp. At one point I caught one almost on the dinner table. I pretended to shoot it with my fingers ‘bang bang’ and I got rid of it just in time. We are told that if we leave anything like shoes outside our tent they won’t be there in the morning. There are also black mamba snakes so we have to make sure our zipper to our tent is always closed. Fun times! 51[1]
After we set up our tent we went for our first pseudo safari. I say pseudo because we drove in the bus we have been traveling in. I definitely wasn’t expecting to see a pride of lions right by the gravel road eating it’s kill, but there they were! We were literally meters from the lions. They were beautiful! We got our safari toes wet and saw more wildlife like giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, oryx and zebra.  Our campground is particularly cool because there is a water hole with tons of benches and a viewing area. 48[1]Because there is very little in terms of a water source, the animals come here to drink. Before dinner I decided to take a shower but while I was in there I heard there was a rhino at the waterhole. I threw my clothes on in a hurry and ran to the hole. Indeed  there it was! The rhino is pretty elusive and rare to see and this guy definitely put on a real show. While the sun set behind him, we got amazing close up photo opps. I felt like crying because this just feels so surreal. But the tears were abruptly stopped when a massive flapping bug flew at my ear! I felt like Kramer! WhoA!!55[1]
Friday was a full day of game drive. We woke at 530 and were off to see all the animals. Nothing can compare to seeing these amazing creatures in their natural environment. The highlight was three cheetahs and all the lions. We saw 4 more lions, and they were all super close to our vehicle. At one point the big male lion growled at us and the sound just shook the ground. Before we wrapped it up for the day we came across three lions all cuddled up together. It was a lion orgy with two males and one female. Their legs were draped over one another and it was just so damn cute! 61[1]
There are a few different tribes in Namibia, but one that dress…or shall we say don’t dress in a traditional way are the Himba. The Himba Tribe are indigenous people with an estimated population of about 50 000 living in Northern Namibia and Southern Angola.  The ladies are topless and they cover themselves in a dark orange otjize paste. This is a mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment and is said to cleanse the skin over long periods and protect the people from extremely hot and dry climate, as well as mosquito bites.  It is quite a sight to see the Himba walk down the street among people dressed in western clothes. Only in Africa! 65[1]

Am I in Germany?

Our next stop was about a five hour drive to the town of Swakopmund. On the way we stopped at the thriving metropolis of Solitaire…which was just that! Namibia has no people. About 2.5 million in the entire country. 46[1]
Swakopmund is a cute town by the ocean. The Germans settled here years ago and all the architecture makes you believe you’re in a small German town. There’s an antique store which is fascinating. Some of the Namibian war medals had the swastika on them. Then there are also tons of tribal jewelry and weird animal artifacts.
Last night we celebrated a birthday of one of the lady’s who is in my group. The staff at the restaurant came out with a birthday cake and put on a real show with song after song like a traditional African choir. It was amazing!
I caused a Heather blunder last night. After thirty some years of taking a shower I have never had an issue, but last night I seemed to have flooded the entire bathroom. Water was about a half inch deep and this was from about a five minute shower. At about 11 at night I had the poor dude from the desk trying to mop up the room. The poor ‘Germanator’ was in her underwear hiding under the covers while this shy little guy was trying to clean up after yours truly. I asked to help, but clearly I’m more of a nuisance! 41[1]
This morning a few of us went up the coast with a local guide. This area is known as the Skeleton Coast. It has this name because there are only two small towns from here all the way up to Angola. As well, due to crazy weather patterns there is a wall of fog that makes it nearly impossible for ships to sail. The coastline is dotted with shipwrecks. It is a completely desolate area but super beautiful because the ocean meets the desert. The road we drove on looked like asphalt but it was actually salt. There are salt flats all around and at times the salt on the side of the road looked like snow drifts. 44[1]
We went to a place called Cape Cross where a sea lion colony of about 30 thousand live. From the distance the cape looked like black rocks, but as you got closer you could see all the little bodies moving around and sunning themselves. In December, the sea lions had their pups so there were so many cute little babies waddling around. Thousands were diving in the ocean and the barking back and forth from mother to baby which kept things entertaining. I could watch animals for hours. The smell was a bit intoxicating but other than that I was in heaven. There’s a bit of controversy in the area because locals still club the sea lions. Up the road you could buy oils and and purses! Yum!
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While a bunch of my group have gone sky diving I opted for an afternoon of strolling around town and chilling out. As I get older, my fear factor meter has definitely gone up and I am learning to say no to activities instead of jump at the opportunity like I have in the past. Grey hair and fear…what else will age bring me?
Tomorrow it’s back to the bush. We are heading to Etosha to camp for two nights among all the big animals of Africa. Safari here we come!

Camping in a Sauna!

tentPitching a tent in the middle of the Namibian desert is indescribable. As Stef my German roommate said ‘it would be much cooler to stand underneath a blow dryer’! That just about describes it perfectly!! There is NO such thing as sun bathing. It’s like you run for shade as fast as you can and when you get there you sweat like a mo fo! It’s unreal!
Our first night in the tent was…interesting. When we tried to fall asleep we just sprawled out in a starfish position (well as starfish as you can get with two people and two back packs in a smallish tent). It turned out to get cooler as the night went on and by 3 am I could actually cover myself. You could definitely hear either wildcats like cheetahs, leopards or lions carrying on in the distance. It is eerie, but also incredible to be surrounded by these sounds.  When we woke there were fresh hoof prints all around the tents.
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This morning it was a 530 rise. We had to get moving before the heat set in. We went to the massive sand dunes that are well known in pictures of Namibia. We climbed to to the top of Dune 45 which was about 170 metres. It was challenging because A. it’s sand. and B. I’m totally out of shape. After slugging it to the top the view was magnificent!  With the sun rising on the bright red dunes it just made the climb so worth it.30[1]
Our next stop was Death Valley. Here we walked deep into the desert and in the middle was this surface that looked like the moon’s crust with 800 year old dead trees dotted around. Again, this was a sight to be seen. But let me tell you…f*%# hot! I tried to pose for a photo opp by wrapping my legs around the base of the tree and holding on with my thighs. Let me warn you against this…I walked away with many slivers in my inner thighs. Not sure how I am going to get those puppies out?32[1]
Right now a few of us stopped in at a fancy ass lodge for a buffet and free wifi. I dread the walk back to the campsite but let me tell you, I will jump into the murky pool as soon as I get there. It will be like a mirage! The non chlorinated pool that you can’t see your body when you’re in it is simply the cats ass! At home you would never jump into water like this, but here…this is a no brainer!

Namibia Bound

Crossing the border into Namibia was like hitting a wall of heat. The temperature steadily rose as we drove north, however standing at passport control in plus 45 heat is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Namibia is a fairly new country as it only became independent from South Africa after the apartheid in 1990. It is the second least populated country in the world per square kilometer after Mongolia, and there is no question of this when we are driving because it feels like we are literally in the middle of nowhere. 23[1]
At times there are no roads. It is full on gravel and every so often there is a random sign. I have no idea how our driver Lukas knows what direction to travel in but we eventually got to our first stop called Orange River. It was a beautiful little resort in the middle of a table grape village. Basically the land in this village is owned by a Serbian. We were told that he then sublets the grape farms out to different companies to grow these grapes and those companies export them out to different countries. Locals come from all over Namibia to find work, and a village of about 16000 has now settled here.17[1] I went for a tour of the village and it was incredibly interesting to see how they live. First of all water is extremely difficult to come by. Some have to walk miles to get to the river. Others, depending on what grape company they work for will be delivered jugs of  water. No matter what the circumstance, it makes you feel guilty when just down the road we had running water to brush our teeth and here the people struggle every day to find a clean source of water.
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Yesterday was another day of travel. Every so often there will be bathroom stops, or lunch stops…but now there is something called a Heather Stop. I’ve been super unlucky with motion sickness and have had to stop out in the middle of small bushes, baron land and critters like snakes at 45 degree heat. I don’t know if it is the lack of paved roads that is causing me to be so sick,  but it’s now a running joke if we have to make a Heather Stop.
One of the proper stops we did was  at Fish River Canyon. This is Africa’s largest canyon. It’s about 27 km in width and 170 km long. It’s actually the oldest canyon in the world. We walked for about an hour on the edge of the canyon and the views were spectacular. After taking Gravol for nausea I had to be careful not to walk too close to the edge as I was basically half baked and could barely keep my eyes open! 24[1]
Then there was our stop at Seeheim. In the 50’s it was a booming rail town that was a stop to the diamond mines. There was a population of about 400 but now it is a ghost town of 23. All 23 residents work at the hotel we stayed at. The husband and wife duo run the show. She is a taxidermist and there’s no shortage of stuffed animals around the place. My favorite being an impala butt lamp-the light switch was in the anus!!!!  The husband made all the furniture , right down to the wooden toilet seat. This creepy castle looking hotel had something interesting around every corner, right down to a pet oryx (cross between a deer/horse with massive pointy horns). Now I wonder what the pet oryx things of his poor Aunt Sally hanging on the wall? 26[1]
Today we made our way to another area in the middle of the desert called Sossusvlei. On our way we saw zebra, springbok and oryx. Soooooo cool. What is not cool is setting up tent in blazing 45 degree heat. Yes. I said tent. We are camping for two nights. Prepare yourself for stories. I am most certain I will have some good ones for you!

And the One-man show has left the building

Some of you are new to my adventure escapades, while others have been around the block (or world) with me a few times and have shared in my travel blunders and highlights through my personal emails. Whether you are new or old, I hope that I can share a piece of the world with you and entertain you in some capacity.

 

Tomorrow I venture off on a 25 hour journey to the other side of the world. I will start off in Cape Town, South Africa where I will be on my own for the first 5 days. I am planning to meet up with a friend of a friend of a friend named Marlan, who has said he will show me around. I am looking so forward to seeing this city, as it seems like there is so much to do and experience. Next Wednesday I will meet up with a G Adventure Group. From there we will take off north up through Namibia, then Botswana and finally Zambia.

 

It is perfect timing that I leave, as I just was informed that I opened a major virus onto the University system. I am actually at work right now, trying to finish all loose ends when the IT team flew in and took my computer away from me.  Why not leave with a bang right?

So here I go … and I look forward to you joining me on this crazy adventure!
The G Adventures Tour that I will take – G Adventures Cape Town to Victoria Falls