Today we leave the luxury of glamping and head back to our tents in a quaint camp site in Ghanzi, Botswana.
We have about 8 hours on the road today, including the time spent going through the Namibia/Botswana border. This border crossing went quite seamless!
We arrived at camp late in the afternoon, sweaty and tired from a long hot day on the Lando. We set up camp and had a bit of time to relax before we went out on a walk with bushman. Some of the tribes here in Africa are trying to preserve their culture, and so elder members of the tribe bring out some of the younger members, and teach them their past, traditions and culture. The stay at these villages for a couple months at a time, to learn. The bushman were traditionally dressed, and with a translator, showed us some of the plants and roots they would use for medicinal purposes. They also carried an ostrich egg in which they use for water. We also were shown how they make fire in the bush. Because of the lack of rain, they were limited in what they could show us from the land.
While walking, they pointed out the “happy holes”, these are holes that look like they are smiling and belong to the Scorpion. Thankfully, if you get stung by one of these, it shouldn’t kill you, but would be very painful, so my goal is to not have that happen.
We came back to camp, had a traditional dinner of maze porridge with sausage and a tomato salsa sauce, which I ate all three, and then went to sit around the camp fire, again with the bushmen, as they performed traditional songs and dances for us. At the end, we even got up to participate! These people are small in stature, but they are very strong, and the dances the men do are very leg intensive, it was quite the workout!
The day has been really hot today, and typically we have had some relief from the heat at the end of the day, but it doesn’t seem to be the case tonight, I think we will have a hot night ahead of us!
Tomorrow we are off to Maun, the tourist capital of Botswana.
Today we leave Etosha to head to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. It is bitter sweet, as we will be losing three of our travelers here but also gaining three. We have our last morning to enjoy the waterhole before packing up and heading out.
Today is a decent drive day, so we are all ready to be out of the Lando when we finally arrive in Windhoek. We are staying at a campsite with permanent tents, and it is luxury!! It is like glamping, with beds and real pillows, floors and electricity in the tent. There is also wifi and a bar area which after being offline for a while, we all take full advantage of! African wifi leaves a lot to be desired, but I made a couple connections and was able to work a little on pictures and the blog to stay up to date.
These days in civilization are a nice break to have every now and again, and everything felt like luxury!
Today we putt around the campsite, spending our last day with some of the new friends we made before meeting the new people and all going out to dinner together. The three new people came together as a group and are all very nice. I had the opportunity to eat dinner with them at my table and get to know them a bit better!
I went with a normal steak dinner with baked potato and garlic butter and it was delicious! Best part is not having to clean up after!
Tomorrow we say our final goodbyes to the group that are leaving and have a long drive day to cross over into Botswana.
First morning game drive, and we are out in the park by 6:30am. It is already quite hot, but we are excited to see what we will see. Today we are hoping to see some of the Big Five. I saw the Rhino last night, so that is one, but we are hoping to Elephant, Lion, Water Buffalo and Leopard.
We had some success this morning as we saw our second of the Big Five, the Elephant! It is absolutely amazing to see these animals in person out in the wild. We also saw Hyena, Wildebeest, a silverback Jackal (which apparently is quite rare), Kori Bustard, a huge millipede as well as some of the usual creatures.
We arrived back at camp mid morning for brunch and a bit of a rest, and to try to escape the African heat. While we were back, Elephant came to the waterhole, which was so incredible!! I also captured a Rhino at the waterhole!
Unfortunately we had some North American safari tourist at the water hole this afternoon. Outfitted in all the same safari gear and the inability to read any of the signs around the waterhole. Waterhole etiquette is to be very quiet and to never feed any of the wild animals. These tourist brought down a paper bag lunch, and was speaking to each other regularly, rustling around in their sack and feeding the birds from their lunch. Mind you they were sitting in FRONT of the “Silence Please” sign. I kindly told them not to feed the birds, as their were signs everywhere to not feed ANY of the animals. I have some good impressions of these people, you will just have to ask!
We did another game drive mid-afternoon and we saw elephant again and we finally saw Lion, 4 females actually, lazily lying under the bush. It was pretty amazing! This would make number 3 of the Big Five.
Dinner tonight was a Springbok potjie with rice, it was like a stew with vegetables and meat, a cold cabbage salad with raisins and cheesy garlic bread. I didn’t end up eating any of the Springbok as I just didn’t get any on my plate but the rest was really good.
We were down at the waterhole at sunset, and I managed to capture some fantastic pictures of some Elephants with the colors of the sunset behind! It is so easy to capture beautiful pictures here with all the beauty all around!
It was a hot night and hot in the tents, but we survived. Early morning waterhole trip had about 9 giraffe and 2 huge Rhino! I am going to miss being able to just head down to the waterhole and just watch the animals.
Tomorrow we leave Etosha and head to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, where we spend our last day with some travelers and pick up some new ones!
And we are off to Etosha National Park! The group is in high spirits to do some game drives and check out the waterhole at camp! We will be definitely seeing some wild animals in the next upcoming days!
On our way, we stopped in a small town to grab lunch along the journey. It was here that I got news about the presidential election, and fell into complete shock. I am not going to say much about it, but it was a surreal feeling getting the results in, and it was a bit odd being so far away from home at a moment like this. Unfortunately, it put a bit of a cloud over the morning, but once getting to the park, I put the news behind me to enjoy all that is Africa.
We arrived at Etosha mid afternoon, and after setting up camp, we took a quick peek at the waterhole to see if there were any animals, which there were Zebra. Then we headed to the pool, human waterhole, to cool off ourselves. At the park there were campsites, where we stayed, but also cabins, and villas that were overlooking the waterhole. There was also 3 pools, a restaurant and a shop… not exactly roughing it, as I had pictured it would be. Not all the campsites we stay at are this equip, but I must say the property is much more luxury than I have ever imagined.
We headed out for a game drive in the Lando. I know I have said this already, but I really appreciate the zoom lens now on the camera, as well as having my binoculars! Here we spotted Zebra, Springbok, Jackal, and Giraffe. We also found Rhino footprints, but not that Rhino that went with them. It was nice to finally be on a game drive, but it was hot. We returned back and went back down to the waterhole. A group of buffalo were in the distance and looked like they were going to come in until we ended up getting a sand storm come through, followed by a rain and lightning storm. Out of pure luck, I managed to capture lightning on my camera! It was absolutely amazing!!
The rain continued on, although nothing that really gets you that wet, and the lightning was absolutely amazing! It made for some amazing colors in the sky!
Dinner tonight was what I expected to eat in Africa most nights, curry chicken and rice. It was quite good. After dinner we went back to the waterhole where we watched a herd of giraffes slowly make their way to the water. It was quite majestic but also quite eery watching them emerge slowly, one by one from the darkness, first in shadow, then in form. There was no rush with them, and after about 20 minutes all 10 of them were at the water. While I was filming this, a Rhino and her baby came down to the water. This was the first time we spotted Rhino, and it was quite exciting! I have video, but nothing I am able to upload onto the blog.
Because the waterhole is illuminated by lights, and the insects are attracted to the lights, the birds and bats take full advantage. I think it was one of my favorite things to watch as both the birds and bats were feeding off the insects with such precision. It really is quite a site!
The one positive at waking up in the middle of the night at a camp site like this one, is that when you are already out of bed, it is quite easy to just pop down to the waterhole to see what you see. This night (or rather early morning) there were three more Rhino, except at this hour they were on the side of the water closest to me. You really get to appreciate their size the closer they get to you!
Tomorrow is a full day of game drives and our last night in Etosha. I cannot wait to head out in the morning to see what animals we can find!
Today we left one camp to head to the next. After setup and lunch, we headed to the Damara Living Museum. Here we learned about the Darama people, both past and present. They set up the museum as what a small village would look like, with the chief’s hut in the middle and the placement of the his wife’s huts, up to 10 I believe. We went to the healer’s hut, and learned about the plants and roots they use for medicinal properties. They did have the stick that they use for teeth brushing. Here, all the females of the group were decorated with a traditional red okra, which is used for beauty as well as to protect the skin from the sun.
The next hut, was the woman’s hut where they would use ostrich eggs and different seeds to make jewelry and other craft items. We then watched the men of the tribe make fire, with the traditional sticks, dried donkey dung, and straw.
Finally, all the members of the tribe came together to do traditional songs and dancing.
Next up, we drove to a National Park to go on a bush walk to look at rock carvings done by the bushman. It was a really hot walk, but very interesting, with the different animals and symbols.
We arrived back at camp, and I had an interesting shower, which was amazing for the fact that it was the first one in two days!
For dinner, we had pasta bolognese, made with Oryx and Kudu, as well as lentil bolognese, which together was quite delicious. I do think that part of the reason I have been enjoying so much food, is that by the end of the day, we are just so hungry.
At this campsite, we were along the river bend and had hopes to see elephant passing through, although no such luck. I did see an amazing night sky as I typically have to wake up to use the facilities in the middle of the night. This night, I scared the crap out of myself with my own shadow as I got up to leave the tent. I actually had to shine the light out of the tent, just to realize it was just me that was making the shadow!
Tomorrow we are off to see the animals at Etosha National Park, where we will spend two nights. The excitement is building and I just cannot wait!
Today we leave the comforts of civilization and head back into the desert. Before we do, we have a couple hours to spend in town, while our leaders do some food shopping and Lando maintenance. Swakopmund has a large German influence, so we stopped into the German bakery for some German brown bread and pastries.
Being Monday morning, the town was alive and we were able to pop into all the different shops in the area. I bought myself a scarf to aid in keeping me cool in the African heat. If you wet the scarf and drape it over yourself, it helps cool you down and protects you a bit from the sun. I also bought some postcards. We will see if they make it home before I do!
A couple of us also stopped at a cafe for lunch, which was very good and cake! It was nice to have this free time before we hopped back on the Lando for the drive to our next spot, Spitzkoppe.
Spitzkoppe is a group of ancient granite peaks rising from the flat plains of Namib Desert. The views are absolutely incredible! This will be our first of two camps where we will really be roughing it with the bathroom situation. There is a long drop toilet (aka a hole in the ground with a toilet seat) and no running water. However, this place was worth it. We spent our time climbing up the rocks, which almost had a grip on them to aid in the ascent, which was still a bit tricky as it was a bit steep. Watching the African sunset on top, was quite a treat as well. It was just a really nice and relaxing day.
For dinner we had a fish brie, a roasted squash with cheese and sweet corn roasted inside as well as roasted potatoes. For an appetizer, we had liver wrapped in fat, grilled until crispy. It has a name, although I am unsure how it is spelled. It should be noted that I tried everything, and fish is still a hard pass, although I did try two bites! I ate the liver, and it was okay, although a little chewy so that was hard, as it took a bit longer than I would have liked to get down. We also roasted s’mores over the fire that night, which were a great end to the day!
Tomorrow we head to Damaraland and visit a living museum of the Damara People, as well as doing a desert walk to look at bushman rock carvings!
Sunday morning in the town of Swakopmund, and the town is dead. I was awake early, so I set off with another member of my group in search of breakfast. We ended up walking around for the better part of an hour, although we made it down to the ocean and walked along the pier. The Atlantic Ocean looked very much the same as it does at home, but the waves were huge and powerful.
We landed on a chain restaurant, as it really was the only one that was open. I would say breakfast was sub-par, but it was hot and it was eggs and bacon so I will not complain. I had intended on only being gone an hour, but was out for nearly two between the walk and the rate of service at breakfast.
After arriving back, I went with other members of my group on the township tour. The townships are where the tribal people live. There is a lot of history in this town, and oppression, and we were given a lot of that information. We visited three different people from three different tribes. The township and accommodations differ from tribe to tribe. We stopped at an open market to see some of the traditional food the tribes prepare with the millet, sorghum, beans, spinach and I believe it is called the makalani palm nut. It was a dry fruit, and we all had a taste. It reminded me of raisin bran cereal a bit, in both the texture and taste. Apparently elephants love this fruit, and people use the “ivory” pit to carve into.
The first township stop, we met a girl from the Herero tribe, recognized by their Victorian dress and head wear that resembles cow horns, as status ranking is based on cattle owned. We were welcomed into her home and learned about the traditional dress and the customs of her people. Some of her tribe lives in the township, to get jobs as well as an education, while the rest of the tribe lives in rural parts of the north.
The second township stop was a kindergarten in the Ovambo tribe. This is the tribe that our guide belong to as well, which is the largest tribe. We met the teacher who runs the kindergarten for the 6 year old children, before they attend public schools at 7 years old. It is amazing how much she does with so little. She runs it without government funding for the benefit of the children in here community.
The third township stop was with a woman in the Damara tribe, who speaks with clicks. It is quite fascinating listening to her speak and we learned the sound of each of the 4 clicks and did a bit of a sing along with her.
Our last stop was at a restaurant, where they prepared some traditional food for us to taste, which included the spinach, the beans that were made into a porridge, meat and a worm like caterpillar. I ate all but the worm, I am not there yet! The meat was my favorite! We were treated to music performed by an a cappella group from one of the tribes. They even did one of the songs from the Lion King.
We arrived back from the township tour, and I had a bit of time to find some lunch before quad biking. There was a group of 4 of us that went out on the quads together. It was a lot of fun! I managed to capture some video, but it doesn’t do the experience any justice. It is hard to see the height of the dunes, but the landscape and sky is really pretty. We were able to go around the dunes and go up and down some of the sides of them. There was one time that I nearly launched myself over my quad, but thankfully I made it back in one piece. We also were given the opportunity to go sand surfing, which was more like sledding. You lay down on your stomach on a board and slide down the side of a dune. It was a lot of fun until you had to walk back up the dunes. After two times down, I was all set walking back up, so I am glad I did the quad bikes over that activity!
At night we did another group dinner at a pizza place, which was again nice to have some regular food!
Tomorrow we are headed to Spitzkoppe. Our camp is in ancient granite peaks, and this will be our first camp without showers and with long drop toilets! I heard the views are amazing and so are the night skies, so I am very much looking forward to it!
Apparently it does rain in the desert! After what probably was my best night sleep, I was woken up to raindrops falling around 5:45 am. We had this happen the other morning, and it lasted just long enough for me to crawl out of bed to shut the tent windows. Unfortunately this was not the case this morning, so I ended up getting up to make sure all my stuff did not get wet in the rain, along with everyone else who slept without a tent. It is not like the rain at home, it was very light with very scattered raindrops. It was also quite odd going from over 100 degrees yesterday to the high 50’s low 60’s today. From sweating like crazy to all wearing hoodies!
We started coffee, and had a bit of an early, but lazy morning. Some of the zebra were still close enough that I could see them while I drank coffee running out in the desert. It really is amazing to wake up to nature in this way.
Today we are driving to the town of Swakopmund. Along the way we saw some more wild Ostrich, baboons, flamingos and when we stopped for lunch we also saw some dolphins swimming in the ocean. We also crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.
We also made a stop where the landscape looked prehistoric with the rock formations. It was very cool.
We arrived back in civilization, to a town with roads and cars and people in the afternoon. I took advantage of this free time to write and connect with everyone as there was wifi at the dorms we were staying at. It was nice to have a down day after such a busy previous day.
For dinner we went to a place called Kucki’s Pub, which was really delicious! I decided to opt for the steak and potatoes, as I have been very good at eating outside my comfort level all week. I did however try a bite of the Springbok steak of one of my other travelers and it was very good.
Tomorrow we are doing some activities. I am doing the township tour as well as quad biking in the afternoon. I cannot wait!
We start the day 7 before sunrise. We need to grab a quick coffee, pack up and head out to the Dunes. Our first stop is Dune 45, which is about 45 kilometers from the park gate. We get there early when the sand is still cool, which made it easier to climb. The dunes are quite a site. They appear red from all of the iron mixed in with the sand. Dune 45 is not the highest dune, but it is quite a hike none the less. Because the sand is cool, we hike up barefoot. While we hike, brunch is being prepared for us back at the Lando for when we get back.
I went up with a small group, and tried to enjoy the climb, as it was a bit strenuous, as well as the scenery. It was so calming and relaxing once you arrived to the top and just sat. We spent the better part of 30 minutes doing just this.
The climb down was a lot more enjoyable, as we slid and jumped down the side down to the bottom. The sand was so soft and made a squeak when bounding down.
We all gathered at the bottom for a brunch of eggs with onions and peppers, corn fritters that were a bit like pancakes and went well with syrup (and cheese apparently, although I passed on the cheese), bread and bacon. It was so delicious and hit the spot!
Next we drove to Deadvlei where most of us opted for a desert walk to where the water once was and now all that is left is clay pan and dead Camel Thorn Trees. We were taken in 4×4 vehicles further into the desert, which was an experience in itself, and left to complete a 1 kilometer walk in. The sand was so hot you could feel it through your shoes, and the sun was beaming down, it was quite challenging. Plus, it was mostly uphill the whole way in. When you could finally see Deadvlei it made it worth the trek, but you almost didn’t want to walk down into it, as you know you would have to walk back out. Thankfully i brought plenty of water and was slathered in sunscreen. I was also in pants and a ¾ length shirt, which helped a lot to protect me from the sun.
After taking plenty of photos, we started the trek out, which was just as difficult as they way in. It really makes you appreciate the severity of the desert. There is no escape from the heat or the sun, and you must just trek on. By the time we made it out, we were so hot and sweaty and dirty and thankful for the shade of the 4×4 vehicle and some trees.
Back to the Lando, and onto the next stop which is Sesriem canyon. Despite being still hot and tired, we treked into the canyon, although I did not make it in that far. There were parts of the canyon that had cut-out spots that I enjoyed climbing into and enjoying the shade the rock provided, while admiring the view around.
Our final stop before camp was a bakery that is in the Namib Desert, that was made famous by Ewin McGregor who stopped at it in his show The Long Way Down. He raved about the apple pie, and we were lucky enough to be able to get some for ourselves. It was quite good, still warm from the oven, filled with fresh apples and a light crust. I would say it was worth the stop.
With temps reaching over 100 degrees, we were stuck with African Aircon, so by the time we reached camp, just before 5pm, we were ready to be out of the Lando. We were all hot, sweaty, dirty and in need of some personal space.
At this camp, we were able to sleep out under the stars without a tent, which my tent mate and I decided to do. I’d be lying if part of that decision was just to avoid tent set up and break down for one day.
The last activity of the day was a desert walk with Frans. He is from Namibia, and walked 80 kilometers through the desert to the ocean in 7 days, living off the land. This was definitely a highlight of the day. He took us in a 4×4 vehicle onto the desert farm. The first thing he showed us was a plant that looks dead, but when presented with water, the buds open up. Once it opens, if it continued to get water the seeds would pop out. He told us about himself and how he came to the land and how and why the farm originated. He also found a lizard, which he caught and told us, it would be acceptable to eat.
We drove some more and saw some wild mountain zebra and onyx along the way. The next stop he talked about the other animals that live in the desert. The beetle that gets it’s water from the morning dew, the spiders that eat the beetle, the lizard that eats the spider, the snake that eats the lizard and the birds that eat the snake. All part of the circle of life in the desert. He then showed us a spider’s nest that is buried under the sand, and the trap door at the top. He dug out the spider and passed it around. I did very well with this exercise, despite the size of the spider, although I did not hold it.
We walked a bit further, and he explained the sand dunes in the desert. How they grow each year, but never become higher than 300 to 400 kilometers, because past that point the winds are too strong. He told us how he survived in the desert, and how the dunes are blocking the water from the river. It would be hard to explain on here, but I would be happy to explain it! He also explains how the wind would let you know if there was rain coming, and how they change in the seasons which then changes the direction of the tops of the dunes.
The last stop was to see an AMAZING African sunset. We learned more about Frans, as well as the people of the land. It was incredibly fascinating, and I learned some great information!
The camp we are staying at, has a small watering hole that can be viewed by the guest. When we arrived back, the mountain zebra were already there to drink water. We were able to watch them for a bit before dinner, and they are a funny bunch. They are not used to humans, so any noise made them run away, and it would take them a moment to come back. Even if we were silent, a noise (or fart from one of their own) could scare them off again.
Dinner was burgers with tomato sauce, beet root, pickles and grilled onions. I was so famished, I ate so much, but it was so delicious!
I went back to the watering hole after dinner for another 15-20 minutes. I could probably sit there for hours watching all the animals. There was one animal that tried to come in from the left in the shadows. We think it may have been a hyena, although we can not be sure. The Zebra’s tried to charge it off, and then one stood and made sure it did not come through. While I was there, there was a changeover and some of the Onyx came into drink. Today, I really feel like I am in Africa, and it is awesome!
Tonight I sleep on my mattress, in my sleeping bag and mosquito net under the stars, and I bet it will be exceptional!
Today is a decent driving day, although we started the day spotting wild mountain Zebra, Ostrich, Springbok, Onyx, and a couple baboons. It was really cool to finally see wild animals.
Lunch we found a shady tree by the side of the road and ate a pasta salad, which I was hesitant about but it was really good. I have to give myself a lot of credit for just eating what is being put in front of me. At the tree, there was a Weaver Bird nest, that are massive and house about 30 pairs of birds in the intricate nest.
We arrived at camp in the late afternoon, and for the first time since being in Namibia, we had access to Wifi at the camp shop. Driving through the desert can be quite hot, and with a lot of the drive with just African Aircon (windows), I went to the pool shortly after setting up our tent. This pool was really pretty, but pretty random just in the middle of the desert. It reminded me of a date on The Bacheor, when there is a random pool in the middle of nowhere. It was quite refreshing after a long day in the Lando.
I took advantage of the Wifi and was able to connect with the outside world for a little bit, which was really nice to just check in. I must say, I really don’t mind being off the grid. It really makes you appreciate when you can finally connect.
For dinner we did a traditional South African Brie over the fire, which is like a BBQ. We had lamb chops (the only thing I did not eat), beef sausage, roasted butternut with cinnamon, corn and garlic bread. It was actually really good. Despite not eating most of those things at home, I cleaned my plate!
Tomorrow we have a really busy day, and I cannot wait. We start at 5:45am!