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N A M I B I A  

13.01.2011, 8:20   ---   In the middle of nowhere

Plenty of landscape and very few people – that’s my first impression of Namibia . It reminds me a little bit of Australia with the only difference that not every tiny village has a pub. ;-)
Long time ago Namibia used to be a German colony, about 2% of the people speak German as their first language and we’re listening to a German radio channel with some German music. That’s strange somehow, but also quite nice after almost 4 months. :-)
It’s a very vast and little populated country, endless gravel roads leading through mountainous landscapes and deserts and you see way more antelopes than other cars. It’s quite hard work for our little Kia, but he’s doing really well! Apart from a puncture we didn’t have any problems so far and with a funny slim spare tyre we made our way to the Fish River Canyon , the 2nd largest canyon in the world (after the Grand Canyon in the USA ). Seriously jaw-dropping: As far as you can see just a flat landscape and then all of a sudden there’s this huge hole with all its gorges in the ground!
Next we were heading north, but at the next crossroads after about 100km our road was closed and we ended up in a shack village at the Orange River . During a break with cold drinks at a little bar we met some of the locals and they all seemed to be very proud that we came to see their country.
Later we had to take the detour of more than 200km towards our destination. On the map we already chose one of the bigger towns for an overnight stop and were quite surprised as we got there: It consisted of approximately 5 houses, one petrol station and a guesthouse!


20.01.2011, 20:45   ---   German

Through a big sand storm and past some wild desert horses we reached our next destination: Lüderitz – a little coastal town, squeezed between two deserts and unbelievably German! Beaches, streets and buildings have German names, many people speak German and the supermarket has heaps of German products on offer. It’s quite a strange feeling witnessing all these familiar things so far away from home! And the world, or at least Africa , is just so small… totally unexpected there was Florian, they guy I’ve been travelling the Garden Route with, in our hostel!
Only a few kilometres out of Lüderitz lies the ghost town of Kolmannskop. It was once a German diamond town until the people moved to richer diamond areas about 60 years ago. Ever since everything’s empty and the dunes of the desert are making their way through the buildings.
A less German, but rather very African experience was our visit of the Benguela Township . First I was a bit doubtful as in South Africa most of these areas are told to be anything than safe, but it seems to be totally different in Namibia . People are extremely nice and curious towards visitors, we spent the afternoon in a tiny bar and had a very good time. There’s only one little snag: It seems to me that every time there’s at least one guy seeing a German girl as his chance for a better and richer life and they don’t hesitate to beg you to take him with you.

From Lüderitz we drove on to the Namib Desert , the world’s oldest desert and full of huge red dunes (some of them higher than 300m!!). We already started at sunrise to enjoy the beautiful light and less heat. But the heat came up faster than expected and the hike to Sossusvlei and the climb of one of the dunes was not too much fun any more… but still overwhelming!! And some Gemsboks are even able to survive in this water scarce area.

For two days we’re in Windhoek now, the capital of Namibia . The city is pretty small and there’s not much to see, so we took the chance to do our laundry and finally free our car of all the dust and sand as good as possible. Also after a visit to the tourist information we had to realise that we might not be able to travel to all the places in Namibia that we actually planned to, due to road flooding during the wet season – especially with such a cute little car like our Kia. And the rain in Windhoek really is enormous! Massive showers and thunderstorms flood streets and tents, among others also my little bargain tent of course – welcome to the wet season! ;-)
But with some effort we still made it to a very recommended restaurant for dinner and soon we had half of the African animals on our plate: Ostrich, zebra, crocodile, kudu… yummy! :-)
Today we went to the National Museum of Namibia, which surprised us in quite a positive way and afterwards Ling and I spent the afternoon in a tiny local hairdressers hut to get braids. Just a minute ago I bought a tent from two other travellers and now I’m prepared for Namibia ’s rainy north.


25.01.2011, 9:45   ---   Did we miss anything?

Swakomund is supposed to be a MUST-visit for every backpacker, especially for Germans looking for a place to feel a bit at home. We didn’t wanna miss that, so we hit the coast! But it was a bit disappointing though… The Hostel was quite empty in the beginning, so no party-like atmosphere, there was not much to see on the coast apart from hundreds of flamingos and the town was by far not as German as Lüderitz, actually not German at all. So just a town like any other… or did we miss anything?? But at least we stay at a hostel with wi-fi and delicious breakfast, which we used and enjoyed a lot! :-)
Again we visited a township, because it’s just so cool how nice and friendly the people are. Of course they stare at white people first, but everybody curiously waves to you and is really helpful.
Yesterday we spent the day at the Welwitschia Plains. It was actually not very exciting, apart from the Welwitschia Plant. That’s one of the rarest plants in the world and the oldest one in this area is about 1500 years old, very impressive!!
Yesterday I was looking for some German food in town and tadaaa… I found a little pedestrian area which was as German as it could be! Old German architecture, a Brauhaus, German Bookshop, German hairdresser… so we indeed missed something! I granted myself a Bratwurst (which was alright) and an Apfelstrudel (which was even better!!) and was totally happy! :-) That will have to last for a while now and in a few minutes we’re leaving towards the north.


27.01.2011, 20:45   ---   Off to new adventures  

After quite a boring week in the towns it was finally time to leave and explore the country again and after only a short time on the Namibian roads our recently cleaned Kia was already perfectly camouflaged in dusty grey again.
We passed the mountains of Spitzkoppe, which rise above the flat landscape and for the first time we saw some vultures circling around high above us, huuuuge birds! And much much smaller, but way prettier: Two hornbills, the Zazu from “The lion king”! ;-) By now we’ve seen all the animals of this fantastic movie in the wilderness – apart from the lions…
We moved on north-wards through picturesque landscapes and seemingly endless wild plains where some elephant-warning signs made us hope to see some of these giants! They can’t have been far – there was loads of dung on the streets (not too difficult to identify by its size) and we could literally smell them… but sadly we didn’t see any.

In an not completely voluntary off-road-test of our little Kia we failed in the deep sand of a dry riverbed and got stuck. As we noticed later, we accidently took a road that was not even shown on our map, but that didn’t help anymore in that moment. The only way to get out of there was digging, collecting wood, building a solid track, pushing, driving, digging, building a solid track, pushing… We got in there with a decent speed, accordingly we had to work our way back for quite a distance. 1,5 hours later we had gained a few more experiences and our car was finally back on solid ground.
By that time it was almost sunset already and there was no chance to make it to the next village. So we had to camp wild and hoped the elephants would stay away instead of accidentally stepping over our tents – so quickly one changes his mind. ;-)

Happy and alive we moved on the next morning through the beautiful landscape, past hundreds of eagles, heaps of antelopes and some ostriches. Frequently free roaming cattle and donkeys from some lonely farms crossed the street and shepherds were walking around with their herds of sheep or goats.
In Twyfelfontein we visited the World Heritage site of the rock engravings. They are from the nomadic tribe of the San (also known as Bushmen) and are 2000-6000 years old, so interesting!
And not far from there is a petrified forest. It looks like someone just fell plenty of trees and left the trunks behind, but it’s no wood, it’s stone. So cool!

By now we arrived in the “real” Africa , inhabited by only black people, heaps of kids everywhere, simple way of life, few civilisation and women in colourful traditional dresses which we only knew from the museum so far. Unfortunately this also comes with a high risk of Malaria and we’re already fully under the influence of the Malaria-prophylaxis-drugs. First I decided not to take any medication as very often the side effects are extreme and its still no 100% protection, but especially in the wet season the risk is way higher and EVERYBODY recommended me to do the prophylaxis… luckily I didn’t have any side effects yet. Fingers crossed that it stays like this!

Last night we camped in a tiny village and that was very interesting. It seems not many white people get there. The locals are very curious, everybody looks at us, but at the same time they are extremely shy and don’t dare to talk to us. It took quite a while to break the ice.
And now we’re in Opuwo, a little town that stands out by the contrasts of the different tribes – red-skinned half-naked Himbas next to Herero women with their huge colourful dresses, among them casual dressed young people and also bare-breasted and colourful decorated women from an Angolan tribe .


01.02.2011, 10:30   ---   Far north 

The Himbas are, along with the San/Bushmen, one of the only two tribes in Namibia , which nowadays still live their traditions like hundreds of years ago. Together with a Himba woman from Opuwo as a translator we visited one of the villages and were rather disappointed… Indeed they still live their traditions and customs, but you easily recognise the traces of tourism. So when we got there they instantly approached us and penetrated us to buy their crafts – not really part of their culture. But after a while they apparently understood that we actually came to learn about them and their life and in the end it was a nice afternoon.

Obviously the guy from the tourist information in Windhoek, who told us we won’t be able to travel the north with our small car, didn’t have a clue what he’s talking about (as we were already driving around that area with no problems) and so we decided to check out the road conditions towards Epupa Falls at the border to Angola as well. No problems at all, we found a nice campground right next to the river and along with our new buddy on four legs (a dog from the campground who kept chasing us after we petted him briefly) we hiked to these beautiful waterfalls in a lush, green landscape. Absolutely awesome and well worth the drive of about 200km!!

For two days now we’re in Oshakati and live with Clinton and Louis, two Africans we found on Couchsurfing. That’s an online network where people offer each other a place to stay for a couple of nights, really cool!
Yesterday we checked out the area. The landscape is very green and some of the donkeys and cows along the road are standing in belly-deep water – hard to imagine that only a week ago we were in the desert! So we went to a special Baobab Tree, a huge tree with a hollow trunk that is used as a little church and after that we continued to the Angolan border again to see the Ruacana Falls . Very different to Epupa Falls , but also very cool. Last night we had a Farewell-Braai for Louis, who’s gonna move to Windhoek tomorrow. Along with some other people we had a really good and relaxed little party. So today we just slept in and won’t do much apart from relaxing, so tomorrow we’re ready to leave for Etosha National Park – maybe we’ll be lucky with the lions this time. ;-)


04.02.2011, 22:20   ---   Close Encounters

WOW!!! We spent 3 days in Etosha National Park and it was stunning! In general, the rainy season is quite bad for game viewing. There’s water all over the area, so the herds don’t need to come to the few waterholes, but spread all over the place and the bushes are big and green which makes it difficult to see anything… but once again we were very lucky!!

The first day started pretty good with uncountable zebras, springboks, impalas, gemsboks, wildebeests, birds… heaps of giraffes, warthogs, a vulture… and even a cheetah with her cup, very close! Just amazing!!
And suddenly we noticed the fat grey bum of a rhino between the bushes right next to the road! Carefully and slowly we tried to drive closer, but unfortunately it disappeared quickly. But we didn’t have to wait for long to find the next rhino. It stood only 10m away from our car in the bush and stared at us curiously. The horns were huge, but apart from that it didn’t seem to be very big… but as we moved the car a little bit to get a view from a better angle the fun was suddenly over. Head down, horns ahead, charging and straight towards our car!! I gotta say it was indeed very big when it was not hiding in the bush anymore and in that moment it seriously scared the shit out of us!! Like freezed we sat in our seats, there was a big crash and the little Kia shook a lot, dust falling out of the doors – I really thought there will be a horn crashing through the door any second! It took us a moment to realise what just happened and the only thing to do then was starting the engine and getting away from there quickly! At the next camp we inspected the damage – a big bump and a little hole in the back door – and realised that we had a lot of luck. This massive bastard could have easily turned over the entire car! And with this story we were the big attraction at the whole camp of course. :-D

Next morning we left right on time at sunrise and were a bit disappointed… almost no animals to see, not even the elsewhere frequently seen zebras and antelopes. But then the big surprise: Lions!! Two cups, two lionesses and a half-grown-up (probably a cup from last year) were sitting in the high grass only a few meters away from the road and stared at us. Soooo cool… The lionesses were very big and the two little ones just cute!!! As they disappeared into the bushes after a while we continued and it didn’t take long – a lion again! This time a huge male right next to the road – Wow! On eye-level in a little car like ours they seem even much bigger and more dangerous than in a zoo behind strong iron bars! ;-) Until we stopped the car and reversed to the lion he already hid in a bush, but another one was coming. First it looked like a female, but it was huge with a huge head and the first long mane hairs along the neck – must have been a young male. This one also went into the same bush right next to the street where the other one was chilling already. Very very slowly we drove past this bush to have a careful look inside and I really can’t describe how scary and heart-pounding it is to know, that there are two huge lions in the bush only one meter away from you!! Our luck for the day was not over yet and in total we saw the incredible number of eleven lions, among them two cups, three grown-up males, one of them roaring several times and it was seriously breathtaking!! That might also explain why zebra & co. mostly avoided this area and so it was almost a pure lion-day. And now I can tick the last box of the “Big 5”-sightings (elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino, lion), just as the last characters of “The lion king”. ;-)

These two exciting days were impossible to beat on the third day of course, but with some giraffes, three (luckily peaceful) rhinos, warthogs, eagles and again plenty of zebras and antelopes there was still nothing to complain about. :-)


10.02.2011, 14:15   ---   Last days in Namibia

After those exciting days in Etosha we continued to Outjo, before heading back north again and our hostel was so good and the owners so nice that we decided to stay one more day. By chance there was a big motorbike ralley in town, but unfortunately it couldn’t take place due to heavy rains. But at least some motorbike stuntmen didn’t bother and in the evening we had an incredibly good Namibian dinner with the hostel owners.
Next day we drove to Waterberg Plateau, where we hiked a little bit following the traces of quite a big cat (probably a leopard), but couldn’t find it.
After a short stop at the Hoba Meteorite, the world’s biggest meteorite, we drove on. The rain was enormous, the roads partly flooded and very slippery and finally we stood in front of a river, the bridge flooded away. There’s obviously nothing else to do than turning back and taking the long detour…

One day late we arrived in Mbambi, a tiny village in the very north of Namibia , where we camped at Sam’s place. He’s an American volunteer teaching English and Biology at the school. The village is far away from any civilisation and consists of simple mud shacks spread out in the bush, only few places with power, no running water – but cell phone reception! Sam lives in one of the best houses, but still without running water and the toilet is the bush. Extremely impressive was the local’s hospitality! Right on our first day all the teachers and even the principal came to welcome us and they invited us to visit the school the next day. Also there we we’re welcomed extremely nice, the entire school sang a song for us and then we visited Sam’s English lesson. First the students were quite shy, but after a while they had loads of questions about us and our homes, which we were happy to answer.
In the evening we were invited for Dinner by Sam’s host family. They are also so super nice and welcoming and prepared traditional food for us – very simple and filling. These 2 days were an incredible experience and I will not miss it even without a shower!

Yesterday we crossed the Caprivi Strip towards our last night in Namibia and on our way to the camp we enjoyed getting stuck again one last time. This time not in dry sand, but in deep, slippery mud – brilliant! Apparently the Camp was out of reach for us and so we decided shortly to cross the border to Botswana straight-away. We were pretty short on time, so we quickly proceeded through the Namibian departure formalities and right on closing time we arrived at the border post in Botswana . :-) Accordingly everything was done in a matter of minutes and only a few metres further we were welcomed by some animals again – a family of elephants right next to the street!! So cool!! But it got even better: Another few kilometres further was a big group of hunting dogs, an endangered African species of wild dogs. There were about 20-30 of them and they circled around a single sable antelope – stunning! Too bad they didn’t attack while we were there and unfortunately we had to continue as it was getting dark already…

   

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