A Tour of Southern Namibia
25 May 2004
(For a fresh perspective on Namibia and an account of the last two weeks of
our school holiday, we have enlisted Sera's dad, Nelson, as a guest columnist
for this e-mail.)
Stana and I have been touring Namibia for just over two weeks. The best way
to describe this place is a land of contrasting beauty. These very words are in
the country's national anthem. We have seen every type of geological formation
except for swamplands, every color of sand imaginable and a wide variety of
plants and animals. Namibia is totally different from anything we have ever
experienced, save for the landscapes of southern Colorado and New Mexico.
seven days we traveled on a 1,400-mile tour through southern Namibia in which we
camped and stayed in a "bush lodge" BRIEFLY during the nights, because
from before dawn until after sunset we were usually climbing sand dunes,
exploring canyons inside and out and touring the countryside in a 4X4 Land
Cruiser converted to carry 10 people. We traveled with Chantel and Lucky (our
two guides), a Californian, a British couple and a young lady from Germany. At
the end of seven days, we were happy to abandon this exhausting vagabond
lifestyle, but the safari was excellent in exposing us to many of the natural
things that make Namibia a special place.
Chantel and Lucky were marvelous at explaining how insects, plants and
animals have adapted to surviving in
the harsh conditions of the desert. Chantel, a young Namibian woman in her
mid-twenties, had no qualms about picking up desert bugs the size of large hair
curlers with poisonous spurs on their legs and describing to us how they obtain
water and survive. She also advised us to be aware of the plant life, most of
which have spiny thorns and are poisonous, and warned us not to fall into such a
plant. This experience opened our eyes to how very alive (and fragile) the
desert can be. These guides seemed proud to show off their beautiful country to
Back in Windhoek (capitol city in center of country) after our safari, we
rented an Opel Astre compact vehicle to embark on our own safari to the northern
part of the country, where Sera and Zac live. Gas is about $2.13 a gallon,
converting liters to gallons and Namibian dollars to US dollars. No one here
seems to be complaining.
The last two days were spent in Etosha National Park, an extremely large game
park in the north, near Sera and Zac's home and school. We spotted a male and
female lion almost as soon as we entered the park. They were napping in the
early morning sun less than 20 yards off the road. We saw giraffes and zebras
everywhere, as well as the bouncy-gaited springboks (small antelopes), oryxes
(larger antelopes), kudus (still larger antelopes), impalas, blue wildebeests,
warthogs, hyenas, jackals and elephants grazing, sleeping, watching us and
drinking at watering holes. An added extra was spotting two miniature Damara
dik-diks, a deer that stands only as high as the seat of a chair. Quite often we
sat in our rental car and watched the activity at watering holes for hours.
We stayed at a "resort" rest camp in the center of the park. These
resorts have tall electric fences to keep the toothy animals away from campers
and lodgers, as well do the infrequent restroom areas staged inside the park.
The park rules state that visitors must remain in their cars/safari vehicles at
all times because of some of the ferocious beasts in the park. The park is so
beautiful that we stayed inside its gates until the last possible minute of our
allotted stay, sunrise Sunday until sunset Monday. At 5 p.m., the gates closed
and we barely escaped by the skin of our teeth.
Temperatures have been in the 80s during the day and 50s at night. In
Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast during our southern tour, the temperature may
have dropped to 45 degrees. After all, it is "November" here. And as is typical of
autumn in Ohio, deciduous trees are changing to shades of yellows, browns and
russets. The wild grasses are golden and a good mix of colors are swathed in
bands and blotches across the savannahs like an artist's brush strokes and
School starts tomorrow and today the learners are arriving via taxi to study
here for the next term. This week we will be observing activities at Sera and
Zac's school, visiting some indigenous homesteads, and traveling to two towns in
the far north near the Angola border before we return our rental car in Windhoek
where we plan to fly for home on Saturday.
Driving through Namibia can be a challenge. Gas stations are positioned about
every 100 miles and in between there is nothing - no billboards, no Dairy Marts,
no 7-11s, no truck stops. Most safari vehicles carry two spares as the roadside
thorns are treacherous on tires. We changed a tire during our southern tour and
at one point we could hear air hissing out of a Land Rover "tyre," as
they call them here, at a resort parking lot.
Namibian landscape changes - sometime abruptly and sometimes subtly - about
every 20 miles. And for a photographer, there is a Kodak moment about every five
feet. I have shot about 400 frames so far, including some video of animals. Yes,
I even had to restrain myself to ration my camera memory chips. I am certain
there is not enough film in existence to capture the exquisite beauty of Africa.
When it comes time to leave this beautiful country, my imagination will still be
wandering among the sand dunes, savannahs and veldts of this extraordinary place
of magnificence and splendor.
Click for more photos of Sossusvlei
& Namib Desert | Fish River Canyon
& Diaz Point | Kolmanskop
& Klein Aus Mtns