|Well it has been a wonderful four weeks that we have had in Namibia, certainly a very different experience to what we were expecting. Unfortunately we arrived in heavy rains. The highest rainfall the country has had in the last 10 years, which made for a soggy start. We started off in the capital Windhoek and we were surprised at how developed it was. There is a strong German influence there and it's like being in a European city, quite a shock in comparison to Ghana. We stayed at a friendly hostel called Cardboard Box Backpackers which served as a great base while we sorted ourselves out for the coming weeks. Windhoek Car Hire provided us with a sturdy looking Nissan 4x4, complete with a roof tent and all the camping equipment we could possibly need. On 26th February we set forth on our journey around Namibia.
Our first stop was Gross Barman, a natural hot spring that certainly lived up to its name. The water was 34 degrees and we had to slowly ease ourselves in inch by inch, fighting all our natural reactions to run straight back out! We made it in up to our waists but that was as far as we could get. We spent the rest of the day a glowing pinkish colour.
We continued our journey along the empty roads whilst admiring the spectacular scenery of mountains and rolling hills which are currently very green due to all the rain. We would often pass groups of monkeys sitting at the side of the road watching the world go by. Our next stop was to go and see the dinosaur footprints in Otjihaenamaparero. It was quite a mission to find but eventually saw them and they were very impressive. We continued on to the Hoba Meteorite which was discovered earlier this century which really was in the middle of nowhere!
We had been warned that because of the heavy rains, many of the big animals in Etosha National Park were not coming out to the watering holes because they have plenty of water deep within the park so there is no need for them to come out. Although we didn't see any elephants we did manage to spot 2 lions having a snooze and plenty of giraffes, zebras, springboks and wildebeest which was great.
After leaving Etosha we drove to Kamanjab to Peet Alberts Koppie. The koppie has hundreds of rock carvings from early settlers in the area. We had to go to the local hotel and pick up the gate key and then drove to the hill. After a 15 minute hike we still could not see any carvings. Eventually when we moved some of the undergrowth we were confronted with hundreds of them Mostly they were of animals that lived in the area although there were some abstract pieces. All of the art was open to the air and we could walk over all of them. It seems a travesty that something like this would be a heritage sight in Europe but here in Namibia the area is just left as a wilderness. It is not really on the tourist trail so I do not think upkeep is high on the owner's priorities
While travelling through Damaraland to the coast we stopped off at the Vingerklip. Much of the area appears to have once been a plateau which is now worn away. This gives rise to huge columns and small plateaus dotting the landscape. One of the most impressive is the Vingerklip. This huge 'finger' that is pointing to the sky looks like it might fall down at any minute. It was another hike to visit but had wonderful views at the top.
Our next stop was probably the remotest we drove with the car. About 70km along a dirt road we found the famous Namibian Petrified Forest. Dozens of rocks looking like tree trunks litter the area. It really is a quick bizarre experience to touch what you think will be wood but which in fact is stone. Past the Petrified Forest is the world heritage sight of Twyfelfontein. Again, there are rock carvings here from early settlers. We did not think that they were as good as the carvings at Peet Alberts Koppie which surprised us because this is a world heritage sight. Perhaps the majority of the 'heritage' is not open to the public. After we visited a valley containing dolerite columns which is known as the Organ Pipes. We have not visited the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland but I imagine these are quite similar. Next stop was Burnt Mountain. After driving for a few kilometers we were struggling to see any mountains close by. After turning a corner we discovered a fairly small black hill. This was Burnt Mountain and, like the Organ Pipes, had been formed by previous volcanic activity. Our last stop in Damaraland was the Brandberg mountain. Yet more rock carvings can be found here but the curious thing about these are that some are in colour and one image in particular depicts what was once thought to be a white lady. The carving caused lots of puzzlement because what was a white lady doing in Namibia a few thousand years ago? After much research it was deduced that the image was of a man and that the white that covered the bottom part of his body was in fact ash from a fire that he was dancing around. Mystery solved.
After the Damaraland we drove to the Skeleton Coast. It was an eerie place with the coastal fog hanging over us every day. We passed shipwrecks that were miles in from the shoreline and had been there for years. We spent time at Henties Bay among lots of South African sea fishermen! Just North of there was the Cape Cross Seal colony where thousands upon thousands of seals lined the coast. Fantastic to see but it absolutely stank! Needless to say we didn't spend too long there...
From here we headed to Swakopmund, a strange German town in the middle of the Namibian desert! It was still misty here but we wanted to make the most of being close to the sand dunes so we spent an hour quad biking over the dunes with lovely views of the sea behind us. Our first real venture into the desert and it was raining!
Just east of Swakopmund is what is know as the 'moon landscape'. The sea mist does not reach here so you can see for miles. We were confronted with a huge expanse of grey undulating landscape which really is other worldly. Very impressive and not what we were expecting.
One of our final destinations was Soussesvlei, south of Swakopmund in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. This is Namibia's number 1 tourist destination and was the busiest place we'd been to. The world's largest and oldest dunes reside in this park and because of the heavy rain, many are dotted with small colourful plants. A quite unexpected sight. The rich red colour of the dunes and the bright colours of flowering vegetation was certainly unique. We climbed Dune 45, the largest dune, and it took a good hour of hard hiking in the sand with steep drops at either side. Even though we did this at 8am we were still dripping with sweat by the end. Not for the faint hearted!
We then returned to Windhoek to organise our onward journey to Zambia.
In summary, Namibia is very different from Ghana with much more of a European feel. The shadow of apartheid still appears to hang over this nation which was our first real experience of segregation. However, the country boasts some of the most amazing views we have ever seen with very little tourism spoiling it at the moment. It has been a wonderful start to our Southern Africa tour.
Richard's best experience - Peet Albert Koppie
Alexis's best experience - Moon Landscape