We started our day before dawn, driving through the park scouting animals. Despite being confined to the car (you were not to get out of your car in the game park), it was quite fun to watch zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, gemsbok, and springbok interact amongst their own and exist with one another.
excerpt from my journal – May 11, 2000.
Southern Africa, specifically Namibia, was the first big stop on our around the world adventure that began in April of 2000.
It was the only stop where we had any real plans organized in advance, so to speak. Tim roused himself at 2am, several times before we left Colorado, to connect with people by phone – to make sure we had camp reservations at several national parks around the country…including Etosha National Park – the country’s big wildlife sanctuary. We also made lodging reservations at the Rivendell Guest House for our first few nights, and a car rental reservation for our adventure around the country.
We also bought several plane tickets in advance (which you’ll hear about as the story unfolds), but we left most of the planning for when we arrived at each destination.
In 2000 researching and planning on the internet was still in its infancy so we used travel guides (mostly Lonely Planet) and some email. It’s fun to see that the Rivendell still exists and now has a beautiful website!
I could write a chapter (or two, or ten) from all the experiences we had as we criss-crossed our way around Namibia in ‘The Taz’, as our little Toyota hatchback became affectionately known. But I don’t want to make this too long, and likely boring, so I will try to hit some highlights with the precious few digital photos I have from this segment of the trip.
Below is a map that gives you an idea of where we were. All of the roads in Namibia, except two main two lane highways, were dirt.
We started from Windhoek and headed south towards Luderitz, a rather sleepy coastal town, with many buildings neatly painted in brightish pastel colors. We hiked along a beach near town where we ran into diamond mine no entry signs. We had seen similar signs along the road on the way into town.
The gem we found was where we camped after leaving Luderitz.
Klein Aus provided trails to this beautiful sunset spot, a beautiful camp spot, and our first experience with the southern night sky.
After leaving Klein Aus we headed north on a more back road recommended to us by a local couple – because it would get us closer to the sand dunes. I remember it being a very long and dustyday, and I love this quote from my notes:
“a sea of dried pale yellow grass melts into the marching bright orange dunes”
From here we landed in the Naukluft campground – one of the primitive camping sites of the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Tim stands with a large Quiver tree on one of our hikes. My biggest memory of this stay in Naukluft was hike down one of the canyons where we had to made our way across part of it – filled with water – using a chain along the canyon wall. I loved the campground that was mostly filled with vacationing Namibians.
Note: Namibia became a German Imperial Protectorate in 1884, so along with the original dark-skinned inhabitants, there are many ‘white Afrkaans’ in Namibia.
Sossusvlei which means ‘the gathering place of water” is home to the largest sand dunes in the world, and is also part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. They say you rarely see water here, and the year we were visiting was said to be exceptionally rainy…and we saw lots of water the day we ventured, in the Taz, way back into the dunes. I was just reading that the first 37 miles of road now has a permanent surface…but that was not the case when we were there. We actually had no business driving our little Toyota where we did. I remember parts of the drive to be harrowing, but it was worth it to be back in those dunes. I love Sand Dunes National Park here in Colorado, and you could sit those dunes right inside the dunes of the Namib Desert.
Passing through Walvis Bay, we saw the pink flamingoes that live there.
Swakopmund is a lovely coastal town where we stayed in for a few days,at a pension that was once a German Military Hospital. It was here that we bought one of the biggest ‘souvenirs’ of our trip – we ordered a rug, to be custom woven with sand dunes and gemsbok and then shipped to the U.S. It felt a bit like a silly leap of faith at the time, and it still hangs on our travel wall today.
We had several other adventures along the way to Etosha National Park…which was our last big stop in Namibia. In the park you were required to stay within one of the rest camps, and when you were driving around the park – allowed from sunrise to sunset – you were required to stay in your car.
Namutoni was the first place we stayed. It was originally a German fort and had accommodations as well as a campground. We, of course, camped. And were up at dawn each day to scout animals in the the acres and acres of reserve.
I loved the opportunity to see these animals in their habitat – living their lives naturally.
And I had the unexpected surprise of learning to love birding while here. too. There were so many colorful birds, and the book we bought to track the animals also included images of many of the birds – making it easy to learn about them.
It’s funny to find so much about Namibia at my finger tips (on the internet), when it all felt so unknown when we arrived there thirteen years ago. And I am so glad to be carrying the wonderful memories in my heart and mind – and bringing those memories to life as I read through my journals and share the stories with you. I almost wish you could be a fly on the wall of my mind so you could see all the wonderful stories floating through as I create this little story here on the mountain mermaid.
Knowing that my experience was not documented by a gazillion pictures and sharing socially deepens my understanding of the importance being in the moment. Being in the moment helps you to remember those experiences differently than if you were just trying to document, for someone or something else, as you went.
Still, I hope that my adventure stories are fun for you to read, and provide some inspiration for you to create your own adventures – whether across the street, across the country or on the other side of the planet from where you are.
Lisa, aka the mountain mermaid