Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Namibian impressions - Alrica

Since everyone else has done a nice job of sharing details on our Namibian adventure, I won’t spend time doing that, but I wanted to share my general impressions. First, three weeks of camping is a long time for us. No matter how nice the “ablution facilities” were, I never felt entirely clean. And I will admit to being very pleased to have a couple hotel breaks along the way. However, I think there is no better way to really enjoy the various environments that Namibia has to offer. Every couple days, we would wake up to amazing sunrises and new lands to see.

Most of Namibia was hot and dry and our best way to deal with it was to do most of our traveling during the heat of the day when we could rely on the air-conditioned car to keep us cool. Still, we were easily going through 5-6 liters of water each day, which is tough when you are in a place that is so short on water. And we worried about whether the water in some places was properly filtered. So when we were in a place with a good water source, we filled all of our empty bottles, upwards of 30 liters each time, in case it needed to last a few days. Mornings would start with us doing some exploring, playing, and hiking before the sun got too hot and we would need to pack up camp.

By 5:00 or 6:00, the sun would start to head down and the winds would pick up, cooling us off. Many days this was about when we were arriving at our campsites and we got particularly good at setting up our tents in a wind storm. Nights were cool, clear, and beautiful.  With so little light pollution and humidity, we could see stars better than we had ever seen them before, and had a fun time learning the southern sky. It was amazing!

Mountains off in the distance

Driving through those mountains

Etosha Salt Pan

Those days of driving were different than what we were used to. In a fairly small country, there were empty deserts, rolling hills, sand dunes, mountains, beaches, savannahs, and forests. No billboards or even street signs. And everywhere were animals. 

Along the main roads (B roads), there were always fences alongside the road to make keep the animals back and the roads were well paved, moving along at 120 KPH. These fences didn’t actually keep the animals out and warthogs, impalas, and oryx were frequently feeding right alongside the highway. Less frequently were giraffe, wildebeest, and ostrich. That is just the wildlife; wandering herds of sheep, goats, cows, and horses were also often unescorted alongside the road. Luckily, once we were north of Windhoek, there were more animals than people around so sudden stops were not a problem. On the “C Roads,” fences were hit or miss, as was paving, and the speed dropped to 100 kph though it felt unsafe to go faster than about 70 kph, slowing down our travel pretty dramatically but allowing us to see all of the amazing sites. “D roads” or “Death Roads” as the kids referred to them were always dirt roads, but often the best way to get somewhere. Since we were visiting during the dry season, it wasn’t a problem that there were almost never bridges across rivers, most were dry. I can imagine that drivers during the wet season (January and February) would get the added experience of fording rivers. These D roads are also not leveled or graded so driving on the left was not an issue, everyone drove in the middle except when passing a rare car.

Seeing animals all the time was amazing, but perhaps not as amazing as how infrequently we saw people. Sometimes we would drive an hour and see nobody. And we had several of our campsites to ourselves. The most stressful part of this trip was actually the rare times we saw people. The people of Namibia are extremely poor, often barely scraping together an existence with farming goats or sheep. But people in the cities didn’t have that option. A stop at a grocery store meant fending off beggars and “artists” and dealing with parking attendants. A parking attendant is a guy in an orange vest who offers to keep an eye on your car for a price. Of course, if your car is vandalized, there is no recourse, nor do these people have any special skills, so you can take your chances or agree to their services. Most of the time we agreed because it was easier than arguing with them, but then I had to find a couple Namibian dollars to pay them with (can’t expect them to find change).

On the other hand, the Namibians that we really got to interact with, either at camp sites or at tourist sites, were really lovely, friendly people. We enjoyed hearing about their lives and opinions of things and loved hearing them talk to their friends. All of them spoke some level of English but were more comfortable in one of the native languages that include tongue clicks and other sounds that I can’t seem to master. Fascinating! And, unlike South Africans, Namibians seem to have fewer preconceived notions about Americans, either good or bad.

Our trip around Namibia was a great way to satisfy our wanderlust and we do highly recommend it to others!

1 comment:

  1. I would love to read more about the people you met. By the way, this all sounds so incredible. I.love that you guys are living your dream.