Saying goodbye to Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
I’ve spoken of fear before and my intent to not let it impact this adventure so I have been trying to ignore a new fear ever since we booked this trip to Namibia. Specifically, all of the tour guides say that the way to see Namibia is on a self-driven tour in a 4x4 vehicle. Further research introduced us to double cab trucks with tents on top. This was very exciting to all of us and with a bit of negotiation, we were able to get a company to lower its price to fit our budget. We rented from a company called Zebra if anyone is looking. Now it was the morning to pick up the vehicle. Here is where the fear comes in.
These trucks are standard transmission South African vehicles which means that the driver is on the right side of the car and the gear shift is to the left (in the middle). They drive on the left side of the road. On top of that, the windshield wipers and the turn signals are switched. At least the foot pedals are standard. To start, I haven’t been able to drive at all since my surgery and, while I have been healing nicely, I had some fear about all the stress on my right leg. Secondly, I haven’t driven a stick shift in twenty years. Finally, I have never driven on the left side of the road. Yikes!
Erich doesn’t drive stick shift at all so it is all me unless there is an emergency. We finished packing up our Cape Town apartment and called an Uber driver to pick us up. Setting up Uber was a pain, but the rest went really nicely. Our driver was also a part time tour guide and gave us a running commentary on the way to the airport. When we got there, our truck was there and waiting and Wanda (our driver) spent well over an hour going over details: how to set up the tents, all of the equipment that came with it (including a refrigerator), and all of the safety and repair gear. He was thorough and reassuring.
Then we were on our own. Happily, the driving came back to me pretty quickly. The first half hour was fairly stressful as we drove through a busy city complete with roundabouts and stop and go traffic. It also involved filling the gas tank and replacing a broken taillight (which the garage did for no charge!). A stop at the apartment for final checkout and a grocery store run and we were on our way.
Within ten miles of Cape Town, we saw our first ostriches! We passed vineyards and drove through mountain ranges and stopped for construction. All part of the adventure. Leaving a bit later than we expected meant a need for flexibility. We had planned to make it to a campsite in Springbok, South Africa the first night but we wouldn’t make it that far. As I drove into the late afternoon, Erich started looking up campsites that would be closer. We considered getting a hotel but we were all really eager to try out the tents. Finally found a place pretty late and set up camp by the light of flashlights (torches). Ate a cold dinner and enjoyed amazing stars and went to bed.
Wanting to make up some lost time, we had a quick breakfast and got on the road again. Continued north on the N7 to the Namibian border where luckily there was hardly anyone in line ahead of us. That still meant nearly an hour and a half at the border crossing. South Africa had to check us out and Namibia had to check us in and charge us the road usage fee of N$242. With all of my research, one of the things that hadn’t come up was that Namibia changed their law several years ago that now requires US drivers to carry International Driver’s Licenses, not just state licenses. The US state dept. hasn’t caught up with that yet. According to our rental company, most people aren’t given an issue though and that was our experience. At no time did anyone ask to see my license.
The first couple hundred KM of Namibia are flat, golden desert. It is very beautiful at first, but soon develops a sameness that had us wishing for change. The turn onto the gravel road that lead us to our night’s camping brought us that change. Being off the beaten path, we were forced to drive more slowly and enjoyed seeing birds and wildlife alongside small subsistence farming communities. A flock of ostrich crossed the road in front of us, the dust devils twisted along the dirt roads, and a stop at the Fish River let us watch a small herd of mule-like creatures.
Our nights lodging was an abandoned community campground on the side of an extinct volcano called Brukkaros. The ornate gate was abandoned but unlocked and we had the entire place to ourselves. This time we got there early enough to set up the campsite and the kids got to go for a hike while we got dinner made. A wind storm had kicked up and we ended up eating inside the truck to avoid eating the sand that was pelting us. Then, despite the wind, we climbed to the top of the nearby hill and watched the sun go down.
Day three put us back on a leisurely drive to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. We got checked in to the Hilton Windhoek early and were given a free upgrade to a lovely suite of rooms. With two bathrooms, it still took us nearly an hour to get all of the dirt scrubbed off of us and we headed up to the roof to enjoy the pool. We took advantage of the free wireless, ate a wonderful dinner and dessert (I highly recommend the carrot soup and the bread pudding). It was nice to feel pampered after a few days of roughing it.
Tomorrow morning starts my fortieth birthday as we head north to Waterberg and then Etosha National Park. Another forty years of overcoming fears to live the life I choose. What an amazing adventure I get to share with my family!