19.10.2016 - 29.10.2016
Wednesday, 19 October
Today… today the trip changed. Today the glorious group of nine was invaded by nine more people who joined the tour. None of us were excited by this change as we’d gotten quite used to our small group. The entire atmosphere on the truck changed; gone were the music jams and dancing around; gone were the jokes being tossed back and forth; the truck was quiet… and it was depressing.
I decided to introduce myself as Wilhelm to the new people. Chris and Svenja helped me develop a persona: Wilhelm Gerhard Neuer from the tiny country of Biergarten, situated at the very top of an Alp in-between Deutschland and Liechtenstein, right next to the Wiesen (Biergarten is only the top of the Alp; the rest of the mountain is part of Deutschland… it’s a very tiny, secluded and secretive country).
Max… being Max, decided to try and tell everyone that my name is Bryan, knowing that I hate when people mistake my name for Bryan. Now it has become his thing; he always refers to me as Bryan now!
One guy, from England, asked me if I was from the States; when I said yes, he asked who the other American on the tour was. I responded that there was just one and he then asked who Ryan was, upon which I had to explain the story. He and his wife thought it funny and understood my desire to be called Wilhelm.
Our drive today took us to Etosha National Park to do two days of game driving in our Nomad truck. Those of us who did the Serengeti tour in the smaller safari trucks were disappointed that we would be in the Nomad truck; it isn’t built to give everyone the best views for game driving; we all wished that we could use the same types of trucks that we had on our other game drives.
Heading into our campsite in Etosha, we made a brief stop at a souvenir market so people could do some shopping. No one bought anything, but we did spot a giant rhino statue!
We spotted some animals on the road into camp: giraffes, zebras and – oh yes! – impalas!
We stopped by the campsite for a quick bathroom break and then Norman took us out for a quick loop nearby. I jokingly asked him if we’d see a rhino; he just smiled and said that we’d have to see… I secretly hoped that someone at the camp had told him of a rhino sighting. We drove to a nearby water hole and saw… lions. Just some lazy lions lying by the water with some other lions eating a zebra carcass.
Everyone was excited to see the lions, which were rather close. Max, Rafa, Joana and me… couldn’t have cared less. Can you see the utter excitement from these photos??
All we want to see is a god damned rhino!
Lions? Seen plenty
Elephants? Fat asses
Impala? Fuck them
We headed back into camp to get our tents setup. Max and I grabbed a large beer and walked over to the camp’s water hole lookout. We sat there chatting, enjoying our beer for about an hour before it was time to head back for dinner. We didn’t see any animals at the water hole, but it was very nice to just hang out together.
During dinner I developed an impression of an impala: big eyes staring out with no brain or intelligence behind them; mouth stupidly chewing on grass; ridiculous jerking head movements at the slightest noise; body locks up and falls over when it dies. I started just doing the facial impression for Svenja, but then got down on the ground to do the full impression for her (and the rest of the group who was there to watch). Svenja laughed hysterically!
After dinner, Chris, Svenja, Max and I went to the bar to watch the football (soccer) game between FC Bayern Munich and Eindhoven. It was rather fun getting to watch the game in the middle of Africa with two Bayern fans (my favorite team as well, though I’ve had little time to actually follow much at all due to school). Bayern easily won the game, 4-1.
Thursday, 20 October
Another full day of game driving… joy…
Our first sighting was… more lions back at the same water hole from the night before. They were closer this time and up walking around. An elephant then walked up to get a drink of water; it didn’t see the lions right nearby. I wished that the lions would just attack, as foolish as that idea is, but I just wanted to see something exciting.
Our next sighting though was… a RHINO! Yes, we finally saw a rhino! It was walking around behind a bunch of bushes (“too much bush!”), so it was quite difficult to see. I was eagerly looking out the window, hoping to get a good picture of the rhino, but he wouldn’t cooperate. Chris managed to get a few great photos of the rhino (they’re the photos below, which he was nice enough to share).
Up next, we saw a giraffe sitting down by a tree, which is quite a rare sight to see. Most giraffes that people see are up and walking around; to see one sitting down is quite unique.
We saw several other animals as we drove through the park. Rafa, Joana and Max all fell asleep at different parts of the drive; we had quite a bit of fun taking some funny pictures with one another asleep – it helped to pass the time and relieve the boredom of the game drive.
The next animals that we saw were some white elephants grouped together around a water hole, along with several other animals. Rafa and Joana were rather bored with the elephants, and I took a picture that accurately sums up our collective feelings about going on yet another game drive.
We stopped for lunch at a campsite in the park, where we had several hours to relax by the pool. The pool was quite large and very cold, which we desperately needed on this very hot day. I spent some time at the pool and then some time at the bar, with a beer, working on my blog.
After lunch we passed by several more animals: kudu, Oryx, etc. We drove out to the desert proper for a few minutes to take photos; thousands of years ago this area had been a massive lake, but now all that’s left is the desert.
And then – finally – we saw another RHINO! This one was lying next to a water hole and was in plain view for us to see. The first view we got was, typically, of its ass (how many animal asses have we seen on this trip…). I was giddy when I saw the rhino – like a kid on Christmas morning. I reached over and put my arm around Max, excitedly saying that we'd finally seen a rhino!! I kept looking over at him with a huge grin as we sat there watching the rhino. This seemed like such a great achievement, the culmination of something that began at the start of the trip. I was very, very happy that he and I got to see a rhino together.
We needed to move the truck around to get a better view of the rhino, so Max leaned through the small window into the front cabin to ask Norman and Fadz to drive forward. Rafa grabbed me and pointed to where Max was leaning forward: “Look, another ass sighting! Quick, take a picture!” she said and sure enough, we got a view of Max’s ass along with the rhino ass.
We sat there for quite some time watching the rhino and he eventually stood up and gave us a great profile view. It was an amazing few minutes getting to sit and watch this beautiful animal in the wild.
En route to our new campsite, we spotted some lions sleeping in the grass, along with some hyenas. The hyenas are such ugly creatures!
After arriving at camp, Max, Chris, Svenja, and I walked over to this camp’s water hole to see if there were any animals there. We brought some Savannah Dry Ciders with us to drink. We spotted three giraffes drinking, which was rather interesting to see because they stand awkwardly when they bend down to drink.
Then we spotted it: a rhino walking up from the left to get a drink. Chris started snapping some photos (all pictures from this evening posted on here were taken by him). As he was taking pictures we were shocked to discover that there were two more rhinos sitting by the water – and they had been there the entire time that we’d been sitting there! Then a fourth rhino came walking up from the right side! I couldn’t believe our luck – four rhinos were mere feet away from us!!
We sat there for about an hour and then several lions came out of the grass to get a drink of water; the first hint that something else was coming was when the giraffe ran away at high speed. The rhinos stood very still and just watched the lions as they came for a drink.
By this point we were slightly late for dinner, so we left to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back to watch more animals. We told everyone at dinner about everything that we’d seen and almost everyone joined us when we returned to the water hole.
When we got back, only three of the rhinos were still there, but we were able to see them quite well. They eventually walked around to our side of the water and then waded into the middle of the water.
About 10m away from where we were sitting was a large tree with a huge python sitting in it. Despite the fact that I hate snakes, I had to go over and see it. Thankfully the camp guards were keeping a close eye on the snake.
As we resumed watching the rhinos, the power at the camp went out, killing the floodlights that illuminated the water hole. Plunged into total darkness, Chris turned to taking photos of the night sky; this was the first night in weeks in which we’d been able to see the Milky Way in the night sky.
Today also marked the one-month anniversary for the five original tour members: we started our tour on 20 September and seeing our first rhinos was truly the best way to celebrate!
Friday, 21 October
Today marked our last game drive of the tour – huzzah!! We drove out from the camp to see what wildlife we could as we made our way out of the park. Happily, we spotted two more rhinos: a mother and a young rhino walking through some bushes nearby.
We made a brief stop back in camp for a bathroom break. Rafa ran up to me saying that she had found another “Rhino Max” bracelet in the gift shop, this one much longer. We went to the store and, happily, the new bracelet fit around my wrist! I bought the new one and gave Rafa my old one that didn’t fit (she had lost her bracelet at the rock quarry). It was a great find by her!
I fell asleep for the rest of the game drive; I honestly couldn’t care less about seeing another giraffe or elephant; I’d seen so many during the other game drives that I was bored of the whole experience. The game drive ended in mid-morning and we drove the 100km to our campsite for the night, in Outjo.
We had the entire afternoon to relax, so I spent the time getting some work done and posting a blog (finally!). After dinner we all made our way back to the bar (except for Max, who went to bed early; he’d been quite tired for the past few days and hadn’t been feeling well, so he needed to get some rest). At the bar, I joined Chris, Svenja, Rafa, Joana, and the Swiss couple who joined us in Windhoek (Fabian and Tara). They taught us a new card game called Wizard in which one states how many sets (also called ‘stitches’) they hope to get each round; points are awarded based on how close one comes to that number. It was great fun and we had some drinks while we played.
The owner of the bar, a very nice man in a wheelchair, came by to say hello and then he sent over some drinks to us: it was called a Springbok and was part Amarillo and something with mint. It was delicious! We sat around playing cards until around 22:00 and then called it a night.
By this point, Rafa and Joana had left the card table and joined the bar owner at his table to chat and have some drinks. Chris, Svenja and I joined them for a little while. The owner provided us with several (free) drinks as we sat around chatting; the group drank three bottles of wine, various shots of alcohol, and beer. We then started to play a drinking game:
- One person rolls two dice under a cup and states the value of the dice (5 and 1 is 51)
- You can lie about the value of the dice as only you get to see them
- The next person can call your bluff and look: if they are right, you drink; if they are wrong, they drink
- The next person then rolls and their score must be higher than the score before them
I saw between Svenja and Chris and decided to stop drinking by this point. I always believe what Svenja said and Chris never challenged the score that I stated, which saved me from drinking. The game was a lot of fun to play though. Joana particularly enjoyed it and drank quite a bit; she is hysterical when she drinks (she’s hysterical sober as well).
Finally, around 01:00 we decided it was time for bed. Rafa stayed behind, but Chris, Svenja and I helped Joana get back to her tent. I unzipped the tent door for her and she literally fell into the tent, laughing. By this point she was also calling out loudly for Norman in a playful, joking way. “Norman!” “Nooorman!” “NORMAN!” The three of us were laughing hysterically each time Joana called out his name. All of our tents were right next to one another, huddled under a tree, so Joana’s calls could easily have woken the others.
I crawled into my tent, trying not to wake Max up; as I was about to fall asleep several minutes later, I heard Joana call out “Norman!” She called out his name several more times and it was all I could do to stifle my laughs so I didn’t wake Max.
To sum up Joana’s evening, here’s how it happened:
Rafa: Joana, do you want to come to the bar and just talk with us?
Joana: No, I want to go to bed. I’m tired.
Joana: Norman? Norman? Norman!
It was actually an amazing evening. We got to bond with two of the new people and then enjoy some drinks with locals at the bar. We all had a great time.
Saturday, 22 October
Today we had a late start, thankfully: breakfast was at 08:36 and we left about 45 minutes later. Our schedule for the day was just a visit to a local Hiba tribe. I’ll be quite honest and say that I wasn’t looking forward to this visit; the Massai visit in the Serengeti had been such a disappointment and I was worried that this would be the same thing.
We met our guide and he took us into the village. We were able to interact with the villagers and wander about on our own. The kids loved to come up and visit with us; they were interested in the water bottles that several people brought with them and even took the bottles (they thought that there must be something special about such water).
Max took to the kids right away, talking to them and playing games with them. He and I picked up several kids and swung them around; they each had such big smiles on their faces.
Chris was the true center of the kids’ attention though. They crowded around him and wouldn’t let him go the entire time that we were visiting with the tribe. He would pick them up, swing them around, carry them; the kids all loved it and one could easily see the joy that Chris got out of it as well (though he was exhausted by the end).
We were able to go inside one of the village huts and one of the women showed us how the women ‘bathe’ in smoke and use smoke to clean their clothes; only the men are allowed to clean with water. The smoke smelled rather good as it was mixed with things to make it smell good.
After we finished with the village visit we drove on to our campsite for the night in the town of Khorixas. I slept throughout the drive, which gave me some energy when we reached the camp. Max and I walked over to a local grocery store to grab some drinks (sadly they didn’t have Fanta Passion – I’ve only found it in Malawi!). We then came back to camp and joined the others by the pool, which was frigidly cold. I took a quick dip in the pool before retiring to the bar area to continue working on the blog (which I am now – finally – caught up on!).
Before dinner we filmed my fantastic impala impression and had Max and Rafa play lions hunting me. Svenja filmed it using her GoPro while Chris took several photos of the hunt. I crawled around, ‘eating’ the grass while Max and Rafa stalked me. I thought I’d heard them when they pounced, but it happened quite suddenly, which was awesome! Max grabbed me from the side and Rafa from behind; Max bit at my neck and Rafa just grabbed on and pulled me down. It was actually a ton of fun. As this was being filmed, the rest of the group saw us and wandered over to watch as well.
Sunday, 23 October
We had quite a full day today, with a lot of driving and also some activities.
After leaving camp, we made a brief stop at some local stands for souvenir shopping. One or two people bought a few things, but most of us just wandered around. Norman picked up a baby who belong to one of the women working one of the stands; the baby was adorable and had the greatest smile; when I went to say hello, she wanted to reach out and feel my beard.
We drove further south and made a longer stop at the Spittskoppe, where we spent about two hours walking and hiking around. The rock formations were quite impressive. We met up with another Nomad group (their guide was Nyika’s sister!) and we all walked over to one of the rocky hills, where we had time to hike around and explore. The hill was rather steep, but the rock gave us a lot of traction so we could walk up and down. The view was spectacular.
We then made our way under a ledge where we could see some old paintings done by the bushman people; the paintings were 2,000 to 4,000 years old. Many of the figures depicted the animals of the region – including a rhino!
Lunch was served when we returned to our truck. To our amazement, the other Nomad truck was camping at this location for the evening, despite it only being around 14:00 (they were driving the opposite direction from us, but following the same route); we couldn’t see any bathrooms or showers for them to use, let alone a bar for them to enjoy. We couldn’t understand why they would be camping there and not at the same place that we had left earlier that morning (especially since it was in the desert and blistering hot).
During lunch, Max managed to get a hold of my camera without my knowing… these pictures are the result. :-)
Our route then took us to Swakopmund, where we are spending the next two nights – in a hotel too! The town is very Western and feels like a beach resort in Florida or North Carolina (I’m reminded of Wilmington, actually). The town is located right on the beach, on the west coast of Africa. The weather was considerably colder on the coast; we all had to put on pants and jackets! We stopped off at company to book some option excursion for tomorrow, as it was an entirely free day to do whatever we wanted. Several people signed up to do quad biking, sand boarding, or a dolphin cruise. Not me… oh no, not me…
Back in Zanzibar (yes, on THAT horrible drunken day), Joana and I had talked about doing skydiving; we had promised each other that we’d do it together when we go to Namibia. Well, the day is finally here and Joana still wanted to do it… and, to be honest, so do I, though I’m terrified of the whole idea. I asked the women working there a million questions about skydiving. And… then Joana and I booked it. I handed over my credit card, saying that if it was rejected, the event wasn’t meant to be… and I’ll be damned if the charge didn’t go through just fine – my last method of backing out was gone! So… at 10:00 tomorrow morning I’ll be leaping from an airplane…
Max took great delight in telling me that I’d be dying tomorrow, playing on my fears of skydiving. It was actually pretty funny and he meant it all in a fun, joking manner. He said he’d have a sign on the ground waiting for me: “Welcome back Bryan!” I joked back that skydiving would be a great way to have an impact on Namibia!
Max and I checked into our room and proceeded to do some laundry before we rejoined the group for our dinner out. The entire group went out to a local restaurant that served Italian, burgers, and game meat. I ordered an Oryx burger with “secret sky-diver’s sauce” on it; Chris ordered the same thing and Svenja ordered a pizza. We were all amazed at how delicious the food was! Chris and I LOVED our burgers; I’m not sure what all was on it, but it was amazing. Svenja shared a bite of her pizza, which was also quite tasty.
After dinner we all came back to the hotel to head to bed early; we’d had a long day and most of us had fun activities planned for tomorrow.
Monday, 24 October
Today… I face my fear and go skydiving!
I woke up early, around 07:00 and I was immediately hit by the reality of what I had planned for the morning. I was struck with fear and nervousness, but then dread set in when I looked outside: the sky was full of clouds, which meant that we wouldn’t be able to do the skydiving unless the clouds cleared up. I had psyched myself up so much for this that I didn’t want to miss the chance.
I met with Joana at breakfast and she was equally nervous. We ate a small breakfast (mainly so we wouldn’t puke it up later) and then hung around the reception area until it was time to go. We listened to music to help pass the time – and to calm our nerves. Joana likes Celine Dion, so we played a lot of her music.
Our driver collected us at 10:00 and drove us out to the airfield. The two guys in the car were very friendly and talkative, telling us that we had nothing to worry about. Joana and I were the only two booked to do skydiving for the entire day. Thankfully the sky had cleared up mere minutes before we were picked up – it was a good sign!
Upon arrival at the small airfield, we had to fill out some forms and then decide on which photo or video package we wanted. We couldn’t both have the same package because they didn’t have enough equipment for it; I went with the GoPro on my partner’s wrist, giving me a good video of the jump; Joana did the photo and video package, which has another person jump and film her.
Up next we met our partners: Derek was going with me, while Ramon was going with Joana. Derek has done over 11,000 jumps, so he was quite relaxed about the whole thing. He gave me my jumpsuit and put on my harness, but then went off to chat with some friends. Ramon was more thorough with Joana and he appeared very nervous; we later found out that this was to be his first jump in Africa! He was from Spain and had been doing skydiving for five years, but he just arrived in Swakopmund yesterday!
Derek then gave us a briefing on how we would be jumping from the airplane: Derek and I would be going first… He showed us how to tuck our feet under the plane when we started to exit, how to hold our arms and head, etc. It actually helped put me at some ease to talk about what we would be doing… though that all changed as we then walked outside to board the airplane.
The airplane was very tiny, with only one seat for the pilot. Ramon and Joana climbed in first, with Joana sitting in between Ramon’s legs right up next to the pilot. Derek and I sat the same way, but just behind the pilot. The other two jumpers, one of whom was Joana’s cameraman, climbed aboard and sat to my side and in front of me. We were all sitting quite close to one another. The door to the plan simply slid shut like a garage door and then we were off!
The plane made quite a steep climb, but we had such an amazing view of the area! To one side was the Atlantic Ocean and the miles of beautiful beaches; we could see all the way to Walvis Bay to the south. To the east was the Namib Desert, with dunes stretching out to the horizon. While we were flying, Ramon and Derek attached their harnesses to ours and the pilot would announce how far we were from the jump zone.
5 miles… we start to get harnessed together
2 miles… we get our goggles ready to put on
1 mile… goggles go on and the door opens up
Suddenly one of the jumpers goes… and then it’s my turn! By this point I was terrified. During the flight up, I kept turning to Joana and grabbing her hand for support. We sang the “Fuck It All” version of “Let It Go” as inspiration.
There’s no warning or countdown; Derek just scoots us forward to the door and I realize that this is actually going to happen. There is no turning back. Suddenly, my entire body is hanging outside of the airplane! I don’t have time to think and Derek tells me to tuck my feet under, which I quickly do. He rocks forward a few times and then… we’re out!
The first second, right after leaving the airplane, was the only really scary part – and the only time that I could feel like I was falling. I looked down during the first few seconds and was thankfully not that terrified. I thought to myself “Well, you’re falling now. Nothing you can do but enjoy it!” Once we were in position, Derek tapped me on the shoulder to indicate that I could now open my arms up. I stretched my arms out and relaxed, taking in the entire experience.
The feeling of freefall is spectacular! The wind is rushing by and I couldn’t hear a thing. I looked down at the ground for a bit and then all around me to take in the view. To my surprise, I didn’t swear as much as I had anticipated. I said “Oh fuck!” once (which is clearly on the video), but it was in awe of the view that I had while falling. I smiled and laughed with joy for most of the time. Derek was using the GoPro to film the entire time; he kept prompting me to do a thumbs up or the “hang ten” sign with my hands, which I did.
The freefall time seemed to last only a few seconds, but in reality it was somewhere between 30 and 40 seconds. Derek release the parachute and the freefall ended; it wasn’t a sharp jerking movement either; it was very smooth and soon we were drifting through the sky. Derek removed my goggles so I could see better. The breeze was very light and refreshing.
As we drifted down, I could see Joana and the other guys falling and releasing their parachutes. Joana and me had our parachutes deployed at 5,000 feet, while the professionals went down to around 2,500 feet. Joana and Ramon ended up almost directly above us, so Derek had to maneuver us out of their way. This was the scariest part of the entire experience: we sped up and made some very sharp turns. We quickly settled down and continued to glide down towards the airfield.
As we came in to land, Derek instructed me to simply stick my feet straight out in front of me. As we landed, I did as I was told and then we were on the ground. Derek quickly told me to stand up, which caught me by surprise; I did my best, but we fell forward, laughing. A couple guys came up to help grab the parachute and unhook us. By this point, Joana was nearing her landing and I saw that she too fell when they landed – it must be a common occurrence.
After snapping a few photos and celebrating that we’d just gone skydiving, we changed out of our jumpsuits and then headed back to our hotel. Joana needed to grab her purse to pay for the videos and photos; the guys were happy to do a quick trip to the hotel and back – it gave them time to edit together our videos. While Joana was grabbing her purse, the driver talked to me about his skydiving experiences; he’s done just over 100 solo jumps. To celebrate the 100th jump, their group jumps complete naked!
When we got back to the airfield, we celebrated by having a Windhoek beer and some Simba chips. The TV was playing some great music videos from the 1980s and we sang along to them. Ramon eventually came up to chat as we waited for the videos to finish. Finally, we got to watch both of our videos on their big TV; we laughed at ourselves the entire time. The videos are amazing!
Back in town, Joana and I grabbed some lunch at Spar and then met up with everyone at the hotel. After eating and watching our videos again, a group of us (Chris, Svenja, Rafa, Joana, and me) headed out to explore the town; Max stayed behind so he could exercise. We walked down to the beach, which was breathtaking. There were so many rocks around and the waves were intense.
Chris decided to go swimming for a few minutes, so the rest of us went to a nearby bar to grab some drinks. The beers were the first truly good beers that we’ve had in Africa (the African beers are good, but somewhat watery); these beers were craft beers and they had a variety of styles. Chris and Svenja met up with us for some drinks after a while. It was great getting to just relax and chat with everyone.
We made a brief stop back at the hotel to change clothes and grab Max so we could all go to dinner; we’d made reservations at the Swakopmund Brauhaus at 20:00. Before going to the restaurant, we made a stop at a hostel to pick-up the DVDs for the people who went sand-boarding (Rafa, Chris and Svenja). We got to watch the video as well and it was quite clear that they’d had an equally amazing time during their excursion.
We had ample time before our reservation, so we walked back down to the beach to watch the sunset. It wasn’t the most stunning sunset that we’ve seen, but I found it fun to see the sun set over the Atlantic, rather than rise over it like we get in the States.
The restaurant wasn’t quite as German as I had hoped or as their brochure made it appear; there were German flags on the walls and some imported German beers (Paulaner!), along with a small selection of German food. I went with a dish of smoked meat, potatoes and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. The meat was thinly sliced Oryx and perfectly seasoned; it was a delicious meal! For dessert, Svenja and I split a panna cotta.
Tuesday, 25 October
We had a somewhat early start today, leaving shortly after 07:15 and heading further south. We made a brief stop in Walvis Bay to see the flamingos, which were gathered together along the beach. Further on, we made a stop on the side of the road at the point where we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn! There was a large sign on either side of the road, so we stopped for a quick photo.
After lunch we went on a drive around the Namib Desert with a local guide named Frans. Frans was the best guide that we’ve had this entire trip; he was funny and told some amazing stories. He turned what would normally have been a boring drive into something amusing and entertaining; we were all gripped every time he would talk. The drive took us around some rock formations and up to the top of a hill, where we could see some mountain zebras.
Camp for the night was rather nice, which a small pool and a decent bar. We all took a dip in the pool to cool off and many of the new group members joined us at the pool. I was able to spend some time chatting with them, getting to know them better. Today was Fabian’s birthday and Norman brought out a cake to celebrate; we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him and then everyone sang to him in their native languages. After dinner I played a few rounds of 5,000 with Max, Chris, Svenja and Rafa. Everyone seems to really enjoy the game, which is still amazing to me (I’m glad they like it so much!).
Max and I stayed up playing Carbo after everyone had gone to bed. It was nice spending time one-on-one with him, relaxing and chatting. We talked about the trip, the differences between our two tour groups, and tons of different subjects. I truly enjoy getting to chat with Max; he’s a very smart guy and it is easy to have an intelligent conversation with him. He can get very passionate about certain subjects, stubbornly defending his opinions; it can be somewhat irritating, but amusing as the same time.
Wednesday, 26 October
I woke up in a panic this morning – I left my camera at the bar area when Max and I went to bed after Carbo. I frantically got dressed and ran up to the outdoor seating area where we had sat, but the camera was gone. Thankfully the woman from the bar last night was starting to unlock the doors and open the reception for the morning; she saw me and smiled. I went to the reception and she happily gave me my camera. I was so relieved!
We set off early this morning, skipping breakfast so we could drive to the Sossusvlei Dunes before the sun was too high (and the heat unbearable). The dunes were a gorgeous shade of red and the landscape was spectacular. The national park set aside one dune, Dune 45, for tourists to climb. Upon arrival, we all set off up the dune while Norman and Fadz prepared breakfast.
Dune 45 is rather high and we walked up the path along the ridge. I was one of the first of the group to set off up the dune and I was soon amazed at how steep the slope of the dune was on either side, especially as the path began to narrow. People were coming down along the same path and I was always afraid that I would fall when they passed.
Eventually I reached a point where I could go no further; the slope and height were too much for me. I sat down on the dune so I could relax before turning around to head back down. Rafa and Joana soon met up with me; Rafa could clearly see that I was not doing alright – I was on the verge of a panic attack. She kindly walked me down back down the dune, talking and guiding me the entire way. We would stop and let people pass by us, each time Rafa would help calm me down. I tried to control my breathing so I didn’t panic. Thankfully I reached the bottom safe and sound; Rafa then climbed back up the dune to join Joana.
I spent the rest of the time back at the truck, recovering and drinking water. Breakfast was delicious: bacon and fried eggs (a wonderful change from the usual toast and cereal). While eating breakfast, Svenja and I noticed a group of attractive guys in another truck… a truck full of definite Fs.
Once breakfast was done, we drove to the next sight, which was at the dead tree area of the dunes. We rode out to the trees in a wagon pulled by a very slow tractor, while other tourists took 4x4 trucks. We spotted the truck of attractive guys again on the way. When we arrived, we had to walk one kilometer to reach the trees. During the walk, I spotted the group of guys, so I sped up my pace (I’d been rambling along in the sand, worn down by the heat. It was worth the effort…
The trees themselves were nice, but not as impressive as I had expected. The trees have been dead for hundreds of years, preserved by being in the desert. We spent some time walking around, taking pictures. Rafa and Joana played the song “Gangnam Style” and danced around with the Korean couple, who laughed and got into the dance.
Our last sight for the day was the Sesriem Canyon, which was a small canyon that no longer has water in it. Norman led us on a short walk through the canyon and then left us time to wander around. We could see the layers of rocks along the walls: large rocks indicated periods of heavy water flow, while small ones or sand indicated little to no water.
We then made our way to our next camp, where we spent some time by the pool. The campsite itself was total shit: far from everything, including the truck; the ground was covered with animal poop as well. We talked to the manager and were able to move to a different location, but he warned us that we needed to be quiet for the accommodated guests (we promptly began to communicate by shouting).
Before dinner I joined Max, Tamara, and Fabian to play Wizard. We had started a game on the truck while driving to camp, so we resumed where we left off. Tamara easily beat the rest of us – I had a streak of bad luck that never seemed to end. After dinner, we started a new game; this time I had some great hands and was leading in the scores until the final round, when Tamara and Fabian pulled ahead (and tied).
Tamara and Fabian went to bed around 21:00, but Max and I stayed up playing Carbo again. We only played for about 30 minutes before heading to bed; again, it was wonderful spending more time with him. We sit next to one another on the truck every day, but most days we sleep, read or listen to music; this time in the evenings is really special to me.
Thursday, 27 October
We had a very long day of driving before us today, driving around 500km. We had one stop for sightseeing today at the Fish River Canyon, which we reached late in the afternoon. During the morning dive, I alternated between sleeping and reading more of “Atlas Shrugged” – I reached the chapter of John Galt’s political statement, so I wanted to be able to really focus on what I was reading.
Fish River Canyon was nice to stop and visit; it is the second biggest canyon in the world (after the Grand Canyon). We could only walk around the rim of the canyon, not descend into it; we still had some amazing views though. We started out at one lookout point and were then given time to walk along the rim over to a second lookout point, where we were picked up. I walked along with Chris and Svenja since I didn't want to walk along the edge alone (my fear of heights rearing it's ugly head once again).
Camp for the night was pretty nice (except for the showers, which had mold all around!). There were three pools, all part of a hot springs complex. The bar was large and well stocked; I spent some time having a beer and relaxing.
After dinner a large group of us returned to the bar to play cards. Max, Tamara, Fabian and I played Wizard, which the others played 5,000 (we didn’t have enough cards for the entire group to play either game). I’ve really taken a liking to Wizard and I think that I’ll buy a set of the cards when I get home; it is a fun and easy game to play with people. Almost everyone went to bed around 22:30, but Max, Chris and I stayed up a little longer and played Carbo together.
Friday, 28 October
I was woken up early this morning by the sounds of baboons getting into the campsite’s trash bins, as well as stealing any food that was left out in the kitchen. They created a massive mess; there were about ten baboons that I could see and one of them even came up and knocked on our tent!
We had a late start from camp (leaving at 09:30) and I spent the time doing a little reading before playing a couple rounds of 5,000 with Svenja and Max. Out drive today took us across the border into South Africa; the border crossing was uneventful and we soon reached our camp.
Camp is located along the river that borders Namibia and South Africa, so we didn’t drive all that far today (around 200km). The camp is… very disappointing. There is nothing to do in the camp; we’re in the middle of nowhere. There is a small pool and a bar area, but Norman didn’t stop for us to do any currency exchange, so I’m not sure how we’re supposed to buy anything at the bar. The only activity today is canoeing on the river, which doesn’t interest me in the least; we’ve got nearly the entire day to sit around this camp… doing nothing.
Fabian, Tamara, Max, and me played a game of Wizard to help pass the time, which was actually quite fun. I also did some work and blogging before we had dinner. After dinner we all went back to the bar area and played cards: some of us played Wizard, while others played 5,000. I played 5,000 and had a kick-ass round that night: I kept getting tons of aces and wild cards, racking up well over 4,000 points (and taking a commanding lead). Max kept telling everyone that I *always* have all of the aces (just like I *always* have the red kings when playing Carbo).
Saturday, 29 October
Today’s agenda was quite brief: drive around 500km to our next campsite where we would have a dinner provided (no more Norman dinners!). The drive was smooth; we spent it talking, reading, listening to music… all of the usual activities. We didn’t play cards today as we were all rather tired and it was still hot on the truck (though nowhere near as bad as it was in the Namib desert!).
Camp for the night was one of the nicest campsites that we’ve had; it had really nice (and clean!) bathrooms, a large dining area with a bar, a decent sized pool. It was rather crowded, but that didn’t interfere with us at all. Best of all: the camp had wifi!! We’d been through such a wifi drought over the past couple of weeks; everyone hopped on their phones as soon as we got access.
We pulled a table from the dining room outside and sat around having some drinks together. The afternoon was getting rather cool, so we soon returned back inside, where a nice fire was going. We soon saw the staff start to cook our dinner (chicken) over the fire and it smelled delicious! Svenja, Rafa, Joana, Max and I sat around the table, chatting and hanging out until it was time for dinner.
Dinner was delicious: chicken, mashed potatoes, homemade bread, and even ice cream for dessert! The family who owned the place made the food and they were all so incredibly nice and friendly! They would chat with us, helped us take the table outside in the afternoon, and did everything they could to make our stay wonderful. They even offered to play the videos of our skydiving on their projector, but we forgot about it until it was too late.
After dinner several of us hung out at the bar and played a couple rounds of 5,000 before we left to head to bed. We would have played longer, but they wanted to close up the bar at 22:00. This was to be our last night in the tents – and our last night together. Max and I stayed up for a little while chatting in our tent; it was very nice to just chill and chat with him. He continued to tease me that a spider would come crawling into our tent, using his fingers to make noises and then running them up my arm or back to make me think it was a spider.
I went to bed feeling rather sad that this would be the last night Max and I would spend in our tent. We’d been sharing a tent together for nearly 40 nights and it would be strange to not have that anymore. I’ve come to consider Max a very, very good friend.