Namibia Pt. 1
Namibia was really a by-the-seat-of-my-pants deal. There was no plan, no map, and almost two weeks to do something. After a 24 hour ride across the border from Cape Town and Windhoek, I managed to find the hostel and get a room. From there my only idea was to hang around Windhoek for a couple of days waiting for anyone with a plan to hitch a ride with. The tours being offered seemed ridiculously priced in my opinion, considering how little food, campsites, and gas cost. So I stuck with my original plan of finding a travel companion or few or hitchhiking a while.
Windhoek is small for a capitol. There are a few sites to see with a fort and museum among them. Did not take long to get through those though. The museum was pretty intense as you see the modern history of Namibia as the people fought for freedom from the same group in charge of South Africa. The art work was intense as it described the attacks from South Africa on unarmed civilians during the early resistance.
Back at the hostel, I met a couple of Swiss guys. One was bicycling across the country and the other one was starting a two year journey around the world. The latter was working his way down to South Africa to buy a VW bus and have it converted to have a bed and kitchen in the back. He was a really cool guy. We talked through the evening, but he was traveling in the opposite direction so I was still on the lookout for a travel buddy. That’s when a Korean guy popped up out of nowhere. He was cooking and hanging around and it did not take long for me to realize where he was from. We talked together for a little while also. He was on a trip around Africa and had arrived in Namibia a couple of days before. Neither of us seemed in a hurry to take charge of the expedition, but we promised if we found someone else we would get a trip together.
The next day I did very, very little except cook and read about Namibia. The idea of not studying up on a country before I even arrive is a new concept for me. Namibia has a few things going on for it. But getting around was gonna be harder than I thought without renting a car, which was not a possibility without my driver’s license. That day was my lucky day, though. In the evening, I was cooking when a Swiss guy started cooking next to me. We struck up a conversation and after a short time he invited me to have dinner with he and his friends. They were a French couple. They had a car with four seats. They had a plan. Jackpot! Before the end of the night we had agreed to travel together for twelve days along a route the French couple had laid out. The next day we got the car, I got some equipment, we went shopping, and were on the road!
Our first destination was the sand dunes of Sossusvlei on the coast. The dunes there are gorgeous. Filled with red sand, dried river beds, and the wind off the coast to keep the dunes tall. We slept on the campgrounds inside the park gates over night. The trip was starting smoothly and we managed to set up camp, cook dinner, and get to bed early.
We rose early in the morning to pack camp, then try to catch the sunrise over the dunes. We got as close as we could to the very edge of the dunes near the coast before the sun began to peak over the tops of the sandy hills. The colors were amazing and we even managed to get further into the park than anyone else so we were all alone, except for an old American couple. It was not long before the whole group was walking to the top of the nearest dune to get a look around. The view was fantastic from the top. The ocean wind blew across the dunes and the sun warmed us after the chilly desert night. The Swiss guy and I raced down to the bottom, but it was not much of a race, because he kicked my ass. Not long after that we were back on the road to try and reach the next town in the early afternoon. This time we were headed to the ocean side of the dunes and a city called Swakopmund which was supposed to have old German architecture and lots of water sports. Unfortunately, neither of those lived up to expectations.
When got to a small town outside of Swakopmund called Langstrand where we pitched tent for cheap. After a nice dinner, we mostly went to sleep since we had woken up so early to watch the sunrise. The wind, however, kept us busy fighting to keep our tents, even with us inside, from blowing over or just collapsing. The next morning the wind was so strong we ended up packing up as quick as possible and then driving the rest of the way to Swakopmund through a small sandstorm.
We had a real close call on the way, when a truck coming up behind us lost control of his brakes and went flying around all the people stopped at a construction site. Our backend was clipped, the truck barely missed the rest of the traffic and construction workers, then somehow managed to finally stop. We were all pretty shaken. No real damage to the car, but definitely to our confidence.
The ten minute drive to town felt like an hour in the end. First thing was food and then a look around to find out what activities we might be able to do. Since it was Sunday, though, we had a harder time doing either than we expected. Then the info we found was not all that exciting. Sure you can ride a sled (plastic sheet) down the dunes, ride an ATV, go kitesurfing in the ocean, etc., etc. The prices were way over the top, in my opinion, so I chose not to do anything. The French couple and the Swiss guy came to the same conclusion, so we found a campsite, took a short (real short) tour of the town, then settled in for a couple of days of rest. All of us had been traveling around essentially alone so much over the last few weeks or months and the next few days were going to be spent far away from anyone or anywhere near as nice that a couple of days hanging out with familiar faces in civilization sounded good.