Now in Namibia – is this Africa?

Namibia is the most modern country I have thus far visited in Africa.  Every town, tiny as it may be, has modern good quality attractive architecture, and supermarkets filled to the brim with products from around the world (primarily South Africa, of course).

typical Swakopmund

It looks very prosperous from my surface view, and I cannot wrap my head around the 51% unemployment rate – it just doesn’t fit with my experience.

rural Namibia supermarket

This is an empty country (population 2.1 million) known for its scenary 

Spitzkoppe scenery

and the dramatic effect of desert sands touching Atlantic Ocean.

Sand is desert, not beach - near Swakopmund

It is also known for Etosha National Park, Covering 20,000 sq km, and which LP  (Lonely Planet) describes as “one of the world’s greatest wildlife-viewing venues.”  NOT – unless you categorize 3 giraffe, 1 lion, and 2 wildebeest as “greatest.”  Yup – that’s all the animal life I saw during 2 arduous days cooped up in the tour-truck I was on.

Tour truck (NOT to be called a "bus")

Etosha Wildebeests

Etosha Giraffes

No telephoto lens = no lion photo.  He did have a mane, though.
Rather than animals, I saw a lot of the salt pans (shallow very large water puddle that dries up any time of  year except when I was there, in rainy season).

Etosha NP - Pan in rainy season

Pretty, yes, but for 2 days cooped up in truck?
I can only speak for rainy season (my whole time in Africa has been rainy season), but this is NOT the place to come for wildlife viewing.   I saw much more anywhere else I went.  Also, every encountered traveler (all during rainy season), when I had asked about Etosha, got a strained look on their face and squeezed out the words “it was nice.”
Now,  Spitzkoppe & Brandberg (both close to each other, couldn’t tell which mountain was which) are another story.  Rainy season is fab, for as any desert visitor knows, after a rain unique things happen.  E.g. wildflowers, and here a pool that served as a gathering place for partying locals.

Spitzkoppe - rainy season pooldesert pool with love

 

desert pool with love

Besides all the desert, of course, there is the Atlantic, and one of my favorite experiences here was a kayak tour I got out of Swakopmund.  We paddled to a Seal Protected Area, and saw dolphins along the way.

On glassy smooth Atlantic waters

I AM cuteHowever, this was not my only seal Fellow truck traveler Michael dealing with Seal Stink

Of my seal interactions, this kayak trip was the most tolerable of the two I had.  You see, on the tour “truck” we also visited  Cape Cross Seal Colony as a stopover on our way to somewhere – Spitzkoppe or Etoshe – can’t keep track, our rapid comings and goings all blend.

Why “tolerable” you might ask.  Simple answer:  SEAL STINK.

Meri NOT dealing with seal-stink, resulted in smell flash-backs for next 2 daysHowever, there sure were a lot of overcrowded seals waiting for the new pups to take off. Much easier to get photos of them on land than when they're frolicking in the water.nursing baby

Fellow truck traveler Michael dealing with Seal Stink

nursing baby

O What a Beautiful Morning

Well, folks, I had joined my Acacia Tour so I could see Namibia.  Wow, did I learn a lesson:  Read the details and FOCUS.  I missed the part of Namibia I most wanted to see – did not realize the tour originated in Capetown. So, they had already visited Sossusvlei (pronounced Sossus-fly) before I joined them.  This is the major gorgeous Dune area eternally featured in Dune photos of Namibia.  Boo hoo.  And visiting on my own would cost about $400.
After 5 days in Namibia on my tour, they were off to Botswana en route to Livingstone, Zambia, by Victoria Falls – a route I had just taken in my effort to get to the beginning of the tour from Vic Falls!!!!  (And I thought I was so clever traversing across Southern Africa).
So, I exited the tour in Windhoek and took a mini-bus down to Swakopmund, where I now am, chilling. 
The tour ended up costing me $154/day instead of the original  $79/day, when I reduced the tour from 13 days to 5.  Not bad, really, especially since I feel like I have re-claimed my identity as a solo traveler.  Did NOT like feeling rushed.  E.g., while we did spend a night at Spitzkoppe, we had to pack up our gear in the dark.  I never got to climb around on those fabulous mountains. 

my tour group

My tour was full of very nice people with whom I did not connect except for one very nice young man from Japan who had lived a year in Seattle.  I was of an age to be parent or grandparent to anyone on the bus, including guide or driver.  Who knows what role that played?  Anyway, above is a photo of all these nice people.
A major advantage of returning to Swakopmund:  I had my reunion with my cousin and her husband earlier than planned.  I was able to surprise her!  It was wonderful beyond words:

Reunion

As noted above, I’ve been into heavy relaxing.  However, Idid take one amazing tour yesterday.  So curious as to the source of the prosperity I see all around me – went to see a URANIUM MINE.  This tour only happens twice monthly, and it was all sold out, but I got into major intention and showed up and got onto the bus (what a relief to be able to call a bus a bus).

This is a surface mine with low concentrations of uranium

Was there for this blasting-what a sound, too!This is a surface mine with low concentrations of uranium

Swakopmund morning walk

So, this is where I’ll be until Monday, 21 February, when embark on a major travel day, getting myself from here at Swakopmund the 4 hours to Windhoek (through very hot desert).  Then I’ll have a few hours for more Windhoek browsing.  Then, the BIG one:  a 17 hour overnight bus ride (departs around 6 pm) to Livingstone.
I’ve already visited all parts in between that I want to, which included many elephants and this amazing BEST SWIMMING HOLE IN THE WORLD at Ghanzi Trailblazers (Botswana):

125 heavenly strokes end-to-end

You cannot believe the interesting people I’ve been meeting here.  I guess solo travelers are an amazingly varied group of adventurous people.  But, more about that in another posting.
Love,
Meri
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5 thoughts on “Now in Namibia – is this Africa?

  1. Have certainly enjoyed your blogging!! Especially about Turkey as I lived in Izmir for a year when in the Air Force. Enjoyed the beaches, old cities, the country! Keep blogging, look forward to the Philippines and Viet Nam, have been there too. Take care!

  2. Sorry you missed Sossusvlei and the game in Etosha. Dry season is much better for game viewing because the animals have to come to the water holes to drink. We were in Etosha last June and the game was amazing. Rhinos, giraffes, lions, elephants, warthogs, kudu, springbok, wildebeest, zebras — as many as you could ever want to see.

    • I’m sorry I missed those things, too. I’ve learned to accept that sometimes that stuff happens. That’s one of the beauties of long term travel, you get to make it up in another way. OR – I could go back.

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