The final leg

Leaving Swakopmund behind, it was hard to believe I was on the final leg of my trip, only 6 days to left!
We drove down the coast for a while before turning back inland, as soon as we were away from the coast it started to heat up and we were peeling off layers of clothing. The landscape was very dry and rocky, and as it began to even out we passed across the Tropic of Capricorn.

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Tropic of Capricorn

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We got into camp reasonably early at 3pm, spent the afternoon relaxing, enjoying a hot shower and the wildlife wandering through camp. We had an early start the next day so we were all in bed straight after dinner.

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Up at 5am, we didn’t pack up the tents as we would be coming back to camp after our morning excursion. We passed into Namib-Naukluft National Park at 6:00am, half an hour before the rest of the crowds showed up who weren’t camping next to it. We had about a 20 minute drive to Dune 45, 170 metres high and the point people go to watch sunrise. There were already a fair few people climbing up the dune when we got there, now I don’t consider myself a competitive person but when I saw those people ahead of me something sparked inside me and I was like NOPE I WANT TO BE FIRST! I think I was motivated by the fact that I wanted sunrise pictures without people or footprints in them.

Don’t know where the energy came from but I passed about 40 people and ended up being 3rd to the top! Hard work! For every step you take up the sand dunes you slide back half a step.
When I got to the top I collapsed and completely forgot that I had wanted to be up there to get pictures without footprints, a woman walked by me and I ended up half chasing her across the dune to try get ahead to get a photos but she powered ahead of me, oh well!

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Getting down the dune is a lot more fun, running down the side you slide just as much as you are running, got to the bottom covered head to toe in sand!
At the bottom our cook had prepared breakfast for us, delicious spread! We quickly ate before hopping back into the truck to get to the next point to beat the crowds. Ten minutes later we got to the carpark, dozens of trucks and jeeps, there were guides jumping out of vehicles and sprinting to the ticket point to line up for their tourists.
They don’t allow private vehicles to drive further than the carpark because too many self-drive tourists get stuck in the sand, so they have a jeep shuttle system to bring the tourists in and out.

Luckily we only had to wait about 20 minutes for our turn to get in the jeep. 10 minute drive later we arrived, on our left was Big Daddy, the largest sand dune in the world standing at 300 metre high and on the right was Big Mama the second biggest sand dune.

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Big Daddy in the distance!

We were given 2 hours to explore the area, our guide suggested we climb the smaller dune next to Big Daddy and we would get a good panoramic view of the dunes and Deadsvlei, then we could go down to Deadsvlei and look around. I asked why he didn’t suggest Big Daddy, he said it would take the full 2 hours and I would miss out on Deadsvlei. Myself and 2 friends (Debbie and Ross, Australian couple) looked at each other… challenge accepted! Our guide told us we better start running if we wanted to make it, so off we went!
Started running across the sand, which then turned into a salt pan that we were running across, took us 15 minutes to get just to the base of Big Daddy. I kept chanting in my head “we can make it, we can make it”.

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Running across the salt flats to Big Daddy

It was only 9am and the sun was already blaring down on us, a guy had just come down and we asked him how long it took to get up, he said it took him an hour but it was very hot now so it would take us longer. Didn’t like his attitude… not very positive I don’t think! Besides we are from Australia, this isn’t hot yet (ignore the fact I’m from Canberra).
We started the climb, stopping occasionally to check the time and catch our breath. It was A LOT harder than the dune this morning, I think because in the morning I had been stepping in other people’s footsteps which makes it a bit easier, but the footsteps here had already sunken away.

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If you look closely at the top you can see tiny dots which are people

After 45 gruelling minutes we finally made it to the top! Dripping with sweat but sooo happy! We sat down for about 10 minutes taking it all in, we could see right down into Deadslvei. Took a few photos and then decided to head back down as we had 45 minutes to get back to the meeting point.

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Red faced! Made it!!

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Getting to the bottom of Big Daddy took only 5 minutes, almost disappointing after the effort involved in getting up. It was fun though! We were sliding/running down the hill and it felt never ending, I saw a sand diving lizard on the way down too!
We reached the bottom at Deadslvei, emptied the ridiculous amount of sand from our shoes and started walking.

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Huge salt pan, you can see the trees way in the distance

It was a huge salt pan, we started jogging because we knew we were short on time. We finally got to where the trees were, the trees are dead and some are over 800 years old.

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800 year old trees

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The black contrast against the white salt pan, red sand and blue sky is beautiful! We kept on walking to get back to the start point and amazingly we got back at 10:50, 10 minutes to spare!
We were so pleased with ourselves, red faced and dripping in sweat but we had conquered Big Daddy!
The drive back in the jeep to the carpark was eventful, I got the last seat which was in the front with the driver. The whole way he was on the radio screaming that there had been tourists who had jumped into a jeep without paying the fee and that they couldn’t get away with it. Apparently it’s common for hotel jeeps to only charge tourists one way fees which meant that jeep drivers like him lose money. He would go silent and then 30 seconds later scream into the radio GET THE MONEY! He was screaming at other jeeps as they passed telling them what happened, it was intense! I was happy to arrive at the carpark!
Got back into the truck with sand everywhere, in my hair, in my mouth, everywhere! We drove 45 minutes back to the campsite, put the tents down and had lunch before heading off!
We only drove 2 hours today, after truck cleaning duty I raced to the shower still filthy from the morning. After dinner we played a bit of pool in the bar, exhausted after the big day went to bed fairly early.
Had a freezing cold night, terrible sleep because I kept waking from the cold. My tent mate (Steph) told me I kept waking her because I kept breathing heavily, oops!
We headed off after breakfast, stopped in a small town called Bethanie on the way. We were going to have cheese and crackers that evening so we tried to scrounge what we could in the small town. I found chilli bites (dried meat) at a small butcher, block of cheese at the mini market and some plain biscuits. That’ll do! The town itself wasn’t the nicest, there was a lot of creepy men hanging around asking for money or whispering hey there lady, I was glad to leave.
We stopped at a bridge along the way to take some pictures of fish river, the river was dried up so we took photos of the sand instead.

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We continued on the drive and at one stage I could smell something burning, after the tyre incident in Etosha NP I panicked and quickly told my guide. They stopped the truck and jumped out, turns out a tiny bit of wood had got stuck in the brake and had been burning. I can cope with that! As long as no more fires on the truck!
We got into camp at 1pm, it was a new resort under construction but it looked like it was going to be very expensive when finished! Beautiful bar and pool area. We had lunch and relaxed until 3pm then we got in the truck and drove 10 minutes up the road to Fish River Canyon.
We got dropped at the starting point of the walk along the canyon, it was a 3km walk back to the viewing point. Really hot weather! The canyon was super impressive though, 600m in depth at some points. Took about 40 minutes to walk, stopping for pictures along the way.

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Walking along the canyon

We had a water break at the viewing point then walked a further 2km along the canyon in the other direction to check out the view before heading back for sunset.

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Next 2 hours we enjoyed the view with our cheese and crackers. Once the sun was down we all got back into the truck to go back to camp. Had another excellent dinner before heading off to bed.
Following day we only had about an hour or so to drive to our next campsite, we got in and it was beautiful, lots of lush green grass everywhere.


At this campsite we would be switching to a new truck, reason being South Africa doesn’t allow tour companies to use trucks that aren’t registered in South Africa and the one we had been in had been registered in Kenya. We emptied out the truck, I had my things strewn everywhere in my two lockers and in the overhead compartments and back seat pockets. Guess that’s what happens when you are living in a truck for weeks! The new truck was a lot smaller and my big bag did not fit inside the locker! Took out the important things for next couple of days then put the big bag underneath.

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Emptying the truck

Rest of the afternoon I laid on the grass napping, went down near the pool for a while as well. After lunch we got told that our driver John would be leaving us here and we would have a new driver from South Africa from tomorrow. Really sad after spending 40+ days with him, really friendly guy!
That evening a few of us were talking to our cook and driver about their first experiences with western culture. John had never used a knife and fork until he started working for the company, and he used to hide in the truck watching tourists using cutlery until he was confident to eat in front of them. Our cook when he first went to a restaurant and was given a teabag had torn it open to pour into the cup because he had never seen one before. Crazy such little things that we don’t even give a second thought to.
We had a really nice dinner that night, lamb chops, roast potatoes, vegetables, our cook really put on a show for John’s last night. We finished the night with a drink with John at the bar before bed.

Early start at 6am, we had breakfast, said our goodbyes to John and met our new driver Goodman, very chatty guy from Johannesburg!
We drove only 10 minutes to the border, very straight forward being stamped out of Namibia and into South Africa. Apparently normally when they enter South Africa we have to empty out the truck to be searched with dogs and everything but Goodman somehow talked the officer out of it. My guide just shook his head and said I don’t know how he does it, he is the only driver that never gets searched.We stopped in a town called Springbok to go supermarket, I was so excited when I saw they sold hummus! FINALLY! I had been craving it for weeks and there it was! Bought that and went back to the truck, I demolished the whole tub before we headed off.

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Man made canal system for the vineyards

We got into our final campsite for the trip, it was at a beautiful winery with green grass and nice views over the vineyards. I had planned on upgrading for my final night of the tour but the campsite was so nice I didn’t feel the need to.

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Final campsite

At 5pm we had a wine tasting, we tried 6 different wines with cheese and crackers, really enjoyable evening. Had a delicious final meal which included chocolate pudding for dessert. We all went up to the bar for a few drinks, played a few games of pool and then went off to bed.

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Woke up to a beautiful view from the tent overlooking the vineyards. I packed up my tent for the last time in 63 days, felt a bit sentimental. That was short lived when my finger got pinched by one of the poles. We hopped into the truck and drove the final 300km to Cape Town.
As we got closer to Cape Town, Table Mountain came into view super impressive!

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Table Mountain coming into view

We arrived at the ending point hostel, myself and Steph were the only ones who had booked rooms there and everyone else had split to other hotels. We emptied out the truck and all said goodbye to each other, the crew were staying at the hostel so I’d catch them later.
Lots of friendly staff at the hostel, I had decided to splurge and stay in a private room with Steph instead of the dorms. Got into the room and collapsed on the bed, laid there for about an hour not really doing much. I needed to do laundry but even that seemed like too much effort. Finally at about 5 we went down to the bar/restaurant for a few drinks. Ended up having a couple of drinks with the crew and chatting with them. Had a really nice pizza from the bar and enjoyed a few beers. I felt like I got some weird kind of culture shock looking around at the people at the bar. Everyone was dressed so nicely and seemed so clean compared to my filthy clothes after 2 months of camping!
I went up to my room at one point to get a jumper, told the crew I’d be back in 10 minutes, sat on the bed aaaaaaaaaand fell asleep!
Following morning I couldn’t believe it when I woke up! I quickly raced out of the room to catch the crew before they left because I knew they were leaving early. Bumped into them in the hallway and they were like what happened? Classic Shannon falling asleep, I apologised and explained. We said our goodbyes and off they went with the truck.
Had breakfast then went to meet Debbie and Ross for the day.

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Cape Town Streets

We spent couple hours wandering around the markets and buying a few things. We were all keen to do Table Mountain but the issue was the weather. Because of the crazy weather in Cape Town the cable car opens and shuts non-stop throughout the day, part of when you buy a ticket up there is they say you have to be prepared to have to climb down if they can’t run the cable car. Before we went to the market the cable car had been closed, we came back afterwards and it was open! We quickly bought tickets and hopped in a taxi to race to the mountain. Got to the station and after a short wait hopped into the cable car. The wire stretches 1km long, takes a minute to go up to the top at 1080m high. The inside of the cable car rotates and can fit 65 people and the views were amazing.

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We were starving once we got to the top so we went to the buffet style café. With full stomachs we had a wander all around the top for an hour, incredible views over Cape Town and the south coast.

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Looking over Cape Town

We decided to head back down and get on the hop on hop off bus that goes around the south peninsula of Cape Town, we booked tickets online and just as we got to the bottom of the cable car the next bus had arrived. Got seats on top of the bus and listened to the audio while looking at the views. Really beautiful scenery all along the coast, we got off at the Camps Bay stop and had a wander along the beach, really buzzing area, I’d like to come back and explore if I have time.

We headed back towards the city getting off at the main stop, we got there just before 4pm and we were able to join the free walking tour to Bo Kaap, perfect timing!

Bo Kaap is the Islamic area in Cape Town, made famous for its very colourful buildings. We got shown the oldest mosque which was built in 1764, he said this was strange because at that time the Dutch were still in charge and the Dutch were intolerant of any religion other than theirs.

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We got taken all around the streets for 2 hours, the tour finished up and I made plans to meet Debbie and Ross the following day. Went back to the hostel and met Steph for dinner, the place we wanted to go was booked until 9pm, we decided to go to bar nearby for a drink before going there. At the bar I bumped into a girl from Canberra! Never met anyone from Canberra while travelling, she was just as excited as I was!
We headed back to the restaurant and ended up ordering a feast, so delicious! We got butternut squash mash, spinach feta pumpkin rolls, calamari and caprese salad and a serve of fries. Food was so good!
Got back to the hostel and Steph went to bed, I stayed at the bar chatting with some hostel staff and other travellers. A few of us decided to head out to the clubs, went to a super touristy bar which wasn’t bad. I asked a guy from the hostel if he knew any local spots and he took us all to a place around the corner where there was not a tourist in sight, perfect! Ended up having a really good time at this club and got home in the early hours.
After a couple hours sleep I got up and showered, Debbie and Ross came to meet me at the hostel at about 8 because we wanted to hire a car for the day to explore south of Cape Town. After a lot of confusion about whether we could hire a car or not because it was a public holiday we got the location of a place nearby, hopped in a taxi and after a bit of searching found the place.
Ended up paying $25 each for car hire for the day, perfect! We headed off down south, first stop was Hout Bay. Cold weather but was still nice to walk along the pier where all the fishermen were. One of them was feeding a seal from his boat which was cute!

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We hopped back into the car, the scenery was seriously breathtaking! High mountains and sheer cliffs all along the way, stopped at a lookout point along the way and saw a couple of whales in the distance!

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From there we drove inland towards Simons Bay, to see the penguins at Boulders Beach. We had a walk along the beach to watch them for a while before stopping for lunch at a café near the beach. Had a nice meal, we could see a few penguins from where we were sitting, cuties!

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After lunch we continued our drive to Cape of Good Hope the most south-western point of Africa. As we got closer we could see the hoards of tourists there, we parked the car and walked up the hill to the lookout point. Tourists were still piling in so we decided to head towards the lighthouse 10 minutes away.

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Parked the car and walked about 20 minutes to the top, the whole way up there were baboons on the path. Signs everywhere saying to not have food, leave them alone etc. We saw a number of baboons charging at tourists who ignored these rules.

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At this point we had almost run out of time so we missed out on going to Hermanus Bay to try see some whales. Headed back towards Cape Town on the inland road, definitely not as scenic but it was quick. We drove through a small town called Fish Hoek which reminded me of some coast towns in Australia, I’d like to go back one day and explore!
We got back to my hostel and parked the car. We went inside to book tickets to Robben Island for the next day, unfortunately it was fully booked out! Debbie and Ross headed off and I went up to the room to start packing my bag for my flight the following evening, ended up laying on my bed for hours just looking through pictures from the trip and then falling asleep without dinner!
Following morning I did a quick pack of my bags and checked out. Met Debbie and Ross, we dropped the car back at the car rental place, then got a taxi to the Apartheid Museum for Nelson Mandela.
We spent an hour and a half at the museum, it was fascinating. All about Nelson Mandela from when he was born, his youth, education, activism, imprisonment and then once he was president.
We were pretty hungry so we walked to the VA waterfront, sun came out just as we got there so we chose a café outside overlooking the water. Debbie and Ross shouted me lunch for my birthday which was really nice of them. Had a really tasty lamb dish, best meal in Cape Town so far! We went back to my hostel where I said my final goodbyes to them!

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Down on the waterfront

Spent the next half hour moving things around in my bag before ordering an Uber for the airport. My Uber driver was from Zimbabwe, he got super excited when I said I had just been there, we chatted the full 45 minutes to the airport. Check in was straight forward, next 2 hours in the airport I was feeling nostalgic for all the adventures I’d had in Africa, I was so upset to be leaving but knew I had more amazing adventures ahead of me.


Back in Australia when I had booked the tour I had only been excited for all the safaris and animals I was going to see. I didn’t realise how much I was going to enjoy Africa, the animals were just the start. So many beautiful friendly people I had met along the way, the constantly changing scenery and such varied cultures not just from different countries but within the countries themselves. I really fell in love with Africa and I know it’s a place I will return to many times throughout my life!

 

Namibia – Beautiful people, animals and landscapes

Back in Namibia! When I booked my tour through Africa I really hadn’t given Namibia much thought and I didn’t know much about it. Namibia surprised me and it became one of my favourite countries to visit in Africa.

Having returned from the Okavanga Delta we were back on the road.  We had the usual stop for groceries, ATMs, snacks etc before arriving at our campsite in the middle of nowhere!  I was pretty surprised when I realised our campsite had a good bar and a nice swimming pool! We didn’t do much that afternoon, swam, had a few drinks etc, I was on cooking duty so I helped chop up the vegetables and then went for a shower.

After dinner I went to the bar and got chatting with the bartender and my guide.  They were talking about how a couple weeks earlier there had been an accident with one of the overland truck companies.  The truck was driving along the road and a ute ahead of them saw an animal and did a u-turn to go back and see.  Because of the dust and the gravel road by the time the truck saw them it was too late, they t-boned the ute and the truck ended up flipping on its side and sliding along the road.  The truck had about 20 tourists from Spain on it, 1 died at the scene and most of them were in hospital in critical condition. The only person wearing a seatbelt was the driver and he was one of the few that hadn’t been badly injured.  The family in the ute walked away with no injuries, pretty horrific!

My campsite had a waterhole that you could go and sit at, decided to go check it out before bed.  I was super excited to see 3 giraffe, a jackal, duiker, zebra, kudu and an owl! Completely different experience watching them at night and I was only metres away hidden in a bunker!  It was absolutely freezing though and I eventually tore myself away from the animal watching to go snuggle up in my sleeping bag!

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Zebra – bad quality photos taken on my phone

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Kudu

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Duiker

The following morning after breakfast we headed off for an hour long drive to the San Bushmen village.  Along the way my guide kept telling people over and over to make sure they had their seatbelts on (more so than usual). I later asked him about it and turns out the road we were on was the same one the truck accident had been.

We were getting close to the Bushmen’s reception area and a few of them had come out to the side of the road to wave and welcome us, I was jumping out of my seat with excitement at this stage. We pulled over and picked up a couple of them to drive to their main village, they sat near me and I could hear them talking to each other in their clicking language. I’m glad I sat behind them because my jaw was on the floor listening to them!

We hopped out of the truck and started walking to start our guided visit, we were going to be guided by two men (an uncle and nephew I wish I knew their names but they had the clicking sound in them). There bodies were so lean – not a shred of fat on them!

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The uncle

We followed them to the communal area of the village, where about 30 bushmen of all ages had gathered.  Children run around butt naked playing games with each other, the women wear skirts made from animal skin, some of them had animal skin shawls but most were topless, plus jewellery and headbands made from nuts, seeds, grass, animal skin etc and the men just wore animal skin to cover their bits.

They all had the biggest smiles on their faces and were so happy and welcoming, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face!

We started our bush walking tour, first we were shown their way of making fire with sticks and grass.

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Throughout the tour we got shown lots of different plants that are used for poisons, medicine, eating and even a plant they use as a toothbrush.  They then showed us one of their traps they used to catch animals by the neck.

Our guide dug up a plant that is used for muscle aches and it smelt exactly the same as deep heat, after showing it to us he put it into his leather pouch and said he needed it for later. We asked what he needed it for and he showed us one of his arms which was massively swollen, he then casually told us he got bitten by a scorpion the other day and the plant helped the healing. Tough guy!

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Walking through the bush

We had 3 of the women walking along with us during the tour as well, they went ahead of us at one point and started searching around on the ground before digging up a plant that was similar to potato. A couple of us tried the raw plant, but they kept the rest for their dinner that night.

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Three women along for the walk

We asked the uncle how old he was and his response was “I do not know but I was born in the rainy season”.  The bushmen do not keep time or have dates so they have no idea of how old they are!  We asked when they get married and they said again they wouldn’t know maybe 12-15 years old, because once a boy or girl hit puberty they would then be ready to marry.  Couples are matched depending on how good they are at hunting (male) and gathering (female), a good hunter will only marry a good gatherer as in the past if you weren’t good at doing this you would not survive in the bush.

The end of the tour we had one of the men show us their technique on how they would hunt for animals, tracking them in the bush and then shooting them with the arrow. The arrows are designed to inject poison and not kill so the arrow pierces the skin but then falls out and can be reused.  Different poisons are used for different animals and they take varied amount of times to take effect. For example the poison they use on giraffe takes two days for the giraffe to be killed, during that time the men take turns tracking the giraffe until it is dead.

We walked back to the main village where they had singing and dancing.  Myself and my tentmate as the youngest females were included in a young females dancing game.  We held hands with 4 other women in a straight line and while they sang you kind of went in a circle and looped your arms around each other.  Again I was grinning ear to ear having the best time!

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After our dancing game they sung a few more songs and danced together, it was honestly one of the best moments I had had in Africa!

We finished up at their little market where they had hundreds of necklaces, bracelets, arrows etc to buy.  The Bushmen don’t accept tips but they sell their goods, so I started bulk buying bracelets and necklaces, all made of seeds and nuts.  Can’t get them back into Australia but I figure I have 10 more months of wearing them before I return home!

I was super sad to say goodbye, I wanted to spend all day and night there but we had to head back to camp.  Lunch was burgers and chips (seriously how does our cook make this stuff on the tiny stove?), I spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool.

After dinner I went back to the bar and was chatting with the bartender about wild animals. He told me he had killed leopards before, I was not impressed when he said that and I think my face showed it because he went on to explain.  He said the first leopard he killed was at his village, the young kids had been out playing and came inside to the adults screaming and crying.  The adults raced outside and found a leopard up in a tree with one of the young boys from the village, he shot the leopard but it was too late the leopard had already killed the boy. He said it was an ongoing issue with farmers and for that reason he had killed a few and he knew of others who had killed them.  Difficult situation.

It was freezing again that night so finished off my beer to go snuggle in the sleeping bag again!

We left the following morning at 8:30, stopped for groceries along the way before arriving at Etosha National Park at about midday.  Etosha really surprised me, it was the last national park we would be visiting and having been through so many I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it as much as the previous ones – turned out to be one of the best!  The landscapes were so different to anywhere else, the sand and dirt is almost white because of all the saline, the plants were dry and yellow which contrasted amazingly against the blue sky, it was beautiful! As there are no rivers or lakes in Etosha the animals gather around waterholes, some are naturally made and some are man made, the waterholes make for excellent game viewing!

We got into the campsite and had lunch, had a bit of time before our afternoon game drive, it was so hot and windy it took me about 2 seconds to jump into the pool. We headed off for our afternoon game drive at about 2pm and saw plenty! Oryx, zebra, giraffe, elephant, duiker, jackal, hyena, 2 cheetah, black rhino and lots more. We got back to the campsite for dinner at 6:30, those of us doing the night game drive headed off at about 7:30 to the entrance of the campsite to meet our guide for the night.

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It was pitch black when we set off, 5 minutes in we saw a porcupine! Super lucky to see that, they are rare to find.  We saw lions, rhino, elephant, giraffe and of course lots of antelope.  It went quiet a bit afterwards and we didn’t see much for a while, hate to say it but I ended up somehow dozing off! I woke up when we braked suddenly, there was an owl with 3 baby owls on the ground! They were so cute!  Apparently the baby owls just stay on the ground the whole time until they can fly, mum watches out for predators while dad goes and hunts.  We finished up the game drive at 11 and I went straight to bed, I was exhausted!

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Up early to depart the campsite at 6:30 for our game drive – incredible! We saw oryx, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, elephants, jackal, rhino, baby rhino (we’d seen about 8 rhino in this national park so far both black and white), dik-dik, daiker, impala, kudu, red hartebeest, countless birds!!

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Zebra Crossing

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The national park has salt flats that we stopped at to get a few pictures.

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Salt flats

The first waterhole we stopped at had a herd of elephant there, zebra and lots of different antelope.  Fascinating to watch them interact with each other, you can tell the elephants are top of the ladder!

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At the waterhole

Everyone keeps their distance from them… almost everyone.  We saw a rhino approaching from the distance, it came up to the waterhole and started to roll around in the mud.  The elephants were watching the whole time, the elephants then started to approach the rhino so we then watched a bit of a stand off between the rhino and the elephants.  There was a young elephant that kept on going at the rhino but the rhino stood its ground and at one point the rhino chased it off, the matriarch was keeping a close eye on the situation. Eventually the rhino moved on, but it was a pretty tense situation!

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Stand off

The next waterhole we went to there were hundreds and I mean HUNDREDS of zebra! It was crazy they were walking up to the waterhole in a massive procession, having a sip of water and then moving on. Haven’t seen so many of them together before! We saw a few other species there as well but the zebras stole the show.

From there we had about an hours drive to get to the campsite to have lunch, about 20 minutes into the drive we heard a bang an then what sounded like air coming out of the tyre. Truck came rattling to a stop and my guide jumped off to check out the tyre, I stood up to look out the window and see what was going on. I saw a flash of orange go by the truck and then a second later Victor was at the back door screaming EVERYONE OFF THE TRUCK NOW! Didn’t have to tell me twice! I don’t think I’ve ever moved so fast, I was out the door without putting the step down and sprinting up the road. I turned around when I was about 30-40 metres away and people were still climbing out of the truck – well I guess we know how I react in stressful situations… RUN AWAY! I waited for everyone to catch up and was looking all around.  I thought we had got a flat tyre and then when we pulled over a lion had approached the truck (the flash of orange I saw) which on reflection was really stupid because it was actually the drivers shirt which was fluoro orange and also if there was a lion outside why would our guide be telling us to get off the bus.

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Truck repairs

So anyway I then noticed my guide, driver, the cook and a few of the guys all running to get fire extinguishers and the cans of water. Holy crap the truck was on fire! I just stood there mouth open like what the hell do I do? The driver was fully climbing underneath the truck with flames in his face throwing water at it to get the fire to stop.  Eventually the fire stopped I looked over at my friend Debbie who was jumping around, looked down and saw she had one sandal on. In the panic she had grabbed one sandal, a jumper and her camera. I just started pissing myself laughing, of all the things to grab a jumper is not right up there in this stinking hot weather! We moved closer to the truck to see what had happened. Turns out the brake pipe had got hot and was letting air out, which caused the brakes to jam which then got very hot and the tyre caught on fire from the heat which then popped the tyre. (I’m sure that could have been far more technically explained and I’m sure my father will cringe while reading that). Fortunately the truck has lots of spare parts and all the guides, cooks and drivers are trained in basic mechanics, so the three of them set to work on replacing the brakes (or brake pad or whatever it was that started the fire).  Couple of the guys helped redirect traffic as there were lots of cars coming flying around the dusty roads, I stood in the shade taking photos, looking around to make sure there were no lions and occasionally screaming when a pigeon would spook me coming out of the bush – oh yeah I’m real tough! About an hour later we were all ready to go, and almost everyone was in good spirits, honestly I thought it was kind of fun, added a bit of excitement!

We decided that rather than heading to camp at this stage and having lunch we would just start our afternoon game drive and then have an early dinner – best decision we could have made! We went to a waterhole and it was unlike anything I’ve seen before, it was amazing! There were hundreds and hundreds of impala, giraffe, ostrich, a dead zebra, jackal and an elephant that was standing there almost frozen like he was asleep.

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Pictures don’t do it justice

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Small segment of the waterhole

Another truck pulled up and they told us that at waterhole nearby there was a couple of lions, we decided to check it out. We got there and there were 2 lions in the distance, we were watching them when on the other side of the truck suddenly we noticed some more coming out of the bush. Two females and little cub! They walked up to the other lions and when we got there we realised there was actually 2 more that had been hidden behind a concrete block.

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We watched them for about half an hour which was great. They all had very big bellies, obviously just eaten! There were 3 half grown males that were all kind of playing around with each other. The young cub was playing with the alpha male and there were two females that were by the water most of the time.

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At the waterhole

We finally left to head to the campsite, all in all a fantastic day!  We got into the campsite and went to the waterhole nearby, there were 3 bull elephants there in the water, which were shortly joined by about 20 more elephants that all filed in a procession. It was really cool watching the interaction between the female matriarch of the herd and the male elephants, you could tell she was the boss. One of the males was ready to mate and kept going to all the females in the herd and a second later the matriarch was there chasing him away.

I missed the sunset because I had an excessively long shower (gotta appreciate the good hot showers when you get them), but apparently it was beautiful! We had dinner and then a few of us went back to the waterhole, there were a few giraffe there and about 10 minutes later 4 rhino showed up! We had seen about 13 rhino in total in this park, amazing! I was pretty tired so I went to bed soon afterwards.

The following day we left the campsite at 8am to head to Spitzkoppe. On the way out of the park there were some women from the Himba Tribe sitting on the side of the road.  I was super excited because I hadn’t expected to see the Himba Tribe this far south in  Namibia.  We stopped the truck and I jumped out, bought a few bracelets and asked for some pictures.

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The Himba tribe puts clay on their skin and hair for sun protection as well as beauty.  Their hair was incredible!

We continued on the drive from there, scenery wasn’t great but we kept entertained with cards and reading. Stopped along the way for groceries in a town, and afterwards we pulled over on the road for lunch.

We continued on driving and got into Spitzkoppe at about 4, we were hoping to do a walking tour with a guide to see some Bushmen cave paintings but when we got in all of the guides were busy. We went straight to the campsite to set up for dinner, however no tents tonight as we would be camping up on the rocks! Spitzkoppe is a huge rock formation in the middle of the desert and it is impressive! A few of us decided to go for a walk up one of the big rocks, it was huge but only ended up taking us about 10-15 minutes to clamber up to the top, we watched the start of the sunset but started to head down before it went down because we didn’t want to walk back in the dark.

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That night it really cooled down in the desert! I was completely rugged up! That night for dinner we had delicious Kudu steaks, really tasty! A few of us stayed up to have drinks and the rest headed up to the rocks with sleeping bags and mats to set up for the night. I stayed up a bit later and at about midnight headed to the rocks to set up my mat and sleeping bag. I was sooo damn cold! Had heaps of layers but it was freezing! However the stargazing was amazing! Middle of nowhere so no light pollution, the stars were just incredible. I spent a solid 30 minutes trying some astrophotography but didn’t have much luck, fell asleep soon afterwards.

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Woke up the following morning pretty tired, I had a pretty restless sleep because of the cold.  But every time I woke up and looked up and saw the stars it was amazing!  I got up just as the sun was rising which was so beautiful!

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We went down off the rocks for breakfast and headed off in the truck around 8am.  As we drove closer to the coast the weather really started to cool down, very misty along the road and the landscape was barren!

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Barren landscape

Finally after weeks inland we arrived at the Atlantic coast, and it certainly did not look welcoming! Huge waves crashing in, looked dangerous!  We drove 30 minutes up north along the coast arriving to Cape Cross Seal Colony, wow!  Our guide said we had 30 minutes, some people complained this was too long and he said don’t worry we rarely spend 30 minutes because people can’t stand the smell.  Well he wasn’t wrong about the smell… I hopped off the truck and it hit me like a wall!

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Seals seals seals

The stench of thousands of seal filth was sooo intense! BUT it did not deter me from being excited about being around this many of them!  We walked towards the footpath that had been constructed to avoid seal-human contact, however I guess seals don’t understand this concept so they seals were everywhere, we got within feet of many of the way to the footpath!

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The noise was incredible, non stop blaggh blaggh blaggh orh orh orh, I hope that can translate to the noise they made.  We saw a few fights, lots of babies suckling on the mother, the numbers were crazy, so many just flopped all over each other in giant piles.  Myself and 2 others spent the full half hour there, realising we were late we sprinted back to the truck and were met with some unhappy people who didn’t appreciate the smell, oh well!

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Masses of seals

We headed back the way we came down the coast stopping along the way to check out a shipwreck on the beach, disgusting weather!

When we arrived we got taken to the tour office first to be told what tour options we had.  I decided to take the next few days to chill out and only chose one tour, ‘The Living Desert’ (more on that later).

We headed to our accommodation for the next few days, we were upgraded from our tents to shared beach houses, actual beds in private rooms, private bathroom and a kitchen.  We emptied the truck of our things and said goodbye to the crew for the next 3 days.

A few of us decided to check out one of the German pubs in town, Swakopmund had a bit of a German feel to it because of the architecture.  We ended up spending over an hour walking around because all of the pubs were closed! Walked most of the town in that time, we saw some women from the Himba tribe near the pier selling things, don’t know how they don’t freeze to death!

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Ended up at a nice restaurant on the water for a beer, it was freezing cold by the time the sun went down so we went back to the house for showers before dinner.  Went out for dinner, and it was a bit overwhelming having to choose something to eat when the past 6-7 weeks I basically had food put in front of me.  Ended up ordering an oryx steak, which was so. damn. good.  It was cooked so well and had a nice sauce to go with it.

We were all pretty tired by the end of dinner so we went back to the house and fell asleep straight away!

The following day I successfully did a whole lot of nothing! Slept until 8am before going into town for breakfast, had a really good big breakfast. Had a bit of a wander around town, looking into some of the shops along the way, very pricey souvenirs!

Ended up down on the pier at one of the restaurants and that was where I spent the next 3-4 hours.  Drunk delicious strawberry daiquiris, ate pork belly, chips, salt pepper squid and finished up with a flight of 3 beers. The day had started off quite cold but by the afternoon I could feel myself burning.  When I left the restaurant my stomach was aching from all the food and beer, slowly made my way back to the cottage.  We had bought chips, dip, cheese etc to enjoy before dinner, I shouldn’t have eaten any but I couldn’t help myself.

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For dinner we went to the Barhaus, I ordered a chicken schnitzel.  Chicken was so tender and really nice chips, couldn’t finish it of course because I was still full! On the way back to the house we stopped at the Desert Tavern, only bar in town I think. Had a beer which I was struggling to finish because of all the food in my stomach, ended up back in the room asleep at 11.

The following morning I got up at 7, still had a full stomach from night before so decided on vegemite and crackers for breakfast.  Five from my group had chosen to do the Living Desert tour, the tour basically was to take us into the desert to show us the life there, animals, plants etc.

We were picked up by our guide Ygritte with 4 others in the jeep and headed off with 2 other jeeps to the sand dunes.

The dunes used to be completely open to the public but the eco system was being destroyed by people coming in with their jeeps and driving all around for fun. We entered the protected area for our tour.  First stop was the horses graveyard.

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Horses Graveyard

In 1914, 15000 horses were brought over by South Africans to help work. The horses got a disease and a vet with treatment was being sent over by ship however they didn’t make it in time because the ship was shipwrecked.  The locals decided the best thing to do was to just kill all the horses in case it infected the people. The graveyard that we were looking at had 1645 horses and 950 mules that were all shot. They had been buried but over time the wind had blown the sand and the bones were now visible.  Apparently every now and then jackals and hyenas come to see if there is any meat still on the bones for them.

The next few hours were spent searching for animals in the sand, which was incredible to watch!  We would be driving along then suddenly one of the drivers would slam on the brakes, go sprinting up a dune because they had seen a track, they’d start digging and amazingly find some sort of creature, really impressive!

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Into the dunes

Throughout the day we saw 2 snakes (slide winding snake and horned snake), a scorpion (deadliest one in the world), gecko (beautiful rainbow colours), sand diving lizard, a weird worm, few bugs. Overall we were pretty lucky with everything we saw.  We stopped at one point to feed some birds, reason being that the guides were bringing grubs to show clients the tongue motion of the chameleon.  The birds knew that the guides brought grubs so now every day the birds wait around to be fed!

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As well as the creatures we got shown various plants that can be used for survival in the desert.  All in all it was a good day!

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The dunes

We got back to town at 1 so I went to meet my friend for lunch at the same place as yesterday, I ordered the meat skewer and far out SO MUCH MEAT! I think I overdosed on red meat, really I think I just overdosed on food in general, Swakopmund had sent me mad with food.  My skewer had eland, kudu, beef, ostrich and oryx on it, it was delicious but man I felt sick afterwards. I was slowly waddling through town heading back to the room, thought an ice cream might help me… it didn’t.

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Meat skewer, so happy before I realised how sick I would be

Got back to the room, showered and passed out on the bed for a while. Woke up because the others were having cheese, crackers and salami which of course I could not say no to. We went into town for our final dinner in Swakopmund, surprise surprise I over ordered. Entrée I had 6 oysters, yum! Main I had calamari and chips which was really nice and for dessert I had a lava cake. I think I had reached my peak of food intake, walking back to the room was so hard because my stomach hurt so much.

Back in the room I passed out in bed pretty quickly.  I was looking forward to getting back on the road the next day, I had obviously proven I am not capable of making my own food decisions and couldn’t wait for our cook to serve up healthy decent sized meals.  Swakopmund is known as an adventure city, lots of adrenaline activities. I didn’t do any of these but I definitely tested the limits of my body by sampling all the food it could offer!

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Swakopmund