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

2 thoughts on “Namibia – Beautiful people, animals and landscapes

  1. Antithesis of boring these blogs – evolution of themes, and new things always play out. Also well paced from beginning to end.

    To single out just one thing – you hadn’t seen (or written about) any lion cubs up to this point, had you?
    How cool to see one bonding with an alpha male.

    Given all the countries you have now been to in your life, and your love of animals, am I right in guessing that Africa would be a clear, stand-alone favourite (arrived at also I guess by how intimately you explored it)? Granted it has even more to offer than just amazing animals of course, as your blog serves to illustrate so well.

    Mixing it up with the local people really elevates your trip through Africa for mine. Along with the fact that your adventures were in search of anything from insects to elephants.

    Your food adventures are an amusing diversion, too! I had just two nectarines myself over the entirety of the ones I just read about. 🙂 Good that you are living it up, and there’s always the new financial year for revised eating habits. 🙂

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    • Let’s just treat the continent of Africa as a ‘country’ re my question posed. 🙂 Or contrast continents visited.

      Like

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