I’ve been holding off on typing the final blog for some time, due to the fact that posting it means that our wonderful, frustrating, epic, tiring and awe-inspiring adventure has finally come to an end….and neither of us are still quite ready to face the real world!
Etosha National Park
After recovering from the headache induced by some warm local hospitality and a quick check up of the Zeb (again, all fine) we were on the road to Etosha National Park.
Initially we had planned for 3 days in Etosha, however after experiencing some fantastic game viewing all through Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana we decided to cut our time down to one night. We spent it at Halai Camp, whilst this had been described to us as ‘run down’ by some of the travellers we had met who were on the way north, for us it was absolute bliss. It was equipped with a swimming pool, bar and a brilliant waterhole where you could site all afternoon and watch the animals coming and going.
Due to the timing of our trip, Etosha was exceptionally dry and did not offer prime viewing but we still saw some big groups of elephants, zebra, giraffe and some strange dancing ostriches. The saddest part on leaving Etosha was realising that after visiting so many game parks throughout the length of Africa – we had still not seen a rhino. While some would call this bad luck, I think it highlights how serious the issue of poaching is throughout Africa and how rare they are becoming even in what are considered ‘safe area’s’
The Skeleton Coast
Following Etosha we headed west towards the legendary Skelton Coast. On our way we stopped at The Petrified Forest, not knowing what to expect (having researched everything BUT this in Namibia) we paid our $5 entry fee and entered, we were absolutely blown away learning that the fossilized trees we were looking at and touching were 265 million (yes million) years old. We were given a guided tour as part of our entry fee and told that the trees had survived the ice age by being frozen in central Africa and slowly arriving in Namibia once the ice had melted and the subsequent floods subsided. It was a beautiful and informative stop.
We continued on towards the Skelton Coast, entering at the Northern Conversancy border gate. Having covered as much ground as we have we’re used to deserts by this stage, however the absolute silence, emptiness and vastness of the Skeleton Coast was something completely different. After driving west for some time we reached the coast. This was an exciting moment as it meant that we had driven the width of the African continent (okay, not at its widest point….but still fairly impressive!).
We then turned north and drove along the deserted coastal sand road towards Terrance Bay. Along the way we saw that Sand had right-of-way in this part of the world as new paths needed to be created where the sand had taken over roads – to the point where sometimes only the tops of signs were visible under a newly formed dune.
The accommodation at Terrace Bay has to be some of the remote in the world, you stay in little 70’s style cottages (the campsite only opens in December), all of which face the rugged Atlantic. It was so peaceful to sit outside watching, smelling and listening to the ocean. Dinner was included and it was a meal that would put most top London restaurants to shame, delicious and fresh seafood served over the voices of the fishermen arguing about who caught the biggest fish of the day, it’s safe to say that this is a place where time has stood still and I only hope that it stays that way.
Waking up early to the sounds of waves crashing, we drove south along the coast. The Skeleton Coast is famed for its harsh coastline that has claimed many ships and we saw quite a few shipwrecks that had washed up. Also adding to the eerie landscape was a derelict oil rig amongst the dunes where a lone jackal had set up house.
We passed the grand total of 3 cars during our drive along the Skeleton Coast, it is unbelievably remote and after the crowds, animals, noise and liveliness of some of the places we had visited throughout Africa, it was a place to find peace.
Swakopmund to Sossusvlei
Following the Skeleton Coast it was time for a bit of civilisation, in the form of multiple flat whites and café feasts in the quaint seaside town of Swakopmund. Seeing that it was rugby season we spent both evenings in the Lighthouse Pub cheering on the Springboks and the mighty All Blacks, The Namibians have fantastic taste as they all seemed to be supporting the AB’s in a very tense test match against Ireland, it was nice to chat to the locals who all adore rugby.
We left Swakopmund and its wonderful German influence and continued south towards the dunes, after a quick stop at the Desert lodge we arrived in Sesriem, gateway to Soussusvlei. We stayed for two nights, camping the first night before opting for the comfort of air-conditioning at a lodge the second. As Soussusvlei itself has no accommodation options Sesriem is the perfect base for visiting the Pan, Petrified dunes and of course climbing the mighty Dune 45 (which is a lot harder than it looks after 4 months in a travelling Zebra!!), after a near heart attack caused by the climb we witnessed sunset over the dunes – the way the colours change and the sheer vastness you see makes the pain completely worth it…the Amarula waiting back at the accommodation also helped a bit as well!
We also had what we call our ‘Indian Jones’ moment at the Sesriem Canyon. We spent half an hour scaling rock faces, jumping boulders and trying not to break our necks getting to the bottom of the canyon. When we finally reached it (after a knee jerking 3m jump) we walked 20metres down the canyon to see the ever so convenient and painfree stairs, whoops!! The canyon was fantastic and as entry is covered in the Soussusvlei permit it is worth a visit – just get there early as the sun by 9am was already scorching us!
Castle to Canyon
Following the heat of Soussusvlei we drove inland towards Aus, on our way we stopped at the Duwisib Castle. The story of this property is either hopelessly romantic or very sad depending on your point of view. In the early 1900’s Captain Hans Heinrich von Wolf along with his heiress of a wife built the property so they could escape Europe and start to breed horses in lonely Namibia. WWI broke out the year the property was finally finished and as the couple were en route back to Europe to collect more horse stock. Von Wolfe was called to battle and killed after two weeks and his wife never returned, leaving this building an untouched piece of history. All the original fittings and furniture still remain intack and as they were left.
After a stay in the canyon at Aus we travelled again towards the coast. We were luckily enough to see some of the wild horses on our way, believed to be to relations of the initial stock brought by von Wolf that had since gone wild.
We then called into Kolmanskopp – a deserted mining town where again time has stood still, however in this case sand hasn’t! Sand dunes have moved in and reclaimed the land meaning that the houses are half covered by the moving dunes. It’s an unnerving and eerie environment that I would not want to visit past twilight. In some cases the sand had become so dense it has broken through windows and floorboards.
It was then onto Luderitz, like Swakopmund, this is a tiny German seaside village with bundles of charm, we stayed two nights and really relaxed walking along the rugged coastline and eating lots (and LOTS) of delicious local seafood….our last view of the ocean until we reached our final country of South Africa!
Fish River Canyon and out of Namibia
After the coast it was down to Fish River Canyon, second only in size to the Grand Canyon in USA. It was immense, and the best bit was that there was no one else around, allowing us to really get a feel for the size, depth and quietness offered by such a large space. After precariously sitting on the edge of a cliff all in the name of getting a good photo, we drove to various lookout points to try and take in its scale.
We stayed at the Canyon Roadhouse, the perfect location as the campsite has a pool (a MUST when inland in Namibia in late November) and better yet, the most delicious and quirky diner style restaurant…a personal recommendation is the Amarula cheesecake – let’s just say it’s so good we had dessert twice!
With the heat becoming almost unbearable we then hit the road again, thankful that the zeb’s air-conditioning had lasted us the distance. We went on to Ai-Ais, a natural hot spring reserve. After again convincing the staff they should consider us locals we were given a hefty discount and took a room. While the campsite looked lovely it offered zero shade and the idea of sitting out in +40 degrees was not overly tempting. Ai Ais offered us the chance to unwind and reflect on the beauty and enjoyment of 3 weeks travelling throughout Namibia. Definitely a country I would recommend to anyone.
The next day we woke with mixed emotions – we were crossing into South Africa. Obviously we were thrilled that we had made it to country 30 on the list, but it meant that this incredible journey was a few days from ending.
We crossed into SA at Vioolsdrift and spent a few nights slowly travelling down the coast calling in at Lamberts Bay and Langbaan. We could have easily made it from the border to Cape Town in a day, but we wanted to drag out and hold onto the experience for as long as possible….
…..We made it!!!
Admitting defeat and realising it was time to end the journey of a life time, we packed up the Zeb one last time and headed for Cape Town.
Driving in from the north we saw Table Mountain start to grow and grow on the horizon, sad as we were –we both started to think about what we had both accomplished. Not just in terms of hopping in a car and driving; but…
- Covering some of the craziest roads in Africa
- Visiting the middle east when it was in turmoil
- Dancing with locals at a Muslim ceremony
- Sitting less than two metres away from a male lion as stared us down
- Having an elephants, lions, hippos and giraffes feasting right next to us as we camped alone
- being surrounded by men with shields
- Having children laugh, smile and want to play with us
- Meeting the most awe inspiring and welcoming people
- Learning about the kindness of strangers
- Stepping outside our comfort zone….and realising that we are stronger then we (and probably anyone who knows us) thought we could be.
The experience we had can never be summarized in full, all I can say is it really IS the trip of a lifetime!
I only hope that anyone who has taken the time to follow my blog will be inspired to step away from their normal life and travel…..there is no way you will ever regret it!
Thanks so much to everyone for following our blog; it was lovely to receive so many emails and messages of support as we were on the road.
Until our next adventure………
Talia & Wynand