Last week was spring break, and a few housemates (Anna, Adriane, and John) and I took an epic 10-day road trip all around Namibia! We rented a trusty little Daihatsu Sirion (seriously, look it up. It’s about the size of a small Ikea dinner table and fits about as much as a small fish tank) and headed out on the open road with only maps and a few bags of groceries in tow…
Day 1: Cape Town, South Africa to Ai-Ais Campground in Fish River Canyon, Namibia. Left the cold, rainy, dreary drones of Cape Town and drove all the way up the N7 to the Namibian border. After an 8+ hour drive, we made it to the border. Then we creeped along the gnarly dirt roads and sped our way over to Ai-Ais campground just after sunset to set up shop for the night. This place was the perfect start to the week. We set up our tents, shared a nice meal at the campground restaurant (I ate ostrich!) and some wine, and then fell asleep gazing at the stars.
Day 2: Ai-Ais Campground to Betta, Namibia. Drove along the scenic route of Fish River Canyon. We saw SO many animals along the roads: cattle, goats, sheep, wild horses, springbok, monkeys, a puff adder…It was really fun to speed along the freeways—sometimes about 180 km/hr, or 112 mph, but most of those roads were TERRIBLE. I am still impressed that our little bumper car actually made it through the whole trip! We decided to stop off at this campground in Betta because we couldn’t make it to our original destination before sunset. We slept on this second-story deck thing and fell asleep looking at the Milky Way!….
Day 3: Betta Campground to Swakopmund. We woke up SO early because these freaking cows and chickens wanted to have a late-night conversation that turned into an early-morning fight. Talk about having a cow. And it was FREEZING cold. So basically, we caught the sunset and got outta there as soon as possible. We ate a quick lunch in Sesriem and then hiked the famous sand dunes of Soussosvlei. It was some of the hottest, reddest sand I’ve ever seen…and it gets EVERYWHERE… like, I still dump red sand out of my shoes when I go running, it’s ridiculous! Once we got back on the road again, we crossed the worst dirt roads of the trip. Our car even spun out of control, picking up a huge dirt cloud on a thankfully empty road, but we were fine and just ambled along the rest of the huge mother-f*ing 4x4’s. (Note to self: next time I do a camping road trip, I’m getting one of those awesome 4x4s with a tent built into the roof rack so I don’t have to sleep on the hard ground and I can actually drive on dirt roads) We spent the entire first three days on the road, essentially in isolation from the rest of the human population, just the 4 of us in our little dusty toy car, and we finally made it to Walvis Bay just after sunset. Once we filled up gas for the umpteenth time, we made our way across the bridge to Swakopmund…and got pulled over for not having a ZA sticker on the back of our car. SO lame. But I spent 40 minutes arguing with the power-tripping Namibian police officer…and after a stupid attempt at a “bribe” (seriously, message me if you want to hear this story…it’s really a great one) by one member of our group, I managed to fight our way out of this stupid ticket and we were off on our way. We checked into our hostel in Swakopmund, our first big city since in Cape Town, ate a delicious dinner of hake and tater tots and some wine, took a deliciously warm shower, and finally slept in a bed (more of a thin futon mat on wooden slats…but it was still wonderful)
Day 4: Swakopmund. We walked around the little downtown area of Swakopmund to run errands and hang out in the morning. While Anna and Adriane went to explore town, including the panic-attack-inducing Snake Park, John and I went quad biking and sand boarding on the dunes! What a RUSH!! Just us, music on full blast, and pure adrenaline on the bikes and boards on the famously scenic Namibian dunes! So, the boarding wasn’t how I expected it to be, which was like snow boarding on sand. It was pretty much just laying on a really nicely polished piece of board and sliding face first down a huge mountain of sand. I tried to be cool and stand up a few times, but ate it really hard twice and came up a little worse for wear. We biked to the edge of the dunes where they meet the Indian Ocean—such an incredibly beautiful sight—and then made figure 8’s and did a bunch of crazy “tricks” in the sand before heading home. We finally had some down time to chill, so we hung out around the hostel and then went to a nice Italian dinner in town before going to sleep early.
Day 5: Swakopmund to Spitzkoppe to Etosha National Park. We made a longlonglong drive through the back roads, making a pit stop at Spitzkoppe to climb these huuugue rocks. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to take the tour to the famous cave paintings, but we met this awesome retired couple who’ve been camping and traveling for two months around southern Africa. What a dream! We finally made it to Etosha just in time for the sunset, and it was not at all what I had expected. This place was like a resort. We pitched our own tents, of course, but there were nice bathrooms with hot showers, really nice rooms with air conditioners and balconies, a restaurant with a gourmet buffet, a pool, and its very own watering hole. Once we got settled in, we ate our scrappy dinner (chips and soda, pbj, and various unwashed veggies and fruits) and camped out at the watering hole watching all the animals bask in their glory.
Day 6: Etoshaaaaaaa! We woke up early and decided to take an epic drive throughout the park. The sun was scorching and we ventured out during the middle of the day…and saw the entire cast of the Lion King. Seriously, elephants and giraffes on the side of the road, zebras and springbok surrounding our car, oryx and wildebeast, a leopard, snakes, rhinos, and even a lion sleeping off in the distance! After hours in the hot sun, we got back to the camp and jumped into the pool….SO refreshing after a long day and no showering =] We ate our standard, poor college student pbj/soda dinners, and then got ready for our night safari!…which turned out to be cold and pretty disappointing. The light that our guide used to attract the animals broke, so we spent half an hour watching him fix it…and it was sooo cold I fell asleep…but we saw some lions and giraffe up front and personal, which was really cool.
Day 7: Etosha to Windhoek. We finally said goodbye to the animal park and started the long trek home. Thankfully, we reached a paved road…literally the only (main) paved road/highway in Namibia. I never thought I’d appreciate the beauty of a paved highway sososo much. We finally made it to Windhoek, the capital, in the afternoon and walked around trying to find a tourist information center in order to find a hostel. For some reason, they were closed at 4pm, so we went to an internet cafe and finally found an availability at a place called “The Cardboard Box”, which looked slightly better than an actual cardboard box. One of my best memories of the trip was dinner that night. We went to this amazing place called Joe’s Beerhouse and feasted on a big, fat, well-deserved meal. Newfavoritedrinkever: Beer Shandy (beer with lemonade…soosoogood, seriously, try it!) We started with potato wedges, then moved on to the main course (I tried ostrich, oryx, springbok, crocodile, zebra, etc), and then finished off with “treasure bags”, or apple pie deliciousness with ice cream. YUM! We went back and kicked it at the hostel, playing rummy until bedtime
Day 8: Windhoek to Ketsmanshoop. We woke up in the morning and wandered around the town for a little bit. There was an arts and crafts fair going on, but otherwise the city doesn’t have too much to offer, so we hopped in the car and veered south to our next destination. We stopped somewhere along the way to get gas and hit up a little arts vendor station somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where I was offered a few marriage proposals in my attempt to pick up some souvenirs. Apparently Namibians have never seen a Chinese/Chinese-American before….interesting. Anyway, we drove a few more hours and then stopped at Ketsmanshoop to camp for the night. We camped next to the Quiver Tree forest, which had a big collection of cute cheetahs to play with. I was really excited for my last night of camping/sleeping on the ground. We played rummy until well into the night and then fell asleep to the stars for the last time….
Day 9: Ketsmanshoop to Cape Town. In the morning, we checked out this place called Giant’s Playground, which had a bunch of really huge rocks to climb on. Other than that, it wasn’t much of an exciting ride, except that we very nearly ran out of gas and were preparing to have to push the car home…but we made it back just fine.
Day 10: Since we got back a day earlier than intended, we spent our free Sunday driving to Hermanus to watch whales. It’s really cool to see them jump and spout out of the water, and I’m impressed at how close they get to shore! The drive along the coast is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and definitely gives PCH a run for its money.
Overall, Spring Break was hectic and amazing. I’ll post some pictures, and several updates, soon!