RETURN OF THE MAP !
When I arrived in Windhoek by car I travelled from Botswana on paved roads. I bought this map, the only road map of and sold in Namibia. A few miles outside of Windhoek the ‘road’ ended and I began to travel on dirt, rocks, gravel, sand, and salt for the 800 miles. This map was a life saver. I fuelled up in places only on the map when I could see no road signs. That’s not the cool bit.
I took the map home to England. Then member ‘Travelchili’ from Estonia needed to borrow it to plan. So I posted it to Estonia and she took it back to Namibia! Wait! Member ‘grlmopz’ from California US needed the map. It was sent from Estonia to the USA and arrived just a few days before he went to Namibia. So the map returns home again! Then it went back to the USA and now it is with me back in England.
This map really gets around!
Anyone going to Namibia?Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
- Arts and Culture
Favorite thing: Tipping rules vary from country to country. Here is what we found in Namibia
Fondest memory: 1. Tipping is bars and restaurants is not practiced everywhere, but in tourist establishments or higher class establishments, 10% seems to be the practice.
2. Gas station attendents get a $N or two, especially if they do the windows or perform other tasks.
3. Car guards get $N 3- $N 5 an hour for watching your car.
You can use South African Rand here
Favorite thing: We like hitting the ground with a bit of local cash in our pockets, but found it impossible to buy $Namibian at home. No problem 1 $N = 1 South African Rand, and Rand are far easier to obtain.
Rand are freely accepted everywhere, but your change will likely be in $Namibian. Make sure you get rid of yor $Namibian by changing to Rand before you leave Namibia though.
PICK UP HITCHHIKERS !
What do all these people have in common? They were all hitchhikers that I picked up in my car across Namibia. Hitchhiking is a way of life across southern Africa. In rural areas – and Namibia is very rural – this is a safe and fun thing to do. The first photo is of 3 school children studying away from their home village. They had several days break from school and wanted to get home. Unfortunately I could only take 3 of a group of about 8 kids standing on the side of the road. I already had 1 passenger and only 3 seat belts spare. My thought process was that a child would become a deadly projectile at the speeds (around 190 kmh) I was driving should I need to brake hard.
The other people are Louis and Matilda from France and Jinhook from South Korea. I met them in Windhoek and the travelled all the way from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund. Louis and Matilda left me in Swakopmund and Jinhook travelled the length of the Skeleton Coast and Caprivi Strip. Because these 3 had the financial resources they did contribute money for fuel and water.
Along the way I picked up a hairdresser, a pregnant woman and her small child and several others. I picked up one gentleman who had a suit a briefcase. When I asked him if he wanted a ride he said he didn’t know. When I asked why not? He replied ‘I do not know what you are going to charge me’. When I replied ‘nothing’ he gave me a pleasant smile and off we went like a rocket down the road doing 120mph, not the legal limit of 120kmh (75 mph). When I asked the suited gentleman what his job was he replied “I am a Policeman”. I nearly had a heart attack. I tried to cover the speedometer and told him I wasn’t driving as fast as it looked. He replied ‘I have seen your speed – you are fine’. Nice guy.
The strangest was a Himba Tribesman (last photo). I found him in the Ruacana area near the border with Angola. He posed for a photo with me after I had driven him more than 100 miles (160 kms). He actually asked me for money for posing in the photo! No, I did not give him any money. Cheeky.
If I had not given all these people a lift they would have not been able to share all their great stories with me. Except the Himba guy. He talked (and clicked) and sang to himself mostly.
What an experience.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Adventure Travel
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FAVOURITE NAMIBIAN SIGNS - ELEPHANTS
This is definitely a road sign your just aren’t going to see in Europe. If the local Police were worried about speeding, they could just put a few more of these signs up. I found this sign, and a few more like it in the Caprivi Strip. The thought of running into something like a brick wall in the middle of the road made me slow down. Besides, I wanted some pictures. I never saw a single one! Not long after this I cross briefly through the Botswana Border to Zimbabwe a couple of hours later. No Elephant signs, just a mother elephant charging me when I got out of the car to take a picture of her baby. Then I was driving fast again!Related to:
- Family Travel
FAVOURITE NAMIBIAN SIGNS – GIRAFFES
Do giraffes really walk on the left side of the road? Actually they walk all over the road and they are very very big. I could have used this sign several hundred kilometres before I actually saw it. Yes, there are pictures on this tip of a family of giraffes having their lunch, but I saw them long before the sign. I still laugh at this sign. You do need to drive on the left as there are other cars, but wild animals will go anywhere and everywhere. This is why you just do not drive at night.
Sign location: In the Caprivi Strip. Same for the family of giraffes.Related to:
- Road Trip
- National/State Park
Favorite thing: What for some can appear usual, for others is unique. So were for me the termite mounds - one of the typical features of Namibian savanna. I didn't see the record holders which can reach even nine metres in height, but the ones that I saw were impressive enough for me.
Those huge constructions should be an inspiration for humans - they can teach us what great effects collaboration can have.
It's interesting to know that the greatest enemies of termites are ants, and the fights between the two can be quite violent involving the usage of toxins and irritants. When the mounds are abandoned in the result of the death of the termite queen, they are often occupied by some other animals, for example ground squirrels.
Fondest memory: I know that sunsets are a 'worn-out' topic, that in a way they are kitschy, but somehow I can't help being enchanted by them. And African sunsets can't leave anyone indifferent. Vast skies, open spaces, vivid colours and these fleeting moments of natural transition that you want to keep in your memory for ever. You try to catch all the beauty and emotions that it evokes on a film, but of course it's a futile task. Back at home it looks just pretty as the magic of the moment is gone. So I close my eyes and see again the sky on fire and the burning ball of the sun sinking gracefully behind the horizon. And the photos are just a nice souvenir.Related to:
The people I met
Fondest memory: Meeting and interacting with local people is always an important addition to the overall impressions of the country. In case of Namibia I'll have wonderful memories. I didn't have a chance to make friends or spend time discussing some important issues, but those short moments of exchanging a few kind words and smiles were very frequent and I managed to record some of them on my camera.
I hardly ever take pictures of people without their permission. It should be a point of each traveller's etiquette - people are not part of the landscape. When you ask them they usually agree, at least in Namibia.
Photo one - that young girl holding a baby was standing with a group of friends next to a shop in Bethanie. We started talking to them and it turned out she was a young mother. She looks so beautiful with her baby daughter.
Photo two - We met this young woman with her son also in Bethanie. The boy looked so cute in his wollen cap that we asked them to pose for a picture.
Photo three - We bumped into this lady several times while walking around Swakopmund. So when we met again in the supermarket we burst into laughter and I asked her for a picture.
Just a few smiles and words, but I will remember those people for a long time.
Fondest memory: Meeting children is one of the things I love. Perhaps my teacher's soul doesn't leave me even when I'm on holidays? Besides, children are so easy to approach. They have no inhibitions and are curious to get to know someone from a foreign country, even if verbal communication is very limited.
So here are the photo recollections of some of the kids met in Namibia:
Photo one - the boys from Bethanie. What made us curious was a very simple car toy the boys were playing with. When we expressed our interest, the boys proudly posed for a photo.
Photo two - school kids in Swakopmund. When talking to them I remembered the school children I met in Cambodia. The ones here, in their clean uniforms and with fashionable school bags, look much more lucky.
Photo three - the little boy met at the Herero stall proudly showed the big sun glasses presented to him by some tourists
Photo four - Himba kid. The kids we visited in their village seemed to enjoy playing pranks on us - like leaving traces of their ochre-coloured hands on our clothes.
Sociable Weavers' nests
Fondest memory: When I am in a country so different from home, what I like best is that any moment I can come across something I had no idea about, something that is a wonder in itself.
A haystack on the tree? I asked myself seeing those big constructions on the trees along the road. They turned out to be the nests made by small brown birds called sociable weavers. Those amazing little builders construct the largest nests made by any bird in the world. The biggest one can weigh even a tone and be 6 metres long. Sometimes they are so heavy that they knock the tree down.
As the name suggests the birds are very sociable - one nest can provide shelter for several hundred inhabitants and can consist of up to 100 chambers. The central chambers are the warmest, while the outer ones are cool, so they can serve different purposes on different days.
The birds make the nest their permanent home, even for next generations. One nest can remain occupied for as long as a hundred years.
Isn't it an ornithological wonder?Related to:
Favorite thing: For those of you who wants to travel in the countryside in Namibia, try accomodations run by the organisation NACOBTA (Namibia Community Based Tourism Assistance Trust). They have campsites owned by local communities, and your stay creates employment and improve the circumstances for the local people. The accomodations are basic and cheap. The membership is 200 N$ a year. But you don't have to sign up for a membership to get information on places to stay.
- Adventure Travel
- National/State Park
Stars, celebrities, scoundrels...
Favorite thing: One thing about Namibia is that it's definitely come onto the radar of the rich and famous. I'd like to think that MY journey there in 2003 started it all, but that's just not true. World-wide interest in Namibia, at least among the losers in People Magazine, probably started when Brad Pitt and Angelie Jolie decided to have one of their three or four dozen child born in Namibia.
When you think about it, it's a good place for stars and celebrities to hang out. It's far, far away, but not too distant to be outside the lens of the occasional papparazi. These guys may say they want peace and quiet, but the last thing they want is anonymity in a total sense.
As for us, we spotted one celeb while in Windhoek. We were down at the mall complex that's part of the Kalahari Sands Hotel. I'm coming up a long escalator, and there right at the top is well-known movie director and child-molester Roman Polanski. I didn't even make eye contact - he's not the kind of guy I'd want to meet or greet. And like any good dad, I looked around and told my wife to keep my (then) 14 year old daughter close by her side.
Namibia really is a nice place - beautiful scenery, friendly people. I kind of hate to see it fouled by the Britney Spears(s), Leo DiCaprios, Kate Moss(es), P Diddy(s), Drew Barrymores, Al Gores, Christie Brinkleys and of course all of those Pitt-Jolie(s) of the world. But I will grant that they seem to have an eye for talent and taste. Namibia IS a great place to visit.
FINE DINING AT SOUSSVLEI
Favorite thing: This could have been a real disaster. I gave 3 people a ride to Soussvlei from Windhoek and had absolutely no supplies except 2 litres of 8 year old Scottish Whiskey. And bottles of water. They have a small shop here with VERY limited supplies and no restaurant at the Sesriem Campsite. I bought the few tins of luncheon that they had and some beans we could not heat up. Luckily my fellow travellers had things like bread, tomatoes, salad, cheese, you name it. Even peanut butter! At the end of 8+ hours of driving across some of the worse ‘roads’ in the world – it was an absolutely 3 star culinary delight. One of the best meals I have ever enjoyed in my life.
I still ended up with 2 tins of pilchards no one wanted. I left them at another site for whoever was brave enough to eat them!Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
From time to time as I drove across Namibia I would see signs warning me of SAND! OK. Let’s get this straight. For those of you who have not been here or are planning to come here, I am going to let you in on a secret I and some other VT’ers know. The whole country is sand. Seriously. You will almost never be out of eyesight from some sand, even in Windhoek. Yep, sand. Watch out!Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
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