Country number: 65
Territory number: 71
When? December 2002, Southern Africa Trip, coming from Botswana, going on to South Africa
Who? Group Tour
‘As soon as the monkey has climbed a tree, it will start abusing from its elevated position’
Namibia is a feast of sights. In the north we overnight at three different sites based around waterholes in Etosha National Park. The salt pans draw a variety of game including elephant, rhino and giraffe. At dusk we sit in an amphitheatre watching the elephants come down to drink. It’s a well-choreographed performance as the fauna take it in turn to appear.
We camp by a dried up river bed, hopeful of sighting desert elephants. Liz sets up a chair on the dried up mud and offers Ali from Zambia a haircut “And where is modom thinking of taking her next holiday”. The drivers, Brett and Sven keep us dancing until we’re in danger of our clothes turning to rags.
Further south it’s very dry, there’s a lot of very different desert scenery to traverse, multicoloured hues and some mountains. There is also a petrified forest and some ancient rock paintings to take in, followed by marine sights on the renowned Skeleton Coast . Very smelly basking seals are crammed into every inch of beach at Cape Cross.
The wonderfully named Swakopmund, also known as ‘little Germany’, is surprisingly cool and has colonial-era buildings,.just discernible through the fog. The main attraction here is affordable adventure. Quad biking on the huge dunes and skydiving beckon, but ballooning later on sounds much more restful. Brett and Ali go sky diving together and the shared frisson seems to be kindling a romance.while we’re all dancing later at the Lighthouse..
Flamingos carpet the water at Walvis Bay. More huge dunes here- they’re numbered and the biggest is known as Dune 7. More mountains, the odd canyon, alternating with vast stretches of flat Namib Desert. We’re not doing so well with food today. At Solitaire we find a scorpion in the lunchbox. Then, there’s a sandstorm as we arrive in Sesriem. It’s very atmospheric and very uncomfortable and dinner is mainly sand.
The dunes at Sossusvlei really glow at sunrise, as we drift over them and then partake of the usual après-ballooning champagne breakfast. Later, we scramble up what are purported to be the biggest sand dunes in the world. Dune 45 is certainly huge, very red and very hard on the calves.
The starkly beautiful Fish River canyon is the highest in Africa. It’s 550 metres deep, 27 kilometres wide and 160 kilometres long and over 500 million years old. The solitude is intense. We motor still further south, through lunar landscapes, singing Jonny Clegg’s’ Great Heart’ as we go. Last stop, on the border, is the Orange River, where we have a canoeing expedition. The others get kitted up and splash frenetically. I plead a bad back and am excused active duty. I am paddled along serenely, like the Queen of Sheba. The sunsets here are as blood red as the dunes.