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. Brett and Ali went sky diving together and the shared frisson seems to be kindling a romance.
Further south it’s very dry, there’s a lot of desert to traverse and at Sossusvlei we scramble up what are purported to be the biggest sand dunes in the world. It’s hard going, they are certainly huge and very red. There is also a petrified forest and some ancient rock paintings to take in.
The wonderfully named Swakopmund contains German colonial-era buildings, but the main attraction here is affordable adventure. Quad biking on the dunes and skydiving beckon, but ballooning sounds much more restful and the dunes really glow at sunrise as we drift over them. There are marine sights too. Flamingos carpeting the water at Walvis Bay and seals crammed into every inch of beach at Cape Cross.
The starkly beautiful Fish River canyon is the highest in Africa. It’s 550m deep, 27km wide and 160km long and over 500 million years old. We motor still further south, 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.