Week 47 – Swakopmund and Sossesvlei

This week I began at Etosha National Park on our final day. I woke up, had breakfast, and then went to the watering hole for one last look at the animals before we left the park. This would be our last game drive and I was a bit sad that we wouldn’t have any more. Exiting the park we didn’t see much wildlife, which again was a bit disappointing.

Some of the cheetahs at Cheetah Park

After Etosha, we drove to the Cheetah Park for the afternoon. I am not sure if I agree with everything that happens at the Cheetah Park or not, but regardless, it was a really cool experience. Basically, they take in the cheetahs from farmers. Much of Namibia is covered by farmland and most famers do not want cheetahs on their property. So, instead of killing the cheetah they bring them to the Cheetah Farm. This farm is used strictly for tourism. The part I don’t agree with was that they had a lot of young cheetahs as well, so they are breeding them. Additionally, they had no intention to every return any of them to the wild. Three of the cheetahs even live in the house.

Cheetahs are beautiful animals!

We arrived at camp, set up the tents, and were picked up around 3 to go see the cheetahs. The first cheetahs we saw were the three domesticated cheetahs by the house. We were able to pet the cheetahs and take pictures with them. The problem with this is that it is still clear they are wild animals. At certain points they would get really jumpy and fight with each other. Also, the male really wanted my flip flop. I have no idea why he wanted mine was so appealing to him, but he tried to get it several times. First, he went through my legs and tried to get it. Later, he came again from behind, but this time he scratched my foot up and made it bleed.

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The cheetah kept trying to steal my flip flop!

They brought in meat for each of the cheetahs and we were able to watch them eat as well. It always weird to watch an animal eat. It just seems a bit barbaric just because the meat is not cooked. Also, one finished their meat first and started trying to steal from the others.

Dinner time!

After we saw the “domesticated” cheetahs, they brought us in the back of a truck to go see the “wild” cheetahs. They kept about 18 cheetahs in a very large enclosure. We drove in and as we were driving, cheetahs started following our truck. They knew the truck because they would get fed from this truck every day. We stopped the car and more and more cheetahs kept coming around the car. It felt like we were being surrounded! It seemed as if there were two different groups of cheetahs and they would fight with each other for the meat.

The cheetahs were surrounding us!

The cheetahs were trained a bit with a stick and would know when the meat would be thrown. He would only throw meat to one cheetah at a time and they would jump and catch the meat in their mouths. It did lead to some amazing photos, but I am not sure if this is the best way to feed to cheetahs. After, we drove around for a bit longer waiting for a couple of cheetahs who didn’t turn up to the first feed. That night, I went for a run down the roads because they were dirt roads and I really needed to stretch my legs. Then, we ate dinner and I went to bed.

The pictures were captured were beautiful!
They were really hungry!

The following morning we woke up, packed up, and our first stop was a Himba village. The Himba people historically were a nomadic people and are closely related to the Bushmen. They are cattle herders and follow their herds. Now, they are more stationary because the women and children stay closer to the schools and are learning to speak English. The interesting parts about this tribe are that the women dye their hair really red. Also, the women wear one hairstyle with braids with puff balls at the end while the girls wear a hairstyle of braids coming forward onto their faces until they “become a woman.” Finally, their clothing was interesting because they only wear a small rag on the bottom to cover those parts, but their tops are not covered.

An amazing photo of a Himba women taken by Annabel Dowding

I did not go on the village tour because I remember how uncomfortable I was on the tour of the Masai village in the Serengeti and I thought this would be equally as touristy. The group that went said they were pleasantly surprised that it was not really touristy. They felt weird taking pictures, but nothing was forced upon them. They saw the houses and even saw how they bathed by putting steam on their bodies.

Some of the amazing rock formations at Spitzkoppe

After the Himba village, we drove to Spitzkoppe. This was a stop off for the night, but I wish we could have stayed longer because it was stunning scenery. We were in a desert and surrounded by mountains, canyons, and red rock. We arrived just before sunset and all raced over to the part that had an arch. We climbed up the rocks to get the best view of sunset and of course took a lot of pictures. We had a whole jumping photoshoot with everyone that was really fun as well. I really can’t describe the scenery well so you can see for yourselves below.

Pano of Spitskoppe
The whole place was absolutely stunning!

After sunset, we returned for dinner, which Chris had cooked for us. Even though Chris pretended that he was not a good cook, his food was always very good! That night we played a couple of games of mafia after dinner before we headed up the mountain. This was a really special night for us because it was the only night we could sleep outside. We brought our roll mats and sleeping bags to the top of the mountain and had a giant sleepover. It was a bit cold, but it was amazing to be able to see all of the mountains in the moonlight. It was a full moon so everything was so bright. The only downside was that since it was so bright, you couldn’t see a lot of stars.

Our campsite for the night!
Slumber party!

The following morning, we woke up early and all hiked to the very top of the mountain for sunrise. It was another gorgeous sunrise and I especially loved when the light hit the rocks and turned then a brilliant red. Also, it was really neat because on one side you could see the moon and the other the sun.

Pano of the sunrise

The moon was on one side and the sun on the other

The only ones left from the original 12!

After sunrise, we had breakfast, hopped on the truck, and drove to the coast. Our first stop was a seal colony. There must have been over a thousand seals in this one colony. They were everywhere! I love seals so much and I could have stayed here all day just watching all of their interactions. It was very loud with all of their barking and the smell was horrible! Yet, they are so freaking adorable!

I love seals!
Cuddle time!

There were so many, so they were always climbing on top of each other and then angering the other seal. Since there were so many pups, they were constantly calling for their mothers and the mothers were replying. If you looked at the sea, it was also full of seals. I love the way that seals walk and run. It just puts a smile on my face.

There were thousands!
He had a big one last night

After the seal colony, we went to the skeleton coast and saw a shipwreck. The skeleton coast is known for its amount of shipwrecks on shore and it was really interesting to see this fishing vessel getting smashed by waves.

Then, we finally made our way to Swakopmund. We were all really excited because we would get to sleep in a dorm for a couple of nights. All of us shared a 19 bed dorm. It was kind of insane. The day we arrived the power was out for the day and would not come back until 8pm. So, Freya and I decided to go for a run around town and we even went  out on the jetty. Swakopmund is a really cute town! That night we went out to an Italian restaurant and ordered some pizza to bring back with us. Then, we ate pizza, drank wine, and went to bed.

Running to the jetty in Swakopmund

The next day, I woke up and had a really chill morning. I had no activities until 2:30 and we actually had beds for the first time in awhile, so I took advantage. I made some breakfast and then gathered my laundry. This was the first time in Africa that I was going to get it done by someone else instead of hand washing myself. It was so exciting because they even had machines. My clothes came back so clean and soft! It was an amazing feeling. 

The dunes near Swakopmund were beautiful!

In the afternoon, a couple of us walked to village cafe to use the wifi. The rest of them got milkshakes to go because they had to rush back to do the skydive. I had decided that I would rather go quad biking in the dunes than skydive because I figured you could skydive anywhere and there weren’t many places where you could ride an ATV over sand dunes. I spend the next couple of hours drinking coffee, eating an amazing salad, and blogging.

Ready to go quadbiking!

Then, around 2 I walked back to the hostel and got ready to go quad biking. I went with Kirsty and met Tom, Lucy, and Sarah there because they were coming straight from skydiving. We put on our helmets and geared up. I was a bit nervous because I had never ridden one before, especially not in sand.

Our biker gang!

When we first started, our guide took us really slow. We had to ride in a line behind him and could not go out of his tracks. I think this was good for me at first to get a feel of the vehicle. Yet, we were scared we would have to go this slow the whole time and this was not what we had signed up for. Also, in the sand it is almost better to have more speed because without speed you cannot get up the hills and would get stuck like I did in the beginning.

Eventually, we asked him if we could go faster and he started to get mad at us for continuing to ask. I am glad we did though because I think it would have been really boring to go slow. It was so fun to ride over the dunes! We would go up the sides and then race down. The faster you went, the higher up the dune that  you could get. Also, the scenery was spectacular. It was just sand dunes as far as the eye could see. We chose to do the two hour option and I think that was best because it takes awhile to get comfortable before you can really enjoy.

The dunes were so large!

After the quad biking, we returned and I was really tired. I took a shower and then got in bed to have a movie night with leftover pizza. It was fabulous. Then, around 9 we all got up and did some exercises and yoga in the room, which was equally as beneficial as hilarious.

Sunset over the dunes while quadbiking

The next morning, I woke up and got ready to go sand boarding! Sand boarding is basically snowboarding on sand. That was the stand up version at least. The lay down version you got on your stomach and went down head first really fast. We all hopped in the vehicles, went to the dune, and then got our equipment. We were literally using snowboard boots, bindings, and boards. First, we had to do the big hike up to the top of the dune we would be using. Since it is a national park, they are not allowed to use motorized vehicles to bring us to the top, so we had to get some exercise and walk.

Walking up the dunes was hard work!

The first run down the dune, I was a bit shaky because it has been awhile since I have been on a snowboard and it is actually pretty different on sand. Your weight had to be more on your back foot and you have to watch your edges so they don’t dig too much in the sand. I fell a couple of times, but it was so fun!

I was a little bit shakey at first

It was so much fun!

I raced back up to the top and went again right away. The second run was much better. On the third run, they tried to convince my to go off the jump. I was really nervous to do that because I had never done a jump before, so I did a third run just to get my confidence up. The fourth run I did go off the jump! It was really fun! I almost landed it, but I fell on my butt a little bit.

Going off of the jump!
I almost landed it!

After my fourth run, they told us that we should try the lay down sand boarding because it was the fastest run and we would really enjoy it. This was also fun in a really different way. There was no skill involved except to make sure you were straight going over the ridge and to pick up the front of the board. You could use your feet to slow down or to straighten yourself out. I was so surprised at the speed that you could get with those boards!

Lay down sand boaring

My first run I was a bit scared and put down my feet a lot, so I only went 52 km/h. Still, really fast, but I knew that I could go faster! I hiked back to the top and tried again. This time I went 62 km/h. Still, I knew that I could go faster. So, I trekked up and went down a third time and went 67 km/h! I felt like I was flying down that dune. The fastest of the day was my roommate Freya who went 69 km/h!

The backdrop for this activity was stunning!

After the lay down sand boarding, we were able to go down one more time standing up. I again went over the jump and was so close to landing it! I did land it, but then sat down for a quick second and was off down the hill. I was a bit nervous because others tried before me and really ate sand. After this last run, we went back to the trucks, had lunch, and a few final pictures on the dunes before heading back.

I conquered that dune!

When we returned, I showered really quickly to get all of the sand off my body. I was covered! I would be finding sand in my hair, eyes, and ears for the next week. Then, I returned to the village cafe for a chocolate milkshake and wifi to continue to work on my blog. I stayed until closing and then went back to the hostel to meet up with everyone for dinner.

Out for our fancy dinner at the Bauhaus

We all headed to a German restaurant called Bauhaus. It was a bit pricier, but they had both German food and game steaks and so that is why we went. It was a really cool place and I enjoyed that the whole group went together. I had a couple of glasses of wine and an oryx steak. It was pretty good, but I think I prefer beef steak instead. It was just a bit tough, but it was fun to try game meat.

Elsie took on the boot!

The following morning we woke up and began our drive to Sossusvlei. Along the way we had a couple of stops because the scenery was stunning! First, we stopped at an overlook to the mountains. The mountains were interesting because there is nothing growing on them and they are made of this really rough rock. They say that this area looks like you are on the moon.

Mountains near Sossusvlei

Our second stop, we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn. Basically, this is the middle of the southern hemisphere. It’s kind of cool that on this trip we were able to see both the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Finally, we had a lunch stop at a gas station, but there was a bakery there that sold a really good apple crumble.

Our group at the Tropic of Capricorn

We arrived at camp around 5. This camp was strategically located near the activities that we would be doing the following morning. That night I was able to charge all of my devices which was a treat. Then, we had amazing chicken wraps for dinner. The night was completed with some great star watching. The moon had gone down in size and therefore we could finally see the milky way and shooting stars again.

The dunes in Sossuvlei

The following morning we left around 5:30 to drive to Dune 45 in order to watch the sunrise. We drove in the dark to the dune and there were a lot of other people who had a similar idea. We started climbing and it was really cold! I didn’t have on any shoes or socks and that was a mistake because my feet went numb very quickly. It was truly an amazing experience to watch the sunrise from that location because as soon as the sun hit the dunes, it changed their color to a brilliant red.

Hiking up Dune 45
Sunrise over the dunes

After the sun rose, we took some fun dune pictures then headed down for breakfast. On the way down, I really enjoyed running. It is fun running downhill on sand because it feels so bouncy, so I ran down the whole dune really fast. I only stopped for a couple of minutes with El to take some leaping pictures into the sun.

Hiking down Dune 45
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Leaping into the sun

After Dune 45, we hopped back in the truck and headed to Deadvlei. This is an area of the dunes where there are many dead Acacia trees. There used to be more rainfall in the desert, but about 400 yeas ago it went very dry. Therefore, these trees in the middle of the dunes have been dead for 400 years. This area is a photographers dream.

The desert right outside of Deadvlei

We arrived near Deadvlei and then we had to pay 150 Nambian dollars and hop in another truck that could handle driving in the sand. They drove us about 4.5 km further into the desert and then we had to hike the last kilometer to get to Deadflei. Right next to it was a dune called Big Daddy, which was the highest dune in the area. I wish that we could have hiked it, but it would take over an hour and we didn’t have the time. This is one of the annoying parts of overland. Sometimes you wish you had longer in an area to really see everything before you leave.

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Deadvlei in Namibia

We hiked in and we were struck with a huge calcified white patch in the middle of the dunes. It had dead acacia trees everywhere and looked pretty spooky. I took a lot of pictures and even climbed one of the trees to get a great picture. This may have been a mistake because I cut up my hand and got a lot of splinters.

I climbed on of the trees! Not a great idea.

Then, Aimee set up her camera and we decided to do a lot of hilarious group perspective shorts. We did this for probably about 20 minutes and even had other tourists taking pictures of us. I had a lot of fun with the photography in this area as is reflected with the many pictures below.

After we left Deadvlei, we returned to the campsite to take down our tents, shower, and eat lunch. Then, the rest of the day we had a drive day where we drove 350 km to Bethanie. Bethanie was just a stop off point on our way to Fish Eagle Canyon, which is the second biggest canyon in the world.

Deadvlei…a desert in a desert

Namibia has been an amazing country and has such a variety of landscapes from national park, to beach, mountains, canyons, deserts, and dunes. It has been an amazing week for landscapes and I cannot wait to see what next week holds.

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