By Zachary Moses
This is Part 2 in a four-part series. Click to read Part 1.
Day 1: Deep into the Bush
We were met by Jens in our hotel lobby. He wasn’t what I’d expected when I heard the tour would be put on by a company called African Bikers. I guess I expected someone who looked a little more…African. Jens was a 6-ft-tall, blonde, blue-eyed, bespectacled man originally from Germany.
Since Namibia was once a German colony, I asked him how long his family had been in Namibia. Apparently not long. It turns out that he and a buddy decided that it would be a great idea to ride their bicycles all the way from Berlin to Cape Town. Crazy!
The journey had been a long and hard one, putting their relationship through trials they had never expected. They found themselves in innumerable shaky situations. Frequently robbed, or sick with malaria, their friendship went through several breakups and reconciliations. Whenever they went their separate ways, they would find themselves in a bind, only to have their best friend show up to bail them out.
By the time they reached Cape Town, their friendship was unshakeable, and they started African Bikers the following year. I would never have expected this sweet, mild-tempered man standing in front of me to have mounted a bicycle and braved the many challenges of traversing the continent.
Looked at as a whole, Africa is possibly the wackiest, most dangerous continent on the planet. The news we receive in the US reinforces this notion every day, but I was in Namibia to go beyond the headlines and let this unique corner of the continent unfold itself to me.
When you come to Africa, you truly realize that this is not the western world. Africa is a place where it can be a challenge to keep a family fed, and where the lines between village life and the countryside are blurred enough that the jungle creeps into the heart and mind of every inhabitant. Spend a couple of weeks in Africa, and you’ll find yourself doubting everything you’ve ever been told about the place. At least until you see how big the animals get… no one lied about that. Wow!
After we drove around town collecting all the guests for our tour, we drove several hours south to get to our first camp. Namibia is a very sparsely populated country with mostly dirt road access to the rural areas. When we arrived at Intu Afrika Game Lodge, we moved straight into our safari vehicles and began our first excursion to view the animals.
It was really cool driving through the African bush in a Land Rover, the sort of thing I dreamed about as a kid. We stopped below a tree with a giant weaver bird nest in it. Hayley was standing under the tree trying to take a picture of the nest when something like 100 birds flew out at once. I’m surprised she didn’t have a heart attack.
As evening approached we enjoyed our first sundowner (drinks consumed while appreciating a nice sunset). This Namibian tradition makes a festival of every sunset.
I always like to eat interesting foods wherever I visit, and tonight I had a nice dinner of Oryx, absolutely delicious. Several people told me it was gamey. They probably don’t appreciate a nice goat curry, either.
Day 2: Desert Humor
This morning we walked with bushmen from a nearby tribe who showed us how they survive in the harsh environment. They entertained us in their native language, which includes lots of body gestures, then let us guess what they were saying. We were often hilariously off from what they were actually saying to us.
Tonight we stayed at the Hammerstein Lodge, located on another beautiful game reserve. We took an evening hike up into the hills, where we came across several dead zebra. I thought I was being especially funny by making my fellow travelers pose holding zebra parts.
(I only questioned the humor-and wisdom-of this months later, when sitting at a desk under a fluorescent light).+
After enjoying sundowners, we hopped into the bed of a pickup truck and rode back to the lodge.
Day 3: Hiking/Camping in the Bush
This morning we hiked back through the surrounding mountains, past the dead zebra (my sculpture still standing) and eventually found bushmen paintings.
We found a nest of some unknown animal, with paw prints that sent shivers down my spine.
What could it be? Was the creature lurking around the corner? I was suddenly very afraid. Our guide came to have a look, and informed me that it was likely to be the nest of a Honey Badger! This sent the group into an absolute fit. Randall knows lots about Honey Badgers, so I’ll let him explain in his massively popular Youtube video:
After our hike was finished, we drove to another reserve to begin a walking safari along the famous Tok Tokkie trail. I felt like we were hiking through an alien world, or the set of the Adventures of Spaceman Spiff (from Calvin and Hobbes).
There was far more vegetation in this dry desert environment than I had ever expected. Our camp tonight was in a different spot than originally planned on, since rangers had spotted a leopard with kittens near our original camp. KITTENS! What I would have given to see those fierce jungle Kittens!
Our camp was amazing. Every site had its own feeling of privacy. We had cots with down-filled bed rolls, our luggage was arranged on small tables, and within minutes of arrival we were brought fresh hot water and wash-basins.
I was surprised to hear that we would have showers out here, so was very eager to see how they were set up. After settling in, I grabbed my things and headed to the showers, where I was greeted with a steaming bucket of water, and a polite “Are you ready for your shower sir?”
Sir? I can honestly say that I’ve never had anyone call me sir. I kind of liked it. The shower was hot, and the view out of my three walled shower was serene. After cleaning up I joined everyone for drinks and dinner. The camp maintains a full kitchen, with supplies regularly delivered by Land Rover. Our meal was rich and tasty, and we were served like kings.
Peter, the Scotsman on the tour, pulled out a bottle of Scotch Whiskey and we drank until the world was spinning a little. I decided I should head to my bed. As I sat staring up at the night sky, I was amazed at how many stars there were… and how fast they were rotating in circles. I soon passed out.
Day 4: Sebastian Makes for Worry-Free Mornings
This morning our host Sebastian delivered coffee right to my bedside.
Today we hiked through a grassland region dotted with fairy circles, mysterious rings of dirt where no vegetation will grow.
We walked along all day watching the animals go by.
I saw larger herds of wild Oryx than I’ve ever seen of cattle, sheep, or wild horses in the Utah Desert. It was no surprise that Oryx found its way onto my dinner plate again this evening.
After dinner we all sat around drinking a bottle of crap whiskey that Dylan (the Australian of the group) and I had purchased. I was leaning backward in my chair when Peter made me laugh so hard that my chair tipped over backward. I did a full backward summersault into the grass, and honestly did not spill a drop of whiskey. It was a cause for celebration.
I was awakened by a strange sawing noise in the night and I thought a scary wild animal had come into camp. I worked myself into a panic until I heard someone yell out “hold a pillow over Norman’s face!” I giggled so hard I had to get out of bed to pee.
Day 5 & 6: On the way to Sossusvlei
After returning from the trail, we moved to the Namib Desert Lodge, located right at the entrance of the Namib Naukluft National Park. Towering behind the lodge were the petrified sand dunes. While everyone else prepared themselves for dinner, Dylan, Jens and I took a hike to the top. The view reminded me of the Petrified Dunes of southern Utah, my home state. We watched the sun go down, and shared a few beers and stories.
In the morning we all got up before sunrise and drove as quickly as possible to the Sand Dunes of Sossusvlei. Well, as fast as we could get there while stopping every ten minutes to take another sand dune picture.
When we arrived at the parking area, most folks hopped in safari vehicles to get to the tourist spots, but our more adventurous group beelined it right through the dunes on foot.
There wasn’t another soul in any direction. It was so beautiful and peaceful, but I can see how people get lost there.
On the way back, everyone was showing each other the perfect pictures they had taken. I commented on how amazing it was that everyone seemed to have the most incredibly perfect images. Peter then loudly exclaimed in a way that only a Scotsman can “yes, sand dunes really are the perfect place for truly shat photographers!” I laughed out loud, and have giggled about it for months now.[To be continued… Click to read blog post Part 3]
Click here to read about the Namibian Adventure Tour