First off, to those of you who had a mini panic attack when you saw the photos from Vic Falls... it looks scarier than it is (although it is a bit scary) and yes, I am fine and have no plans to hang over or sit near any waterfalls for the rest of the trip.
What became of my tour of Namibia? In the end, I traveled with the Dutch couple for a few days and they were lovely travel companions. We rented a Volkswagen Chico (I hear it's the earliest version of the Golf) and headed towards Sossusvlei (pronounced "saucesfly", which took me days to master) to see the famous red sand dunes.
Before you laugh at our tiny car negotiating the gravel roads... let me tell you at least we didn't flip upside down like the English tourists in the Land Rover. We stopped to help them, but they had flipped hours earlier and were all okay. Our good karma was returned when they stopped for us the next day after Chico blew a tire. Fortunately we had a spare and the Dutch guy, Joost, was able to quickly change it.
Although we were thwarted in our dreams of getting into the park in time to see the sunrise - because the park people don't let you in until they see the sun peak over the mountains - we did see a red full moon set for the evening and still made it to Sossusvlei early in the morning.
The tallest dune is 300 meters high, once again, I must let you all work out the conversion to
feet yourselves. I wish at times like these the public schools in the US helped their citizens get more prepared to navigate through a metric world. But alas, I'm left to stand on the ground, look up and say, "wow, that's pretty tall".
So what does one do when faced with a pretty tall sand dune? Climb it, of course. Even though you try to walk in the footsteps of others, it's pretty slow going to the top but once you get there it's a marvelous view. Then you're left with no choice but to run down the side. I suppose you could take a path, but honestly it's hard not to drop on your side and roll all the way down.
After our moment in the sand, it was time to drive the Chico through a seemingly endless desert to reach the town of Swakopmund. As you're driving through the sand dunes, it appears on the horizon looking like a giant miniature golf course. Oh, that doesn't make much sense does it? It is a German town built at the seaside. Many of the signs are in German, the streets are both orderly and fairly empty. The breakfast menus feature boerewors instead of matoke or ugali. It hardly seems like Africa at all. And it's cold again.
Now that I'm not in it... I miss the chaos that is most of the rest of Africa. Streets full of people and vehicles, everyone driving and walking willy nilly with no concern for rules of the road - if there even are any. Men shouting, whistling and banging cars trying to convince you to jump on their matatu, dala dala or boda boda. Women walking along wearing colorful kangas with a baby strapped to their back and purchases from the market balanced on their heads.
But one must not sit around lamenting the abundance of western style toilets and friendly, attentive people working in the service sector. One must find a way to fling herself down a sand dune trying not to drop the board, which will result in a face full of sand and a wipe out. The people from Desert Sky Backpackers in Swakopmund helped us book a sandboarding trip with Alter Action for the following day so I could do just that.
The weather was beautiful, cool but sunny and the long haul up the sand dune was rewarded with another spectacular view. Once at the top, you get instructions of how to lay on and hold your "high tech piece of equipment", which is in reality a 3 foot board made of some kind of pressed wood so it's a bit pliable.
The scariest part of the whole affair is laying on your stomach at the top of the sand dune looking down and waiting for them to shove you over the edge. Once that's done, you fly down the hill in a blur, come to a relieved halt and then the sad realization that you're going to have to walk back up to the top in order to do it again.
We had 7 runs in all and my top speed was 75 kilometers per hour, which I think is about 50mph. Yikes! It was a very fun day and I'm glad I gave it a try. We all got a DVD with highlights from the morning (actually it's a VCD so I hope it works in my computer) as a memento and then practically everyone bought a shirt. Hey, it's cold here and a long-sleeved shirt is a good investment.
So that's it. I'm trying to make the best of my extra time in Namibia. I've got an overnight bus to Cape Town on Monday - am told I have to try to get my money back from the Intercape HQ there, but suspect the answer will be too bad, so sad.
Tomorrow I may go eco-friendly quad biking, or just sit by the Atlantic Ocean wondering what in the world I am going to do with all the footage I have when I get back home.
Looking forward to seeing many of you live an in person.