Sunday, March 28, 2010

Postings from Pretoria #31

28 March 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:

“Namibia” “Namibia: Sossusvlei”

Our Namibian adventure continues.

If you plan on traveling to Namibia, be forewarned: tourism there is a very expensive proposition and it is easy to spend beaucoup bucks, even with modest accommodations. We elected to go with an inclusive package deal through a company called African Extravaganza. Following a four and a half hour return drive from Walvis Bay to Windhoek, we immediately – and I mean within minutes - embarked on a four-hour drive to the Namib Naukluft Lodge, located in the Namib Naukluft National Park.

Also making the trip were Daniel and Sonia Harel, a lovely couple from Durban, and their daughter V, visiting from London. We all ended up sharing vehicles on several occasions, and they proved to be excellent traveling companions. The highlight of the drive was our transit over the Streetshoogte Pass, described in the brochures as “scenic and steep.” Yebo.

The Lodge is not fancy, but our room was perfectly fine and the food quite decent. No TV, no internet, no problem; the desert provides all the entertainment one could wish, and we had adequate shade and a nice breeze even during the hottest part of the day. Necessarily, organized activities took place in the mornings and evenings.

Morning 1: After breakfast, A.J. and I took a two-hour stroll amongst the rocks, accompanied by Princess, a very sweet and savvy border collie. Besides being good company, Princess knew her way around, so we were never in danger of losing the trail. Upon returning, we enjoyed some quality pool time before retreating from the sun.

Evening 1: Time for a “sundowner” drive to Marble Mountain to watch the sun set. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the whole “constantly shifting colors of the desert panorama” thing. It is a beautiful sight to see. After dinner, we settled in for the evening’s entertainment: pulling up a couple of chairs outside and taking in the Milky Way in all it’s glory, contemplating our cosmological insignificance.

We are so small.

Morning 2: Anne’s birthday, the 20th anniversary of Namibian independence, and the big adventure on our schedule: a trip to Sossusvlei (“So-soos-vlay”) to see the dunes. The Namib Desert is over 55 million years old; the oldest on the planet, and the dunes are among the most photographed geological features on Earth. Still… the sight of sand dunes up to 320 km in height is wicked awesome. And climbing one barefoot in the desert heat (topping out at 43º C – that’s 109º F) is a serious reality check. (It was observed that the texture of the sand itself is trés exquisite.)

Escaping to a shady picnic area, we had a spot of lunch, at which we were joined by a small flock of sociable weavers and a cautious black-backed jackal, before heading back to the Lodge. This drive was to prove to be the “extra” in “African Extravaganza,” as our 4WD desert-touring vehicle developed a problem with one of its cylinders. Fortunately, our driver Michael was on the case and phoned for backup. So, with grand bonhomie, A.J., myself, the Harel family, and Michael limped along on three cylinders until the cavalry arrived. We made it back none the worse and immediately succumbed to the siren song of the swimming pool.

Evening 2: One last climb up to “Sunset Rock,” followed by dinner (Oryx Cordon Bleu) and a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Anne from the staff ladies. Then it was off to view the Milky Way, catch a couple of shooting stars, and pack for the trip back to Windhoek and on to Pretoria.

This was, in all likelihood, our last trip to Namibia, although, just in case, we have already started another list of sights to see, including the Skeleton Coast, Caprivi Strip, and Fish River Canyon. Should I ever be fortunate enough to have another go at this remarkable country, I will not hesitate.



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