August 10 - September 21, 2010
08.10.2010 - 09.21.2010
The Namibia Team
The three of us had a lot in common. We were all on big trips across Africa, we all stayed in South Africa during the World Cup, we all spent a month loafing around Cape Town after the World Cup and we all like to travel cheap (really cheap).
The “Expedition” started with a 16 hour bus to the 1st town in Namibia, Keetmanshoop. We left the comforts of South Africa and entered the “Real Africa”. We arrived at 2AM (pretty much the worst possible time). Fortunately the people at the gas station let us hang out in the restaurant until morning. At Sunrise we walked an hour to the town. We wanted to get to Luderitz a town about 350km away on the coast.
Namibia is the 2nd least densely populated country in the world which means distances are far and public transport is limited and expensive.
We tried hitchhiking for a bit then a minibus/combi drove up. These are very common in Africa. They are small buses that leave when full. We decided to go with this. Chris took on the negotiations. His 9 months experience were really useful. He showed Kin and me the ropes on travelling Africa. Unfortunately even Chris had some things to learn. We agreed to pay early (so they could buy gas) on the promise that we would leave right away. But sure enough right after we paid three people got a ride with some other guy so the bus was only half full. We ended up waiting another two and a half hours. If we hadn’t paid we probably could have found someone to hitchhike with.
We managed to get to Luderitz before dark and found the hostel that had cheap camping, Yes Camping! My “team” reluctantly convinced me to buy camping stuff before we left. Looking back this was an amazing decision. I spent $75 on a tent, a mat and a sleeping bag. Since then I’ve camped all but six nights and already saved over $150.
The next day Kevin, a couchsurfer I had emailed, recognized me on the street and invited us to stay. We spent the rest of our time in Luderitz with him. He was an American Peace Corps volounteer. We spent about five days in Luderitz. Mostly it was pretty relaxed but the definite highlight was Kolmanskop, a ghost town in the middle of the desert where they used to mine the sand for diamonds.
I don't have a picture of Kevin so here's his cat
We managed to get a ride out of Luderitz in some guys truck. We were on our way back to Keetmanshoop when I got an sms from Nico a French couchsurfer I’d emailed. He was 20km away in Aus. He had just rented a car and was going to Sossusvlei, the famous sand dunes in Namibia. This was perfect! The driver dropped us off early in Aus and didn’t even charge us. We met Nico and were on our way.
We spent that day driving then the next day at the National Park where the dunes are. The Park was really fun to explore and it was great to climb the dunes. It was really huge. So huge we almost died of thirst. If you don’t have a 4*4 you have to walk 5km to the last part. This was ok but we didn’t realize that when you get there you can spend hours. Our 1.5L bottles were empty in no time. The 5km walk back (through soft desert sand) was like a death march.
After Sossusvlei we spent 3 days in Windhoek with another Couchsurfer, Liezl (pronounced Leezel). It was a great time! The first night we went to yoga with her. She is going to India to train as a yoga instructor. The next day we ate at a market where the kill, cut and cook the meat all right there. Then went to a shabeen (local bar). We watched the sunset on a big hill overlooking the city. Then we ate wild meat at Joe’s restaurant (it was nice just a bit expensive and the exotic meats came in small portions) and in the evening a drum circle!
The next day I went to the towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay on the coast for a couple days. The other two stayed in Windhoek, uncertain if we would ever meet again. The towns weren’t so special. There was alot of German buildings which were kind of nice (Namibia was a German Colony). I visited the snake farm, watched the flamingos and just hung out a bit.
Meanwhile through sms’s the team decided to reunite and head north to Etosha National Park to see some animals. I took a train and a bus north to Tsumeb near the Park to check out car rental options but in the end the other two found an Israeli couple in Windhoek with a car heading our way with room for three.
We spent two days in the park. We saw lots of animals but all in all it seemed to me to be almost exactly the same as Kruger Park in South Africa. I did see lots of lions this time though. The night we camped in the park I got really sick. It was either just dehydration or some “bargain pizza” I bought at the grocery store or both.
After Etosha it seemed the team would break up for good (or would they?). I was headed to Zimbabwe through the Northeast strip of Namibia. The other two headed north with the Israelis. Chris was trying to get a visa at the Angola border with the intention of going home to England all the way through west Africa and Kin was staying with the Israelis on a big tour of northwest Namibia finishing back in Windhoek.
There I was three days later trying to hitchhike in Rundu in northeast Namibia when who should walk up but Chris! They wouldn’t give him a visa so he decided to go to Botswana then to South Africa to fly home. We got a ride together right away. I had planned to go to Botswana after Zimbabwe but after some thought it just seemed right to go with Chris to Botswana. I got off with Chris and luckily the driver gave me half my money back. We had the plan to go to the Okavanga Delta in North Botswana, a huge marshy wetland with lots of animals. We hitched our way across the border and stayed one night in Shakawe, then stopped in Sepupa where it was rumoured to be cheaper to see the delta. This was definitely a rumour. We walked 4km to the only camping to find it was ridiculously expensive. As were the boat trips to the delta, $100 for one day! Luckily we managed to hitch back the 4km and got a minibus right away going to Maun, the popular place to see the delta, where it was rumoured to cost minimum $100/day. Also rumours! We found a three day trip for under $150 on a mokoro, a traditional canoe pushed along with a big pole. We spent two nights with our guide “Jake”. He would push us along through the reeds then we would stop at islands to look for animals. During the hottest hours of the day we would just hang out at our campsite. It was nice cruising around in the mokoro and we saw lots of animals up close (not in a car this time but on foot or from the mokoro which was really cool). One time we walked right by a leopard hiding in the grass and as we passed it ran off. The last night camping a hippo saw my tent and thought it might be a “competing male”. He came within 10 meters and was making big grunting noises. I was REALLY scared but eventually when he didn’t get a reaction he left. Our guide Jake was a cool guy he had “poled” for over 20 years and had some pretty crazy stories.
After three days walking through the bush without showers and eating canned food we were pretty beat and ready to relax. But we found a couple going on a scenic flight over the delta the next morning at 7AM. We decided to join. At the airport we found two other people to join us. It ended up costing about $60 each for an hour flight. It was kind of cool. I got a bit airsick though.
After finally relaxing for a day we caught a ride east to Nata. Hitchhiking is really easy in Botswana. In general the people are really nice and the country is really safe. Botswana is really an African success story. When we arrived in Nata we went separate ways (this time for good). Chris Headed south to South Africa and I got a free ride north to Kasane (near the Zimbabwe border). I spent 1 night at Yusen’s, a couchsurfer. He was a Chinese Volounteer (similar to Peace Corps).
Yusen's roommate, me and Yusen
So far I have seen a lot of Chinese people in Africa. Some are volounteers, some organizing construction projects and many running “China Shops” selling cheap goods from China. I think it is part of a Chinese effort to increase ties/relations in Africa. The next morning I crossed to Zimbabwe ($85 visa for Canadians more than any other country!) and got a quick lift to the town of Victoria Falls home of the famous waterfall, the 7th wonder of the world. And this is where I’ve been for the past week and a half.
The falls are really great. Its $30 but you can see the whole thing. There is a 2km walking path along the falls so you spend at least an hour and really experience it. I didn’t go to Zambia but I think it is a lot better to see the falls from the Zimbabwe side as opposed to the Zambian side. You only really see about %10 from the Zambian side. My overall plan for Victoria Falls was and still is to take some time to relax and get caught up on some things I have been meaning to do. There is a backpacker with $5 camping, internet is $2/hour and laundry is $4. This is a lot cheaper than Namibia and Botswana so it’s a good place to spend some time. I didn’t even look for couchsurfers because I’ve found its difficult to get things done when couchsurfing because there is always something going on and it can be impolite to stay in someone’s house and just do work.
Victoria Falls, this is only part its 2km long
My plan hit a roadblock the moment I saw the bungee jump on the bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia. At first I said no way but I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was like an obsession. After three days of stressing about it finally I did it. Quite possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I still don’t believe I did it.
This was after 10 minutes of freaking out on the platform
Altogether I ended up spending just under $300! for a package with bungee, the rope swing (I thought this would be easier than bungee but it was just as scary, its the same height but instead of bouncing you swing), a zipline across the gorge, a sunset boat trip along the Zambezi river to see hippos/elephants and then a day of white water rafting with a video included. The rafting was really fun. You go into some crazy rapids and one time the boat flipped. I was with a father and son from Alberta! and a lady from New Hampshire.
So now I am finally relaxing and starting to get things done in Victoria Falls. The town itself is ok. Warthogs walk around like stray dogs and it’s not completely safe but if you walk in the bush you can see all kinds of animals. People are friendly. A lot of guys will constantly follow you and try to sell you crap but they can be fun to talk to. It’s a small town that was built for tourists. But now since Mugabe messed up the country there are a lot less visitors. I guess things have got a lot better though since they started using US$. Before the grocery stores would be empty and the money was useless the day it was printed.
Again I have to say not having a return ticket is great. I’m able to take some time like this to rest/recover which makes things a lot nicer. On my other trips I would have to rush so much that by the end I would be completely burnt out.
This was the longest I’ve ever travelled with other people. It was really fun. Although it is nice to have some time alone again.
After Victoria Falls I plan to do a circle around Zimbabwe then head to Zambia.
There was a BIT of inflation before Zimbabwe started using US$