Notes from Namibia: part seven

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

When it comes to fabulous weather and wildlife, there is nowhere like Namibia, says Adrienne. Here she shares her notes from Namibia – arguably Africa at its most authentic – exclusively with CD-Traveller readers. Today: Into the desert

My birthday was today. We were leaving for Sesriem deep in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. I hoped we would make it in time to celebrate with sundowners on Dune 45. As most of the company was strangers I wasn’t expecting anything other than a toast, and I was quite happy with that.

We woke to find the weather once again cold and mizzly. While waiting for breakfast I returned our chalet key to reception, with a sense that something was going to happen. Sure enough, when I got back there was no-one around. The rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ made me giggle and blush girlishly. What really did surprise me was the bottle of Amarula Cream Tilly presented me with. All round a lovely gesture and slightly overwhelming.

Oddly we couldn’t wait to sleep in a tent once again. The chalets were just a bit too rank and stale in comparison to the fresh air; and the town too crowded and full of lights when compared to the vastness of the wild. We wanted stars and camp fires and peace and the expansive universe over our heads again.
Before we finally left Swakopmund we had 30 minutes to look around the Kristall Galerie museum. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to look at the galerie itself, but we were able to look around the shop. I found a lovely pendant made from golden tigers eye, and Cath bought me a beautiful desert rose as a birthday present.

The gemstone Pietersite was discovered in Namibia in 1962, and is like Castleton’s Blue John, increasingly prized for both its beauty and rarity. As such I fell in love with a slice of it, but at £40 it was out of my price range.

Our first stop of the day outside Swakop is Walvis Bay, the British enclave in Namibia. The cold, grey weather and drizzle seemed appropriate. It was supposed to have a great collection of flamingos, but there were only three whilst we were there – more of a summer attraction perhaps? It was barely worth getting off the bus for, but we stood around and shivered for a while, until our pained expressions were noticed by Tuhafeni and we were relieved to be allowed back on the vacuum cleaner.

As we headed back out into the desert we left the cloud behind. Apparently during winter, cloud comes in every second day and, thanks to the Benguela Current, keeps the temperatures cool.
Most of the day was spent in the Vaccuum Cleaner. There were a few stops – to see a quiver tree in the middle of nowhere (also a toilet stop), and a treat – getting out at the signpost that marks the Tropical of Capricorn.

We continued to the oddly name Solitaire for lunch. Not much more than a rest camp and shop it did have useful facilities and a café. I changed into my jeans as the wind was particularly chilly still. We had sausages and salad for lunch, followed by coffee in the café.

It was only an hour longer before we reached Sesriem, a beautiful but busier location than other campsites we’d been to. Popularity is somewhat tied to key tourist destinations – Dune 45, Deadvlei and Sossusvlei. We were looking forward to staying in proper desert.

The site was arranged so that each pitch area was enclosed by a low stone wall. We pitched the tents around a tree that was in the middle of the area and Tuhafeni told us that a number of years ago there was a case of a hyena attacking humans. An old female had been taking people’s faces to feed her last litter, starting with a Japanese tourist who insisted on sleeping under the stars. Apparently once an animal gets a taste for human flesh they rarely go back their previous diet. Even now it is not permitted to sleep in the open.

Just settling into the peace of the open after the hubbub of town we were dismayed to see one of those massive overland tour trucks pull up nearby. This meant having to share the showers and toilets with strangers. Somehow the prospect of having my face chewed off by hyenas lost its edge.

Sadly we’d arrived too late to head out to Dune 45 for sundowners, so we settled in for the night with a fantastic chicken stew, wine and some Amarula cream bought in a supermarket. As it got darker it got much colder so we huddled in closer to the fire. We decided that a hot drink was necessary so invented African Coffee – with Amarula. We ended up so close to the fire that the soles of Ciara’s boots actually melted. We decided in the end that bed would be the most sensible option. Changing into my pyjamas I was actually gasping for air, I was so cold. The unbearable draft around my shoulders forced me into my fleece, but even then I only managed to sleep fitfully.

To read the next part of Adrienne’s African adventure, visit the CD-Traveller website tomorrow (Tuesday November 22)

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