Saturday, June 07, 2008

Etosha and Windhoek

As I said before, entering Namibia was like returning to the first world again. It was a huge thing for us to finally see good tarmac, ATMs and credit cards accepted everywhere and supermarkets with food we recognize at a reasonable price. And English. We definitely like it when the population speaks English.
We were still a long way from anywhere and the trucks were still limping along so we stopped in the first real town, Ondangwa (Namibia has some of the wildest town names in the world I think). We made a point taking the day off and although we were all allowed to sleep in, we were still all pretty much awake and moving around by 6am. We spent the morning and early afternoon on vehicle repairs and cleaning the worst of the dust out of everything, though it quickly became obvious that that was going to be a multi-day job. Even the tins of food, buried in the most obscure places were completely covered in very fine dust. We spent that night just outside Etosha National Park and the following day decided to enter.
Etosha National Park is one of the major southern African parks for viewing wildlife and is becoming increasingly popular as it's fees are significantly lower than of parks in neighbouring countries. It is possible to see giraffes, zebras, oryx, wildebeests, elephants, rhinos, lions and other antelope species. Ben and Patrick (along with their groups) decided to spend two nights camping in the park while we spent only the day. The reason for this was that Kees' dog Bindhi is not allowed in the National Parks. Of course the signs say to leave pets at home but we can't do that. I know it is bad and we deserve some criticism for endangering wild populations with disease, but we didn't have a lot of choice. We kept her in the truck and transited through the park (the long way for maximum viewing) because it is actually a shortcut to Windhoek.
We were able to see lots of zebra, giraffes, and other ungulated quadrupeds but only one elephant, and no lions or rhinos. We really didn't have enough time for a proper look though we spent the whole day there (it is open from sunrise to sunset). It is nice to see wildlife again but based on my travels so far in Africa, the parks are more like huge zoos and the animals don't really live in the wild anymore. I hope that isn't true for the rest of the continent. We did see wild warthogs on the side of the road during our drive to Windhoek though.
Namibia is a desert country and has one of the world's lowest population densities. It is almost always sunny but right now the nights are cold since we are fully into their winter. The worst part of that is that the sun sets at about 5:30pm.
There are lots of ranches and farms so the land is mostly fenced off along the road and very open. It has been very pretty so far but we really haven't seen much.
Windhoek is a quiet and very organized city of only 250,000 or so. It has a German style to it since Namibia was originally a German colony until South Africa took over after WWI. Namibia didn't gain independence until 1989 and for some reason, despite Germany losing it so long ago, there are a lot of German families still here and quite a bit of the language.
There are lots of volunteers and travellers and because it is difficult to get around by public transport, everyone either joins a tour or rents a car to see the country. We are currently camping in a hostel in Windhoek and enjoying being able to chat with people again. It is strange to think that it is so developed here but at the same time we now have to worry about street crime and racism more because it is a touristic country and close to South Africa. We have heard a few stories but not had any trouble ourselves.
We rushed to Windhoek ahead of the others so we could get a jump on getting the truck fixed and because Kees has two friends that will join him from here. Bre had stayed with Ben in Etosha (they saw rhino and lions) and after two nights in Windhoek our group was officially disbanded and Ben and Patrick (along with Alex, James and Sarah) left for S. Africa. It was a teary farewell. Kerry is here getting his passport renewed and will then go his own way too. We will continue to travel with Kees (and his friends) as long as possible. On our last night together we went out to eat at Joe's Beer House, a place famous in Africa for us carnivorous types. We ate zebra, oryx, springbok, ostrich, kudu and crocodile and it was delicious. I was so stuffed I swear it took 2 days to digest.
The retarded news is that the truck is more mangled than we thought and although Kees found a good garage to get it fixed, we will be here for probably another week before it is finished. Kees' friend has just arrived from Holland so the new group is now complete but we have yet to decide what we will be doing in the immediate future. His friend only has 3 weeks here so we have to pack some stuff in for him somehow.


At 8:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Gang,
It is always hard to say good bye and even more so when adversity had welded the friendships, they seem to develop faster and deeper in times of trial, than when everything is going smoothly in our lives. Interestingly like our relationship with God, we turn most fervently in need and so easily forget in times of ease and comfort.
wonder if Bree will go with Kees or you when the road divides? inquiring minds are wondering?
Anyways, please give your Mom a hug from me and a belated happy birthday.

Love and Big Bear Hugs to you all
Still Here !!! The Big Bear


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