Greetings from Swakopmund, Namibia!
We are on two camping safari's in Africa totalling 50 days. This first one is from Capetown, South Africa to Victoria
Falls, Zambia. We arrived in Capetown, South Africa after 19 hours in the air and a one hour plane change in Amsterdam.
We rented a car at Sioux Falls and dropped it of at the airport in the Twin Cities. I have been having trouble sleeping
at night so I assume it is jet lag. It is slowly getting better. At Capetown we were most happy to find that indeed there
was someone there to greet us and take us to our hotel. It took quite awhile to spot him with a sign that said "GRAY"
but we did. In the customs line we had a nice visit with Jennifer from Jackson, MN who has a boy friend in SA.
We signed up for the two safari's with Djosers which has a USA office but the main office in the Netherlands.
In the end we were the only USA people so we got put in a Dutch tour so we constantly listen to Dutch and all the
instructions are in Dutch but usually the tour guide remembers to come and tell us what is going on. Actually what has
worked thebest is the some of our Dutch fellow travelers translate for use in pretty much real time which is so nice of
them. About 80% of them speak English and most of them very well. It is a challenge but it is working OK.
At Capetown we could not get through to our guide but did find out breakfast started at 7 am so felt if we were up before
then we would meet up which in fact worked out. When Ian brought us from the airport he told us the Capetown downtown area
was built on land that was reclaimed from the ocean during WWII when the did extensive work on the harbor. He told us the
directions and where things were and that the hotel we would stay in was a prison for many years. In the morning Table
Mountain that towers over downtown Capetown was in the clouds. It had been very rainy and cloudy for the last 10
days so we were glad to see the sun shining and mostly clear skies and eventually Table Mountain was clear. We had our
breakfast which was free with the room and it was a buffet that had a lot of food. We then walked along the waterfront
toward downtown. We seen several ship yards, shops, stores, seals and the ferry to Robbins Is where Nelson Mandela was in
prison for so many years. When we got back our tour leader had showed up and was looking for us so we had a meeting with
him and found we should get some South African Rands so we went back downtown and got some money changed. We then met the
group and was shocked at how many could speak and understand English very well. Over time we have found several that go
out of their way to translate for us, often in real time. Also the Which Way Adventure guide and driver help us out a lot
as they are from Africa and don't speak Dutch but do speak English. Tippy the driver is from Zambawae and Charlie the
guide is white and from South Africa.
We pitch in a help lot and Edith is one of Charlie's favorites and we have gotten to know Tippy well so we often get the
inside story of what is going on. We loaded our large yellow safari vehicle. We are about 5 feet off the ground and have
to climb 4 steps, straight up to get in. It is winter in South Africa and cold getting down to about 40 degrees at night.
We headed of for the most southwest point in Africa the Cape of Good Hope. It is quite rocky and desolate but the ocean
is very pretty and there are Baboons and Ostriages there. They were all freezing in big coats and Edith and I just had a
little jacket so you definitely could tell who was used to cold weather. They just could not believe we were not freezing.
We then came back to Simons Town and stayed at a hostel, several of us per room. The next morning we seen the African
Penquins coming in and out of the ocean. It is a natural, wild setting so it was most interesting. They make a noise like
a donkey bray and are nicknamed Jackass Penquins. We then went back through Capetown and north to an area called Tableview
where there are great white sand beaches for miles and a great view of downtown Capetown and Table Mountain. The whole
cape area has lots of mountains and a fair amount of trees at the lower elevations. It is very pretty. Capetown is quite
a modern town with about 3.5 million people in the whole area but the traffic is very light. They have some 4 lane roads.
You can see some of the infastructure needs repair but by and large looks OK. Definitely nice and clean, no trash.
Not many big stores, just smaller stores but they do have some super markets and small malls. English is understood by many
and they can speak it well but South Africa is definitely "DUTCH" I had no idea how "DUTCH". They actually speak Africana
which is basically Dutch and everything has Dutch names. We headed north out of town along the west coast. It immediately
became a farming area in a wide valley between the coastal mountians and a inland mountain range. It was mainly small grain
just getting started as it is the winter, dry season moving into Spring here. Everything is opposite of us. There summer
school vacation is December and January. As we traveled north in SA it got more desolate and arid. Toward evening we got
into the mountains and followed the Orange River and there was irriagation and orange trees and some garden crops so it was
much less arid looking. We tented at a hostel and took a hike which was very scenic. We did not expect so many mountains!
In the morning we had a very low tire and had a terrible time changing it as the nuts were so tight and the spare was
bolted on the back with two nuts we just could not get off. Low and behold we finally figure out that the studs were left
hand thread so we had been trying to tighten them. The tire wrench did not have a good Tee handly so we were using
a 1" rebar rod which kept bending with the pipe extention we had to use. They definitely need some better tools. They
normally don't have flat tires; although as the trip has went on there are a lot of flats so I suspect they have just been
very lucky. From here we entered a more desolate area with lots of rocks laying all over and as always mountains around us.
We stopped at Springbok and got some supplies and walked around. Again the Dutch influence was all over.
At the Namibia border we camped in our first safari camp along the Orange River on the SA side. It was nice,had bathrooms
made of thatch which was about shoulder high so you could look out. There was canoeing available on the river. We then
headed for Namibia the next morning but had a big hold up waiting for a work visa to come through for Tippy our driver.
I was amazed at how good the cell phone coverage was along N7 going all the way north in SA. In Nambia the coverage came
to an end. The south part of Namibia all the way to Swakopmund is desert and rocky mountains. It looks like Utah except
n many areas much more arid and is definitely a dessert! It is cold at night and some days gets fairly warm; especially
inside the safari vehicle as it has a lot of glass. We got to AI AIS which is a hot springs and it was refreshing and then
pushed on for Fish River Canyon running late because of the work visa hold up. Just as we were getting to Fish River Canyon
an inside dual blew out. We limped on to the canyon rim. It is advertised as being the second largest canyon in the world
but it is not. It looks like a minature Grand Canyon. It is nice but I know Copper Canyon in Mexico is much larger.
They could not get the spare out from under the truck as they did not have the right tools. We limped to our camp and
there they borrowed some tools from another Which Way Adventure truck headed for Capetown doing the tour in reverse to
ours. They did get it changed but now we need to go 600 km with no spare on bad, rocky gravel roads.
We are getting along good with tenting, we have good mats and a blow up air pillow so other than being a bit chilly it
is fine. There was frost a couple of mornings. We have camp duty about every 4 days but Edith and I help Charlie everyday
with some things. We had a long, bumpy, dusty trip and it got dark on us before we got to the Nami Dessert area and had
trouble finding and empty campsite. We were up at 4 am and headed for the largest sand dunes in the world.
We started climbing Dune 45 at got some great sunrise pictures. The dunes are red and they stretch along the coast
for 500 KM and are 110 KM wide. We were about 55 km from the ocean and the dunes go right to the ocean. Some of our
members took a flight over them and I saw the pictures of the dunes right up to the ocean with no beach or sometimes just
a small beach. Dune 45 is 120 meters high and is hard work climbing. I was well satisfied with my physical shape. Edith
made it up far enough to get good sunrise pictures. We then had a bushman tour showing us the old dry lakes and life
in the dessert and told us about the bushman. It rains once every 10 to 15 years and we went to a dry lake that has been
dry for 900 years. There is Crazy dune which is Dune 54 and is 240 meters high and the tallest dune is Dune 21 at 400
meters high. This is a world class site, dessert supreme. The colors in the sun was something to behold. We had
a great breakfast on the desert before the bushman tour.
We then had the afternoon to relax and some did the flight, I did a bit of hiking and working on my daily logs, the
digital voice recorder is working well to record the travelogue. We only have one 25 lb. wheel bag and a day backpack
of about 12 lbs so we don't have much as our sleeping bag has to go in the wheel bag as well. The Dutch did not pay any
attention to the regulations and have ton's of stuff so Charlie the Which Way Adventure guide is not very happy about
all their stuff! We don't have that much room! One thing many of them have are travel books so we have borrowed some of
them and also they have 110/220 volt electric razors.I am going to try and buy one here a swakopmund but if not will
get by with my straight edge. The bathrooms are sometimes about 1/4 mile away but so far there has been hot water. I
cheat and have a nygene bottle that I use at night so I don't have to stumble out of the tent and get all woke up in
the cold for the long hike to the bathroom. I do have my LED headlamp along and it is "GREAT"! I got to give my sons
big credit in that we have good camping gear. There is one girl that has about the same stuff as we do but everyone else
is 10 to 20 years behind in the gear we have. The 10X digital camera is working great and the batteries are holding up
well and the SA adaptor plug is working well so the planning is paying off. Charlie the camp courier loves my Pocket
Computer! We broke camp and hiked a slot canyon, and then visited Solitare which is an oasis in the dessert.The Dutch
people know about this place as a Dutchman wanted to change his life so he went to SA and headed north. He was low on
fuel so he stopped but there was no fuel. The owner drank up the profits so often there was no money to buy fuel. He
stayed to wait for fuel and 1 1/2 years later he was still there and built up a nice place with green grass,a lodge,
animals and a store. He had a falling out with the brothers and one brother has left but he has written a popular book
about it in the Netherlands and it is being made into a movie. We had apple pie that was baked in a cake pan. It was
3" x 2.5" X 5 " and cost $1.00 USD. There was also some good coffee for the coffee drinkers
We then headed up what is called the skeleton coast or moonscape. It is the most barren, arid, rocky place I have seen
in my life! BTW so far we have seen Inpala's, Gemsbok, Springbok, Black sided Jackals, baboons, and Ostriages. It was
something the other night when Charlie took me out into the Nami Dessert and with his light we seen Jackels and
Gemsbok. When we got back to camp there were jackels right by the safari vehicle about 20 feet from the tents.
We did get the spare fixed at the CG before heading out so this was good. We are making friends with a few others in
other safari groups that are on the same route as we are. Just before Walvis Bay we got into a sand storm, here the
dunes are tan colors and smaller and it is desolate. We did see a couple of quarries where apparently they mine granite
in huge rectangular chunks from under the sand. At Walvis Bay we seen flamingos. We got stuck in the sand with the safari
vehicle but they carry two steel plates as wide as the rear duals and about 6 foot long with steel cletes on them
so we dug the sand out from the wheels, slide the steel plates under the wheels and were able to back out. We were
all out of the bus and we also pushed. Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are very German, brick streets, very clean and
an amazing site to see green, and all this life right in the dessert next to the ocean. There are adventure activiites
here such as sky diving, quads etc. We met a fellow headed toward Capetown on a tour that broke his arm on a quad here
and also said a lady was paralized and another person killed. We watched video's and they definitely should talk more
about safety. I did my best to warn some of our group not to get carried away on the quad bikes. We are doing a township
tour. Most cites in southern Africa have townships which are a hold over from the segregation days but today are where
the poor live. We will know more to tell you for the next travelogue. We are in a nice hostel here and I am able to
charge the camera batteries and my pocket computer. We will eat out tonight at a German restaurant. I think I forgot to
mention that Namibia belonged to Germany originally and the Germans stayed in this area. Sorry for mispelling, repeats and
grammar errors but it is an expensive, slow connection so I am hurrying. We will have the Internet again around September
1st between safaris. Lots of good stuff to come! Edith is handling Africa well and is teaching Charlie our camp cook
about cooking. Charlie and her are big time buddies,he is 18 and a nice young man
Ed and Edith Gray