Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure. Or something like that.
From Walvis Bay, we zipped east across the Namib-Naukluft desert through the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Two major east-west roads go through this area, and we wanted to explore them both, so we drove to Windhoek (Namibia’s capital and largest city) on one, camped on the edge of the city, got permits to camp in the National Park, and drove back on the second road.
The wild and unpopulated-by-humans desert in the western part of the country merges into fenced ranch country in the east. The following four images show the scenic progression from west to east (and if you count these four images as a single photo, then I almost meet my limit of a dozen photos):
The campground we chose in Windhoek was part of a resort complex. When I indicated I wanted to camp, the receptionist’s eye widened. “I hope you have a sturdy tent,” she said. Her extreme concern—disapproval?—gave me pause. There was evidence that a heavy rain shower had just passed through. Did she know something I didn’t? Was she merely a non-camper? Was she working on commission and trying to persuade me to book a room or chalet instead?
I asked some questions and didn’t get the sense she had relevant info that would change my mind, so I forged ahead with the camping plan.
The campground sucked. For starters, we couldn’t find it. It was off the resort map I was given—no kidding! The verbal instructions led us down into a dumpy, behind-the-scenes place that quite frankly was a little scary.
When we finally located some platforms that seemed to be the campsites, we discovered we were, once again, the only campers in the place, yet we were assigned to a site (#11) that had a trough running through it where rainwater had recently run and a sign that said this site floods during rain. No other campers, and this is the site we were assigned. Ay yi yi.
I selected the site I wanted (#7) and returned to reception to let the gal know. She seemed to think the campground was full. I assured her it wasn’t.
Clearly, this resort doesn’t want to have a campground and shouldn’t. The rural community campgrounds were way-yonder better. But we were at this site for only about 12 hours, and I had no desire to try to find another campground. We were buffeted by neither rain nor wind, just the sound of heavy traffic.
In the morning, we re-stocked food and cash reserves and hunted down the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) so we could get our park permit. The park is 150 km from Windhoek, but you can’t get permits at the park. As far as I know, there’s no office on site at the park, and no humans to boot. It’s not exactly a convenient system. Someone needs to introduce the honor system of little envelopes and dropboxes at such sites.
Our guidebook said the MET office was in the same place as the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) office. As in Botswana, there didn’t appear to be addresses, and if there were, they weren’t posted on buildings. We stumbled through the city during morning rush hour, with minimal help from the GPS. We found a place to park several blocks from where we thought the office should be, and I—Miss Can’t-find-her-way-south-from-the-North-Pole—was sent off on foot to make the necessary arrangements while Mike stayed with the loaded-with-precious-cargo truck.
I found the NWR office, thankyouverymuch, but the MET office had recently moved. Where? To the some-name-I-don’t-remember building, across from NamPower.
Okay. Where’s NamPower?
The three women behind the counter were stumped. Thoroughly flummoxed. Speechless, in fact. And incredulous. How could I not know where NamPower was? Apparently, every other tourist who visits Windhoek for the first time knows where NamPower is.
I wasn’t leaving without an answer—or at least a decent attempt at an answer. (Who me—stubborn?)
I asked if there was an address for the building. No.
I asked if someone could draw me a map. No.
I asked the names of roads between here and there. I got one name.
I asked how many blocks away it was. Shrugs. Unknown.
I asked how long it would take me to walk from where I was to the new office. An hour. (Seriously? You mean on my hands and knees? Blindfolded and backward?)
What does the building look like? Vague, unsure answers.
Am I the first person to ask where this new MET office is? No answer. Maybe I was.
I finally gave up. They outlasted me. I left with the name of one road, an idea of the direction we needed to travel, and NamPower as a reference point.
We managed to find the NamPower building (thank you, GPS). I walked around it and eventually found the new MET office, no thanks to signs. As I waited, I got to eavesdrop on local ranch owners applying for permits to hunt and sell game meat. The man I eventually dealt with was kind, funny, and sympathetic. He made everything better.
We’d spent about two hours dealing with Windhoek that morning and were oh-so-ready to get the heck out of Dodge. Most people find comfort in cities. I wonder what that’s like.
No, we didn’t take any pictures in Windhoek. But this giant wall of text needs to end. I know. Back to the park we went.
Out with the ostriches . . .
. . . gemsbok . . .
. . . mountain zebras . . .
. . . and squirrels, where we belong.
Now we could relax. Our first campsite in the park. No amenities. No other people. In fact, we didn’t see another human being during our entire visit to this park.
There’s a waterhole out of this picture on the right side, a little farther away than we would have liked. We’d been wanting to stay up all night and watch a waterhole, and we decided we’d do it here. We opted to not set up the tent but spend the night in the car; the seats recline to nearly horizontal, so we could catch some sleep as needed between watching periods.
The waterhole was busy all night long, visited by different groups of zebras, gemsboks, and warthogs. None of the animals spent a lot of time at the waterhole—at least, not drinking. Sometimes they’d hem and haw about coming in, wondering what that giant white thing was (our truck, some distance away) and whether it was a threat. The moon was big and bright, so visibility was good. We used our night binoculars.
We saw no predators save a jackal, which was no surprise.
The following day, we continued our drive through the dry, rocky desert park. We saw gemsbok, hartebeest, springbok, warthogs, ostriches, and several groups of zebras, often racing across the plain. Sometimes they appeared to be running from us, but sometimes they appeared to be just running.
What on earth are these animals eating?!
Dry grass. I know. But there hardly seemed to be enough of it to support the quantity of animals we were seeing.
We also found a meerkat community and a handful of meerkats, otherwise known as “suricates.” Personally, I prefer the name “meerkat” to “suricate.” If you’re going to change the name of an animal, change it to something good: something descriptive (for a layperson, not a scientist), clever, or fun.
I finally looked this up, too: Meerkats are mongooses. Aha!
As with some other pictures, the heat shimmers make this an artsy image. Ohmygosh, it’s hot out here!
It cracks me up that animals seem to require trails out here.
But if this is what happens when you get off the trail, well . . . stay on the trails.
There was evidence that it rains here, but it was still hard to believe.
This is where we camped on our second night in the park. This photo was taken just outside the tent.
We rejected our planned destination when we discovered a handful of occupied huts a stone’s throw away from the designated campsite. We came here instead and were all alone, just me and Mike.
We left the rain fly off the tent and had wonderful views of the stars and moon throughout the night.
Despite having no campground showers in which to cool off midday, and despite a limited variety of wildlife and very limited shade, I really liked it here.
Yes, that was three days and more than a dozen pictures. Deal with it!