If a frog wants to learn how to swim in Namibia, it will have to watch a video on the internet. That quote from some magazine basically sums up this whole sandy (but spectacular) country, and the rest of this post, but I will write a bit more to contextualise the cartoons. Loaded with German pastries from Swakopmond, we cycled through the dunes along a sandy ‘salt road’ to reach icy cold Walvisbay (several pastries lighter), where we got to stay with a very welcoming Warm Showers host called Bryan. Through the insider knowledge and much appreciated efforts of Bryan and his colleague, Frank, we were lucky enough to see dolphins, flamingos, jackals and a colony of seals that had more seals in it than the entire population of Namibia (more or less). In keeping with Namibian trends, Bryan had a cool 'fatbike' specially adapted to riding in sand, which is similar to a touring bike in that it is a bicycle, but different in that it could be called 'horizontally challenged'.
We were a bit unsure as to how to proceed from there, having heard that the roads going south were not ideal for non-masochistic cyclists, but kind of needing to go south because that’s where South Africa is. The adventure gods, in a moment of spontaneous generosity, flew up dad’s cousin Gillie who told us that she was in Windhoek and could meet us when we were ready. So we hired a big 4x4 bakkie, smashed out the back window to fit the bicycles in (oops), and the five of us happily set off to Gobabib. Gobabib is basically this scientific research station in the middle of the desert and it looks exactly like how you imagine Mars to be in your head, with funny instruments and things all over the place and a forty degree gale blowing red dust everywhere. It’s one of those places that is really magical to experience, but extra magical in hindsight, when you aren’t dying of heat being covered in red dust.
Our next stop was a place called Sesriem, a very famous national park full ofsand dunes. I admire the Namibian government for managing to get hundreds of tourists every day to drive through miles and miles of desert and sand dunes and pay a large amount of money to enter into this special park, which is filled also with miles of desert and sand dunes. After this Gillie treated us to a stay in a private campsite in a stunning game park, full of Namibia’s national animal, the name of which we couldn’t agree on for a time because the first one we saw driving into the park was a beige horse-like animal with a single straight horn. Some of us argued that it was a gemsbok, others said Oryx, and the most observant people suggested it was probably a unicorn. As it turns out, it couldn't have been a unicorn because unicorns are white, and an oryx and gemsbok are the same thing and that is what it was. Then we all went to Betta, where we were sad to say goodbye to dearest Gilie, who had admirably put up with the peculiar habits we have picked up after a year of living the great uncivilised life. Then, in the words of dad (and one or two beers), things went from Betta to worse. Or maybe not worse, as such, but the adventure gods definitely switched the mode from 'fun and air-conditioning' to 'extreme character building'. The sneaky dirt road to Helmeringhausen, like many sand roads, looked totally smooth and ridable until you’re riding along and your front wheel disappears into sand and you fall on your face and the person behind you crashes into you and the person riding twenty meters behind everyone swerves two meters to the left where the road turns out to be perfectly hard and you all laugh. Except for the first two people who fell in the sand, who shout angrily at the sand. Eventually we just pushed half the way, which was good for our slowly degenerating upper bodies.
This was followed by a few days of riding and wild camping until we got to Aus, where we managed to organise a day trip to the seaside town of Luderitz. The man who drove us there told us that it was a port town, initially just inhabited by the men who had sailed over but eventually by some women too. It was so desolate back then that the first time they brought a ship full of women over they saw all the sand and wind and refused to get off the ship. After that, the ships full of women were organised to disembark during nighttime, so the poor ladies couldn’t see what they were getting themselves into. On the way back to to Aus we stopped to see the majestic wild horses, who have lived in the desert for over 60 years. Apparently they are the only horses in the world who live like this (source - neighbours in the campsite), and if the drought in Namibia continues they may not last another year, so that would be sad for them. Axel wanted to draw a cartoon about the horses but have you ever tried to draw a horse? It’s really hard, and just ends up looking like a dog with a long neck. On this little excursion to the coast we also got to visit the nearby ghost town of Kolmanskop, which was a bit surreal. Well, we didn’t actually get to get to go inside it because it was closed, but we drove past it and thought it looked surreal from the outside.
We spent two rest days at Aus, which was one of those high altitude places where the nights are freezing cold, the days are boiling hot, and between 7:45 and 8:30 in the morning and the evening the temperature is perfect and in those hours everybody tries to get everything done that they need to do for the next few hours that isn't eating ice cream or snuggling under sleeping bags. Through our previous experience with cold nights, Carla and I had discovered that the warmest place in campsites is generally the bathroom. Unfortunately in Aus, the women’s bathroom had no door, we had to go to the men's room, where mom made us a nice bed in the shower. She closed the curtain around the cubicle so we were safe and hidden and gave us strict instructions to wake up immediately if we dreamed that it was raining.
Which brings me to where we are now, Ausenkeur (or something like that), which is on the Namibian side of the Orange River - only one day’s ride from the South African border. Tomorrow it’s goodbye and thank you Namibia. Goodbye spectacular landscapes. Goodbye big sand dunes. Good bye little flies. Until next time!