This world is jam-packed with people. According to the World Population Clock there are over 7.4 billion people on this planet at this very moment! All those people make for a loud, busy, and chaotic world. So imagine a time when the world was quiet! No, not “solitude on a beach” quiet or “hiking a mountain” quiet, but rather “where-the-heck-is-everyone?” quiet! I’m talking, “Have I just survived an apocalypse” quiet. That’s the type of quiet that can be found in Namibia… one of this world’s most beautiful, untouched, and QUIET locales. For our week in Namibia, one of the only distraction we would encounter on a long strip of road were warthog caution signs (which we actually needed to avoid a family of warthogs running across the highway), post-apocalyptic car carcasses, or long vast salt pans.
We decided to explore Namibia with our friend Katherine and her two boys (long-time friends from our Nairobi days) as a way of escaping the chaos of city life in Johannesburg. We knew we were getting what we expected on the fly over in to Windhoek (the capital city). We were in awe by the view from the plane windows–where was the city? After taking care of business (read: claiming bags, renting cars, and loading up with provisions) our awe remained unchanged. Single lane, lightly tarmac roads lead in and out of the airport and through the capital city.
The first leg of our journey lead us 4 hours north to Etosha National Park. Knowing it was the last safari of our “Africa 2.0” journey, we couldn’t depart this beautiful continent without one more fabulous safari. So we bunked down to lavishly air-conditioned tents at Etosha Village and prepared to be impressed.
A chilly morning safari showcased pronking Springboks enjoying the morning sun, ostriches racing through the savannah, leopards in a tree, and so much more. But after hours of safari-ing (yes, I just made that word up!) near the Etosha Salt Pan we deserved a respite from the crazy Namibian heat! So back to camp and the pool!
We ended our time in Etosha enjoying the beautiful panorama of the game park with a private sundowner. The sunset over the gorgeous vistas accompanied by delicious South African wines, fabulous nibbles, and great friends was a fabulous experience. We thought our adventure couldn’t get better, quieter, and more amazing… but then we drove Southwest to Damaraland.
Named after the Damaras who inhabit this land, Damaraland has a tainted history. In the 1970s, Damarland was named a black state (bantustan) by the Apartheid government of South West Africa (which is now Namibia) and considered a gifted territory for the Damara people. This desolate and inhospitable land is hot, rocky, and vast with amazing mountain escarpments around every corner. After hours of driving in near isolation we stopped to take a tour at the Petrfied Forest near Khorixas. The forest of prehistoric trees were petrified after being buried under sand, mud, and rock for millions of years.
But pre-historic history aside, nothing was more spectacular than the rocky drive that led us to the desert oasis of Mowani Mountain Camp.
Isolated in the middle of the Damaraland lies its hidden gem–Mowani Mountain Camp. With “tented” cabins overshadowed by vast boulders which became the kids’ playground. We never appreciated a desert the way we appreciated it here. Climbing 30 steps between ancient boulders, we reached the lookout which served as the nightly sundowner spot. Peaceful and serene, the Namibian landscape became part of our soul.
In the morning, we headed out to find the rare desert-adapted elephants. According to the airplane magazine, scientists are considering whether the Namibian elephants should be classified as their own species. These amazing elephants are one of only two populations of elephants who have been able to survive in such arid and hostile environments. From afar, they look just like other African elephants, but up close, one observes thinner bodies, longer legs, and wider foot beds to accommodate their vast bodies in a search for food and water.
We rounded out our safari with a trip to Namibia’s first World Heritage Site: Twyfelfontein rock art. The rock engravings tell the story of nomadic people from the past 6,000-2,000 years. According to our tour guide, the rock art tells stories about rituals, hunting, beliefs, and varied animal life. After this, we saw rock formations of a different type as stopped to see the “organ pipes,” dolerite rock formations. If you’re in to geology, you can learn more about this phenomenal site.
The last stop on our trip to Namibia was a stop at Swakopmund. This region of Namibia is famous for serving as the backdrop for many movies including the post-apocalyptic film, Mad Max Fury Road. On our long, bumpy, and somewhat intimidating drive (we past many burned out, broken down cars and many topless Himba women trying to get us to shop in their roadside stalls!)
Swakopmund is an interesting city because it is a small port town and beach resort amidst the remnants of German colonialism all backdropped by the Namib desert. Swakopmund is an adventurers paradise. From airplane flyovers of the Namib desert to quad biking through the dunes, from German beer and sauerkraut tastings to bike tours and sand boarding–there is something to do for everyone! We decided on some dune exploration and a desert safari that taught us so much about the ecology of the Namib desert.
All in all, this was a glorious holiday and a MUST SEE for anyone in southern Africa. The history, geology, ecology, and serenity that can be found in this gorgeous country are unmatched! We’re glad we came.