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I’m ready for Namibia

July 24th, 2002 No comments

[Please note: This is a re-transcript of my original notes from the expedition to Namibia in 2002 combined with the notes/blog from another member as my original diary was lost. It was also edited in 2016 to remove photos of one of the group members – see my post containing a statement at the end of this category]

I’m all packed and ready for my expedition. There are 16 of us plus 2 group leaders from World Challenge Expeditions going to Namibia for a month – firstly to improve the sports facilities of a school in the town of Gibeon but also to have some fun. We have dune boarding, trekking, town visits and more planned and are meeting at our school today for last minute preparations before leaving for Heathrow in the morning.

All packed!

All packed!

I’m hoping I didn’t forget anything – not sure how easy it’ll be to get things out there.

Location of Namibia

Location of Namibia

Wish me luck!

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We made it to Namibia!

July 27th, 2002 No comments

Welcome to Africa…. we made it to Namibia!

We’re currently in the Chameleon Hostel which is a fairly nice place to stay in the capital, Windhoek, which has a very friendly resident Meerkat. It keeps looking at us strangely but seems used to tourists. Our room has this weird mural/tapestry thing that looks like a cross between a tribal leader and the Pringles man. Me and Dan B have named it Gertrude and now we can’t stop laughing!

The Meerkat

The Meerkat

On Wednesday after arriving at the school we all had either Fish and Chips or KFC for lunch before sorting through our bags and completing last minute paperwork. I did add something to my bag though – not something I forgot but we were told that the locals in Namibia would be really interested in our lives and where we come from so I took loads of photos but thought it would be a good idea to take a school prospectus too. We will be seeing their school I think they will enjoy seeing ours. The rest of the day we mainly played games (football, basketball etc) and chatted to each other before sleeping on the very hard floor of the school gym!

In the school gym

In the school gym

Thursday morning we spent checking the World Challenge equipment such as tents and checked that everything else was there before heading up in convoy in two school minibuses (one for us, one for the equipment) to Heathrow Airport. As the person that did the majority of work organising this trip I was nominated as the team leader until we get to Johannesburg and managed to get everybody through Heathrow fairly quickly. South African Airways did a good job of checking us in and we were soon in the departure lounge waiting for our flight. We’ll have a different leader every day I but we’re there a month so I’ll be the leader again at some point.

After a 10 hour flight we arrived in Johannesburg airport and I managed to lose something – my bum-bag containing all of my money, passport etc. Luckily I remembered seeing it at the baggage scanner in the transit area so I went back there to collect it and after filling out a form and bribing the customs official with 20 rand I got it back. I then went back up and met the others before realising something else was missing – my top. I didn’t remember using it on the plane so must have left it at Heathrow when the rather large security man decided I needed searching and I had to put everything down. Luckily there was a good outdoors store in Johannesburg airport so I bought a new fleece. We had a long wait ahead of us so found various ways to amuse ourselves. Dan B decided on this….

Dan and the hats

Dan and the hats

After a 10 hour layover we boarded another plane for a short flight to Namibia. When we arrived I had to help the group through immigration – our accommodation for that night had been arranged by our driver so we didn’t know where our first nights accommodation would be for the incoming passenger card. Most of us put the address of the school we’ll be staying for the next 2 weeks, but a few people didn’t put anything and got queried by the woman on immigration. Luckily this matter didn’t involve bribery! We spent most of the rest of the day drinking and playing pool in the hostel before having an early night.

In the hostel

In the hostel

GERTRUDE!

GERTRUDE!

I had my first African shower last night – it was outside in the courtyard and very cold which came as a bit of a shock. We have just had eggs and toast for breakfast (a few people decided on eggy bread instead) and should be leaving the hostel soon. We’ll be stopping off in the city to exchange money, buying anything we need and then heading off to the town of Gibeon. We’ll finally be able to see the real Africa – we had to stay in Johannesburg airport and arrived after sunset yesterday so haven’t seen any of the continent yet!

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Gibeon project – week 1

August 2nd, 2002 No comments

We’ve been in Gibeon around a week now and are having a great time in some respects but not in others which I’ll explain more about in this post.

After leaving the hostel last week we made our way into the city centre. Our main priorities were to exchange money and get supplies. The supplies aspect wasn’t too difficult as our truck parked in a huge car park right in the centre outside the Namibian Supreme Court and right next to a supermarket. It wasn’t as big as the Sainsbury’s you would be used to in the UK or the Wal-Marts you would be used to in the USA but sold everything we needed. The exchanging of money took a little bit longer due to all of the local regulations. I didn’t need to exchange so much money as I had already purchased some South African Rand before leaving the UK and Namibia accepts it as a dual-currency which has come in handy. While the others were still inside a few of us were outside and were approached by a Namibian beggar. In the UK we are used to people holding signs while begging – this guy had what looked like a flick-knife in his hand. Not as scary as it might have been though – we told him we weren’t interested and he accepted this and walked away.

Windhoek

Windhoek

After finishing in Windhoek we made our way out of the city, past a petrol station that was on fire, and into the country towards Gibeon. The countryside is amazing here. It’s not as green as in Europe but there are still some plants around and some wildlife. We arrived in Gibeon in the afternoon and went straight to the school. They were happy to see us as they were expecting us the day before and had called the British High Commission in Windhoek asking if they knew where we were. They said they didn’t – even though we left them an information pack with our itinerary. Although maybe they never found it – they didn’t open by the time we left Windhoek so it was just thrown over the front gate and into the grounds.

Driving

Driving

The school said we could have some spare rooms in the school if we wanted but we decided to camp as we had brought the equipment with us anyway. We had to be careful when setting the tents up as there were some really evil things on the ground that looked like thistle heads but were sharper and if you put your tent on them they hurt!

That evening we were invited to the school hall where the kids gave us a presentation. They sang and danced and also performed a scene depicting life in Namibia (although that part was in Nama so we didn’t understand it). They then sang the Namibian National Anthem before inviting us on stage. We all introduced ourselves before singing our National Anthem – WAY worse than they sang! One thing I will always remember from this evening is how embarrassed Dan B looked. He’s the smallest member of our group but has one of the deepest voices which some of the kids found this hilarious although Dan went all red 🙁

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Our campsite

Our campsite

In the school hall

In the school hall

The next day (28th) we played a football match with some kids from the school. We won on penalties after a 3-3 draw but they quite obviously let us win and were a LOT better despite none of them wearing shoes during the game. We found out later that the school team was the best in the region! We were then shown around by the school Principal – Mr Fleermuys. We were shown the facilities, teaching rooms and accommodation before being told his vision for the school. He’s thinking big!

Playing Football

Playing Football

In the afternoon we started getting to know some of the kids. Bradley is the one that stands out the most. He’s only 4 years old but has attached himself to a few of us, including Sam and myself, as if he’s another member of the team – he doesn’t speak English and we had to ask him his name in Afrikaans but he’s great! There are other kids that are hanging around that I get on well with overall – Kakashol and Sebu…. although they have outstayed their welcome after ruining somebody’s sunglasses and biting me. That evening we sampled the local beer (Tafel) but unfortunately some of us the team got very drunk and caused us to miss the church service we had been invited to that evening. An alcohol ban came in place quite quickly!

BRADLEY

BRADLEY

A bad pic of me and Bradley

A bad pic of me and Bradley

Some other kids at the school

Some other kids at the school

Teaching Rugby

Teaching Rugby

The next couple of days were mainly dedicated to working on the projects in the school, getting supplies and sending letters to people. We won’t finish the projects on this visit but Mr Fleermuys said he knows this and that his vision is a five year project incorporating several visits by groups from World Challenge Expeditions. Supplies have been a little more difficult to find. The shops in town only really sell everyday essentials so groups of us have gone to the nearest town a few times, Mariental, which is almost 70 miles away. The first time we went to the post office it was closed by the time we found it. We got lost in the town but some local kids showed us the way and we gave them a small amount of money for their help. The next day it was open and we sent letters home.

They got this in to help

They got this in to help

Starting work

Starting work

Working on the volleyball court

Working on the volleyball court

Bradley trying to help

Bradley trying to help

Walking into town

Walking into town

Phoning home

Calling home

Over the last couple of days things have been going downhill. The principal seems to be more interested in the money we have than our help and we recently found out he has been hiding things from us. The school does need improvement but one of the students showed us to their computer room – it only has one PC but we were told there were no computers in the school. Lots of little things like that, too many to list, have just been making us feel a little unwelcome although nothing that is enough to make us leave on its own. We’re going to do what we can do realistically then move on somewhere else I think.

However tonight was a good night in that we were invited to a BBQ (braai) that some of the teachers had set up for us. It was fresh goat that had been slaughtered that day for us and I’ve never had such fresh food. They could have been a bit more tactful and not said “Do you like our goat? We slaughtered it for you this morning” while I was eating a mouthful but it was very tasty. We all sat around the BBQ eating goat and homemade bread while talking with the teachers – the food was a lot better than the random cardboard chicken we have been having and a lot more successful too (see below)! I showed them the school prospectus and they were thrilled to see it and asked if they could keep it. I knew it would be a good idea. A fairly late night tonight but it’s been a good day although these little things have been mounting up a lot.

BBQ with the teachers

BBQ with the teachers

Dan makes fire!!

Dan makes fire!!

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“Table for 18 please”

August 8th, 2002 No comments

Right now we should still be in the school in Gibeon but we decided to leave due to the ongoing issues that I mentioned in my last post. We did as much as we could for the school and enjoyed every moment there but the Principal was making us feel less and less welcome every day and made it obvious he was looking for a financial contribution which we just weren’t prepared to give. One of our leaders made some calls back to the UK and we were told that within a couple of days somebody from the trucking company would be there to take us on to a temporary campsite while we waited for our main truck driver.

We decided to make the most of our time there. On the 3rd, the day after the BBQ, we had a last day of work on the school before making a castle and giant domino set with the remaining bricks. Harley made a video – I’ll see if I can add it on my site later. In the early evening we made a giant bonfire with any loose wood or dead plant material we could find by wandering the local area. All of the material was dry and easy to light and we quickly got a big bonfire going. Some of the kids joined us until Dan, the instigator of most of the drunken behaviour so far, decided it would be funny to throw a full cigarette lighter onto the fire which exploded and scared all of the kids away. Thanks Dan :(.

Later that evening after the bonfire went out the two American teachers at the school invited us out to sample the local nightlife. Most of us accepted, although we didn’t know what to expect, and we were taken into the centre of Gibeon in their cars. We didn’t spend much time with the teachers but they were great and were the only other white people to visit the town in the last few years – something we found out the second time we went to the post office last week. That day we stopped in the cafe next to the post office for some cold drinks and one of the kids said something to the lady behind the counter. She said “he says he wants some money for you burning his eyes out” before apologising and sending him out. We didn’t take offense – we know he didn’t mean anything by it.

Although back to the nightlife. Their local nightclub was basically a shack with a bar, pool table and DJ inside and a courtyard outside. The drinks were incredibly cheap as is everything in this part of the world and it was only the equivalent of 8p for a 500ml bottle of Fanta! Some of the others had beer but I stuck to the Fanta. We enjoyed the surroundings for probably about an hour before gunshots started sounding outside. Our leaders decided it would be a good idea to leave before anything happened so we walked the quarter mile or so back to the school. Apparently what was happening was there was a fight outside and the police arrested them both. One of them got away and went running off so the police fired some warning shots into the air to make him stop…. but better to be safe than sorry I guess!

On the 4th we were scheduled to have another football match but our transport arrived early to take us to the Hardap Dam resort – just up the road next to Mariental. It was only a small minibus so it had to make the trip 3 times. I was given the job of going into town to the one remaining phone box that worked to make the reservation. On arrival back in the school the kids were disappointed to see us go, and the feeling was mutual, but we told them due to a problem with transport we had to go to our next place now or we wouldn’t have got there at all. We took some photos with the kids, exchanged addresses, had the principal ask for money again and then went off to Hardap. We spent that night setting up camp and eating at the restaurant there. I was in the last minibus so got a lift back to the restaurant. The 5 or 6 of us that arrived first were the only people in the place so the waiter got a shock when we said “table for 18 please” although the others came along after a few minutes. After dinner we mainly tried to work out what these weird creatures were that were running all over the park. We found out later they were called “Rock Dassies” but we nicknamed them “Monkey Hamsters”

Leaving Gibeon

Leaving Gibeon

Leaving Gibeon

Leaving Gibeon

Hardap Campsite

Hardap Campsite

Monkey Hamster!

Monkey Hamster!

The next day we took a short trek to get used to the idea of trekking in the Namibian climate before our main trek of the trip. We had a group of Springbok run behind us, just as Will was moaning he hadn’t seen any wildlife, but they were too fast to get a photo. Apparently somebody saw a Scorpion and Baboons but I didn’t see either of those. After returning we relaxed by the swimming pool which was bar none the coldest I have ever been in! Needless to say we didn’t stay in long just mainly relaxed and enjoyed the evening before having curry for dinner and an early night.

Simon on Trek 1

Simon on Trek 1

Trek 1

Trek 1

On the 6th we took a longer (10 miles) trek around the other side of the park and over the Dam itself. We had random spam sandwiches for lunch before having to turn back early because a few of the group were starting to feel a little ill from the trek. We took it easy that night before taking a longer trek the next day – with full rucksacks to prepare us for the longer treks ahead. We returned to the campsite to find another World Challenge group had set up camp near us. We chatted for a bit before heading off to the restaurant again. I was a little more adventurous this time and tried Crocodile Goulash – the meat felt weird but tasted like Pork. That evening there was a bit of an incident involving Dan again where he decided to attack me with a bog brush – don’t ask. He denied it so we had a little mock court case to liven things up this morning. The whole thing was very pointless but was also very random which I like.

The Dam

The Dam

Sunset over Hardap

Sunset over Hardap

Eating Crocodile - I know I look bad - I was tired

Eating Crocodile – I know I look bad – I was tired

Some of us in the restaurant

We will be leaving for Sesreim soon – Rod just turned up with a big green truck for us all to travel in!

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Sunrise over the dunes

August 10th, 2002 No comments

We’re currently on our way from Sesreim to Namib-Naukluft National Park and I’m in rotation as team leader again which means I get to ride in the front of the truck with Rod. It’s great to get away from the others to tell you the truth as it has been a bit of a fuss over the last few days – mainly involving Dan and alcohol again.

After Rod arrived at Hardap on the morning of the 8th and announced his presence with something that sounded like “Hi I’m Rod. I’m your truck driver. This is my truck – it’s not a bus… so don’t call me Rod the bus driver” we made our way out of Hardap and past Gibeon along the main road to Sesreim. The campsite we set up camp in is a lot different to the last one and we’ve definitely found the desert now! We hastily set up camp in a nice open area of the campsite before cooking food and having an early night ready to head off early to see the sunrise. Unfortunately before we had a chance to get to sleep our tent and another tent managed to dislodge themselves from the sand and go rolling off into the distance but they got stuck against a perimeter fence so we set them back up again. As a result a decision was made that the next day would involve moving the tents to a sheltered area that had become available in the other section of the campsite.

The original section

The original section

The next day was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far. We got up an hour before sunrise and headed straight out into the National Park. We arrived at the base of Dune 45 as there was just starting to be light in the sky and started trekking. Dune 45 isn’t the tallest dune in the world, that one is just down the road, so while steep we managed to climb it with ease. We got to the top just before sunrise and as soon as the sun came up we were treated with some really memorable views.

Trekking up Dune 45

Trekking up Dune 45

The sun starting to rise

The sun starting to rise

The view from the top

The view from the top

We stayed there for a while to enjoy the amazing scenery that had appeared in front of us before deciding to head off. We decided to walk down the face of the dune instead of the ridge like we did on the way up. Sam was one of the first to start on his way down when somebody, I think Jim, decided to push him over to see what happened. He rolled…. a LONG way. I decided this didn’t seem like a very good idea so put my bag over my shoulders and ran all the way down. Luckily I managed to stop at the bottom but I ended up with sand in places that I didn’t even know existed! We had a breakfast that consisted of some weird chocolate-flavoured porridge looking thing before taking one of my favourite photos of the trip – the group photo of us all at the base of Dune 45.

Our group at Dune 45

Our group at Dune 45

Base of Dune 45

Base of Dune 45

After breakfast we headed off to Sossusvlei which is one of several oases in the area. We parked at a parking area a mile or so from the oasis and made use of the facilities (a wooden shack with a drop toilet) before starting the walk to Sossusvlei. On the way we were met by the taxi service of the area – a few dune buggies who said for a small fee they would take us there then pick us up a couple of hours later. We decided this was a sensible idea so accepted the offer. On the way they showed us the tallest sand dune in the world and I can see why everybody climbs Dune 45 as this one would definitely take a long time to climb! After arriving we explored the area, chatted, took photos and relaxed in the shade over lunch for some time before the dune buggies arrived to take us back to the truck right at the time we had arranged.

Tallest sand dune in the world

Tallest sand dune in the world

The final thing we did yesterday that was actually productive was a visit to Sesreim Canyon. It’s a fairly small canyon but a good trek. A couple of people fell over and cut themselves so Jon used his St John Ambulance training to fix them. We trekked into the canyon and took plenty of photos before getting as far as a pool which we couldn’t get across before returning back to the truck to watch the sunset.

Trekking in Sesreim Canyon

Trekking in Sesreim Canyon

A few of us, myself included, in the canyon

A few of us, myself included, in the canyon

When we returned to the campsite two of our tents were missing. It seems there was another World Challenge group at the campsite from a school in Durham. They moved a couple of tents to the other side of the campsite behind a wall so we retaliated by swapping anything we had that was broken with any nice shiny new ones that they had. It all belonged to World Challenge, and would be returned to the same place, so there was nothing wrong with doing it.

That evening was also Dan Robertson’s birthday. A few people, Dan included, decided to get drunk and cause chaos. Dan decided it would be funny to kick me in the ribs through the tent. I went chasing off after him and then returned to my tent to go to sleep but what I didn’t know is that at some point when I was away my travel log went missing – the reason I’m having to re-write this from basic notes and the reason some of the details may seem very vague.

It wasn’t all bad at Sesreim as at some point we enjoyed some time by the pool in the campsite with the Durham group and Dominic found somebody that looked like his twin. Crazy! But I said we’re now on our way to Namib Naukluft and I’m in the front with Rod. He’s been showing me some great things along the way including weird trees and rock formations which I would have missed if I was in the back with everybody else. We also got chatting and I learnt a lot more about him. He played me a song on cassette that was his best friend’s favourite song and when his friend died at a fairly young age they played it at his funeral. I can’t remember the group but the song was called “African Dream”. If anybody knows what it’s likely to be let me know – I’ll owe you big time!

A bird at Sesreim Campsite

A bird at Sesreim Campsite

Some great scenery on the way to Namib Naukluft

Some great scenery on the way to Namib Naukluft

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From Namib Naukluft to Fish River

August 12th, 2002 No comments

Only a few days have passed since we left Sesreim and so much has happened already!

As I was the leader on the 10th when we transferred to Namib-Naukluft it was my job to make sure camp was set up in time for us to go out on a short trek that evening but unfortunately things didn’t go to plan. Dan seemed to have turned one or two people to the dark side and they just made life difficult for me. They took ages to set up camp and then took a long time to get ready for the trek meaning that it would be dark by the time we got back, which didn’t help. Although I did manage to get a photo of me with a bird eating out of my hand during the time I was waiting which is pretty cool.

Me feeding a bird

Me feeding a bird

After a while we were all finally ready for the trek. We had to do the 10km Olive Trail today as the longer Waterkloof trail takes 8 hours and would just not have been possible this late in the day. It was still daytime when we started the trek but the sun was rapidly approaching the horizon. The scenery was absolutely amazing as you can see from my photo below. The Naukluft region of Namib-Naukluft is a lot more mountainous than the Namib region, which Sesreim borders, and I saw some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen while in the region.

Me on the Olive Trail

Me on the Olive Trail

Trekking the Olive Trail

The trek only took a couple of hours but it was dark by the time we reached the last part – a traverse along a rock wall over a dark pit full of water. I’m OK with heights but not the idea of falling from them so traversing a rock wall without being able to see what was below me was not fun. To get around we attached ourselves to the chain that had been attached around the side of the canyon with a harness and carabina and traversed it one by one, albeit slowly. Not one of the best parts of the week but it was worth it for the views.

This was scary!

This was scary!

On the 11th we headed off in the morning on the longer Waterkloof trail which was estimated to take 8 hours. Once we started Rod took a few people who developed pretty bad blisters on the night trek with him into town to get supplies. We continued on our trek and saw, once again, loads of absolutely amazing scenery including trees as far as the eye could see, a quiver tree, rock pools and also some baboons just ahead of us in the canyon near the end of the trek. There was a little bit of climbing up hills on this trek but nothing compared to that traverse on the Olive Trail.

Trekking the Waterkloof Trail

Trekking the Waterkloof Trail

Amazing views on the Waterkloof Trail

Amazing views on the Waterkloof Trail

When we returned back to the campsite we found that those baboons we saw had caused all sorts of trouble. After the others returned from buying supplies they were relaxing in the campsite when they heard a noise. They didn’t know what it was until a few minutes later when some baboons went walking past them carrying our medical kit. Will, one of the group leaders, chased them up a hill before throwing rocks at them to make them go away (but not before they ate half of our paracetamol collection). That wasn’t the only thing they did – they broke into the truck, ate all of our bread, threw Jon’s T-Shirts onto the ground and left some rather smelly deposits on one of the seats. That cause quite a few problems throughout the rest of the expedition, as did them peeing on one of the other tents in our group.

That evening we relaxed at the campsite and had an early night ready for a long drive ahead of us but the sleep was short lived due to a visitor that came past our tent in the night. I was half asleep when I heard some rustling outside. It made me alert but I didn’t know what it was until I heard the loud growl of a Leopard right outside our tent. Sam didn’t wake up but I’ve never seen anybody jump and sit up as quickly as Simon did when he heard it. It walked away after a couple of minutes and we all slept again but I was very nervous at the time as I didn’t know what it was planning to do.

This morning we made the trip from Namib-Naukluft to Hobas – the town at the start of Fish River Canyon. We passed through Mantahohe and Bethanie on the way and stopped at a petrol station for supplies, to use the toilet and to refuel the truck. We thought the toilet was locked until the attendant at the petrol pumps called us over and unhooked a key out of the tree above him and handed it to us. Hardly secure but it worked. Somebody bought a HUGE bag of what looked like wotsits – it was 12 inches square at the bottom and about 3 foot tall!

Look at those snacks!!

Look at those snacks!!

After stopping off for supplies we made our way to the Hobas campsite where we watched the sunset over the Fish River Canyon and had a nice BBQ to mark our last day before embarking on a long trek through the canyon that will take 4 days starting tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to it as I’m not the most athletic of people but it will be an experience I’m sure.

At Fish River Canyon with a beer

At Fish River Canyon with a beer

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Fish River Canyon

August 16th, 2002 No comments

We did it! Fish River Canyon has been conquered by a gang of kids from Kent, a Metropolitan Police trainee and a trainee teacher! At 85km it was a bit tiring but we saw some amazing things along the way.

We got up early on the 13th to begin the trek. We took a while to get ready which meant we didn’t start until a bit later than we wanted to but we made enough distance to an ideal camping location 7km into the canyon. Before we started Rod took group photos for us all and this is another photo that brings back such great memories as I type up this transcript.

Our group

Our group

Rod - the TRUCK driver

Rod – the TRUCK driver

It took a while to descend into the canyon. The trail was a bit crumbly under foot and you needed to watch where you were treading. One of our group was a little hesitant so I stayed back with him and Jez until we caught up with the others at the bottom of the canyon next to the river. We relaxed there for a bit before starting off on the main portion of the trek. We only progressed a few km on the first day, which was a lot less than we hoped, but where we stopped was an ideal location to spend the night. Our campsite was on a bit of an embankment with ditches that had been etched in the sand on either side. We had some sort of monumental WWI trench battle throwing sand backwards and forwards which was fun for a while but soon got annoying. We won anyway when me and Dominic went behind enemy lines and ambushed everybody from the flanks.

Bottom of the canyon

Bottom of the canyon

Our group

Our group

The next day we stopped at some hot springs and a building which somebody, probably from the UK, had painted “Sainsbury’s” down the side of. I didn’t get a photo of that but somebody else did – I’ll see if I can find it later. The hot springs really helped the feet which were starting to ache by now. While we were there we also saw a Horse although how he was there and how he survives is a good question! That day we progressed quite a bit and trekked about 23km and our campsite for the night was next to some bushes near the river on the bend of the canyon. It was really windy so we had to weigh the top sheets of the tent down with rocks to stop them blowing away. Although strangely enough even though the tents only just stayed in position the cutlery and plates that we had to abandon when the sandstorm came in were still there. I guess they had a low enough profile even when abandoned mid-way through a run from the river up to camp! We also saw our first rain of the trip although it only lasted 20 seconds.

Me at the Hot Springs

Me at the Hot Springs

Horse

Horse

My tent group

My tent group

Yesterday was our longest stint of the trek. We trekked about 35-36km seeing some really lovely scenery such as “Four Fingered Rock” and also the grave of a German soldier. When the country was a German colony the army had a huge battle against the Nama tribe who didn’t want them there. The battle took place in Fish River Canyon and the Nama were destroyed but only one German soldier was killed and he was buried at the scene. Our campsite last night was near the river but surrounded by bushes, which we thought was a good idea after the storm the night before, and it also provided us a good shelter from the baboons we saw 15 minutes or so before setting up camp. Last night was also the night most of the group decided to “sample the facilities” – ie digging a hole in the ground… but enough said about that. We thought it was going to be another storm due to the sky but nothing happened and it was a fairly calm night. This was just as well as Harley decided it would be a good idea to swim across the river yesterday when he took a shortcut that got him stuck on the other side of the river – his stuff was wet enough from that!

German soldier's grave

German soldier’s grave

Four Fingered Rock

Four Fingered Rock

Red sky at night!

Red sky at night!

Something I will really remember from that day is the Haribo incident. We were resting at the bottom of a hill that we were going to climb over as a shortcut when Will suddenly said “Do you know what I could do with right now? Haribo!”. He then went into his bag and pulled out a big bag which he had been saving and shared it out. Jez, our other leader, said the same thing but about Kylie Minogue but alas she wasn’t in there even after he pulled everything out all over the floor!

Dan R went one too far last night too so Jez got his own back by poking him with a big bit of wood then chasing him around the canyon floor. I didn’t take part even though I felt like it due to him being a complete menace to society so far this trip! We had a nice campfire going though which added to the atmosphere and he didn’t make this one explode !

Dan and the stick #1

Dan and the stick #1

Dan and the stick #2

Dan and the stick #2

This morning we knew the end was in sight as we only had 24km to go. The leaders decided it would be a good idea to give us some training so gave us one of the radios we had then set off into the distance without letting us get ready first. It was good to be out on our own but the group did get split up a few times. We all regrouped at the bottom of what we thought was a shortcut before heading up the hill a bit to try and get reception on the radios to contact the leaders. It turns out it was the wrong way anyway so we went back to the river and followed it along its course until we found our leaders waiting for us. After a few harsh words we progressed further before stopping for lunch.

After lunch we all headed off at our own pace. Some people were faster than others, then there was a group of people that finished a little later, followed by me, Dan Becks and a couple of other people. We were all pretty exhausted by the end but when we walked up those final steps and saw the campsite there was relief! We walked into the campsite, around the corner and saw the truck which was even more of a relief. Dan B screamed “trruuuuuuck!!!” and ran towards it which was something I didn’t have the energy for despite it looking like paradise.

Finishing the trek

Finishing the trek

Since getting back we’ve just cleaned up and relaxed by the pool. Unfortunately my electric razor has run out of battery so I had to get a disposable one from Simon and attempt to use it for the first time ever while in the shower. New experience but I managed it.

We’re going out for a meal in the restaurant tonight!

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Swakopmund

August 21st, 2002 No comments

What a nice place Swakopmund has been especially compared to the last couple of nights we were at Fish River Canyon. I’ll give you no points for guessing who caused the problems again!

The Truck / campsite

The Truck / campsite

I guess the start of the problems weren’t specifically Dan’s fault. Remember that nice meal I told you about? It was indeed a nice meal but we had to wait over two hours for it. We all ended up eating everything that was food on the table, including the sugar cubes, but we needed some sugar and energy in us after the trek so not a bad thing. The frustration from this delay made Dan R even more of a pain than he was.

Later that evening me, Simon and Sam were relaxing in the tent trying to get to sleep when we heard movement then this weird noise. What had Dan done? He had found a hose pipe, connected it, put it under the top sheet of our tent and turned the water on resulting in a nice waterfall of water over all of us. One of Simon’s books got ruined, as did the film that was in his camera. Luckily I had a waterproof camera because of the sand, even though people did make fun of me for it, so the photos from Fish River Canyon were saved. We turned it off and saw Dan behind his tent laughing but were too tired to do anything so went over to the truck and slept there. That was one of the coldest nights sleep I have ever had and how Rod sleeps in there every night I don’t know. We woke him up and had to explain what was going on but he let us sleep in there for the night which was a big help.

A bird came to say hello!

A bird came to say hello!

The next day we just relaxed by the pool again all day. There were some hot springs too but they were too hot to paddle in this time compared to the ones at the start of the trek. A few people went to the indoor swimming pool but I was quite happy outside. Today was also the first day most of us were able to call home to get results from GCSEs, AS Levels etc. I decided not to ask as I wanted to open the envelope myself when I got home but mostly people did well. We were planning to have another meal in the restaurant but after the chaos the night before Rod cooked us a BBQ comprised mainly of Springbok. It was nice but certain people had too much beer and caused problems again. Sam and Simon escaped into other peoples tents which left me alone and at the mercy of the bog brush, which had somehow made an appearance again. Not a good night, but it was the last night we would have to camp this trip so I survived it.

We left early on the 18th for an all-day drive back up to Windhoek to stay at the Roof Africa Lodge. The other place we stayed at was better but this was a nice place to stay. We all went out for a meal at the famous “Joe’s Beerhouse” and all but one of the group ordered the Bushman Sostie – a shish kebab comprised of lumps of Ostrich, Crocodile, Zebra, Chicken and Kudu meat. I was a little hesitant but it was actually really nice! If you’re in the area I highly recommend this place for the great food and great atmosphere.

On the 19th we left Windhoek and travelled to Swakopmund before spending most of the rest of the day just generally exploring the local area and relaxing in the hostel. Duneboarding was organised for the next day and we had paperwork for that to sort out too. I had to go to the bank to exchange some more money as I had kept a bundle in both British Pounds and US Dollars due to the exchange rate slowly getting better all month!

The 20th was another highlight of the expedition so far – Dune Boarding. There is no greater way to soak up the atmosphere than to rush down sand dunes that face the Atlantic Ocean. I chose the slightly cheaper option of laying on the board rather than what was a converted snowboard. Not only was it cheaper but it was easier! We went down various slopes on our own before going down another slope in pairs which a lot of people failed at miserably. I was with Dominic and we didn’t fall off in a big pile even though I expected we would. The last run was the fastest, steepest and the sight of the famous “Sam Thomas falling off his board at top speed, rolling off across the sand and having his shorts fall down” incident. It looked painful but was impressive to watch!

Preparing for Dune Boarding

Preparing for Dune Boarding

Me Dune Boardfing

Me Dune Boarding

The scenery

The scenery

More scenery

More scenery

Me and Dominic

Me and Dominic

After duneboarding we had a picnic with the whole group which mainly comprised of us but also contained some Americans and Germans. I removed sand from places I didn’t know existed again but it was a great day. In the afternoon the team leaders went skydiving and the rest of us explored Swakopmund again. I had a KFC before returning to the hostel to watch the video from the Dune Boarding. I decided to purchase a copy, as well as a floppy disk with some photos on and also bought a T-Shirt. Apparently last night some of the group went out to a nightclub. They didn’t invite me which sucks, but most people didn’t get in and I’m not a nightclub person anyway!

Picnic after Dune Boarding

Picnic after Dune Boarding

A low-quality version of the video is shown below. It could take a while to load if you have a slow connection as it’s quite long. The first 1 1/2 minutes are a generic introduction introducing Swakopmund and the company that operated the day so if you only want to see the actual Dune Boarding you can skip to 90 seconds. (By the way I’m the person in what looks like a luminous blue t-shirt. It wasn’t that bright in real life!)

Today was another good day, as so many others have been while in Namibia. A few of us (Me, Dan Becks, the two leaders and Rod) went fishing to catch some fresh fish for dinner. I think we all caught at least one fish (I caught 2) but Rod caught something ridiculous like 17 which meant we all had enough to eat tonight. The difference in our catch was confusing as we were all on a small boat but we thanked Rod for his efforts! I don’t know what most of the fish were but I know dogfish was in there somewhere. I’m not much of a fish person but they all tasted nice, especially when cooked on a BBQ in the terrace of the hostel. Another highlight of today…. a ceremonial sacrifice of the bog brush which made up for me not being able to get back into the room for a couple of hours after fishing due to Sam and Simon going to the cinema with the only pair of keys for our room! It gave me a chance to wander the town and buy some local music and a Namibian flag though.

Fishing

Fishing

Swakopmund Harbour

Swakopmund Harbour

Our boat

Our boat

Tomorrow we head back to Windhoek for the last time before leaving this amazing country!

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The return of old friends!

August 22nd, 2002 No comments

Today we left the coast and headed back to Windhoek for the last time. On the way we stopped at a local craft market to purchase some souvenirs and I decided to buy lots of woodwork and other crafts including bowls and little statues. They wanted a mixture of both cash and other items. I was able to part-exchange an old watch, old pair of shoes and some unused suncream for some of the statues. It was a nice place to pick up traditional souvenirs but there were so many people there in competition it almost felt like we were being fed to the Wolves at times but they were really friendly with it and we never felt threatened or anything.

The market

The market

After arriving back in Windhoek we did some last minute shopping in the city centre – parking in the same car park by the Supreme Court again. I bought some souvenirs for people and also stocked up on Steers Special Seasoning. I tell you – this stuff has been a life saver these past few weeks. We bought it on the first day just to spice things up occasionally but ended up using it on everything every night so had to re-supply ourselves with some when we stopped at the supermarket in Mariental after leaving Hardap. The food we were supplied in advance (the MacDougall’s stews etc) was so horrible it tasted like watery cardboard. I think what we didn’t use was exchanged by people in the craft market too but the Steers definitely helped get us through until we could get some proper supplies. Although we carried on using it after getting supplies as it’s nice stuff!

Windhoek City Centre

Windhoek City Centre

Windhoek City Centre

Windhoek City Centre

When I got back to the truck Dan was causing more problems and this time for the locals not just us. There was a kid that was trying to sell the people in the truck some sort of traditional musical instrument. Dan decided it would be a good idea to demonstrate his spear that he bought at the craft market and when I got back to the truck he was chasing this poor kid across the car park waving the spear over his head to cries of “don’t kill me… don’t kill me”. If that isn’t an example of how bad things were getting with him, and an example of something that will destroy relationships between Africa and Europe, then I don’t know what is. It was also not a good idea to do that outside of the Namibian Supreme Court but luckily for our group he didn’t cause some sort of international incident.

Our Truck

Our Truck

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

We then made our way back to the same hostel we started at on the first night. I arranged it so we were in the same room again… and were greeted by seeing GERTRUDE again! When we were relaxing in our room the Meerkat paid us a visit too. It came walking into the room and straight under one of the beds. We wondered what he was looking for until I laid down and saw him unwrap and then eat a boiled sweet that somebody had accidentally dropped. That creature was so cute… I love Meerkats!

Meerkat on the bed

Meerkat on the bed

Meerkat feast

Meerkat feast

GERTRUDE!!! AGAIN!!!

GERTRUDE!!! AGAIN!!!

Tonight we decided to blow the money we had left on ordering something like 18 pizzas for us all to share and while they were basic they were also really nice. As pizza is my favourite meal it’s a fitting end to my time in this amazing country. I’ll be sad to say goodbye in the morning!

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Back in the UK

August 24th, 2002 No comments

We’re back in the UK!

After our night of eating Pizza on the 22nd we had an early night before getting up early to head to Windhoek Airport for our connecting flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. The airport is fairly small but clean and modern. There wasn’t too much to do there after more than an hour though so luckily we didn’t have to stay very long. It was emotional saying goodbye to Rod at the airport. He’s been a great guy over the last few weeks, helped us through a lot and made our team more efficient. I’ll miss him.

Windhoek Airport

Windhoek Airport

After a short flight from Windhoek to Johannesburg we had another 10 hour or so layover before our flight to London. We discovered the restaurant upstairs in the departure lounge too – Steak, Chips and Peas meal with a drink for less than the price of a coffee in Starbucks in most western countries. I love Africa! We did some last minute shopping, made final phone calls home and then boarded the flight to London. I swapped seats on the way back to be able to sit next to some of the group that I have made friends with during the trip, and avoid having to sit next to some people I didn’t want to sit next to from the group, which made the long flight a lot more survivable.

Arriving back in the UK was part sadness part relief. It has been a long month and we’re glad to be back but we’ll miss the place. I know I certainly will. It was also emotional for a few people – I saw one or two tears show on people after clearing customs and seeing friends and family. I guess I never really understood emotion at an airport until today as I’ve never been away for this long. I wasn’t one of the people that cried but it was nice to see people again.

Our leaders back at Heathrow

Our leaders back at Heathrow

I can’t believe how great the last month has been. We’ve seen some amazing places, met some amazing people and done things that I will remember for the rest of my life. Sure it’s been tiring and there’s been one or two events (and a person) that I would rather forget but this has probably been the best month of my life. So many great memories! I hope to be able to return to Namibia again soon!

Namibian Flag

Namibian Flag

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