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This domain name was used for the Get Happy Tour back in its original run around 10 years ago, when I used to do work for BFS and AOF. However, for the past 5 years it has been used for my travel blog as I never thought we would have another Get Happy Tour and I didn't want it to go to waste.

But as a favour to two bands who have done a lot for me over the years, and so you don't miss out, ticket info is:
O2 Presale: 10am on 25 September
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Posts Tagged ‘Dunes’

The blog of my 2002 Namibia trip is back online

August 22nd, 2016 No comments

I am pleased to report that the blog for my month-long trip trip to Namibia with World Challenge Expeditions in 2002 is back online after being taken down temporarily since May. If you read the blog you will notice that there are some references to an anonymous group member, as opposed to naming the group member being talked about like I do most of the time, and that some photos have black boxes on them or are cropped to non-standard dimensions. Let me explain.

Some of you will know the details by now, especially with the worldwide media interest generated by his story, but a member of the group who travelled with us to Namibia was recently convicted of some serious crimes that he committed while living abroad. I won’t go into details, or mention him by name in this post, as I would prefer not to receive web traffic from the sort of people who might search for his name online. However due to the media interest over the summer I found it necessary to take the blog down to protect my own privacy.

I now feel that sufficient time has passed since his conviction and so, 14 years to the day from our final full day in Namibia on this trip, I have returned the blog to my site. Where possible I have found new photos to replace ones that he was featured in but where this was not possible I either cropped the photo or added a black box to cover him in photos where he was recognisable. I have also removed his name from the blog itself.

Our group

(Most of) our group

In the school hall

In the school hall of Oaseb Senior Secondary school in Gibeon

For the purposes of any media that may find their way to this blog, in the event of any future interest in his case, I have no information to give and will not be making any statement or providing any further information. However I will point out that the fact I have edited a 14 year old blog in ways described above should make my feelings about this issue perfectly clear.

The original text of my blog has been archived to my computer should it be needed by anybody, for a valid reason, although the changes to the content itself were fairly minor other than removing references to the one group member.

I am glad that I have finally been able to put my blog back online as this was an amazing trip, one which probably started my love of getting off of the beaten path and delving deeper into the culture of places I visit. Without this trip I would probably never have visited many of the places I have seen since, had some of great experiences that I have had or met most of the amazing travel buddies that I have met. Plus the people and scenery of Namibia are great as you can see from the selection of photos below.

Four Fingered Rock

Four Fingered Rock

Amazing views on the Waterkloof Trail

Amazing views on the Waterkloof Trail

Tallest sand dune in the world

Tallest sand dune in the world

Leaving Gibeon

Leaving Gibeon

If you have not read my blog from this trip then feel free to have a browse as I really enjoyed it. It contains details of our time improving the sports facilities of a school before travelling around the country seeing the sights and having fun. Sights and experiences from the trip include visiting Gibeon, Mariental, Hardap, Sesreim, Namib-Naukluft, and Windhoek in addition to trekking through Fish River Canyon and Dune Boarding in Swakopmund. It is a trip that I will remember for the rest of my life.

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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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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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