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The original text of my blog has been archived to my computer should it be needed by anybody, for a valid reason, although the changes to the content itself were fairly minor other than removing references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