Day 53 - Day 62
The following morning, Antonia and I were off. Jolanda was sweet enough to wake up early and have breakfast with us at 7:00AM even though it was one of the few days that she'd be able to sleep in. We had a nice breakfast at the place we were staying at and Spencer even woke up to say good-bye; by 7:20AM we were on our way.
Two nights earlier, Antonia and I went around town trying to get rental car prices. Apparently because it was peak season (or maybe it had to do with the World Cup just ending) there were no cars available! We decided to stop in the visitor's center and the lady suggested a local company stating that she always preferred to help the local companies. Later, I would find out that these local companies paid them a commission.
Anyway, we got in touch with Silvester who was willing to rent us a car for N$380/day, $50 a day. I didn't really want to pay $25 a day but what were my options? I had come all the way to Namibia and I wasn't going to see the sights? My option was that I could join a tour but that would be significantly more. So Antonia and I agreed we would rent the car for a minimum of three days (this was the minimum amount of days to qualify for unlimited km otherwise, they only allow you 200km per day at ND0.20 for any additional km driven). Antonia was planning to book a flight out from Windhoek back to Johannesburg in time to catch her flight back to Paris so we would need to drop the car back in Windhoek. This would cost us an additional N$600. It was adding up but again, this was still going to be the cheapest alternative for me. So we agreed, and Silvester said he would come by at 2:00PM the following day to drop the car.
Instead of Silvester, someone else came and dropped the paperwork off and had us sign some papers. Being a small company, it was a bit nerve-racking signing these papers. Instead of the standard insurance, we were asked to give our credit card number and in case of any damage, we would be charged a maximum of N$9,800 ($1350) which wasn't too bad but it still didn't rest well with us that they had our credit card number. Then after discussing with Sizzy, our tour guide, and the guy who brought the car, they discouraged us from going that night and that our plan to go to Cape Cross was a bit unrealistic since the seal colony at Cape Cross was part of a National Park so opening and closing times were directly related to the sun. So since it was almost 3:00PM, and over 150km away, we would probably not make it by sunset and after we got there, we would have nowhere to stay. So we were able to ask the guy if we could start our rental from the following morning. He agreed and also left the car for us so we could have an early start. So we scored with an extra day although we didn't take advantage!
|Our rental for $50/day!|
On the day of departure we started out towards Cape Cross. We were going there to see the seal colony. I had expected to see something like what you see at the pier in San Francisco but it was NOWHERE close to that! Oh my goodness there must have been 10,000 seals! Seriously! There was a terrible stench that lingered but after being there for 15 minutes or so, I got used to the smell though Antonia didn't. After admiring and learning about the Cape Cross Seal, we ventured around and walked off the beaten path. I'm not sure if we were allowed to be there but there were no signs that said we couldn't and we could see footprints in the sand so we figured it was okay. We didn't see much with our venturing except for a few bones, mostly baby seal carcasses.
|Shipwreck on Skeleton Coast|
|Old Diamond Mine?|
|Pasta + Sardines in Tomato Sauce + Fried Fish|
The following day, we drove through Twyfelfontein (tway-fill-fon-tain) which means doubtful fountain. I think the story goes something like there was a fountain that wasn't always reliable so it was named Twyfelfontein. Recently this was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site so we thought it was worth a stop. It was a little more than I expected to pay; I think it was $10? And we had to pay for parking too! It was okay but I expected to be a bit more mesmerized by the rock art…much of it was the same. Drawings of wildlife: elephants, giraffes, rhinos…The heat didn't make it any more enjoyable either. There were some other worthy sites nearby but we were out of gas and I got lost so we ended up going the long way out to the next town, Khorixas. Along the way while we were driving, we noticed that there was a growing crack in the front glass! Oh no, they were going to charge us now! So we were also going to try and get it fixed…As we continued to drive, I seemed to put in another ding in as a car raced passed us and I neglected to slow down…all that lifted gravel was not good for our car! We stopped to fill up and got information on places we could stop to get our car fixed. We also stopped to buy some groceries since we finally saw a store!
Along the way, we pulled over and had our lunch alongside the road. So random. The only reason why I mention this is because this was one of our better lunches and I need to share my greatest discovery! Lunch that day was tuna sandwich with cheese. We also had tomatoes and onions but it was a bit difficult to cut; all we had was a fork. We could have peeled the onion and eat the layers but as you know, it just isn't the same! I tried to cut the tomato with a fork but there was very little of it left by the time the fork got to it. Then light bulb switched on and I realized that I could use the lid of the tuna can to cut the onions and tomatoes! BINGO! It was genius! It cut so well too! Better than all the other dull knives I had to use in Africa. I was so excited about my new discovery! Ain't I genius?
Our destination for Day 2 was to make it out to Kamanjab to find the Himba people. Antonia had read about these nomadic peoples, one of the few remaining tribes that still live in the traditional way, i.e. no tops for women, so we wanted to see if we could find them and possibly meet them. Antonia had gotten a tip from Sizzy that there was a guesthouse where we could stop and get information about the Himbas. We eventually found this place where the guy was awed by Antonia's beauty and gave us directions on how to get the village even though they usually charge $30 to do a tour, he also fed us some ridiculous story (that we temporarily bought) where he told us that he was adopted into the tribe. There were campsites near the village and he said that if it was full, he encouraged us to come back and he would take care of us. Scary! We took photos, thanked him and were quickly on our way to find the Himba. We arrive and who do we see but Nomad?! They ended up camping at the campsite here! It was a bit weird as no one really seemed excited to see us? So we kept our distance a bit. It felt like we hadn't seen them for a week but actually, we only left them the morning before. We did the Himba tour and were able to get them to give us the Nomad discount which was N$100 vs. N$300 or so.
You can quickly spot the Himba not only because they walk around topless but also because the women paint themselves with a reddish paint which they consider beautiful. I also learned that they don't shower and instead mix some herbs and fan the smoke on themselves. Considering that they don't shower, they don't smell bad, their homemade smoke works! They also make their homes out of cow dung and dirt and they have no electricity. Strangely, I didn't meet any men in traditional attire; all the men that we did meet were all fully clothed.
Later that night when we got back to the village, we sat around a camp fire and then a group of women behind us started to dance. We really didn't understand what was going on but we tried to participate. They seemed to think that we did a good job because they cheered and clapped and smiled for us. What carefree lives these people have without all the distractions that we get through the internet, media, TV, cell phones, etc. They lead simple lives and find pleasure in it. Although we did see one lady with a cell phone?! (She charges through the car charger, in case you were wondering). It was a peaceful night out there in the dark, sitting under the stars with just the light from the fireplace. We slept fairly well that night and the following morning, we went back to the campsite to get hot water and take a shower. There was so much dust in Namibia that just walking around made you feel so dirty! We also called Silvester to extend our rental another 2 days.
The following day, we left about 8:00AM and drove up to Etosha National Park. This is where we would be able to see wild animals! Again, we found the group, and we camped very close to them. We were warned by Sizzy that sleeping at the park would be quite expensive but we didn't expect to pay N$285 ($40) per person to camp out! We had to pay the park entrance fee N$85 + campsite fee N$200 + N$100 per person.
Nonetheless, Etosha was great! Unlike my time in India when we went searching for Bengali Tigers, you can actually drive yourself around the park! So since we had our car, we got to go to where we wanted. The only downside is that they close the gates to the campsites at sunset and reopen at sunrise. They have it locked so that the wild animals can't get in while we're sleeping and because it's dark and not safe for us to be driving around with wild animals. So it was about an hour to sunset and I was ready to head back because we were about 30km away and I didn't want to get locked out. They also have speed limits so you don't hit any animals while you're driving! But Antonia wanted to drive a little more and somehow we turned into a place where there was a jeep in front of us. They motioned us to look. We looked and saw a wildcat! But we didn't know if it was a leopard or a cheetah but we knew it was important so we took a lot of photos! When we got back to our campsite, we showed Norman, our other guide, the photos and he was in shock. The leopard is one of the hardest animals to find and you're considered lucky if you actually spot one! So we were very excited that with very little effort we found one!
|In front of the Watering Hole|
|Herd of Elephants at Halali Watering Hole (#2)|
And as luck would have it, as we were exiting the park the following morning, we saw a male lion! It was a very quick glimpse that even my photos would cast some doubt but we got to see it for a fleeting moment! We also got to see a beautiful bird that we really liked. All in all, our time in Etosha was worthwhile!
Then it was time to leave…we decided to chance it and get to the gates without paying for our camp site although we did pay for our entrance fees. We got to the gate and strategically had the cute French girl with her cute French accent drive. Well, it must have worked because he examined our papers and cleared us out! PHEW! We were in the clear and just saved ourselves $80! Yes, we feel a little bad but we really only had a very small tent…
That day we drove out to Otjiwarongo to see if we could get our glass fixed but as we were driving into the town, we realized that it was Sunday! And everything in Africa is closed on Sunday! Luckily, I had already mentioned it to Silvester and he acknowledged that it wasn't our fault and that he was aware of the glass. We were just hoping to fix my ding! But oh well, there was nothing we could do and he was coming to meet us in Windhoek. So we drove down and since we were making good time, decided to check out the Hot Springs in Gross Barmen. I've been spoiled living in Oita, one of the most famous places for hot springs in Japan, so I really shouldn't go to places like this but Antonia wanted to go and for some reason I always think that it will be better than Japan. For $10, we got to go to both the hot pool and the cold pool. The hot pool was surprisingly a nice hot temperature (I went to a hot spring in New Zealand and it was so NOT hot!) and the outdoor pool was warm and comfortable. We stayed for about an hour relaxing. We were also lucky because Silvester said that he would come at 3:00PM instead so we had an extra hour.
Other than that Windhoek was a quiet town with not much going on. The only thing fun about it was hanging out with Stephanie's friends. After 2 nights, Antonia left me and flew back to Paris. That night when I returned I from walking her to the gate at 4:00AM, I come back to find none other than that creepy guy from Etosha sitting in the dark wearing the same clothes! I quickly went into my tent and prayed that he wouldn't try to hurt me.