As I type this, I’m in the back of a truck bouncing over a very serious dirt road, looking out over the river that’s the border between Namibia and South Africa.
It’s been a hectic few days: We arrived in Cape Town to hang out with Zeenith et al for a few days as well as finalise our booking on the trip, and Mariah remembered that she had 1/2 plus 1/4 page in her passport– not enough for the largish African visas by stamp-happy officials. Fortunately, the folks at the US Embassy were friendly and helpful and pasted new pages in right off… though we lost a day, and thus didn’t get to see a whole lot of Cape Town.
The itinerary for our whole trip is here.<?>
The first three days of the tour
After securing 11th-hour pages, we dropped off at Nomad to pay for our trip. We were very lucky to get on this trip as there are only 11 people for the first week (that will swell, I believe, to 17 after reaching Swakopmund<?>, with a capacity of 22).
The first day was very civilised, with wine tasting and a comfortable campsite in the Citrusdaal<?>. We were warned that this was to be our “last stretsh of civilisation” and went forth with laughter.
That night in Citrusdaal<?> we went on a 3 hour hike with a guide Skoki and saw, among other things, 500 year old bushman paintings. Skoki is so named because he gave his parents a shock: They are Cape Coloured (see below), but he came out looking very black. The walk was fascinating, full of traditional wisdom, stories about the relationship between species, and traditional uses of plants and birdsong. We saw some scorpions, lizards, beetles, ants, (in particular the “ball biting ant” who climbs up trouser legs but is “only a problem for the men”), ant lions, and other small things.
Brief SA racial politics
(any mistakes are my own and will be corrected… please do so!)
In South Africa there is not only white and black, but there is another race known as the Coloureds. These can be either mixed-race or of an older race indigenous to South Africa. Under apartheid, Coloureds were separated from whites, but were also rejected by the blacks.
Having crossed the border
Namibia, on first impression, is desolation. Beautiful desolation, but desolation, nonetheless. There are scraps of life, and weathered sandstone cliffs, leading me to believe that if there were water, this would be fertile land. Close to the border (close to the river) there were grapevines growing wine, but out here there is hundreds of kilometers of desert scrub, probably good only for goat farming, if even that (I see no goats).
Fish River Cañon
Although this is an Afrikaans/German settlement (not to mention the Bushmen, Bantu, etc. who were here before), for some reason they use the Spanish spelling of Cañon. It may be the Portugese influence. Who knows?
This thing is enormous. Older than the Grand Canyon in the US, and nearly as large. It’s 27km from rim to rim, and 550m deep. There is an ~85km hike you can do from where we were to the hot springs at its end– 4-5 days across the desert. It’s far too late in the year to do it now, but it’s something I’d come back to do.
Watched the sun set, ate an early dinner, early to bed, and onwards the next day!