I donâ€™t have time to write up each day, so this is just a general update. And sorry in advance if I havenâ€™t replied to your emails, half an hour goes really quickly on the Internet!
So, where was I? When I last posted, we were in Cape Town. We left Cape Town on 5 November and it was an hour-long drive to Stellenbosch which is absolutely stunning. Itâ€™s one of the most picturesque towns Iâ€™ve seen in my life; it looks how Iâ€™d imagine the French countryside to look.
Dramatic mountains surround the town, and everything is lush and green. There are wine estates everywhere; we went on a wine tour that started at 10.30 am and finished at 5.30 pm. Even though wineries arenâ€™t something Iâ€™d be interested in usually, the tour was pretty cool, actually. We stayed in Stellenbosch (at a place called Stumble Inn â€“ cue fake laughter) for the night.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
The next day was a long day of driving. The truck became hot and stuffy and the wind made my hair so stiff it was difficult to brush. It took the whole day to get across the South Africaâ€”Namibia border to a place called Orange River.
Namibia is awesome.
The scenery is like nothing I have ever seen before. It changed drastically as we drove. First, we drove through beautiful mountains in Stellenbosch. Then, we passed through Namaqualand (which to me, looked a lot like Australia â€“ red earth, shrubs, and rocky hills with flat peaks). Close to the South Africaâ€”Namibia border, the hills were replaced by giant piles of rocks. The piles were massive, and looked like someone had just dumped them there (I think they used to be larger rocks that just fell apart over time). After we passed the rock piles, the scenery changed again, and the best way to describe it is that it looked like what I imagine the moon to look like: there seemed to be nothing around except rocky hills in the distance. It was surreal. But it only got better: after the moon-like scenery, more grass started to appear. It was pale green, and the mountains in the distance were pink. The result was a pastel-coloured landscape, and I felt like I was inside a Monet painting.
Quiver tree; Fish River Canyon, Namibia
We set up camp at Orange River.
The next day, we went canoeing, which turned out to be a comedic afternoon. I shared a canoe with Fernando from Brazil, and we ended up paddling in the wrong direction, and we laughed as we watched other people falling out of their canoes (which mostly happened when they helped someone else who had just fallen out). It was a hilarious afternoon. Other than canoeing, we didnâ€™t do much at Orange River because it was unbearably hot.
Orange River, Namibia
We spent two nights at Orange River, and then we drove to Fish River Canyon, which is the second biggest canyon in the world (after the Grand Canyon, which I have seen, hee hee). It was extremely hot. We did a very short walk along the top of the canyon, took photos and saw some squirrels, which I didnâ€™t expect to see there. They were using their tails as umbrellas; not a bad idea.
After visiting Fish River Canyon, we drove a little bit, and set up camp again.
Iâ€™m getting a little confused as to where we stayed, but I think it was in the middle of nowhere and just left the next morning.
Dune 45, Namibia
The next day we went to a gorge. I donâ€™t really know much about it except that it was called Sessriem Gorge. And apparently, Sessriem means â€śsix beltsâ€ť, which is how deep the gorge is. I donâ€™t know why they measured gorges with belts back then.
After visiting Sessriem Gorge, we set up camp in a new location again. That afternoon, we did a guided Bushman walk, which was awesome. It was my favourite part on the trip until this point. We walked into the heart of the desert and saw huge red sand dunes (theyâ€™re reason most people come to Namibia) and cracked limestone floors. The place we went to was called Sossusvlei, I think. You have to be fit to walk up and down the sand dunes!
We climbed Dune 45 at sunset.
Until then, I thought seeing dawn in the Annapurnas in Nepal was the most beautiful thing Iâ€™d ever seen. Sunset on Dune 45 at least equals it... I canâ€™t decide which was more amazing. There is just nothing like sitting on the ridge of a dune and looking over a valley. The old riverbeds in the valley looked like white snakes. And right at sunset, the sun was red and warm as it sank behind the farthest dunes. And at that moment, suddenly everything changed colour: the grass turned fluorescent green, and the dunes turned purple. The old river beds stayed white. The whole moment was just really pretty. I took photos, but I donâ€™t know if theyâ€™ll do the moment any justice, because the photos donâ€™t capture some of the things that made it feel like it did up there. Photos donâ€™t tell how the sand traced the contours of my face as the wind blew it, or show the full force of the sunâ€™s glare, or the heat simmering above the red sand.
Dead Vlei, I think
Nor can they capture comedy: when we got back to camp, Fernandoâ€™s tent had flown out of the campsite completely! It was hilarious.
Also, we found a scorpion in the middle of the camp. But other than that, not much happened. We felt as though the trip was starting to feel more â€śAfricanâ€ť, because during the night jackals were sniffing our tents and an oryx walked through camp. I didnâ€™t see or hear them since I was sleeping, but apparently they were there.
A guy pretending to eat a lizard; Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
The next day we drove to Cape Cross to see the seals (which really stank)! Anna and I nabbed a good seat on the truck for once; out of the sun and at the back where it was cooler, so that was great. After seeing the seals, we drove to Swakopmund which is where I am now.
Swakopmund is a town on the Namibian coast and the climate here is really different to everywhere else weâ€™ve been.
In Sessriem, it was so hot and dry; the moisture just got sucked out of us. Even if we drank heaps and heaps, we never needed to pee! And my hair felt like straw. But here in Swakopmund, itâ€™s quite cold and overcast. Itâ€™s because the town is on the coast. We have the chance to do a heap of optional activities here (like quadbiking, etc). I havenâ€™t decided if Iâ€™m doing anything yet. Anna and I were going to go horse riding but apparently riding isnâ€™t very nice here, so I might just ride at Vic Falls. Iâ€™m not sure; Iâ€™ll see.
Doug's photo of Pip, Fernando, and me at Napolitana's in Swakopmund, Namibia
Anyway, Iâ€™d better go. Speak to you... probably in Vic Falls next! Mobile phone reception has been OK if anyone needs to reach me urgently. Youâ€™re probably more likely to get an SMS reply than if you email â€“ sorry, I didnâ€™t get to check them all. Al has my number.