Compiled by Working Class Wanderer, Kathryn Mann.
Here is an account of my experiences on my 20-day Nomad Adventure trip (www.nomadtours.co.za) from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. What convinced me to take the leap was the difficulty of getting to many places, since public transportation is not available. There is no way I can describe all the places, so I am going to mention places and give my two cents about the people and my interactions with them. For those of you who may be considering a similar trip: this is, no frills, what it is like.
Traveling Pals : There are 22 of us in a wide range of ages. One couple even brought their children. Argentina, The Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, South Korea and the USA are represented. To say it is all easy would be a bit overboard. I am getting the chance to patiently listen, listen, and listen some more to one fellow and a lady, but overall, a great group.
Nomad Crew: They are a bit secretive of their age. Thabini, our driver, claims he is 65 (45 maybe); Godfrey, the cook, is 72 (same at 45); and Lazarus, the helper, is 85 (late 20s). These guys are fantastic. Good humored, knowledgeable, and efficient.
Day 1: Meet at Nomad Headquarters for compulsory paper work and we are on our way. Stop to take photos of Table Mountain across the bay and next … a shopping mall. “Oh what have I got myself into?” Actually it made sense. People needed to make last-minute purchases and hit the ATM. Our optional tour for the day was of a San village. First night’s camping was in a paradise with lush grass, a pool and cold Windhoek Larger at hand.
Day 2: Our destination is the Gariep (Orange) River that is the border between South Africa and Namibia. We stop in Springbok for some supplies and shaking the legs out. The Gariep is the longest river in South Africa. Water for agriculture, hydroelectric power, and its role in diamond deposits along the Namibian coast make it a major player in the economy of the region. Another fine campground afforded opportunities for swimming and watching a full moon rise over the river.
Day 3: I’m wary of canoeing on the Orange River in the morning, but then my other choice is to sit around in camp and wait for about two hours. It is fun and worth the time and money. (Someone started a water fight and I was a bit disgusted, but held my tongue.) Guide TJ told about the geology, wildlife and the river itself, turning those two hours into four. After canoeing, we move to the Fish River Canyon, the largest in Africa, and second largest in the world. We do a fair amount of hiking, and dinner on the canyon rim at sunset.
Food: I thought I might lose weight on the adventure. I thought meals would be good but limited, drink would be water, and my flab would melt away. Godfrey torpedoed that ship. His meals are tasty and plentiful. Breakfast is cereal, bread, some fruit, coffee or tea. Lunch is sandwiches. Dinners … dang those dinners. No repeats yet and they just keep getting better, and my discipline of avoiding treats is weak as ever.
Day 4: Namib-Naukluft National Park is home tonight. After camp is set up we are off to the Sesriem Canyon. Again, a small but wet pool greets us at our camp. The Namib Desert is one of the largest in the world occupying around 90,000 km sq and stretches 1000 km along the Atlantic Coast of Namibia.
Day 5: Up early…4:50 early. We head for a hike up Dune 45 to watch the sunrise. The dunes are the tallest in the world, Dune 45 being 170 meters (558 feet) high. The name of the dune comes from the fact it is 45km (28 miles) from Sesriem Canyon. “Namib” means open space in the Nama language and it fits perfectly. The dunes stretch forever and the colors covered the painter’s palate. Coming down for breakfast took considerable effort.
Day 6: Took time for photos at the Tropic of Capricorn. Thabini tells us all to line up so we can “jump” across all together. Next stop is Solitaire for a treat of apple pie or apple crisp. Out here in the middle of dry, dry, land … not a tree, or at least an apple tree to be found, the main attraction is the bakery with the apple treats. Then it was on to Walvis Bay for a quick stop to see if the flamingos are in town (they were, but far across the bay) and then to Swakopmund. After settling in we all agreed to meet for a group dinner and wandered down to the Lighthouse where I had Namibian Kabeljou, fish, with rice. Delicious to the point it rivaled Godfrey’s cooking. We are at the Dunedin Star Guest house. It is a very clean, comfortable place with free Wi-Fi.
Day 7: This is a “free day” to take part in activities such as sand boarding, sky diving, dolphin cruise, quad-bike rides, and more. None of those caught my attention, but golf did. I played nine holes at Rossmund Golf Course. Had the place to myself, so I took my time. After that it was a few chores, and a visit to the museum.
Transportation: The Nomad Adventure made it very clear we were in a “truck” and to refer to said vehicle as a bus, or call Thabani a bus driver would be frowned upon. The truck is quite comfortable, though I can’t imagine any vehicle that could smooth out miles of the washboard dirt roads we traverse. There is a system of people moving in a clockwise direction, so the uncomfortable position of feeling the road over the back wheels is shared.
Day 8: Leaving Swakopmund, we move away from the coast into some arid landscape to Spitzkoppe Mountain. Had opportunity to climb some sizeable hills. Travel was short and time out of the truck was plentiful. Another stunning sunset.
Day 9: The highlight of today was visiting a Himba village. Was not totally convinced I wanted to go walking into a village and nose into other people’s lives as though it were a zoo. Those feelings dissipated when the first group of four kids came running up, laughing, chasing each other, and just being kids. I learned about their social customs, design of the village, and other aspects of their day-to-day lives.
Days 10 & 11: Etosha National Park. Besides driving to look at animals we also drove, then drove, had lunch, drove some more, and just because we all wanted to see more animals, we drove again. Next day, drove some more before we exited the park. Animals seen: giraffe, two lions, springbok by the hundreds, two black rhinos, cheetah cubs, zebra, impala, gemsbok, birds by the dozens, and more. Ended out day in Windhoek.
Day 12: On our drive from Etosha National Park to Windhoek we had just passed a community when a cry of “something smells like it is burning” came from the back of the truck. A flat tire was the culprit, so we limped back to town for repairs. This afforded me the opportunity to hunt down a “barber” as I did not want to be mistaken for an old lion with the growth of hair on my neck.
Day 13: The crossing from Namibia to Botswana was a matter of completing a short exit form and then an equally brief entry from, some stamps on forms and passports, and off we go. Drove to Ghanzi, set up camp, kicked back briefly with a Savanna Dry (cider) some reading and then an adventure of walking in the bush looking for a quarry where swimming was possible. Great walk, no luck in finding the water.
Day 14: We head for Maun. We set up camp and head into town to exchange currency and get supplies. Back at camp we enjoyed the chilly and comfortable pool. Doug and I set out on a hike of no destination and came across a woman and man fishing. He with the line (no pole) and she scaling the fish. After some conversation about the fish, flowers and wildlife, they offered a couple fish but it was obvious they needed them more than we.
Days 15-16-17: The Okavango River originates in Angola and meanders some 1430km (889 miles) before it spreads out to create the largest inland delta in the world. How big? In the dry season it covers some 9,000 sq. km, and swells to 16,000 sq. km in the rainy season. It is a labyrinth of waterways and islands of innumerable count.
After an early morning “African Massage” ride, (potholes by the score) we meet our guides and mokoro polers who will transport us about the delta. It was an experience unlike any I have ever had. The combination of relaxing in mokoro as we went from island to island, learning to pole, swimming, hiking all over looking for wildlife and joining in a songfest proved more than I could have dreamed of. As for the singing, each country’s representative was required to perform their national anthem. Afterwards, we headed for camping at Planet Baobab to put us in position for Chobe National Park.
Day 18: Arrived at Chobe National Park in time for lunch. Six of us opted for the afternoon game drive. Worth every nickel. Saw literally hundreds of elephants, some walking within 20 meters of the vehicle. Hippos, baboons, impala, and scores of birds. In the late afternoon all of us went on a river cruise and saw much the same from a different perspective. Additionally we came upon a three or four meter crock that generously opened its jaws to expose teeth that could snap a steel bar.
Day 19 -20: We hit the road at dawn’s early light. Warned that the border crossing to Zimbabwe can be taxing due to slow work and/or long lines we wanted to get there early to afford more time in Victoria Falls. Crossing was easy. Arrived at Vic Falls and after a short tour in the truck we wheeled into our accommodation at Adventure Lodge. We got our rooms and then hit the road for the falls. This was marked my number two spot to visit on this trip, and my number two natural phenomena. I was thrilled. We worked our way to the main falls, and a complete soaking. The “Smoke that that Thunders” rises hundreds of feet above, then rains down in a consistent deluge. That evening we all gathered at Mama Africa’s for a final dinner.
Where will I go next? Who knows…
Live, Laugh, Love in Peace -Neil