10.03.2009 - 25.03.2009
The strange beauty of Imogen.
Imogen, named as by now you will have realised for reasons which have been long since forgotten by everybody, was pretty much a tank. But for a confused Welshman and 3 Finnish women who were excited and constantly yabbering*, a tank was probably required.
L-R, myself, Susse, Hanna and Maaret, the motley group that Imogen and Fred had to put up with. Fred is missing as he was a dirty stop-out giraffe and was passed out unconscious in the back, having found – and emptied – a full box of wine
Imogen was our car, our trusty companion our vehicle, our hero, our friend, our carrier and our saviour. Or something like that. Together, the 6 of us (a Nissan tank, an inflatable giraffe, 3 Finnish girls and a Welsh chauffeur) roamed Namibia like no one has ever roamed Namibia before. Or some such. I would love to regale you with long tales of our glorious exploits, the tragedies and the horrors, the glories and the triumphs, but to be honest it all happened a month ago and i've pretty much forgotten the exact details. So short notes it is.
When the going gets wet (and after you have just sat for 30ins waiting for the engine to dry out after a previous deeper section), it helps to have willing passengers go and check out the lie of the land...
Yes, I know they won't be so short. And yes, I know that it will be boring, and in no way amusing. And i might be padding the lack of anything of even vague information with lots of pictures. But so what? Live with it, ok?!
Imogen was out trusty friend, but one who was slightly temperamental. She broke down twice in the middle of nowhere (once requiring a little towed help) and had a couple of other fairly unhappy spells. The windscreen washers were at best intermittent, which led to several fun incidents of semi-blind driving due to smeared mud and setting sun. And she didn't always like turning right, which for a car is not always ideal. But we bonded and managed and all became stronger-ish for the shared experiences.
Assorted pics from Dune 45 (above) and Deadvlei
We took in the majority of Namibia's highlights: Sun rise over Dune 45, Sossusvlei (the journey was great, but i actually found Sossusvlei itself slightly underwhelming) and the wonderful Deadvlei. We stopped in Namibia's smallest town, the excellently named Solitaire, and spent a few days relaxing and doing activities in Swakopmund (there was jumping out of airplanes for some of the richer, more enthusiastic and those that actually bother to get on airplanes in the first place) which included the brilliance of sand-boarding. Now I can only speak for myself, but if you ever go to Swakopmund, you have to try sandboarding, and I would personally advise you go for the lying down version and not the stand up one: hi tech it's not, even by luge standards (basically, you wax the smooth side of a thin piece of plywood) but finding a stupidly steep sand dune – or a double or triple dropper - and sliding down nose first at 80km/h+ is fantastic fun**.
One of our guides demonstrating how not to jump on a sandboard...
Man and giraffe on a biiiiig slope and with a flimsy piece of wood. What could be better?
We headed slowly North along the wonderfully bleak, foggy and windswept roads of the Skeleton Coast, including a fantastic night at the eerie and tersely named (and located) Mile 108 where we huddled 4 to a tent behind the toilet block and wearing as many woolly hats as we could muster from the back of a 4x4 in the desert - and where I screwed my back again – the huge Cape Cross seal colony, and the remains of several ships and an oil rig. Terrance Bay, the only 'town' marked on the map was inhabited by some dead seals, large seagull type birds and 2guys in a caravan doing road repairs to a road than might get 3vehicles a day on a busy day.
Altogether now, Awww....
You let one of the girls drive for 5minutes, and.... There are always tourists*** who disregard the local advice and think they know better. This had occurred the day before i collected Imogen (from the same company) and had made the front page of the newspaper, and caused much hilarity to the rental company as well a doubtless a little bit of hassle!
There were wall paintings at Twylfontein, some very scared trees at the Petrified Forest and I almost got lucky and managed to sell two of the girls to attendants at a petrol stop, though failed over a disagreement as to how many cows they were worth. At the Angolan border we found a hole in the fence and snuck through for a few minutes, but more relevantly camped at Hippo Pools and gazed at the wonderful Ruacana waterfall, greatly enhanced by the bad rains of the wettest wet season in many years, and being the only tourists or people around. It was great.
The sort of border post I like – open gate, nobody caring and freedom of movement! Sadly though, freedom of movement doesn't apply to me: In a private, holidaying capacity the Angolans don't want to let me in easily
From there it was Etosha, and my first experience of an African game park. We saw lots and lots of game. Big game, medium sized game and small game. Even baby game. Mmmmmm. Game. And lots of giraffes (now known a gee-raff-eee's for obscure and long since forgotten reasons). It's possible that giraffe's can count as game as well, but to be honest I haven't the foggiest. Slightly sadly, due to it being the height of the end of the wet season (i know that makes no sense) there was so much water on the Etosha pan – large enough to be visible from space – that there wasn't much activity at the waterholes and despite rumours, later confirmed by people of infinitely more luck than ourselves, our luck didn't hold enough to see elephants or rhino's. But as well as the game and giraffe's, herds of wildebeest around Torbay, birds of great colour, a strange and pesky but fantastic looking thing called a honey-badger, and assorted smaller animals, we did get lucky on one occasion: Driving randomly down a road one morning not long after the gates open, we came across two large male lions, just wandering – if it hadn't been for the blood over one eye of the lead lion, you might even say sauntering – down the road which was pretty cool.
Quick. Pretend to be a tree. they might not see us!
A random selection of animals from Etosha. yes i know there are lots of Giraffe pics, but danged it, i like Giraffe's!
Not a view i tend to get in my wing mirror on an average trip to Hässleholm
And after Etosha, there was just time for a quick stop off in Tsumeb, a pretty former colonial and mining stronghold and home to several extremely rare metals, a visit to the worlds largest meteorite (yes, it's a large rock in the ground) which are guarded by evil killer ants, the CCF – Cheetah Conservation Fund – home to 50 cheetahs, the Okahandja craft markets and to return the stolen and now mostly broken tent to the first of many Peace-Corp guys.
But perhaps most memorably (and, of course, importantly), I had the company of 3 beautiful young Finnish girls and an inflatable giraffe, and saw/passed through lots and lots of wonderful and surprisingly varied scenery along the way. To be honest, even if I hadn't seen any of the 'attractions' or tourist sights of Namibia, It would have been worth the time and effort for the scenery alone.
Apart from the sad parting of the group, there should be little more to tell. Sadly there is. But that's for the next exciting**** installment***** of Gelli goes south-ish. And yes, I know i'm now going North-ish
- Yabbering may be not be the best word for it, and i'm sure it will get me into even more trouble (I might even be yabbered at) but to somebody who speaks roughly 3 words of Finnish (though it is definitely a very pretty language), it sounds like yabbering!
- * It really is fantastic fun, but it is worth noting that you need to be fit: 10seconds of sliding fun equates to many minutes of hard slog to walk back up the sand dune afterward...
- ** The technical term is idiots
- *** Note: May not exciting
- **** Note: May not even be an installment
Photos: many of the photos used here have been shamelessly stolen/borrowed/shared from the lovely Maaret (below) to whom due credit is given. Some of the pics are actually mine, but I really couldn't tell you which ones. Probably only the very bad ones