A Travellerspoint blog


The Strange beauty of Imogen


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

It didn't stop him continuing that evening though

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.

Not my fault. It really wasn't my fault. And the strange angle was a result of the slide into the mud after the engine had died in mid passing





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.



Top, Twylfontein rock-carvings, and (below) Ruacana falls which I loved


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!

i'm not sure if Fred or the other giraffe was more confused by the meeting


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.

Harry (as in Potter) awaiting feeding at CCF, and below, the worlds largest meteorite



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.


No, i don't now why I am kung-fu fighting a squirrel either

And no, it wasn't this squirrel

And as for this dog...

We seemed to like profile pictures



Fred continued to make friends

Sadly, we never tried it, due to the 24hour brewing time required and our lack of suitable facilities to brew. But i will be returning to Namibia solely to attempt it

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!


Want to know how 2weeks with 3 Finnish girls and Fred went? This pretty much sums it up

  • * 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


Posted by Gelli 05:25 Archived in Namibia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The trials and tribulations of Håkan-Sven

This is Håkan-Sven. Why he was named Håkan-Sven is now lost in the midst of time and was never very interesting anyway. Actually, there is no picture of Håkan-Sven here as we do not deem him worthy enough of a photograph on such an esteemed website. Basically he is evil. Pure evil. So really there is no point in mentioning him in the slightest. Which makes me wonder why i'm bothering at all. Really, I mean really, why? By now, I'm sure you are all about as lost as we were, and so i will pause reflectively, and erm, reflect on the rubbish I have just written in the first paragraph and then start again.

For reasons unknown, Håkan-Sven was so christened. He was picked up at short notice for slightly complicated logistical reasons that made perfect sense at the time, but... Håkan-Sven had the dubious distinction of being the roomiest and most comfortable of all our trusty steed and steed-esses for all passengers, yet by far the least comfortable for the idiot chauffeur, also known as me.

We had him for less than 24hours and I honestly have no reason to write any kind of entry or note about him, except for the fact that Hanna, weeks later (which tells you how up to date and cutting edge these warblings really are) happened to mention “but nobody remembers poor Håkan-Sven”.

Hanna, I hope you find this is a suitable tribute to the most uncomfortable vehicle I have ever driven. Good riddance, I say.


Pretty much all we did of any note was to drive at random around Katatura, Windhoek and Namibia's worst and most notorious slum (Welcome to Namibia, Africa and your holiday, Susse), though by standards of many African, Asian and Latin American cities it is calm, orderly and rich. This sign, however, did tickle me a little

Oh, yes, and we used Håkan-Sven to pick up Susse. I am now at my full quotent of Finnish women for the week.

((((with apologies yet again for the lack of updates and now, photos. The next 3 entire are ready, but the photos have all got lost. Not permanently, but for today. i'll try and get them up in a week)))

Posted by Gelli 05:23 Archived in Namibia Tagged automotive Comments (0)

The travels of Edith, and introducing.... Fred.

This is Edith.


Why she was named Edith remains something of a mystery to all except those involved, and even they don't really know.

This is Fred.



Fred is a single, alcoholic, gay, Zambian albino inflatable giraffe. Why he is named Fred remains something of a mystery to all except those involved, and even they don't really know.

Basically, those involved don't really know anything at all.

Together we drove some 4300km around mostly Southern Namibia in just under 2weeks. Technically, I drove some 4300km around mostly Southern Namibia in just under 2weeks, whilst the other passengers engaged in frequent "resting of eyes". Hmmmm. And though not planned in the slightest, it didn't all quite work entirely as planned. Most of the 4300km or so that i drove seemed to be backtracking, and I lost count of the number of times i drove to/past Windhoek airport. However, I can confirm that the road between Windhoek and it's airport is very pretty and baboons (actually baboons, not lawyers or politicians) can often be seen throwing things at passing cars. One of the human companions, Hanna, arrived 4days late after having twisted her ankle and then been attacked by tsetse flies and minus her bags which got lost somewhere, perhaps, near Johannesburg. But as BA were involved who the f*ck knows. They probably went by road to Milano. And as soon a she arrived, things (such as Edith) started breaking. Literally. WooHoo. She also managed to get viciously attacked by a tree which then required deep sessions of negotiating and all of our skills at international mediation to set her free.

The other – and potentially more relevant - permanent traveling companion, Maaret, was, mostly, just Maaret. Having said that, her response on the first night of camping (just 2 of us in the tent) after waking up in a terror due to noises she believed to be a snake in the tent – we saw several large snakes – was to move her sleeping bag closer to mine and promptly fall asleep, trusting this drastic maneuver would confuse the snake into not attacking. Now call me picky, but that's not generally the response that i would hope to get when you believe a lethal animal is in the tent with you.


A few of you will understand and sympathise, whereas the remaining readership will just see the other side: I'm traveling with (eg: chauffeuring and playing slave to) 2 blonde Finnish beauties.



Namibia is a country that has long been high on the list of countries that I have wanted to visit, and I am loving it. It is empty, vast, stunningly beautiful, bizarrely green (it has been the wettest wet season in donkeys years. And donkeys years are very long) and un-Namibian like, at least in parts and to my expected mental image of mostly sand, dunes and rocky/dusty terrain.

In that time, amongst much else, we got stuck in sand (yay for rope and people pushing), stole a tent, started a dating service for US Peace Corp volunteers, visited a brilliant animal sanctuary (all together now: baby animals and playing with 4week old lion cubs. Awwww), got utterly lost in the bush at night due to a horribly inaccurate map (stupid cartographers), went in a big hole full of bat crap, watched wild cheetahs run down the road, slept with the sheep, saw the most amazing starry night sky and glorious sunset (at Quiver Tree Forest), visited the most laughably crap tourist attraction i have ever been to (Ai Ais hot springs: the springs are in a 1.5m square concrete bunker with attached resort), somehow managed to get the girls drunk on a glass of wine each whilst gazing at the glorious panorama of the Fish River Canyon and discovered that some towns on Namibian maps simply don't exist (Sesheim) and if they do, don't always have the promised petrol supplies (several). Edith swallowed 3birds and innumerable insects and butterflies into her radiator, lost a hubcap in a slight-bump-incident, whilst I desperately continued to leave Finnish people in the desert only to get foiled at every turn whilst Fred tried to, erm, make friends with people on a very regular basis...


Kiki never appeared.

But i was worried once.

Very worried.

I think i'm still safe.


We wandered around the weird and wonderful Luderitz (which in an odd way reminds me of Portmeirion in parts), the long abandoned and now half desert reclaimed diamond town of Kolmanskop, saw wild horses and railway stations literally in the middle of nowhere, broke the tent we stole (stupid wind), resolved to go to West Africa on our honeymoon (don't ask), named our future kids (no, really: Don't ask), and generally wandered around obscure corners of the country for no apparent reason.

It was absolutely brilliant, and i loved every minute. Well, if not every minute, most of it. Ok, some of it. Ok, how about we say that excepting the chauffeuring of Finnish girls thing, it was all great. Just joking honey. Honest.

Edith has now been sadly returned. Fred has a potentially crippling illness (a slow puncture)

Tomorrow I gain a 3rd Finnish girl and a 4x4.

This is bound to end in tears, isn't it?














With thanks to some of my glorious travelling companions* for certain photos. Credit is given where credit is definitely due, especially as i can barely hold a camera, and mine complained due to sand and salt water anyway.

  • Note. travel companions may or may not be glorious, and this statement does not necessarily reflect the views of the author.

And apologies for the vast lateness of this. As well a certain sidetrips, lack of electricity and internet, i'm on "holiday" (na na, ne ne ne) and have no desire to look at screens anymore than I have to.

Posted by Gelli 04:23 Archived in Namibia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Where did all these people come from??

Walvis Bay (or, if you prefer, Walvisbaai) came as one hell of a big shock.

After St. Helena, Walvis was littered with numerous technological extravagances: vehicles being driven in gears higher than 3rd ; Strange hole in the wall machines that give you coloured rectangles of paper with numbers on; Vertical lights of green orange and red colour; people by the hundred (and, freakishly, huge numbers of white people); traffic jams; people in uniforms carrying guns; small pocket machines which make strange noises and people talk at, and amongst much else but perhaps of most shockingly, small metal objects that you put into holes and turn, and when turned they open things - Yup, I hadn't used a key in 6months....

The 4night journey was pretty uneventful. The weather wasn't great and mean't some people (including my cousin) pretty much disappeared into their cabins for the duration to be sick, we saw a handful of other vessels, and had a slightly strange but good mix of people on board and much fun was had...


I had a couple of days in Walvis where I did a surprising number of chores with great efficiency and did a few of the tourist things: the lagoon is superb when the wind isn't blowing: the amount and variety of birdlife was great, and i loved watching pelicans and assorted breeds of flamingo go about their business. Mostly though, i just tried to re-assimilate my way into what many people would call 'the real world'.

With that out of the way, i took a night train to Windhoek. The distance means that buses cover the journey in under 5hours, whilst the train takes over 14. However it was 1/3rd of the price and mean't i saved on a nights accommodation as well, so no problem. Besides, the novelty of a train again was worth doing. Having said, I arrived at the station in the middle of a (televised) semi-riot, and then got to sit on a deserted platform listening to an extremely, erm, enthusiastic meeting going on in the station building, which i realised was the minister and senior staff against the railway workers. Basically, Namibia Railways is utterly broke (the passenger service in the country is down to only 1 train a day in each direction on two routes and a total of 5 passenger coaches), and yet senior staff still get such perks as free limos.


That all mean't we left over an hour late on a train which was 1 passenger car, 10 or so goods wagons and almost 20 highly flammables petrol tankers. Hmmmm. Onboard, we were treated to two really bad movies played at deafening volume (but sound and vision slightly out of sync) whilst we trundled slowly through the night with frequent stops. Despite which, we still arrived 30mins early. Welcome to Africa...

Posted by Gelli 04:20 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

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