7 things I learnt in Namibia

Posted by Kati Auld on 25 November 2013

I went to Namibia with three main ideas in mind: meet a bat-eared fox. See shooting stars. Climb some dunes. Although I didn’t achieve all of those, I did come up with lots of ideas for how to survive a zombie apocalypse in Namibia. Here are the leftover thoughts (and pictures!) from a dream adventure.

1. It’s big, and mostly empty

Namib Desert: the open road

You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating: there is a lot of space in Namibia. It’s got one of the lowest population densities in the world, only being outshone by places like the Western Sahara, and Mongolia. This means that most of the time, there’s no way to tell whether another human has ever set eyes upon the scene you’re looking at. I could have spontaneously time-travelled a thousand years in either direction without realising it – and that’s actually very calming. Humanity is just a squashed bug on the windscreen of the Namibian landscape.

2. Some dunes are ridiculously old

Petrified dunes: Namib Desert Lodge

The Namib desert is claimed to be one of the oldest deserts in the world. It’s strange to think that something so old is built out of sand: literally one of the most changeable bricks. One of the best ways to fully comprehend this is to visit the petrified dunes just outside Sossusvlei. (We stayed at the Namib Desert Lodge, where you can gaze at the massive dunes lit up like Table Mountain from your dinnertable.) Those dunes were in place at the rise and fall of all sorts of prehistoric animals, like three-toed horses and crocodilian creatures averaging 11 – 13 metres in length. These dunes remember when humans learnt to use fire.

3. Gemsbok are beautiful, everywhere, and tasty

Oryx at Namib Desert Lodge

 

Our reactions upon seeing these animals quickly changed from “overjoyed” to “blase” once we realised quite how plentiful they are. I can tell you though, that they’re delicious.

4. Bat-eared foxes are shy

Fox tracks

This is the closest I got to a fox. Sniff.

Meeting a bat-eared fox was one of my main reasons for visiting Namibia, but after almost sustaining permanent eye injury from straining to spot fox-shapes in dusky bushes, I was rewarded only with poo and pawprints. I suppose it’s better than nothing. (And now that I’m back in civilisation, I can google photos of zoo-born fox kits as much as I want to.)

5. Always be prepared

Doctored hiking shoes: always be prepared
In the middle of the desert, surrounded by nothing but heat-shimmers and bushes for hundreds of kilometres, there was a disaster. The heat had literally melted the soles off Janine Mare‘s Italian hiking boots. Luckily we had an ex-Boy Scout on hand, who did his level best to save the day, but it still ended up with Janine shuffling along with sliding shoes for another four hours. As bad as it was, it was much better than the alternative – going barefoot?

6. Flamingoes are improbable

Flamingoes at Walvis Bay
By the time we got to Walvis Bay, I would’ve been excited to arrive in Mordor. (We had been in the car for a not inconsiderable amount of time, due to reasons outlined in #1.) Maybe it was long-car-journey induced insanity, but the sight of these birds had me falling about in hysterics. I still can’t isolate what it is precisely that I love about them so much: is it the glowering expression? The backwards bending knees? The fact that their tongues contain erectile tissue? I just can’t believe evolution allowed this design past beta-testing.

7. Sleeping under the stars is the best

Tok Tokkie trail: bush suite

Sleeping under the stars reminds me of school camping trips, bonding over whispered secrets and roasted marshmallows. It turns out that nothing compares to what I experienced in Namibia, though. On the Tok Tokkie trail, you arrive at camp after a day of gruelling walking to find a “bush suite”: a camping bed, basin of water, lantern, and gloriously fluffy bedding. Seeing as Namibia is one of the world’s only Dark Sky Reserves, shooting stars are a dime a dozen: but after the long day, you’ll probably fall asleep immediately, with just the sound of the barking geckos.

Tok Tokkie trail: lantern





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