It feels kind of odd to write about our not so recent trips, but the road trip we took to the Namibian portion of the Kalahari Desert in 2015 feels too special not to share with you. It happens so often that we take heaps of photos on a trip that just end up gathering proverbial dust on a hard drive. But no more! This little corner on the interwebs is a place where we can come back to, scroll through the pictures and remember the stories.
We take our time, stop regularly to take pictures or to have coffee and rusks by the side of the road
We love our leisurely road trips. We take our time, stop regularly to take photos or to have coffee and rusks by the side of the road and so we opted to drive up to Namibia over three days. We spent the first night camping at Algeria in the Cederberg. It's a picturesque campsite, located on the grassy banks of a rippling stream. Unfortunately the baboons are quite a nuisance these days. On a previous occasion one took off with Leon's precious Aeropress, resulting in Leon running up half a mountain to get it back after the baboon realised it wasn't edible. It's quite sad when baboons get out of hand like that, not only because it really impacts on a camping experience, but the messed up thing is the baboons are now accustomed to surviving without having to forage naturally and they eventually can't return to their natural way of life. Despite how beautiful the campsite is, we will likely think twice before camping there again.
The following day we arrived at Goegap Nature Reserve near Springbok at dusk, just in time to set up camp and take in the beautiful Namaqualand sunset. Goegap swarms with tourists and sightseers during the Namaqualand flowering season in August/September each year, yet the semi-desert landscape still has an undeniable allure, even out of season.
Camping at Goegap will set you back an astonishingly low R90-00 per campsite per night. Seriously, we couldn't believe it either! If that's not value for money, then I honestly don't know what is and if you've never visited the Northern Cape region of South Africa, we strongly encourage you to do so. At first glance, it might seem like there's nothing there worth seeing, but as soon as you slow down and look closely, there's an entire new world just waiting to be discovered. Like tiny critters and creatures and lots of succulents, including my favourite little ones that look like baby bottoms and aptly called bababoudjies in Afrikaans.
The next day, we crossed the border at Vioolsdrif into Namibia. We always love the feeling we get when entering a new country, even if it is just a neighbouring one. There is always this tiny shift in the way we feel as soon as we cross the border, kind of like anything is possible. In our travel element, we set off through the otherworldly landscape to Ais-Ais hot springs near the Fish River Canyon.
Ai-Ais evokes incredibly weird and contrasting feelings. For starters, it's a hot water oasis smack dab in the middle of the desert, which is already something else. As soon as you enter the resort, it immediately becomes clear that it used to be a flourishing holiday destination and that they are still doing a lot to maintain all the facilities, but it is also clear that sadly they just don't have the resources to keep everything up to scratch. The result is this 80s vibe, semi run-down resort that bursts with character and immediately prompts the imagination to conjure images of what it was like to holiday there during the heydays.
Bright and early the following morning, we set off to catch the sun rising over the indescribable Fish River Canyon. It somehow doesn't seem sufficient to say it was beautiful or even breathtaking, so let it suffice to say that I really was dumbstruck and my best advice is to head out thattaway to try to take it all in!
From there we headed to a tiny place called Koës to meet up with Leon's folks who drove up from Pretoria. They are both botanists and arguably the best two people to spend a week in the bush with as they know sooo much about the veld. They had an assessment to do on a piece of land that borders the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the Namibian side, and so we decided to get in on the action, assist with their fieldwork where we could and experience the beautiful Kalahari.
We were in for a special treat, because it ended up raining almost every single day while we were there, resulting in lush greenery on the dunes and the incredible smell of sand and grass that had just been showered with rain. Leon warned me that it was going to be hot, dusty and dry, as one would expect of a big semi-desert, so I probably have a completely backward idea of the Kalahari now, because it was actually wet and surprisingly cold.
We saw more Oryx and Springbok than we could count, and a couple of giraffes. One lioness was chilling alone (we think) under a tree. We did however see a lot of evidence of the larger prides roaming around, including quite a few fresh prints in the wet sand and a slightly aged giraffe hide where the claw marks of the lions were still visible. This definitely made me look around and hoping not to find a pair of cat-eyes looking my way. You see, fieldwork means you're in the field, with everything else that's out there also in the field with you. Leon's parents are quite used to working with the wild world just behind a dune, but this was a new experience for me, especially when seeing a paw print the size of my hand.
Spectacular landscapes and quirky characters
After the incredible week in the grassy dunes, we headed back to the motherland. The trip back treated us with more spectacular landscapes and quirky characters and we simply can't wait to visit Namibia again! Next time round we hope to visit the northern parts of Namibia, particularly Etosha and the Skeleton Coast!