Sunday, February 20, 2011

Solitaire, together (Part 1)

(Daisies only make me think of wedding planning--sick.)

I've been meaning to post about our adventures in Namibia for a while. These actually took place over the end of December 2010 and New Year's 2011. But let's pretend it was last week or something. What's the difference to you anyway?

A and I drove to Namibia with our friend D. It takes 12 hours to drive from Gaborone to Windhoek, Namibia's capital city. The scenery doesn't change much, but it's quite pretty.

(Artsy rear-view mirror shot. Did I mention the drive took 12 hours?)

(Either that's a giant bunny in the sky or we were losing it.)

At a rest-stop called Kang halfway between Gabs and the Namibia border, D, who grew up here, ran into someone he knows. They said hi, and then just moved on, like it was no big deal to see a random friend in the middle of nowhere. Botswana really is a small town.

Windhoek was pretty nice, although it seemed to have been abandoned (apparently most people leave for the beach during the summer break). We spent the night there and ate at a West African restaurant for dinner. The food was amazing.

There were two roaches in our hostel dorm room and it was about 100 degrees in the room. Gross.

(Obviously, we're at brunch. Do you see Namibia in the background? Also, look, I'm wearing that pink shirt!)

In the morning, we had brunch and then got on the road again and headed for Swakopmund. As we drove, the scenery became more and more desolate, until there was nothing but sand.

(Already less green than Botswana.)

(Palm trees?!)

Swakopmund is a charming coastal town, that all the guidebooks say is "more German than Germany." I don't know about that (never been to Germany), but it was pretty cute and could not be more different than Botswana. We watched the sun set over the rotten-fish-smelling ocean and the following morning, we went sandboarding.

(Charming D and charming A check out charming Swakopmund.)

(A romantic, fishy sunset.)

(Dunes! Or as D said with his weird Irish-Botswana accent, "djunes!")

Sandboarding was totally sweet! At first it was quite scary (also exhausting to climb those dunes), but there were some little (6 and 8 years old) kids in our group who were fearless. After they went down, how could we be scared? I went both the fastest and farthest of anyone in our group, because I excel at things that aren't quite sports. We rode down the dunes on our tummies, but some people did more like snowboarding in sand.

The sandboarding day was probably the best day of our trip (foreshadowing). After sandboarding, we went to our hotel and washed off the buckets of sand we'd acquired on every surface of our bodies. We took a leisurely walk through downtown Swakopmund, stopping at a bookshop, a cafe, and a shop that sold really neat antique stamps from Southern Africa. We got a couple of old Botswana ones, and some that said "Rhodesia." We mailed a couple of postcards that have still not made it to our families in America. We walked down to check out the old Lighthouse, then got ice cream that didn't suck for once AND German pastries that definitely did not suck, and finally made our way to a great wood-burning oven pizza place for dinner. It did not suck.

While we were sitting at the cafe, we ran into another Doris Duke fellow, who is based in Durban this year. She was traveling with her family and they were also heading down to Sossusvlei next to check out the dunes (remember this for later).

(Did I mention my entire blog is an advertisement for Penn's study abroad programs?)

The next day we went on a boat tour. We saw hundreds of seals, a few dolphins, some weird-looking pelicans, and a family of racist Afrikaaners!

(D feeding a seal. Please don't feed the racists.)

The Afrikaaners actually came right on our boat and talked to us about how black people don't take care of their women and children, don't have "our morals," and how when you see the violence in South Africa today, you start to "understand why we had Apartheid." That and the smell of seal poop made me a bit seasick.

(D and A took turns taking naps like this.)

In the afternoon, we went to the snake park. It was full of snakes. Did you know how many poisonous snakes inhabit Southern Africa? And how many D's mom has found in his backyard? Apparently, they're everywhere! Great!

On our last morning in Swakopmund, we were riding high. We got some groceries and frozen fish to grill that night when we went camping near the Sossusvlei dunes (one of the charms of Namibia was the availability of fish, unlike in Botswana). We drove out of the city and A blasted Bon Jovi as we enjoyed the scenery of sand dunes on our left and ocean views on our right.

A couple of hours later, we hit some really weird scenery. These huge rocky hills were everywhere, and meanwhile the road was getting worse. We started sliding back and forth in the dirt.

At one point, we saw some people stopped on the side of the road. They were watching a group of completely camouflaged zebras nearby.

We drove on, and on, and on. The road was rocking us up and down and back and forth. Suddenly, D said "Uh oh, the engine's overheated." He pulled over immediately, popped open the hood, and yanked out a piece of shredded black rubber. Then he made a pronouncement that would change our plans quite a bit for the next week or so.

"The fan belt's shot."

(To be continued sometime when uploading photos isn't taking so freaking long...)


  1. Exciting posts! Great to read of your adventurs.

    Actually we recently got your postcard, which arrived in Norcal by Pony Express. I'm enjoying these fabulous posts with all the literary conventions noted.

  2. I appreciate when sections are notated so I know whether I need to remember them for later. Helpful!

    (I want more details about the racists though. What did you say to them?)