19 December 2012- Sossusvlei, Namibia
Geez its the 19th December, Christmas is less than a week away! We certainly have not felt Christmasy. Truthfully we lose track of the date (and day of the week for that matter) for days on end and there is little around us to indicate Christmas is coming. Its made me realise that what normally gets me Christmasy is the rituals of planning food, cooking or baking, Christmas cards, decorating the house, parties and generally being around other people talking about what they are doing for their end of year holiday. None of that here. We have seen one or two places with one or two Christmas things- the hotel we camped at last night had a small tree in their restaurant. What a find that place was- a tiny dot of a community (the hotel and a general store) the hotel was nice, with a luscious shady beer garden, a great camping area (with no one else there) and apple crumble! Loving the German influence in Namibia!
Its 42 degrees at the moment so needless to say we are hot and sweaty. We arrived not long ago to Soussusvlei which is an area of Namibia known for its vast sand dunes. What a beautiful but hot drive we have had this morning. We had a little lie in until the sun chased us out of landy and did a few bits this morning before heading off northeast. The best part of our day was driving through the Namibrand Reserve when suddenly for as far as we could see there was a sea of golden dry grass that stopped abruptly at the mountains that rose above the plain …. the heat made everything in the distance look shimmery- even the zebra! It is stunning jaw dropping scenery. Hot hot hot though, and we are so very very grateful landy has aircon, whenever we stopped and opened the door it was like stepping into an oven, the hot dry air hits you and takes your breath away a bit.
Things we have noticed so far about Namibia (southern Namibia anyway):
– It’s bloody hot and dry- our skin is dry, our lips are dry, and every so often one of my contacts pops out of my eye completely dry
-There are few paved roads but the roads are for the most part very good, impressively so (even the dirt roads)
-Its very sparsely populated and there are few people anywhere- we usually see about 6 or 8 cars a day and most of them are visiting South Africans (its seems plenty of South Africans come on summer holiday at the Namibian coast so its peak season in some areas)
-Its very rugged and very beautiful
We crossed the border a few days ago with no worries at all. We were both excited and curious as we approached. Going into Namibia! 🙂 It literally took half an hour to leave SA and enter Namibia, including general chit chat. We crossed at a very small border crossing, they were playing pool on the South African side. They did the usual, checked our passports etc. While Olly went to get the carnet stamped out of SA one of the guys laughed at my passport and could not belive I was not smiling in the photo, when I told him you are not allowed to smile for the photo he had a good chuckle at that and said “All Australians must look mean in their passports!” They asked to look in landy and were happy with the back door being opened and satisfied with a no when they asked if were carrying anything illegal. On the Namibian side the guy had never seen a carnet (the document for landy) and insisted it only needed to be stamped once we left the whole of southern Africa (which we know is not the case) on our insistence he went and got someone else who was somewhat familiar with the carnet (enough to know it needed to be stamped which was enough for us).
We spent our first few days here in the area of Fish River Canyon, which as the second largest canyon in the world, is nothing sort of spectacular (not to mention very hot). You are not allowed to go on any walks unguided and none at this time of year (due to heat) not that you would want to anyway so we just looked at it from a few lookouts and were happy with that. Our first day here (on the way to the canyon) we decided to stop and check out a mechanic we heard about in the area to see if he could service landy. All we had were GPS coordinates and nothing else but we were in the area so we thought why not? We made our way out to a small farm about an hour from the town of Keetmanshoop and after driving along a small road for awhile we approached a closed gate and were unsure if we in the right place, could there possibly be a mechanic here? Anyway we carried on, it was a beautiful spot so we thought we had nothing to loose, if we turned up to a snarly dog and no mechanic we would just leave, instead we came over the crest of a hill and saw defender after defender and figured it was the right place! We parked up and Johan approached us and greeted us with a big smile and a very firm handshake. He was curious where we were from and happy to work on landy on Monday (it was Saturday)- perfect! We had a few days to look around the area and would come back Monday at 7 am.
After our few days of having a look around and trying to get used to the heat a bit as well as spending a half day finding somewhere to get cash we went back to the farm. We spent all day Monday at the Johann’s farm while between 3-5 guys worked on landy for 12 hours- doing all sorts of checks and service, new brakes etc. It was a hot hot day but easy for us as we just had to wait, they had to work in the heat! Johan (owner) and his wife as well as Kubis (mechanic) and his wife (and the others but they were so busy and didnt speak much English) were very hospitable and we were lucky to be able to sit in the garage where there was shade.
Johann arrived on the property when he was two with his father, then there was nothing but barren dry land. His father spent his life building a few houses on the property, digging a bore for water and generally making it livable. Awhile back Johann and his wife decided to move the garage out to the farm from town and let people come to them, it seems to have worked because although there is no advertising (nothing indicates its anything but a farm until you drive right up to the house) they are busy 6 or 7 days a week all year (with a day off for Christmas), its word of mouth and there are a lot of landies in the area, not to mention the odd overlander that happens past. They also get a lot of word of mouth SA customers this time of year, people on holiday who have trouble with their vehicles. It was a good place to wait for the day, the mechanics wife prob doesn’t have many other people to chat to so she was happy to sit and talk between doing things in the house, it was interesting to hear how her and her husband ended up on the farm- these rural farms have all of the staff living there so there were prob five families (including two children) living in various accommodation onsite.
There was one other couple that came while we were there- a very friendly couple from Pretoria in SA who are in Namibia on holiday and were concerned about their landy. I had a very interesting conversation with her. I knew it was going to be interesting when she started talking, she started talking about ‘the old system’ in SA and how it worked better, it took me a few baffling moments to work out she was talking about pre democratic SA, apartheid era. She started telling me about the proud history of her people (Afrikaner) and that during ‘the old system’ black people did not pay taxes yet got their children’s schooling and books paid for.
One of the things I have really loved on our travels is meeting people with such a different world view and life experience to myself. I have noticed we often surround ourselves with people who share our world view and its tempting to see others as ‘those…’ as in ‘those republicans’ or ‘those greenies’ and not necessarily really hear them. I think we tend to seek things that affirm our own believes. Anyway when this women started talking about the trouble with SA I figured we have all day here, why not? It would be interesting to hear what she has to say.
Wow… what an eye opener. It was interesting to hear the thoughts (and ask questions, although she didnt take much prompting, she was happy to talk about it!) of someone who basically thought that apartheid was ‘not very nice’ and ‘some people were not treated very well’ but overall seemed to think it was a reasonable system where things worked better. Of course I found this confronting but also intriguing. I asked to odd questions to query or challenge a few things but mostly just listened. This went on for a bit and then we talked a bit about their holiday and our trip and they were thrilled to hear we enjoyed SA. They got their landy fixed and warmly wished us safe travels accompanied by a big friendly hug and off they went. Interesting.
It felt like a long day and we ended up staying on the property so we didnt have to leave late and have to find somewhere to camp.
Later… I have just had a cold (well cool as the water couldn’t get cold) open air shower with a gecko barking, sticking to the side of the shower wall… ahhhhhhh…. so nice and with the breeze I was actually feeling cool, such a welcome feeling. We have been out to spend the afternoon/early evening looking at the dunes. It was a great time to go out, just cooling off a bit (to 37 degrees) and hardly anyone out and about. Amazing! What a place, so very harsh we are both in awe of anything that lives here- we saw some gemsbok, springbok, a vulture and heaps of lizards scurrying about. The landscape is something else- massive red dunes, rising several hundred metres from the scrubby land, ever shifting and changes in the wind. You can actually see where they are moving if you stand and watch for a minute. We are going to go see the dunes in the morning light and then either stay here another day or head off, not sure yet.
We feel so lucky to be able to do this!