Quiz time! Which country is so wild that it has free-roaming wildlife; is the size of Alaska, yet has a population of only 2.5 million; and is home to the world’s largest sand dune?
Don’t know? It’s Namibia, of course!
If you and your pals want to be independent, badass explorers; if you can surrender to mother nature and be prepared to tackle anything she throws your way… then make Namibia your next holiday destination.
Mumma Africa, Zimbabawia, Impy, Rocks – our new Russian delight – and I have decided that the best way to get over our Afrikaburn hangovers is to get our asses back into the desert.
After picking up our bakkie (Namibian / South African slang for a ute or pickup-car) we bid farewell to our South African friends. Upon hearing our adventure plans, they bombard us with advice for Namibia:
‘Make sure the car is packed with food and water.’
‘Top up your petrol at EVERY opportunity.’
‘It can be days before you pass a shop or other humans on the road!’
‘You can wild camp* in the South but NOT in the North – the whole cast of the Lion King roams freely up there!’
Really, I think — how hard can it be?
The officers at the Namibian border crossing decide to make it hard immediately.
‘Excuse me, Officer,’ I ask in my sweetest voice, ‘but we notice you have written different exit dates for each of us and we are travelling together.’
Once we finally convince the grumpy officer to give us the SAME exit dates, Impy revs up the bakkie and we roll on in to the mysterious Namibia.
As we navigate our way towards Fish River Canyon, everyone’s eyes are fixed out the window. ‘Woahh,’ we breathe simultaneously. The road ahead is dead straight as far as the eye can see. Splayed across the horizon are layers upon layers of mountains.
‘SO many layers!’ Impy shouts, and the cameras begin to click. It takes another hour of the endless magnificent scenery before it sinks in — This. Is. It!
With the sun now setting, and not having seen a car since we crossed the border, we stop the car in the middle of the. Pumping up the one and only ‘Africa’ by Toto, we fling the doors open and dance deliriously on the road. Completely alone, utterly enraptured to be here — together — on what feels like a distant planet.
Carrying on, Impy’s happiness is magnified when she gets her first glimpse of African wildlife. Prancing alongside the car are a herd of springbok — the antelope not the rugby team.
But before she has a chance to appreciate the moment, a suicidal springbok decides to make a beeline for our bakkie. Now, as Aussies, growing up with kangaroos we are taught to slow down and hit them, NEVER to swerve. Impy, with her boss-bitch driving skills, steadily eases the breaks and — thump.
As we watch the springbok struggle back to its feet and limp away, we feel a mixture of relief and irony that the first animal we’ve seen — we’ve hit.
Fearing the appearance of more suicidal animals, we decide that now is as good a time as any to try our hand at wild camping. Finding a spot to pitch a tent in an empty desert is quite unnerving. Never have any of us been so alone, so isolated, on such an equal playing field with nature. Mustering up courage, we bravely reassure one another:
‘We’ve got this.’
With the smell of canned pineapple and chickpeas filling the air we sit on our camping chairs, rugged up against the cold night ready to eat our first gas cooker meal. Above us a spectacle of stars brightly. Total bliss. Unaware of the time, we simply follow the signal of nature’s darkness and soon slip into our sleeping bags.
Mumma Africa cooking up a storm
The next morning, we are already up and packing as the dawn pushes its way through the darkness. There’s a sense of triumph within the group at surviving our first solo night in the desert, but this is rudely interrupted when a motherfucking SCORPION scurries out from under the tent.
I guess the deadly arachnid decided to use our warmth as its home for the night. Cautiously, we shake out our shoes and shove them onto our naked feet.
But we won’t be deterred by an arse loving scorpion and a suicidal springbok. As we start up the bakkie and continue on our way to Fish River Canyon, we’re met with a glorious sunrise.
Impy pondering the canyon
Colour changes on the canyon
As a gas station appears, we remember our friends’ warning:
‘Top up your petrol at EVERY opportunity.’
Pulling up, we’re greeted by a perplexed gas station attendant.
‘Where the man?’ he asks.
‘Ladies only!’ we grin.
Driving away from our entertained servo man, our conversation turns to females travelling Africa solo. Why is it that Africa is viewed as such a ‘hard-core’ continent to travel? I mean, plenty of 20-somethings have been to India, South America and South East Asia. Why is it that when you tell someone that you’re travelling to Africa, you’re met with comments like:
‘Wow, you’re brave! Aren’t you worried about rabies?’
Or the most common:
‘But isn’t that unsafe for a woman?’
Our now hotly passionate conversation is put on hold as we veer off road for another night of wild camping. Unbeknown to us our evening is about to get…hard-core.
Hopping out, we each begin our nightly jobs: Mumma Africa and Rocks make the dinner, Zimbabawia and I put up the tent, and Impy lights the fire. All is well, and then we hear it… the spine-chilling yelp of a nearby creature.
‘Kinda sounded like a hyena,’ whispers Rocks.
‘WTF! It is not a hyena, they’re not in the south!’ I bark, horrified to hear her express my own terrified thought.
We’re all frozen. Barely moving, we point our torches into the darkness, looking for the source of the sound. Suddenly, the night is pierced by another yelp, this time behind us. Whatever the creatures are, they’ve got us surrounded.
Impy, Rocks and Zimbabawia sprint towards the car.
‘HONK THE HORN!’ I scream from the fire, too paralysed by fear to leave its flickering protection. The horn rings out and we wait.
The silence seems to last forever. Eventually, we decide a safe amount of time has passed. Totally rattled, we conclude that it was just a jackal (a fox-like creature) enticed by the smell of food.
‘What were you doing to protect yourself?’ I ask Mumma Africa.
‘Mmm, I held up the salt shaker?’
Our laughter manages to cut through the lingering fear and we find our way to bed — though we sleep with one eye open.
Morning comes and we drift down the sandy road towards Sossusvlei. For the first time in days we’re surrounded by humans — tourist humans. They’re all here for the same thing as us: to climb the famous red sand dunes and see the deadveli skeleton trees.
Looking up at the 325m high Big Daddy Dune, I wish with all my manifestation might that we will be alone when we get to the top — so we can take the most epic naked pics.
It’s a gruelling climb, but an hour later we are all willing our sandy socks to take the last few steps. As we reach the summit, our jaws drop in unison. The most glorious spectacle we have ever witnessed pierces its way into our retinas: kilometre after kilometre of red and white mountains meet the brilliantly blue sky. THIS. IS. IT!
‘Mmm, guys.. are we alone up here?’ I say in disbelief.
Looking down below we burst into laughter. ALL the cars and tour buses have miraculously disappeared. We are ENTIRELY alone. How’s that for manifesting? Without a word, we each strip off our kits, and what follows is, well… this!
Because I couldn’t not!
Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with. Still, at the end of the day we are primal beings, made to co-exist with her. None of us will ever forget the feeling Namibia gave us of sheer human vulnerability. But we will also never forget nature’s reminder that we are powerful women — hear us fucking ROAR!
*Wild camp – camping in nature away from organised campsites for free!
More pictures because there were too many stories to tell!
Bullsport gorge hike — pants optional
Impy freaks out over baboon handprints in the dust — ‘It’s like a human hand but a monkey!’
I discover a gnawed off zebra leg in the Bullsport gorge…yikes!
Road side discovery –suitcase filled with letters and other random items from desert explorers.