Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Kalahari Desert

Yesterday, we arrived at the kalahari desert after an easy drive (probably 5 hours?) it's crazy how fast the driving time goes by with the scenery, the podcasts, and the conversations. My gosh have we talked and talked on this trip. Traveling always brings us closer in amazing ways. We travel well together-taking on different tasks, only freaking out on separate occasions, and working as a team. There's a magic about it and about this time in our lives. I was tearing up at dinner because it's been so amazing here. I think it's safe to say Namibia has stolen a piece of our hearts. 

Anyway, once at the kalahari, we made arrangements for our final game drive. We completely lucked out because giraffe aren't common in this area, and they were out for us. 

I would never tire of watching these magnificent creatures. They're absolutely breathtaking to come across! 

We enjoyed gin and tonics and another Namibian sunset 
Did I mention I'll miss it here? 
On our tour, we met a French couple and their Italian friend, and a night of hilarity and great conversation ensued. We talked about serious things (political landscapes in our countries, terrorism) and we talked about much lighter things (travel, cursing in foreign languages) and we drank too much champagne. 
And we laughed so much. It was a great way to bring our trip to a close. (Ps--our trip has been a total free advertisement for big bend brewing company--I think I wore this hat every day!) 

Anyway, this morning, we went on a 4.5 mile walk around the property and enjoyed seeing birds-including a heron and owl, mongooses, springboks, an eland, and my favorite 
A warthog who was very surprised to see us!
After our walk, we drove back to Windhoek and made it to our final hotel. We came in on the main highway with many lanes, and I was pretty anxious, but Brendan did a great job navigating it.tonight, we packed up (mostly), then went to dinner at the same place we started our trip- the social restaurant. It was a lovely meal. Now, we're mentally preparing for our long long flight home and rent car return. Brendan drove close to 3,000 miles...the car is insanely dusty, but we'll work on that!

Wish us safe travels with entertainment systems that actually work this time (obviously, not the end of the world but it's nice). Once we make it to JFK, we have to get a car to grand central and a train to CT, so we're in for 36 hours or so of travel, and serious jet lag. Then, we'll travel the next day to Maine (after serious laundry) for some much needed rest and relaxation with the Egans. We can't wait; wish we could teleport. 

At least we have compression socks! 

Fish River canyon

July 25, 2016
Leaving luderitz, we drove to fish River canyon, second largest canyon after Grand Canyon. On the way, we stopped to see a bunch of wild horses, and I came very close to an oryx when he snuck up on me! 

After a few hours on all paved roads (can you tell I'm over gravel?), we made it!

Don't you get annoyed when people do this in pictures? Me too, but it seemed appropriate at fish River. 

We explored for a couple of hours before checking into our lodge. My outfits lately are amazing. Thankfully, Brendan loans me layers; otherwise, I'd be cold cold! 

At our lodge, it felt like being at big thunder mountain at Disney world (or rather big thunder mountain feels like this?) it was all real but felt not real since I saw the fake place first. 

Anyway, we enjoyed dinner at the lodge, the stars, and our house in the canyon: 

Up next, the kalahari desert! 


Greetings from our 13th and final hotel! This was also our first hotel, so maybe it's 12? Backtracking a bit here...

July 23 and 24, 2016

we had a great time in luderitz. The drive was primarily paved, and that was awesome. We stayed on shark island. Home of a former concentration camp, we later found out. The Germans spent a lot of time and money in luderitz mining diamonds, and we were particularly interested in visiting kolmanskop, a now abandoned former diamond mining town. In its prime, 344 Germans lived in the town and 800 locals worked there. In the 1950s, They had a bowling alley, ice box refrigerators, two story homes, a school, a post office, and public transportation. Now? 
Sand is literally burying the town. 

You can go inside the houses and take refuge from the insane wind. The homes are being covered by the dunes. 
And it's kind of sad honestly. Because it's weird going inside people's old homes and seeing remnants of their lives in this place that honestly has an environment extremely non-conducive to living in. And because I couldn't help but think of midland, my home also built around a boom/bust economy and also out in the middle of nowhere. 

It was really neat to see, and I even was goofy. It's just a little haunting too. 
We didn't find any diamonds, and we headed back to town for lunch. Later, we toured the goerke haus, home of a manager of the diamond mine. 

After that, Brendan's favorite: 
The oysters here are awesome. We ate them on three occasions. Brendan was in heaven! 

Up next: fish River canyon! 
<3 s&b 

Saturday, July 23, 2016


July 21 and 22
Greetings faithful blog readers!
The drive from swakopmund to sossusvlei went pretty smoothly (literally-the gravel was mostly smooth). We stopped in solitare for some apple pie.

Our lodge had beautiful views and oryx drinking near our chalet. View from our porch: 

At night, it was a great setting for star gazing! The first night, we tried to get to bed early before our 4am wake up call. We were up early for a very special reason: 
Hot air ballooning! A first for both of us.we flew over the dunes and mountains in the Namib desert. We had such great wind conditions that we were able to go twice as high as normal flights (over 4200 feet). The sun was rising, and the views were stunning. It was better than we even imagined. 

Afterward, we had a champagne brunch near our landing site. It was truly a special morning. I was so glad we did it. 

Then, we were able to tour little bugs, an elementary school the balloon company started. We were able to donate and purchase souvenirs made by the mothers of the students (the school pays them for their work, and the profits from sales all go back to the school). The school provides a free education to all students, runs on solar power, and has a hydroponic vegetable garden. I'm in awe of the way every resource is utilized to maximum efficiency here: it's really inspiring. Even the sewing machines for making the crafts to sell were solar powered. 

That afternoon, we drove through sossusvlei, including 4 kilometers on sand, to get to deadvlei dunes. We then walked up the dune to the salt pan. I'm here to tell you that walking in sand is hard as heck! It was also hot--too hot for even our lightest morning layers, but we made it. 

After we got back to the lodge, we were exhausted. We showered and napped before dinner, then went to bed early after dinner. It was quite a day! 

And, we had another 6 hour drive ahead! More soon. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


July 19 and 20, 2016
Greetings faithful blog readers! Here we are in swakopmund: fun to spell, fun to say! We got in the car a little after 9am yesterday and proceeded with our drive through skeleton coast park. On the way we saw lots of giraffes, a shipwreck, crazy dunes, and a thousand year old plant. This is meta: 

We stopped for fish and chips lunch. Total cost: less than $10. We haven't talked about the awesome exchange rate yet: currently 14 to 1. We went to dinner tonight and had sushi and a bottle of wine for about $35. Brendan bought three pairs of leather shoes today for less than $100. You get the idea. 

Our drive yesterday was leisurely (stopping to take pictures, etc), and we made it to swakopmund at 6pm. We immediately booked a tour in walvis bay for today.

We went on a catamaran with ocean adventures. First stop, pink flamingos 

Then, out on the ocean, where pelicans and seals came to us. 

We learned all about Namibia's oyster farms and enjoyed champagne and oysters while watching Benguela dolphins. It was a beautiful day! My favorite are the Pelicans; look at them!

Up next: shopping for leather shoes (for Brendan) and house tapestries (for house). We have no idea how to fit it all in the suitcase,but it'll work somehow! When you find things you love, you can always find some magical extra space. This is a law of physics. 

Tonight: sushi dinner. A huge treat after so many nights of lodge dinners which are quite heavy meals. 

Tomorrow: sossusvlei! A mere 5 hour drive? It's scenic and we have lots of podcasts. 
<3 s&b 
Missing L&Z to the point where I'm just looking at pictures of them :( I'm sure they're in good hands with my cousin this week though. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Grootberg Lodge

July 17 and 18, 2016
After a 7.5 hour drive from Epupa Falls, partly through a tire graveyard, we were happy to see Grootberg Lodge. They invited us to drive up their mountain in our 4x4. Based on our guidebook's advice, we opted for the complimentary safari vehicle shuttle. Several cars with flat tires at the top told us we'd made the right choice. The views were gorgeous, and the chalet was beautiful. We were tired but it was worth the trip. Our dinners were included, so we could really just relax. The meals were delicious but more than we could eat! 

Note: we really don't see other Americans in Namibia at all. People find out we're from America and say we're brave for making these drives. It's funny to be an anomaly. I definitely have my moments where the gravel roads make me uneasy, but overall, we feel very safe in Namibia. 

Anyway, the lodge was spectacular. We were situated right in the mountains. The sunsets and sunrises were gorgeous, and we didn't even have to leave our bed to enjoy them. 

We saw oryx, zebra, springboks, kudo, dassie, and baboons in the valley. It was a relaxing day just looking through the binoculars and reading and drinking tea. 

On a sundown drive, we saw more animals, namely the mountain zebra up close plus a baby oryx and black eagles. Here's my favorite animal: 

The ride was a fun way to end our last night at the lodge. In the morning, we'd be off to swakopmund, but not before another big dinner! At dinner, Brendan explained Pokemon go. I said that sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. 

<3 s & b 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Epupa Falls

July 16, 2016
We left kunene River and drove about 3.5 hours to kapika waterfall lodge. It was worth the trip! We were perched way above the falls and could hear them all night. 

We immediately got to hiking to get an up close view. This involved walking right through villages. The village bar was blaring "we fell in love in a hopeless place" and Fleetwood Mac. It was all surreal. 

The 16th was Mimi's funeral, and I was so sad to not be there. Then it made finding this rainbow all the sweeter. 
 Sometimes, life gives us grace when we need it most. 

After the insanely hot walk back, we cooled off in the pool: 

Then, we enjoyed being the only two passengers on the sundowner drive to a lookout over the falls. It was so loud and breathtaking: if only photos could do it justice. I tried. 
It didn't work. I said it was like being in a Jurassic park movie. Brendan said it was better than that, better than any person could dream up. I pointed out the Jurassic park movies are filmed in real places. I was right. So, it was like seeing something at the edge of the world from a different time. We often joke that it feels like a different world here, and it's true. 

Back at the lodge, we ate the best meal of the trip, toasted Mimi, and tried to ignore the large lizard in the room and sleep. We had a huge drive ahead.
<3 s&b 

Kunene River

July 14 and 15, 2016
We arrived at kunene River lodge just in time for the sundowner boat trip. It was so beautiful. I was blown away! We also added crocodile to our list of animal sightings. 

We set foot in Angola just to say we did. 

We ate dinner right on the water and enjoyed a relaxing next day of not driving that started with...monkeys! These guys were mischievous but not scary like the baboons! 

We went on a long walk to observe birds (300 area species) and saw another (baby) crocodile. We were so hot after that swimming was a great idea. Then, we had drinks and dinner overlooking the river. 

The next morning, we'd be off to eupupa falls! We loved our two relaxing River days. 
<3 s 

Ongula village homestead

July 13, 2016 
Fast enough wifi to update is super hard to come by here! A few days ago, we were lucky enough to tour the ongula village before heading to kunene river lodge. This is a picture of the villager's storage for millet, which they use for everything. They make porridge with it, make flour by grinding it, make paper, baskets, and roofs with the dried leaves and also use it to feed livestock. 

This is an example of a sleeping hut 

The fence is built with bark. We also saw meeting places and the plants used for medicine since the villagers do not go to the hospital or Doctor. I asked when children move into their own huts and the answer was if a boy makes it to 6 and if a girl makes it to 12. The ifs surprised me. 

The people in the village wore modern dress. Some of the young people have left to study abroad. 
After our tour, we had a three hour drive or so. 
Hitchhiking is popular here, but we obviously don't participate. People look annoyed when you don't pick them up, but our rental car company warned us not to (not that we needed the warning). Also, children run out to the cars with open hands. Brendan read they may be expecting candy? It's pretty dangerous that children approach moving vehicles in this fashion, but Brendan is an exceptionally careful driver. We have to watch out for all sorts of other things too: animals and horse drawn wagons for instance. Many of the roads are gravel: some better than others!

As we drove to kunene, we saw many himba villages and people. It's best to do a google image search if you don't know what I'm talking about. We have ample opportunity for photographs, but I don't want to intrude on people's privacy. The himba are very live and let live. I feel sorry for them because the government of this region is essentially evicting them off this area come September, which seems unjust.

I'll update about kunene river next. 
<3 s 
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