I opened my eyes to the now familiar interior of my tent and Sue sleeping peacefully beside me. I knew I was starting to get used to waking up at ungodly hours because my alarm (usually set for 5:45 or 6:00) had not yet gone off. I changed into the outfit I had set out beside me the night before. I was now becoming a pro at the stealth in-sleeping-bag wardrobe changes. I then unzipped the tent as quietly as possible and snuck out – only to observe that the sun had not yet risen. I was going to get to see two sunrises in a row – I was on a roll!
As I watched the sun rise over the mountains of the Kalahari desert, the other campers were starting to wake up and get their butts in gear for the day. Today was a day that a lot of us were looking forward to – the day we returned to civilization: Swakopmund, Namibia. Not that we hadn’t had an amazing previous five days – but being disconnected can be difficult – especially for the young generations of today (*cough cough* myself).
After our usual breakfast of toast and cereal and of course delicious coffee, the Nomad Adventure Tours truck was packed and we were ready to go. We rolled out of the desert camp and made our way back to the main road where we saw a herd of Oryx crossing the road. It was a primo animal sighting! A mere 5km down the road or so we made our first official stop of the day – the Tropic of Capricorn sign!
Being the silly traveler I am I decided to take my photo with the sign in style – by jumping up and hanging off of the post just like a pole dancer! Others did fun little poses, but I’m going to be a bit biased and say mine was by far the coolest. We then all got together, and Shaun very kindly offered to take a Nomad Adventure Tours group picture on everyone’s cameras. Rather than simply gathering in the front, a few of us crazy monkey-like travelers decided to spice up the photo by actually climbing on TOP of the sign. Myself, Christoph (the quiet but secret party animal German), Klaas-Jan (the springbok-loving Dutchman), Diletta (our Italian princess) and Ivan (our Italian/French-Swiss nighttime pool jumper-in(er?)) all climbed on top while re remaining travelers as well as Shingie and Sandile all posed down below. (NOTE: I sat on the top of the sign, and I can tell you, it was NOT comfortable to have the metal sign wedged between your buttcheeks while photos were taken on about 15 different cameras!)
Once photos were taken we set off for the remaining few hours of driving with a few scenic stops here and there to break up the drive. One of the more memorable routine pee stops was when we found a little chameleon just by Harrison’s front tyre. Being the fearless animal lover that I am, I picked him up, gave him a little resting point on my arm – which allowed everyone to take some pictures of the little guy I fondly called Rango – and then released him out of harms way a good ten meters from the road.
After that, it was back on the bus for more driving. Just as people were starting to doze off to sleep, there was suddenly a difference in the way the truck was moving. I sat up straight, turned around and looked out the window. We were back on paved roads! But not only that, outside of the window were about 50 members of the Namibian Armed Forces … ARMED with massive rifles! CRAZY! It’s the type of thing that as a westerner it’s very difficult to adjust to seeing. Soon thereafter we were passing by an airport and spotting traffic lights. We’d returned to civilization.
Eager to get into Swakopmund, our first stop was at Desert Explorers – the company who would be booking all of our optional activities. They offered everything from sandboarding to quad-biking to skydiving to dolphin cruises. Given the fact that I’d been living in New Zealand’s Far North for the last 5 months, I wasn’t keen on doing any of the aforementioned activities because for the most part, they were mostly things that I can do any time I please. (And the skydiving? I’d just done that a few months prior). Rather, I wanted to do some horse riding – Christina, one of the Swiss girls on tour, also decided she wanted to go on an advanced horse ride with me. As I went to pay for my activity with my VISA, it came back declined 3 times! UH OH! So I had the wonderful convenience of having to spend every last Namibian dollar I had to my name – guess I was going to be making a trip to the bank once we got into town.
Once everyone had settled up for the various activities they chose to do, we had lunch and then got back on the truck and made our way to the Amanpuri Lodge where we would be staying for the following two nights. As soon as we were given keys and dropped off our bags in our rooms, everyone gathered in the breakfast room, laptops, smartphones and iPads in tow. We were going to be taking full advantage of the FREE wifi. If you saw us all huddled around our electronics, you’d think that we were junkies just trying to get a fix!
We had decided earlier on in the morning that we would do a group dinner that evening – so Shingie made us reservations at a wicked Italian joint called Napolitana. When we arrived, we soon realized we were not the only overland truck to frequent this joint. There were no less than two other overland companies also enjoying meals there. Our group settled in, made our orders and waited for our food. Since it was quite a busy night we did wait quite a while for our food… but dare I say it was worth it. I had gone for a spicy pizza – and it was delicious. Everything I had hoped for, actually. Others had gone for some game meat – such as springbok and kudu.
When everyone had finished up and we settled up our bill, we all went over to the bar that is attached only to find that they a) were giving our entire group a free shot and b) it was karaoke night. The room was full of mostly travelers – and it was standing only room. Some of our Nomad Adventure Tours family members were brave enough to have a go at the karaoke. It was also around this time that I met up with a few other travelers that I had met in Cape Town at my hostel – they were on other overland tours and as we chatted we realized that we were doing very similar routes. All in all, it was a fun night and a lot of us got the chance to let loose and have a good time.
The next day was spent enjoying the activities we had signed up for the previous day. Since I had booked a sunset horse trek, I pretty much had the whole day to explore the city center and catch up on Internet type stuff – oh the woes of a blogger in Africa.
That afternoon the owner of Okakambe Riding Centre picked up Christina and I at our hotel. As we pulled into the stables, I was thoroughly impressed with what I was seeing. I generally take any opportunity I get to go horse riding, especially when traveling and I have seen some appalling places – where the horses are simply not well-cared for. Such was not the case here. It was very evident that lots of money and effort was put into the upkeep and maintenance of the facilities and the horses themselves. After arriving, Christina and I signed our waivers, were outfitted with hard hats and half-leg chaps and soon thereafter were being introduced to our horses for that evening’s ride and hopping into the saddle. Our guide led us through the stunning desert that seemed to go on and on forever. Since it was just the three of us on the ride, we were able to get to know our guide and learned that he was quite the horseman, competing in horseback ultra-marathons, training horses for movies and even being an accomplished dressage and show jumping rider. We meandered our way through the desert and even managed to enjoy a few fast gallops through the sandy terrain. We were eventually led to a gorgeous lookout point atop what we liked to call ‘moon rocks’ – because the landscape actually looked like the moon’s terrain from those first 1960’s photographs. From here, we started our leisurely ride back to the stables and watched as the Swakopmund sky changed colour from blue to pink to orange as the sun set in the distance.
Once we returned to the hotel, I had a shower and then Christina, Christoph, Sue and myself went out to a nice little German restaurant across town where I had possibly one of the best schnitzels I’ve ever tasted. Not being too keen on having a second big night out the four of us returned to our hotel and enjoyed a few drinks with other tour members before calling it a rather early night. The next day we would be pulling out of Swakopmund before lunch and making our way to our first bush camp with no running water – our destination: Spitzkoppe.
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours did provide me with a discounted tour, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**