Jane and Peter Harris travelled to Namibia with Audley.
Stunning. Awesome. We want to go back to Africa.
As Africa virgins our visual senses were overwhelmed with colour from the moment we arrived at Johannesburg airport. From the outlets selling Mandela-style shirts and souvenir vuvuzelas, to the full-on roasted spice shades of the baked Namibian landscape, these weren’t the gentle greens and golds of the early English autumn that we had left behind.
There is nothing gently pretty about Namibia. Well, apart from rosy faced love-birds, herds of springbok, Damara dik-dik... Having dined on game at the quirky Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek with its seats made of toilets and roof with suspended MINI car, we took possession of our shiny clean and — temporarily — dust-free Toyota Hilux. We stocked up with provisions and water and set off for Zebra River Lodge.
You have to recalibrate your sense of scale here, when your instructions tell you to drive four hours, turn right and drive 25 kilometres ‘up the drive’ of your lodge. We did glimpse a couple of zebra in the distance at the eponymously named lodge, but were disappointed when they remained elusive at the waterhole during supper. Would we see any more of the stripey beasts?
There is a tendency with modern photographic trickery for the reality of some places to not quite live up to the images in the brochures. The dunes of Sossusvlei did not disappoint. They were one of the most stunning geographical features I’ve ever seen.
After a pre-dawn start to drive the 70 kilometres, partly over soft sand, to arrive in time for sunrise, we clambered with our ill-suited human feet to the top of ‘Big Daddy’ to see the transiently beautiful phenomenon of the rising sun angled over the copper coloured dunes, throwing their sensuous, sinuous curves into sharp relief.
We couldn’t stop looking or taking pictures. “Just one more,” we said as the subtle shifting of shadows revealed new images. The sun is fully up very quickly in this tropical zone and brings different qualities to the light. Most people who can, run down the dunes in a couple of minutes with the sand squelching and creaking under your feet as you go.
We couldn't stop taking pictures of the Sossusvlei dunes, "Just one more" we said as the shadows revealed new images.
Dead Vlei is a blindingly white waffle textured dried out salt pan with skeletal, charcoal-coloured ancient dead acacia trees starkly outlined against a curaçao blue sky. Again we took too many photos, and tore ourselves away to carry on to Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast.
Where the cold currents of the Atlantic meet the hot African air, large amounts of fog are produced leading over the years to the foundering of many ships on the desolately beautiful coast. We bumped and ground our way up this coast in a sandstorm on a road constructed of compressed salt, the howling wind creating a frothy meringue of algae along the shoreline. We were almost relieved to turn inland away from the tumult, to arrive in Damaraland where we went searching for desert-adapted elephant with our excellent guide from Mowani Mountain Lodge.
These tented lodges, hidden among the rocks and decorated in vernacular style, were fabulously luxurious and, for a country with little rainwater, seemed to have no lack of dreamily soft white sheets, fluffy towels and robes. The food, mainly game and fresh vegetables, was of exceptionally high standard throughout.
We tracked and watched for a while a family of desert-adapted elephant and were pleased to have seen another target animal. It shouldn’t be a box ticking exercise but there is almost a slight sense of panic that you’re not going to see the ‘Big Five’. We hadn’t been to Etosha yet.
Etosha is a vast salt pan, bounded to the south by many waterholes sought out by enormous numbers of animals. We saw huge herds of giraffe, elephant, wildebeest, hartebeest, rhino, springbok, kudu and yes, zebra. A lasting image is that of the Gemsbokvlakte waterhole looking like a child’s picture book illustration on of so many animals that you would think it an unlikely artist’s impression, that you would never see so many species at one time.
We headed south on the return leg of our journey to Windhoek, taking in the AfriCat Foundation at Okonjima and seeing beautiful cheetah and leopard. Between us I think we took several thousand photos. But the most important pictures are in our heads as a mind blowing impression of dazzling images. Stunning. Awesome. We want to go back to Africa.
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