Day 1, December 1st 2013
At 08:45 six complete strangers met, but after this trip they will never forget each other…
I am a bit nervous because I’ve never travelled on my own, but my nerves are gone within a few minutes because it soon becomes clear that everyone else is also travelling alone and we are all in the same boat (truck!) so to speak.
As soon as everybody is in the truck (the word ‘bus’ is not allowed!) we are on our way to the Cederberg. On the way we stop for lunch on a mountain with a great view. Everybody helps to make lunch by chopping vegetables, washing dishes etc.
Late in the afternoon we arrive at the Cederberg and everybody starts to put up their tents. I share a tent with another girl because it is easier to put up a tent together and it only takes 5 minutes. Normally the itinerary involves wine tasting, but because we have such a small group we improvise a bit and because it’s also a hot day, everybody decides to go for a swim in the river. The river is beautiful, and it’s such a great start to the trip. After the swim everybody helps out again for dinner. Dinner is good, and we get to know each other better. We head off to our beds early because everybody is tired after the first day and we have to wake up at 06h00 the next morning.
The alarm wakes me up and I decide to take a shower. It was one of the most enjoyable showers I’ve ever had. The view over the wine fields and the Cederberg mountains is breathtaking. Unfortunately I can’t take a half hour shower and stare at the wine fields for too long, because breakfast is waiting! After taking down our tents, everybody takes their seats in the truck again and off we go to the Orange river. We have a quick stop in Springbok (a small village) for some snacks. Later we arrive at the Orange river. This river is a natural divider between South-Africa and Namibia. The river is nice and calm, and one can go for a swim or a canoe ride.
At the campsite there is a nice bar where everybody goes for some drinks after dinner. It is fun to get to know each other better and talk about our expectations of the trip.
We could sleep late this morning and only woke up at 09h00! We hit the road again and are heading for Namibia. The lunch stop is at a camp site where we can also swim in a big pool. We relaxed there for a few hours before getting into the truck and driving again. The landscape changes with every metre that we drive, as does the wildlife. We are warned to watch out for scorpions!
After dinner we go to the bar again where there is a wifi spot for those who want to access the internet.
Day 4 is a long day of driving, fortunately for us there is enough space to sleep in the truck. We arrive at the Fish River Canyon. This is the second longest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the United States. The gorge is about 160 km long and 27 km wide and in some places up to 550 metres deep. There is a folk’s tale about a large snake that was on the run and forged the shape of the canyon. The canyon makes for some beautiful photographic opportunities.
The Fish River Canyon
In my hometown in the Netherlands it is 3 degrees and everybody will be celebrating Sinterklaas and here I am in Africa, in the desert! 45 km away from the campsite is Dune 45 which is a very large sand dune. We arrive there very early so the weather is still cool enough for us to climb. I highly recommend that when you arrive at the top of the dune, you find a quiet spot to go and sit down on your own for a minute. The view is perfect, and the silence around you is incredible. After the hike up the dune we went for a desert walk. It is optional so you don’t have to go, but it is worth it. After 45 minutes we arrived at Sossusvlei which is an impressive piece of nature. The guide will tell you everything that you need to know about it. The sand was very hot even though it was still morning, so I highly recommend you wear sneakers.
The campsite is lovely and has a swimming pool, wifi and a bar. It also has a special place where you can watch the sunset, which was beautiful. After dinner we all sat around the camp fire toasting marshmallows and telling each other jokes. It was such a great day!
We arrived at Swakopmund at about noon and are all excited for the weekend because we don’t have to put up any tents as we have proper accommodation for the next 3 nights. First off we visit the tourist information station where we discover everything that you can do in Swakopmund. You can go sand boarding, skydiving, quad biking, on dolphin cruises and lots more.
We decided to go out for lunch with the whole group to a charming restaurant called ‘The Village’. Afterwards we start to explore the town. Swakopmund is strongly influenced by its German heritage which you can see in the architecture, and some of the menus which are written in German.
It is weird to see the beach after driving for such a long time in the desert. After walking around a bit we saw a large rock covered in adult and baby seals which we were able to get very close to. We also spotted some dolphins swimming in the sea, and some of the guys decided to jump in and swim with them. It was incredible to see how close they could get. When there was only 5 metres distance between them and the dolphins, they became a bit scared because they are such huge animals!
For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant. Two more people joined our group for the rest of the trip so from now on we are 8. During dinner the electricity was cut off which sounds disappointing, but actually it created a very cosy atmosphere. After dinner a few of us went to a bar for some drinks. There are only three bars in Swakopmund, but they are all really nice places.
Day 7 was a lovely relaxing day and I went to the beach with my book and had some ‘me time’. I love the sound of the ocean as it is so peaceful. The others went sand boarding, skydiving and quad biking and they all enjoyed it.
For dinner we went to a restaurant at the end of a pier and it turned out to be one of the best dinners I have ever had. It is a 10 minute walk to the end of the pier and the sea is right below you. The food and drinks were all excellent.
Later that night we went to the bars to show off our dance moves. There were a lot of African people who wanted to show us how to dance like them. I had so much fun with an African girl who was patient enough to teach me some moves!
My alarm went off early, but I didn’t mind because I was excited for the boat cruise we were going on. We were fetched from the hotel in a minibus.
While I was waiting for the boat to leave a huge pelican sat in front of me, and while we were sailing a lot of pelicans, as well as seals came to visit us on the boat. The guide gave them some fish and it was really amazing to see them that close. I also touched a seal and their skin feels very weird! We also saw some dolphins who swam in front of the boat. A Champagne lunch was included on the boat cruise.
After the cruise we went to the beach again where we were lucky to see more dolphins. Dinner that night was spent at a local restaurant and it was nice not to have to do dishes again! Everybody was still a bit tired from the night before so, we all went to bed early.
We spent the day on the road and arrived at the Spitzkoppe at around noon. The Spitzkoppe is a range of mountains which are really wonderful. A guide was organised for us and we went on a bushman walk. He explained everything about the old bushman paintings that are still there. We climbed up a mountain and just between the rocks was a rock pool. The water looked a bit dirty but we swam anyway.
We went back to the camp site to prepare some dinner. Our camp site looked beautiful at night and was lit up with Christmas lights. We didn’t put up our tents because we were going to sleep in the open that night. When it was around bed time we took our mattresses and sleeping bags up on the mountain and made our beds for the night. It was a shame to close your eyes as the stars were so incredible. I wish my camera could have captured all the stunning stars.
Waking up in the open air is amazing! After breakfast we drove to a cheetah farm. There were four cheetahs that were very tame. You can touch them, watch them play with each other and see them having dinner. We then drove in an open safari vehicle to watch the cheetahs in their natural habitat. It was cool to see them fight over a piece of meat. Finally we saw the wild cheetahs, where they really fight for their dinner! It is not safe to touch these cheetahs! We slept at the cheetah farm that night.
We woke up early to go on our first game drive. Everybody was so excited and we wanted to see everything. We sat in the truck with our binoculars like we were all game rangers. We kept a pen and paper at hand to write down everything we saw. We saw some springboks, zebras, impalas and giraffes. It was a fun first game drive.
It was another day in the exciting animal kingdom and time to go on a morning game drive. We saw cheetahs, giraffes, springboks, gemsbok, rhinos (white and black) wildebeests, hartebeests, impalas, ostriches, jackals and zebras. So don’t think that you won’t get to see any animals! Afterwards we went to the campsite to have a siesta. It was a perfect, hot summer’s day and the campsite had a massive pool. We relaxed there for a couple of hours, had some tuna salad for lunch, and went on another game drive. We saw two cheetahs hunting springboks and it was very exciting to watch them. The cheetahs watch the springbok for hours looking for the weakest in the group. Unfortunately we did not see the actual hunt as it was getting dark and we needed to get back to the camp site.
It was a long driving day, but as soon as we arrived at the campsite, I realized that it was worth it. The campsite was beautiful. It was located on a calm river where you can spot crocodiles and hippos, had a nice bar with wifi, and a pool. After the long drive we had some time to relax. The guys tried their hand at fishing, and the girls chilled on the boat. The sunset was one I will never forget, the river was calm, the colours were beautiful and we could see the hippos in the water.
On Day 14 we prepared ourselves for the Okavango delta. We went to a supermarket to get supplies. We were all excited about going to the delta and spoke about what we expected to see while we relaxed by the pool.
We started the day with breakfast and a briefing about the delta. There are two kinds of boats one can choose to travel through the delta on – a speed boat or a mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe). We decided to go back to basics and travel on the mokoro. We travelled in groups of two with one of the locals guiding us through the waters. When we arrived there all the locals helped us with putting up our tents, making dinner and informing us of anything we needed to know.
After dinner we went on a game walk which is a great way to be close to nature. We were surprised to see some elephant dung close to our tents – that is how close the animals are! After walking for only 10 minutes we saw zebras. When you want to go to the loo at night (which is a hole in the ground) you have to shine your flashlight first to see if any eyes reflect back at you. If they do, it is not safe to venture out. If you really need to go you can ask one of the tour guides and they will help you. We went to bed early because the next day we had a game walk at 06h00.
We woke up at 05h00 feeling a bit grumpy because it was raining. We decided not to go on the walk because it was raining too hard, so we went back to bed, which was rather pleasant! I spent the rest of my day swimming in the river and playing games. It was so nice not to have a phone, TV or any other distractions. We had each other’s company and a beautiful place to relax in and that is really all you need.
At about 17h00 we went on a mokoro sunset cruise. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life. The delta was covered in the colour purple and it was amazing. At night we all sat around the “bushman TV” (our campfire). The locals prepared some dancing and singing acts for us. It was lovely to see. When they were finished they wanted us to perform for them. After some embarrassing minutes, because we didn’t know what else to do, we all ended up dancing the Macarena!
The locals entertaining for us after dinner
We went for another game walk, but this time we were not so lucky and did not see any wildlife, which was a bit disappointing. The locals helped us take down our tents and loaded our luggage into the mokoros. We were heading back to the civilized world again and were only too glad to have a normal shower and toilet again.
It was a long driving day, but we did stop to buy snacks and have some lunch. At the supermarket, there were a lot of pumbas (waterhogs) and it was fun to see them searching for food.
The morning began well with a game cruise on the Chobe river. It was optional, but we all decided to go. The tour guide told us great stories about the animals. The cruise lasted a few hours. It was incredible as to how close we came to the crocodiles. I was a bit scared because I was about 30cm away from them, but the guide told us to be more afraid of the hippos, which we saw a lot of.
We travelled to the National park with another group and it was the best game drive I had because I saw so many animals: elephants, wild dogs, giraffes, lions, baboons and many more. What I liked about it the most was that every animal had a baby. We slept in the park without any fences around us. At the campfire that night we could hear some animal noises around us. It was so lovely to sleep there.
When we arrived at Victoria Falls we went to a tourist information office and watched a movie about what you could do while visiting, such as white river rafting, lion walks, elephant back rides or visiting a spa. We could book the activities at the office.
For our last dinner together we went to the restaurant at the campsite, and then finished the night off by visiting the local bars.
It was the last day of the tour and I woke up without my tent partner beside me and it felt a bit lonely. There were also no more exciting plans with the group, which was quite sad and I felt a bit empty. However, I was really excited about going to see the magnificent Victoria Falls.
I still remember what I thought when I stood in front of the big falls: Nature is incredible. I sat down on a wooden stool and just stared at the water gushing down. The sound of the water falling down is so relaxing, just like the sound of the ocean.
When I went back to the campsite it was time to say goodbye. I didn’t think it would be so hard for me to say goodbye, but you really do make friends in such a short time, and the sad part of it is that you probably won’t ever see them again. But I refused to be sad because it was over, and decided to be happy because I had done it!
Written by Evy van Vlimmeren, Dutch Intern in South Africa on a 21 Day Cape Town to Victoria Falls Adventure