I went on a big Namibian adventure with my family as a child but the memories of the trip still sit with me. It’s amazing how those travel memories last forever whereas a lot of the day-to-day mundane of my childhood has faded. To me it highlights the impact of travel experiences that create impressions that are etched into our brains for life. I have set myself the challenge of writing blog posts about past travel adventures and although it’s more challenging to recall events that happened many years ago, it’s also a remarkable and natural editing process. Only the key adventures remain and the rest has been filtered out by the sands of time.
Sossusvlei which means “dead-end marsh” is a large, white, salt and clay pan characterised by the massive red sand dunes that surround it framed by piercing bright, blue sky. It is situated in one the largest conservation areas in Africa, the Namib-Naukluft National Park. It is the place where the sand dunes come together to prevent the Tshauchab River from flowing to the sea and therefore it’s usually bone dry throughout the year. But Sossusvlei was the highlight of my Namibian trip because of its isolation and otherworldly beauty.
I remember waking up early, before sunrise, to do a walk along Sossusvlei with my family. And as the sun came up there was an array of soft pink and blue hues in the sand and sky. We all remarked that it felt as if we were walking in a painting, its beauty did not feel real to us, like some-one’s incredible surreal dream.
2. Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canyon is located in Southern Namibia and close to the South African – Namibian border. It is the second largest canyon to the world (second only to the appropriately named “Grand Canyon” in America) and is 160km long, up to 27km wide and in some places 550m deep. We stayed in the well-known and popular hot springs resort of Ai-Ais which is at the lower end of canyon. The magnificence of the canyon took my breath away and it really made me want to see the larger Grand Canyon. There is also a popular 5-day hiking trail in the Fish River Canyon which can be added to the list. Thank you to my hiking buddy Aldo Treurnich for his beautiful pictures from their recent Fish River Canyon Hike.
3. Dune 7
Dune 7 found near the coastal town of Walvis Bay has the honour of being the highest sand dune in the Namib dessert at 383m high. Higher than the famous “Big Daddy” sand dune at Sossusvlei which sits at 325m. I remember the name Dune 7. I remember that we went sit-down sandboarding up and down the dune. So much energy required as the sand was constantly shifting beneath our feet. But also infinite fun riding down the sand dunes.
4. Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is in northern Namibia with the defining characteristic of the Etosha Pan, a salt pan so large that it can be seen from space. I remember beautiful camps around the park, lots of animals, and playing games with the other kids to entertain ourselves. It definitely was one of my favourite national park experiences although Kruger National Park in South Africa will always be my favourite.
Windhoek is the capital city of Namibia and it reminded me a lot of Pretoria in South Africa (the connection with capital cities is quite obvious). I also remember my quest for the perfect Herero Doll with a beautiful blue patterned dress. Herero dolls are replicas of the Herero Women dressed in voluminous dresses with horn-shaped material head gear with the most stunning patterns. As a child, I just loved the doll because it was beautiful, but didn’t understand the sad history of the Herero people in Namibia. The Herero people are cattle-herding pastoralists who came into conflict with the German colonisers in the 1900s because the Germans were expropriating their land. The war turned into a genocide when almost 75% of the Herero population was wiped out. A sad history of colonialism epitomised in the Herero doll but buying one is a way of supporting the local Herero women who make them.
I also remember the lighthouse of Swakopmund, the flamingos and pelicans at Walvis Bay and the stretches of sand to infinity along the Skeleton Coast. Namibia is a beautiful country where sand dunes are mountains, the sky is the brightest blue I have ever seen in my life and there are stretches and stretches where you will never see another soul.