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Namibia - not all who wander are lost

Every couple of years, we try to make it to southern Africa. It's my second time in wonderful Namibia, and I have a few hours to reflect on this amazing 2-week journey.

How we organize

We typically prefer self-driving, due to the higher flexibility we get in taking the routes we want, meandering and generally deciding by ourselves when we want to spend more or less time. It also allows us to be more "by ourselves", to take a break from the intense social interactions that otherwise govern our lives.

Yes, there is a spreadsheet (of course!), with the route, points of interest, up to checklist for camera and tech gear, clothing, medicine and at-home todos. As well as food supplies for the trip (or at least the parts where supplying is not possible, see: Skeleton Coast)

If we go on an adventure and things are done well, then there's always a spreadsheet. It gets adapted to accommodate for a range of spots and activities. One can imagine, the checklist for Namibia or Bhutan may be slightly different than one for Antarctica. However, a checklist there is (must be).

Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

Item

Passport (check visa if needed)

Driver's license

Phone chargers

Laptop

Power adaptors

Phone data package

12 V - power adapter

Battery chargers

Canon 5D Mark 4

Canon 5D Mark 2

Tamaron 150-600

Tamaron 24-70

Canon 24-70

Tamaron 17-35

Canon 2X extender

Olympus TG 5

Lens filters

Extra Canon batteries

Canon battery charger

First aid kit

Paper map

Offline Google Maps saved

Download birding app (Merlin) and Namibia pack

Sat phone

Noise canceling headphones

Sync Kindle

Check camera inventory

Test sat phone

Double-check camera batteries

Lens cleaning kit

Repair kit

Head lamps

Clothes line

Insect repellent spray

Towel

Toiletries

Safari hat

Night cap

Hiking pants and shorts

Hiking shoes and sneakers

Underwear and socks

Shirts and 1 nicer shirt/dress

Light jacket (pockatable, wind-proof)

Warm hoodie

Take out garbage

Stop post

Install and check home security cameras

Water plants

This is just an example for the recent trip to Namibia, Skeleton Coast.

Of course, once we get to the car rental, we pack/unpack the entire car, just to make sure we know where the stuff is (the water and fuel tanks are full, the back-up tires are in good condition, the sat phone works etc.) - this usually takes about 3h.

Toyota Hilux Camper (photo credits to Bushlore) is a must, if you do anything remotely adventurous. These beasts come kitted with a full camper. They have 2 tanks of Diesel, and 4x4 high/low traction control - you will need this you do anything adventurous.

Most importantly, a full tank of water and at least 70 liters to drink (for about 7 day drive) are needed.

Once we got the car, we do a checklist for the food supplies, which varies according to how long and where we go. Rusks and coffee are a must in self-drive safari.

How it typically goes

No plan ever survives contact with reality.
broken shock absorber

Well, for the most part, it sort of goes according to plan. But there's always some unexpected event. Whether the car breaks in ways without a clear back-up/recovery option (ie: electrical failure, blow both spare tires, or a broken shock absorber etc.), whether we get stuck somewhere unexpected, whether the sat phone runs out of coverage, or someone gets sick etc. etc. etc.

Something always happens.

Try not to panic. Get a towel.

Reflections

There are so many and I'm struggling to set them all straight in my mind and in my heart. Here are some, in random order:

Namibia is extraordinarily beautiful and diverse

In just a 2 weeks trip, the landscape changes dramatically. We drive through deserted valleys full of Welwitschia plants, up to the Skeleton Coast with its strong SE winds, seals, brown hyenas and jackals.

Welwitschia plant

Up through the areas of diamond mines, whales and sailing ship skeletons.

Skeleton Coast

East through 70km of heavy dangerous dunes, then softer dunes, then crazy red rocks. Kaokoveld.


Yes - I walked without rhythm!

South through Marienflus into the Damaraland.


Loneman #21

Loneman #21

Into the land of safari :) where giraffes, dik-dik's and elephants greet us.

People are helpful, kind and friendly

It doesn't matter where we've been. Whether at a camp site or just the person selling fire wood by the side of the road. The person putting gas into our cars - all asking enthusiastically where we come from, what language we speak there. And oddly enough whether we're famous or not :P

We answer their questions the best we can. It's always hard to say where I come from --- I come from many places, so many I don't know myself anymore. But I tell them where I live these days, and they are happy to hear that and some try speaking to me in German.

We tip and say thank you in the language the locals speak (I can just say a few words in Herero or Setswana), if they share. They reply "of course, we're here to help" -- even if we are dreadfully late, and they had to re-open the gas station 5h into the night and help us fuel.

The clerk gives our car a good shake, to "fill her out to her neck", when he hears where we head out. And wishes us good luck in Herero.

Namibia's official language is English, but most people speak at least German, Afrikaans, and some Herero of Setswana, depending on where they grew up etc.

The culture and diversity here is mind boggling

As I mentioned, most people we've met speak at least 3-4 languages, a pleasant parallel to Switzerland.

Google Translate is great, but there's something to be said about actually speaking multiple languages. I feel it gives one a deeper understanding and connection with that culture and society, community.

I try to make an effort, if nothing else, just to say hi, please, thank you and goodbye.

We didn't get to spend much on cultural sights this time around, but we reflect on the Himba people and their way of life. How the farming communities and modern medicine keep shaping the way of life here.

The mix of goods, bads and uglies progress brings.

I love game drives, spotting and identifying animals day and night

I don't even know where to start. Yes, the big 5 (lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, African bush elephant, African buffalo). But also:

More common: giraffes, springbok, impalas, dik-diks, steenboks, kudu, gnus, oryx, lions, leopards, cheetah, elephants

Rarer: sabel antelope, eland, sitatunga, cerval, bat-eared fox, genet, pangolin, black and white rhino, porcupine etc.

When possible, we get the help of a wild-life guide and donate to a local conservation or rehabilitation effort, such as AfriCat in Okonjima.

Community, authenticity, finding oneself

Someone said that not all who wander are lost. Myself, I mostly feel lost. I try to search for myself in these trips. In knowing others and trying to mimic what I see, maybe one day I can find myself too.

The more I travel and get to know others, the more I feel that I get to know myself. When I'm restless, frustrated, scared, worried, at peace, excited. How I can find more kindness for myself, through others, now, slowly, in my 40-ies.

It never ceases to amaze me the sense of community I find in Africa, especially in Namibia, how present people seem to be.

What is next

There are always struggles and worries. We always find something to be upset or frustrated about, even if we're living in a wonderful, safe and modern country, with great jobs and good salaries. I try to practice gratitude (for my health, family, partner, my team).

I still don't manage to deal with those who are constantly unhappy and frustrated and grumbling about something.

I encourage them to travel, to experience, to try and fail. But I cannot force people to live an expanded range of experiences if they don't want to.

I've been surrounded so much with death and suffering. I just wished people lived more, and more intensely. Or at least live more the way that makes them happy. We only have 1 life.




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