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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Friday, November 02, 2018 01:01:56

Africa SW 2018: 4 Train Aus to Otjiwarongo, Namibia

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Today started in the C/ity of Mariental, where we boarded buses for the very long drive to the Namib Desert Lodge. The road was paved for the first while, but most of it was on washboard gravel where the bus rattled and shuddered the kilometers away. We stopped at Hammerstein Rest Camp for a buffet lunch, which we paid for individually as we had done in Luderitz. The food was good and there was cold beer on tap.

The scenery we drove through hour after hour was nothing short of awesome. There were deep canyons, and massive escarpments where landslides had been building lower gravel slopes over thousands of years. The contrasts in colours was amazing, from deep black to purple to various browns and yellows.

After hours of shaking and vibrating, which fortunately fell short of the necessity of removing false teeth and hearing aids, we arrived at our desert camp. The lodge itself is very well done. The individual villas have huge Jacuzzi tubs, big showers, twin sinks as well as a spacious bed living room and patio looking over the desert to the dark, bare mountains. There was no wifi in the villas, only the bar.

Dinner was a massive buffet, with four different cooks doing BBQ. One did oriental style sauteed meat and vegetables, another did fish, one did lamb, beef, port and chicken while the last did Namibian game meat. I found it ironic that onyx, springbok, impala, warthog, kudu, hartebeest, eland, ostrich, wildebeest and blesbok were on the menu while our twitchy camera fingers had not found an opportunity to photograph any of them! Stargazing was a recommended activity but cloud cover finished that.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Today Marilynn and I showed our independence by refusing the bus ride to the highest sand dunes in the world. More bumping around in buses was not appealing, just to see a mountain of sand. Those feeling fit were encouraged to climb it, but I'd not have made it with my knee replacement. It was a peaceful morning catching up on the computer and using the wifi for the first time in awhile. We could see the water hole where it was said animals would come for miles to drink, but there were none all day.

In the late afternoon we joined the others in a convoy of 6 open safari vehicles for their sun-downer safari drive. We saw one onyx, and that was it. I'm suspicious we ate the rest of the animals, as they were all on the menu tonight as well. At the foot of the mountains we disembarked from the vehicles for a guided walk, and when we went around an outcropping of rock we discovered the best desert watering hole of all – the staff had set up a table with a large tray of snacks plus lots of champagne and a choice of ice cold beer.\\

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

After a very bumpy bus ride of 110 km which crossed the Namib-Naukluft National Park we arrived at Solitar. where there is a lodge, a bakery, a gas station, a restaurant, a general store and an airport. Those of us who had chosen an optional 1 ½ hour sightseeing flight that would end up in Swakopmund stayed here. Those who did not faced at grueling 5 hours of pounding on the washboard gravel roads. There were 7 Cessna 210 aircraft waiting for us, configured for 4 passengers in the back and one in the co-pilot's seat.

Once it was confirmed the weather at the coast was OK, each pilot called the names of his passengers. Being a pilot, I was assigned the co-pilot's seat. It was a great opportunity for me - the first time I'd flown in a Cessna 210 since I owned one in Canada. For Marilynn and I it was the best day of the trip to date.

We first flew to the huge dunes the other members of our party visited yesterday, then headed across giant waves of patterned sand to the coast. The sand had been blown into fantastic shapes and patterns, with weaving peaks winding for miles along the top of dunes. At the coast we flew over three old shipwrecks that gave the Skeleton Coast its name – there were seldom survivors even for those who reached shore on this inhospitable coast. One wreck was about half a kilometer inland from the coast as the drifting sands had pushed back the sea. Along the coast were thousands of seals in one huge colony after another, and hundreds of pink flamingos flying below us. We flew over the quite large City of Walvis Bay, where the Chinese are spending vast amounts of money to upgrade the container port and for shipping bulk production of the three uranium mines they own in the area. Walvis Bay has one of the few really good harbours on the Namibian coast.

Shortly afterwards we landed at the Swakopmund Airport where we were transported to the flight company's offices in town to pay for our flights. Something I have not mentioned is that Master Card and Visa are accepted almost everywhere in Namibia, including in small restaurants and general stores.

The modern city was a big surprise to us, with four lane main streets, several car dealerships, and a large downtown shopping area with up to date shops. There are buildings in the German's style from the days it was their colony, but most are very new. There were pedestrian only shopping streets – pretty much everything one would expect in a very up to date city. It is still expanding as the uranium mines increase their production and hire more staff.

We had a wonderful lunch at a German bar restaurant on a pedestrian street, accompanied by good beer and wine. Shortly after arriving we were joined by 3 other German couples from the train and had a very lively time with them. We have been spending more time with the Germans as we try our bit of the language, and we found a number speak a fair bit of English. After lunch they headed off to explore, and Marilynn wanted to go shopping, so I stayed put and ordered another beer. I was soon joined by guide Rolf.

Shopping over with, Marilynn and I walked around the town, including the waterfront where a strong, cold wind was blowing. Several parachute surfers were braving the big waves, but we soon retreated due to the cold. A block away the buildings give protection from the wind and it is quite warm. Buses were running every hour to the train, so we headed back to settle in again for the night.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In the morning we woke to very cold temperatures. Anke, the tour manager, called Namibia Airlines to reconfirm our flight to Victoria Falls, as was required. African Airlines have always been fussy about reconfirmations. In the days when Tim Carlson and I crossed back and forth over the continent if you didn't get a reconfirmation stamp on your ticket at the airline office, particularly Air Afrique which finally went into a well deserved bankruptcy, you didn't get on the flight.

The train stopped this morning at a middle of nowhere siding called Ebony where our trusty drivers awaited with buses to take us to Skpitzkoppe, a steep sided mountain in the desert sometimes called the Matterhorn of Namibia. It was well worth seeing. Serious climbers take two days to summit Skpitzkoppe. We climbed over lower hills that were made up of a coating of chips of rock looking very much like the stucco put on the outside of 1940s style houses. Fantastic shapes in the rocks were caused by wind and erosion, including giant archways.

The next stop was to visit ancient rock paintings done by the San people, called the little brown men or bushmen by early Europeans, who survived well in this hostile environment for tens of thousands of years. Rock paintings gave directions, pointed out places where there was water and animals. When there was water the San would empty Ostrich eggs and fill them with water, plugging the hole with a stick, then burying them for times where there was no water. An ostrich egg holds about a litre of water.

Our final stop was at a school with 10 classroom and boarding facilities for those living far away. Most attended a lecture in a classroom on the education system, but Marilynn and I headed for classrooms with students. The school principal was in one and we had a good talk with her, plus all the kids wanted their photos taken. We were welcomed in each of the classes we visiting, with the kids holding on to us trying to keep us from leaving. They weren't begging, they seemed to genuinely like having us there. The last class was just ending and we were outside when the older children were leaving. Marilynn was soon surrounded by a group wanting photos, and I had a group of boys around me talking about football (soccer). They certainly knew the world standings of teams and individual players, each having their favourite. We were having so much fun we were last getting back to the bus, which took us to another deserted siding serving a tiny area called Kranzberg.

Lunch was on the train as we travelled the entire afternoon to arrive at Opako around 7 PM. Within half an hour the train crew had set up a typical African Braai, or BBQ, beside the train, complete with tables and chairs. By about 1:30 AM we arrived at Otjiwarongo for the night. Temperatures are dropping below 20C at night, but days remain about 35C.