January 30, 2011

Camping Safari Day One — Windhoek to Keetmanshoop

December 29th dawned hot and sunny, the kids’ jet lag had abated, all the duffle bags, groceries, the ground tent and cots the kids brought had been packed into the 4x4 Toyota Hilux. Everything was stuffed in among the two spare tires, cooking kit, propane burner/stove, cooler, table, five chairs, giant 10-liter water bottle, and fridge.

Our trusty 4x4 BEFORE we added all our personal gear!

Electronic gear and cameras rode in the cabin with us to protect them from excessive vibrations and the ubiquitous sand that seeps into the bed of the truck despite systems to block it. We left Windhoek about 11 AM for our much anticipated camping trip and the first night’s destination – Keetmanshoop and the Quiver Tree Forest. We drove out of the mountains surrounding Windhoek and headed due south.

Approximately 84 kilometers later, we made a first stop for photos at the Tropic of Capricorn because you cannot be assured you’ll ever get to take this photo again!

Back in the car and straight south to Keetmanshoop. Once you get past Mariental, the roadside landscape is a bit tedious….mostly empty flat plains and a roadway that’s a consummate illustration of vanishing point.

Any tedium induced by unchanging scenery was ameliorated by clouds that were gorgeous as ever.

Despite our changing seats and drivers every hour,

by the time we saw the sign for Quiver Tree Forest we were ready to be out of the car for the day.

A quick 13 kilometers further on a gravel road and we were there.

It was a really hot afternoon so still feeling our way with this camping thing, we opted to stay in one of the air conditioned chalets rather than to camp this first night.

Even though it was declared a national monument in 1955, the Quiver Tree Forest is situated on a private farm. The owners offer camping and cottage accommodations and charge admission to see the forest. They also have several rescued cheetahs on the farm which have become reasonably tame. The cheetahs are fed every afternoon at 5PM. After receiving instructions from the staff you can pet the cats if you like. The professor, who has a soft spot for all animals– most especially cats– was not about to miss the opportunity.

After the cheetahs, we took off for the forest. Not actually composed of true trees, the forest is an amazing display of succulent Aloe dichotoma plants, some of them hundreds of years old.

Apparently, the more common name derives from the fact that some Bushmen and Hottentot tribes used the pliable bark

and branches to make quivers for their arrows. These are heat-loving plants. You can find their trunks happily growing over dark rocks that absorb much of the day’s intense heat.

We spent a good bit of time roaming around looking at the trees and setting up photographic perspectives.

As sunset came on, we and the rock dassies spent some time just taking in the deepening colors.

The next morning we drove out of the camp

headed for Luderitz, Kolmanskop, and back to Aus for the night. And even though
our trusty hired truck was a nicely fitted out 4x4 Toyota Hilux with everything you need for camping,

our son found something much more beautiful to behold in this Land Rover Defender. 

Pity they don’t sell them in the US.

This is one exceedingly tempting off-road vehicle!

P.S.  Evan:  News flash!  The Defender will be out in the US in 2012!

January 22, 2011

Counting down the hours

Once the university officially closed for the holidays, it was eerily quiet on campus. There were very few people staying at our apartments. Most had left for reunions with family elsewhere in Namibia or more distant locales. The parking lots were completely empty.

Most days, it was just the few folks left in the apartments and the security guards on campus. The professor and I started walking every morning at 6AM before it got murderously hot. The days were routinely getting up into the 90s but as the rainy season was just getting underway, it was fun to see the plants blossoming out and the neighborhood landscapes respond by turning a bright tropical green.


The professor spent some time getting ready for next semester’s courses and we spent the balance of the days running errands in preparation for our camping trip,

baking favorite cookies,

getting everything ready at the apartment, and counting the hours until the kids’ plane finally touched down in Namibia. And we took our usual share of sunset and beautiful night sky photos.

It seems that the majority of people leave Windhoek for the holidays. Builders usually stop working on projects about the 18th or 19th of December and other skilled trades people usually close for the holidays about the same time. The city grew more and more quiet in the days leading up to Christmas.

Christmas was really hot here – in the mid-90s. The streets were deserted.

We spent the day fairly close to the fan, trying to stay cool despite the elevated temperatures, making dessert for a Christmas potluck

and later, savoring a beautiful dinner with friends at a big table on a patio under the stars. Our first summer Christmas!

As we started out the door for Christmas dinner that night, our kids were just getting on an early morning Christmas  flight out of Albuquerque for their 28+ hour journey to Namibia.

Their flight was due here just before 9PM on the 26th.

We spent the 26th getting the last of the details taken care of and wishing the clock would run faster. As we excitedly left for the airport that night, another gorgeous African sunset painted the sky,

and then, at four minutes past 9PM, the best of all possible Christmas presents walked through the airport doors.

Our son-in-law’s flight didn’t arrive until the next day but once we picked him up, the family was complete again and ready for our big Namibian camping adventure together.