Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Namibia: Windhoek Wrap-Up and Travel Tips

Our road-trip across Namibia wrapped up after 10 days, as we headed from Sossusvlei back to the capital of Windhoek.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Drove through totally deserted landscape to get back to Windhoek. And by totally deserted, I mean totally.  I had skipped lunch in favor of a shower at the campsite, thinking I could get lunch along the way. Wrong. No stores or restaurants for most of the 5 hour drive. We'd see towns on the map and get super excited, then you'd see like, one tiny building and the town would be over.

Randomly, as I was starting to dream about food, we ran across THIS restaurant. In the middle of nowhere!!  FATE.  Except not, because when we followed the sign, the place looked like it had been abandoned years ago. WHY KEEP THE SIGN UP.

  • As we pulled back to Windhoek, I was perusing my assortment of glossy brochures (I like to pick them up everywhere we go) and came across a super-fancy lodge that was 15 min. outside of town, called Sun Karros.  It looked gorgeous - it had a huge pool, a fancy restaurant, and it was located on its own national park so guests could do their own game drives.  So that's where we ended up staying.  Cost for a fancy chalet there?  Over $200.  Cost for us to camp in their super-fancy campgrounds?  $8/person. 

Driving into Windhoek, a pretty half rainbow!

The saddest thing is there are so many super-fancy homes and estates in Windhoek, and you literally drive 5 minutes out, and there are tons and tons of slums right there.  We did manage to drop off a huge bag of our leftover camping supplies to a family walking outside this area, and they seemed very grateful, so that was nice. (I hope they like pencils. And cookie sprinkles.)

And then this sunset happened while we were driving

Bear with me while I post like 5 photos of the gorgeous sunset. So fitting for our last Namibian sunset ever

It looked like the sky was on fire

And when you looked to the back, there were gorgeous pink skies

  • The next day, we didn't have to return our car to Windhoek until 4pm, so we definitely took advantage of that by hanging out at the fancy lodge.  First, we took a drive through the lodge's private game drive road (I know I said no more, but this one was freeeee!).

Ready for our short game drive. It's helpful that this park has no scary animals that can eat you, like lions - it mainly has lots of deer-like creatures, birds, etc.

We scared a bunch of wildebeest off the road

Then I went hiking by myself along one of the lodge's trails. It was gorgeous and it ended up at a dam, where there was this HUGE WHITE STORK-LIKE BIRD that freaked out when I approached and flew away stat.

This is the crazy amount of water the dam is holding in

To cap off our day at the lodge, I spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool sipping fizzy water (my new obsession). *sigh*

  • Namibia was such an adventure - an amazing blend of totally different landscapes, untouched nature, and vast swaths of gorgeous emptiness. And with that, my quick Namibs travel tips!

Namibia Travel Tips:
  • Namibia is a great place to rent a vehicle - all the sights are super spread out, and public transportation isn't that available or convenient (hence our hitch-hiking in the beginning).  Not to mention that car rentals aren't that expensive, and they don't even care if you have an international driver's license (because I don't!) - my TX driver's license served them just fine.
  • Main sights we saw: Etosha National Park (one of the best for wildlife viewing), Swakopmund (German-influenced town on the coast where you can access the Skeleton Coast), Sossusvlei (crazy red sand dunes), Windhoek (just a cute little capital city). 
  • Main sights we wanted to see but didn't have time: Fish River Canyon (gorgeous rocky hike views), Opuwo (extremely remote and feels like the end of the world, off-the-beaten path and good base for traditional village-exploring and Epupa Waterfalls, etc.)
  • English is the main language, so super super easy to get around
  • Namibia has huge amounts of land, so the primary type of lodging you'll find is these huge, vast, gorgeous nature lodges (there are SO, SO many). They usually have a big swath of gorgeous land, amazing facilities, their own on-site restaurants (stand-alone restaurants are really hard to find outside the city), etc.  Most of these lodges also have campsites - where you can camp out for literally a fraction it would cost you to stay in the pricey rooms.  And you can still wander around the restaurant/pool/facilities and mingle with all the rich people staying in the rooms and pretend you're one of them. 
  • The Namibian dollar is pegged to the South African currency, the Rand. Easy for conversion, and also helps us a little since the Rand has recently taken kind of a nosedive.
  • Taxis in major cities are shared taxis where prices are negotiated. So don't be surprised when you're trying to wave one down, and one pulls up with 2-3 people already stuffed inside.
  • No visa fees! Hooray!
  • Water. Bring lots of water.

Next up, South Africa!

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