Updated: Mar 9
Sleeping in an elephant slaughterhouse and enjoying outdoor showers
Our time in Namibia came with mixed feelings. On one hand, the country has everything you’re looking for when travelling to Africa: endless nature, sunny weather and an abundance of wildlife. And - some would say excitedly - it all comes with the comfort of pretty good road conditions, easy satisfaction of all your basic needs and clean, secure campgrounds. Well, this wasn’t exactly what we had come for. We wanted rough, we wanted dirty and we wanted adventure. But this is not what you get in Namibia. To those who haven’t been, you might best describe it as the Mallorca of Africa: beautiful landscape, weather conditions Germans are craving and adventures in digestible portions. Africa light for those who are willing to pass on the emotional rollercoaster of an overlanding expedition. We definitely struggled to come to terms with our new reality, probably also still mourning Boggy’s temporary loss.
"It turned out to be one of the bigger learnings of our trip - be grateful of what you have and enjoy it while it lasts."
So, we constantly had to remind ourselves: what a privilege to be able to travel like that, to do as we please, not having to worry about a thing. It turned out to be one of the bigger learnings of our trip - be grateful of what you have and enjoy it while it lasts. We were so lucky to be travelling, to live freely. Especially in times when friends and family back home were already headed into the next lockdown…
The next stop on our route was Swakopmund, a city on the coast with a lot of German heritage. People had told us about its’ neat look and the remains of the German settlers. Maybe it’s a problem with us, but in the past, when other travelers had told us about “great” and “beautiful” stops we were mostly not that into it. And it was no different with Swakopmund. If you enjoy walking around a once flourishing town and admiring old German store signs accompanied by very cold wind - Swakopmund’s for you! We found it to be uninteresting and used the time to deal with the first of many car issues. After we had the fridge fixed (or so we thought) and enjoyed a decent coffee we took off again for the Skeleton Coast.
It sounds promising, almost adventurous but turns out to be rather unimpressive. The Skeleton Coast is a long stretch of desert along the ocean where ships used to run aground and there was a time when the shallow waters were covered in shipwrecks. That is not the case anymore, you will find some remains but basically only one wreck that is still recognizable as such. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the solitude on the road, having all the endless nature to ourselves with no one to be seen wherever we looked. Driving along the coast we were slowly making our way up north, heading for the Etosha National Park.
We had to make one more stop which turned out be our most favorite campground of the entire trip so we ended up staying two nights. On our way there we had our first encounter with truly wild living animals - giraffes enjoying snacks off trees along the road and even an entire family of elephants passing in the distance!
The camp spots in the middle of nowhere were built into small rocks, giving shelter from the heat but also from curious eyes while you are enjoying the outdoor shower. Said shower led to some confusion in the first place, when the guy from the campground came up to us the first evening, asking us whether he should ‘fire up the donkey’. We were like: hmmmm, no, let’s maybe not set the donkey on fire (wondering what donkey he was talking about since we hadn’t seen one all day). Turns out, an outdoor shower heated with a wood fire is called a donkey shower. Why, you might ask. I don’t know, I will answer. But I’m sure some smartass will have an answer for you. Anyone?
Oh, and las but not least: Imagine watching shooting stars while you’re doing your business on the outdoor toilet!
We eventually arrived at the gates of Etosha National Park and could already tell from the guestbook where we had to sign in that there were not a lot of visitors, the majority Namibians and South Africans. It was crazy hot when we got to our first campground in the late afternoon - Olifantsrus, which used to be a culling site that was established in the 1980s due to the growing overpopulations of elephants in the park. Bjoern was a little confused why I had booked us into a former elephant slaughterhouse where you could still walk underneath the framework off of which the dead elephants were hanging in order to be taken apart. It’s all part of the experience, Benzino: the good, the bad, the ugly.
We got lucky with our second campground, Halali, which had a nicely located waterhole with seats overlooking the area. We were sitting down at dawn and witnessed a family of elephants with tiny babies getting a drink and later mama rhinos with their babies - including a hyena chase off. It was truly a magical experience watching these wild animals so close, unbothered by our presence.
We spent a total of two nights and three days in the park, driving from waterhole to waterhole, always on the lookout for wild animals. Even though we quickly realized that we are not very good safari tourists (too impatient, too much sitting in the car) we did see plenty of animals: elephants, zebras, antelopes, kudus, wildebeest, warthogs…. And, to Katharina’s delight: baby elephants, baby zebras, baby rhinos, baby hippos, baby antelopes, baby kudus, baby wildebeest, baby warthogs!
The one thing we were not able to find were lions. So, we dug deep into our bag of tricks, played the Lion King theme on full volume - and there they were! Three lionesses strolling lazily right in front of our car towards a waterhole and enjoying a drink while we were watching them. Thank you, Elton John.
TRAVEL TIME: December 3-10, 2020
Kaokoland: Hoada Campsite