|Tara and I began our overland tour in Cape Town with 'The Africa Travel Company' on Sunday, March 19th, 2006. Our tour is for 56 days and will end in mid-May in Nairobi, Kenya. We met our tour leader, Sharon, and our fellow travelling companions at our pre-departure meeting the night before we left. There are 17 people in total and so far we are extremely happy with our guide, our group, the staff and our activities thus far. There are 2 other crew members, Steve, our driver and Hesben, our fabulous cook! These 2 guys are from Kenya and are the nicest guys you could meet! We quickly discovered that we won't be losing any weight on this trip as Hesben cooks up some amazing meals. On our first night of camping, I absolutely gorged myself on the beef stroganoff - as I figured that Hesben was probably trying to impress us with his best dish! But, we have been on the road for 2 weeks now and every meal has been fabulous. It is amazing how well Hesben can cook on the open fire.
Other than the food, there have been many highlights so far! Our trip began with 2 nights in South Africa. We are camping for most of the time but we do get a few hostels along the way. On our third day we crossed the border into the country of Namibia. There we set up camp near the beautiful 'Fish River Canyon'. This canyon is not as big as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but still very impressive. The big difference being that there was absolutely nobody else around except for our group! The land around the canyon was semi-desert and not cultivated and there were no villages nearby. We saw the canyon both at sunrise and sunset...which reminds me that getting up before sunrise has been a common theme on this trip, which makes these days long. Except for the odd late night at the bar, we are usually in bed by about 10 pm.
Our next highlight was in a place called 'Sossusvlei' - which is in the middle of the Namib desert and is famous for it's sand dunes. The dunes shift with the winds which sculpts them into a variety of different shapes. The Namib desert stretches for 2000 km along the coast of South West Africa. In Sossusvlei we went on a very hot desert walk with an interesting nature guide. If you can believe it... it actually rained in the desert for about 10 mins while we were there (very unusual)! Our guide Franz descended from a tribe known as the 'San' people. As well as talking to us about the formation of the dunes and the types of life (insects, lizards, birds, etc) that live in the dunes, he also taught us some life lessons of his culture. He talked about how a woman should have a 'sweet tongue' and if she doesn't (ie - she begins to nag and harass her partner) then he should leave and find another woman. The girls in the group thought this information was quite interesting, and the guys had a good laugh. That evening we climbed a dune called 'Dune 45' (they all have numbers) and we watched the sunset.
Our next adventure began in the town of Swakopmund. This place is basically a seaside holiday town surrounded by desert. People describe it as being more German than Germany (as Namibia was once a German colony). But it is known best now as the 'adrenaline capital' of Namibia. Tara and I partook in 2 of the many adrenaline rushing activities on offer. We had a go at sandboarding again. I reached a top speed of about 75 km/h going down the different sand dunes in much the same manner as tabogonning. Tara was actually less fond of sandboarding than I, but she still enjoyed it. However, the experience of jumping out of a perfectly good plane at 10,000 ft was the most amazing thing that Tara and I have ever done. I was very excited about the jump, but Tara was a bit anxious at first and needed a bit of persuading to do it! In the end she said it was one of the best experiences she has ever had. Thankfully we were not alone. We were straped tightly to an experienced skydiver. My instructor was the owner and had jumped over 7000 times and Tara's instructor had jumped 1779 times. They have both lived to tell about their many jumps, so I felt confident in their experience! The 'free fall' lasted about 30 seconds - this was by far the most adrenaline- rushing part of the jump. We were falling at a speed of about 230km/h. The greatest part of the experience was that you felt like you could look around and watch the ground come closer and closer until the parachute opened at 5000 ft. After that we got to enjoy the view before landing about 5 minutes later. We had a celebratory drink at the bottom and got to watch our video on the t.v. in the bar area with the rest of our group. (6 others from our overland safari truck jumped as well that day.)
Etosha National Park was our next highlight. We did 3 'game drives' in the park looking for animals. We were lucky enough to see 2 male lions, 3 elephants, many zebra, giraffes, antelope, wildbeeste, hyenas, ostriches, birds and more... We actually had 9 giraffes running beside and in front of our overland truck for about 3-4 minutes providing us with a real 'African wildlife experience'. We can hardly wait to get to our next game park to see more.
Currently, we are in Maun, Botswana. We are camping just outside of the town near the wetland region of the Okavango Delta - which is the world's largest inland delta and Botswana's premier tourist attraction. Yesterday, we did a 45 minute scenic flight over the delta and it was stunning. We flew about 500 ft. above ground, seeing many animals including: a herd of at least 12 elephants, many giraffe and zebra, 2 buffalo bathing in the water and lots of springbok( a species of antelope).
Over the next few days we will be heading to Chobe National Park for some more game driving and then it is on to Victoria Falls - for you Canadians, it is compared to Niagara Falls but on a much grander scale. It is regarded as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.