Sunday, November 23, 2008

Zebras!!! (Nov. 22, 2008 - Swakopmund, Namibia)

There seems to be a silver lining to getting up before dawn and hitting the road before the sun comes up. Animals are active in the morning, grazing and hunting out in the open while the temperatures are cooler. As a result, or early morning drives have turned into wildlife spotting sessions, with everyone clutching their cameras and scanning the horizon for anything that doens't look like a bush. Today was no exception. Right away, we came across half a dozen oryx right beside the road, which cantered gracefully as we followed behind slowly. A few minutes later, a huge flock of 13 ostriches was spotted directly on the road in front of us. They trotted away from us with their big poufy feathers bouncing, reminding us of ballerinas tip-toeing in their tutus! Herds of springbok, the occasional jackal, and finally, Raymond came over the speakers with the word I had been waiting for - ZEBRAS!!! A herd was grazing at the base of a hill off in the distance, far enough that you could barely disinguish them from any other animal. But still, they were zebras! Better yet, we soon rounded a corner to see about eight of them right on the road. We slowed down to a crawl to get close. Two went right and the rest went left, but they just stood there on the side of the road checking us out as we climbed over eachother trying to get pictures. They were adorable - big ears and bold stripes. We were thrilled.

Barley a kilometer later, we approached a big sign that said "TROPIC OF CAPRICORN". Now, last night as Raymond explained the next day's schedule and mentioned this landmark, someone asked if we could stop and take pictures there. He jokingly replied that we shouldn't since it was bad luck... Well, we did stop, took our photos, and when we went to start the engine again to leave, someone saw sparks coming off the battery, and pretty soon it was on fire. Someone yelled for everyone to get off the truck in case it blew up, Raymond grabbed the fire extinguisher, and then someone mentioned the bit about bad luck. Hmmmm. The men spent half an hour MacGyver-ing a repair job while the rest of us stood by in the blazing 8am sunshine. I noticed that our herd of zebras was visible on the horizon where we had come from. At least it was a scenic spot to break down!

Onwards, the landscape changed yet again from flat plains to rolling coulees, where strongly bedded rocks were exposed, dipping steeply into the ground. It made for cool topography, as the dark strata were highlighted with rows of yellow grass growing inbetween. We soon veered west, and the landscape eventually became flat once again. Yellow sand dunes and a north-south band of marine cloud appeared on the horizon, and soonafter, we pulled into the coastal town of Walvis Bay. Ocean! And cool air - at least 20°C cooler than the heat of the desert... a welcome reprieve.

Walvis Bay is the main port of Namibia, but we were headed about 20 minutes to the larger town of Swakopmund, which is known both for its adjacent dunescape and the fact that it was the town chosen by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for the birth of their daughter a few years ago. Now there's a claim to fame!

The dunes ended abruptly at the Swakop River, and the town began on its north bank. We filed through the visitor info center to browse through various activities you could do here. We're actually staying here for two nights, so tomorrow is completely at our leisure. And as a bonus, we're not camping! Pink A-frame bungalows will provide real beds and a guaranteed good sleep for a change.

After an afternoon of laundry and errand-running, we all went for dinner at a restaurant that had a sandwich board outside displaying the daily specials: springbok stirfry, grilled oryx, and zebra steak! My jaw dropped at the last one - who could ever order zebra?! Ken had grilled ostrich (which was tasty, texture of chicken but taste of beef) and I had fresh peri peri prawns. So delicious! Birthday cake for one of our group members whose birthday was today rounded out our awesome dinner. Some of us dropped by he "Cool Bananas" bar for a while, which is the only bar in town and is only open on Saturday nights! A few drinks and a little dancing was about all we had in us... the cozy bed and thoughts of no 5am wakeup calls was just too tempting.


  1. I am loving your blog. The photos, Pamie's commentary and the memories of Africa are delicious. I promise I touch base every few days and see what you are up to. Your safari sounds divine! So glad you have Zebes Pam. And the cute lil lion pix.. ahh.. Hope you two are having a supa time. Will chat soon, Love Leigh xoxo

  2. ok, I've been reading blog posts for a half hour now and BAM, now my feet are itchy (travel itch, y'know), thankyouverymuch. So fun, so glad to hear you're kicking back and having a great time! Remember seafood eaten far from the ocean can be a bit sketchy, so be careful. If in doubt, order stuff that's not coated in super spicy sauces (Which disguise flavours of fish going bad!!!). Delhi belly in the desert = not fun.

    Pretty soon, zebras will be ho-hum, but aren't they cute. I wanted to ride them - them, and the giraffes. Can't wait till you get to see them!!!

  3. Heya cousin & Ken,
    Just hot caught up on your blog and really love the photos you've taken. Gets me wanting to take off for parts unlabled as well.

    Nice to see Bocce is having a chance to roam the plains.

    Glad to see that the roughest part so far (other than the 5am wake-up, that would kill me) was a small break-down.

  4. Hey you two. Mark here from the store. Please don't melt in the hot sun. Love the photos. I'll keep reading.

    peace out