South Africa Wrap-up

Another voyage is drawing to a close. It’ll take some time to get used to a non-nomadic lifestyle. But it’s always a pleasure to come home.

No longer camping, we spend a few nights at the Kleinbosch Lodge.

Annandale Road, near Stellenbosch

Our last visit is to Rust en Vrede wine estate. Very classy.

‘Rust en Vrede’ means ‘Rest and Peace’

Back in Cape Town, we visit the South African National Gallery.

‘It’s such a perfect day…’

We visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden for the first time.

The Gardens were built on grounds originally purchased by Cecil Rhodes.

Speaking of that arch-imperialist, we’re surprised to find an intact statue of the man in the Company Gardens in Cape Town. Among the kind of people who love to destroy statues of all imperfect men, his statues usually top the list.

‘Your hinterland is there!’

Nobody turns down his scholarships to Oxford, though, as far as we know. (Which are open to all races and religions, as specified by Rhodes himself.)

Anyway, back to Kirstenbosch. According to Wikipedia:

‘Kirstenbosch places a strong emphasis on the cultivation of indigenous plants. When Kirstenbosch was founded in 1913 to preserve the flora native to the South Africa’s territory, it was the first botanical garden in the world with this ethos, at a time when invasive species were not considered an ecological and environmental problem.’

The forest canopy walk

After visiting the gardens, we go for a pizza at Ferdinando’s, in the trendy Observatory district. The pizza is delicious.

Maria finds a place for yoga sessions on nearby Waterkant Street. (Nearby to where we’re staying, that is.) The hillside neighbourhood has pastel-coloured vintage houses, cafes and restaurants galore.

The Good…

The polar opposite of central Cape Town is the slum of Khayelitsha, which we pass through driving on the N2.

…the Bad, and the Ugly

Khayelitsha is one of the most notorious slums in Africa. Having said that, it’s still South Africa, so note that there are electricity poles and satellite dishes for everyone.

Let’s just say we’re happy not to have a break-down here.

Our last full day in Cape Town, we visit the SANCCOB seabird sanctuary.

Pool for the permanent residents

We pay extra for a personal tour. This includes a ringside seat to feeding time.

The waiting is the hardest part

The penguin feeder is easily the most popular human in the centre.

‘Hello, and thanks for all the fish’

Birds are cared for in all stages, from ‘still in the egg’ to release. This woman spends her day hand-feeding baby penguins.

There are veterinary surgeons at hand. This poor little guy needed to have a pin inserted to heal a broken foot. (We can sypathize – we both have titanium pins in our ankles.)

Better healthcare than Khayelitsha

They set him down to assess where he is in his healing journey.

Still a bit wobbly on his pins

Sight or Insight of the Day

The SANCCOB centre is in a neighbourhood named ‘Table View’. From here, you can see how Table Mountain is flanked by Devil’s Peak on the left and Lion’s Head on the right.

Our favourite view

The next day, we fly home. A 15-hour flight direct from Cape Town to Washington, DC, then a brief flight to Ottawa.

We have a feeling we’ll be back.

To the Wine Country

We spend a few days in beautiful Plettenberg Bay. There has been a lot of shark activity here recently.

Maria goes in anyway

There is a thick sea mist covering Plettenberg Bay for most of our time here. It finally lifts to reveal the surrounding sea and mountains.

Mossel Bay is our next stop.

The Bartolomeu Dias museum has a replica of his ship. This vessel sailed from Lisbon to Mossel Bay in 1988.

Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point in Africa.

Where two oceans meet

There’s a lighthouse you can climb.

You get a great view from the top.

Antarctica is somewhere over the horizon

The trip from Agulhas to the wine country goes through the Overberg region, full of golden rolling hills and vast grain farms.

Wineries on our list to visit include Boschendal, La Motte, Alto, and Rust en Vrede.

At La Motte winery
At Boschendal winery

While driving from Franschhoek to Paarl, we discover that when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, it wasn’t from Robben Island – it was from Victor Verster Prison. It’s still a working prison.

Nelson’s column

Speaking of Nelson Mandela, we are walking along a street in Stellenbosch when we come across a pair of his shoes in a shop window. It seems they were auctioned off for some fundraising event.

Big shoes to fill

In Paarl, we visit the Afrikaans Language Museum, which is less than riveting. But brings us to an interesting – but purely anecdotal – observation: about 80-90 % of the (white) South Africans we meet are Afrikaans speakers. (Most of whom speak perfect but heavily-accented English.) What happened to all the English South Africans? My theory is that many of them probably had access to British or other passports and left the country.

Sight or Insight of the Day

Our last camping experience is in Franschhoek. This is all the stuff we acquired for our comfort and convenience while on the road. As usual, there is a big giveaway.

‘Imagine no possessions…’ – John Lennon

We’ve camped about half the nights of our trip. Almost all of them delightful.

This photo is a visual reminder for any future voyage. We had precisely what we needed this time around.


Addo Elephant Park – Park Name Checks Out

After we re-enter South Africa proper, we spend a few days at the ultra-civilized Yellow Sands Caravan Park.

We revisit Addo Elephant Park. ‘Revisit’ because we came here on one of our previous visits. There are lots of elephants in Addo – over 500. So many pachyderm pics follow.

It’s good to be back in a game park. The first thing we notice is that the elephants in Addo are used to being close to people (in their cars, that is.)

Heading for our car

Even mama elephants with young ones don’t become tense and anxious.

Tense and Anxious? Moi?

Not only elephants. Many animals in the park that are usually very skittish and bolt at the first approach have become accustomed to carloads of visitors. They stand calmly a metre or two away while you admire them.

Like this zebra.

And this ostrich.

But elephants are still the stars of the show. We are amused by this elephant that doesn’t want to share his waterhole with a family of warthogs.

Every now and then, he sprays them with a blast of water to drive them away. They keep coming back, refusing to be bullied.

Of course, with a lot of elephants comes copious amounts of elephant dung. Addo is also home to the rare flightless dung beetle.

This vehicle brakes for dung beetles

And oceans of urine, too. Apparently, elephants can gush out gallons of the stuff. According to Global Sanctuary for Elephants:

“An elephant will urinate approximately 13 gallons (50 liters) throughout the day, voiding 3 gallons (10 liters) each time they urinate.  That’s the equivalent of 5 bottles of soda each time.”

Looks like more than 3 gallons

Anywhere there is a waterhole or a mud hole, there are elephants. These ones have found pitch-black mud that almost looks like crude oil.

They become so blissed out during these mud baths that they disconcertingly resemble dead bodies.

I break the rules and get out of our vehicle to help a small tortoise cross the road.

Maria keeps an eye out for lions

Another water hole, another mob of elephants.

It’s an important part of their socialization.

This juvenile is having a blast.

The park sometimes tops up the waterholes from a tanker truck. At first, the driver leaps out and manages to get thousands of tons of elephant flesh to back off by shouting. They gradually drift back, ignoring the truck and its driver.

Water for elephants

Several locations have fenced-in blinds, where you can safely observe the wildlife.

Elephants come in all sizes, from super-jumbo to pocket-sized.

We notice many zebras with foals at this time of the year.

Motherly love

Surprisingly, the gestation period for zebras is 12 to 13 months.

Mother-daughter outing

Sight or Insight of the day

Maria says we should include something about load-shedding. This is an everyday occurrence in South Africa, where the power shuts down. This can range from ‘inconvenient’ to ‘highly dangerous’. You kind of get used to it, but this morning, when the power went off yet again, we agreed this was getting really old, as they say.

As usual, there’s a good article in The Economist that sheds light on the subject – pun fully intended. There’s also a report from Harvard University warning the entire economy could collapse through the incompetence, corruption, and mismanagement of the ruling ANC. Pretty strong stuff.

So the ANC, which was bequeathed essentially the only industrialized country in the continent, has got a bit of explaining to do.

In light of all this, the election coming up in May should be interesting. Registration of voters has begun. We see this sign while driving through the town of Knysna.

South Africa – The Wild Coast

We head for Ballito, a ritzy community about 40 KMs east of Durban.

Willard Beach

It’s very pleasant here. We stay for three days. Maria arranges to attend a yoga class at the exclusive Simbithi Country Club.

Then it’s back down the slab, through Durban to the Wild Coast.

This lies mainly in territory that used to be the apartheid-era homeland of Transkei.

The apartheid government probably meant to create this as a dumping ground for unwanted South Africans. But at least visually, it’s very pretty. Lots of green hills and empty spaces. Good for sheep and cattle.

Most people live in typical rural settlements. They’re picturesque, if not exactly luxurious.

The few cities in the area, such as Mththa and Dutywa, are pretty awful, like most African cities. (Dutywa, aptly enough, means “place of disorder” in the Xhosa language.)

The word ‘post-apocalyptic’ comes to mind

Lots of garbage, noise, and chaos. Lots of idle, drunken guys at 10 in the morning. Lots of crumbling buildings. We don’t linger.

Straight Outta Mthatha

It’s a relief to be back in the countryside. Nelson Mandela was born around here somewhere.

The hills are alive

Many people paint their houses in pastel colours.

One theory we have about the origins of the name “Wild Coast”: the sea is very rough in these parts. The roar of waves crashing on the rocky shore is our soundtrack for the next five days or so.

We spend three of those days at the Coffee Bay Campsite, set in lush indigenous forest, with a private beach. Sort of. Locals seem to to wander through at will and at all hours.

Not-so-private beach

Our constant companion is Frisky. (Pronounced “Frrrrisky”, with a heavily-rolled Afrikaans R.)

Good dog, Frisky

At night, he sleeps near our tent. During the day he sleeps, well, just about anywhere. As long as he’s around us.

He’s such a well-behaved dog. If we could, we’d bring him home and adopt him.

Our sidekick

(Sidebar story about adopting dogs: The Economist recently published a story about people in India going ga-ga over dogs as pets. We find it surprising that in an article describing how people are opting for Lhasa Apsos and other ‘pure’ breeds, there is no mention whatsoever of the estimated sixty-two million stray dogs in the country. These are the most wretched, miserable, diseased and cruelly-used creatures imaginable.

Then I realized – the author is probably an Indian national. We find that people who live in developing countries are oblivious to the everyday horrors that surround them. And it seems impolite to point them out.)

We drive to a local attraction, Hole-in-the Wall. We plan to hike there, but are surrounded by touts that just will not leave us alone. They claim we need a ”guide”.

So we go home again, with the Hole-in-the-Wall unseen. Next day, we drive into the nearest village to have one of our tires looked at.

The tire guy removes the tire, tests it for leaks, and puts it back on. The charge is 50 rand, or $3.59 CAD.

Sight or Insight of the Day

Hey, we forgot to mention something that happened in Botswana. In a previous entry, we mentioned a pair of Finnish women we met in Cape Maclear in Malawi.

While making a brief stop in a mini-mall in Kasane, Botswana, who do we see in the parking lot in their snazzy Land Rover? The Finnish pair! They had spent the intervening month or so traveling around Malawi and Zambia and were on their way to Namibia. We chat for five minutes and part ways again.

What are the odds that two parties, following completely different (and random) itineraries, encounter each other in the vastness of Africa? It was a kind of “Livingstone, I presume” moment.

After we first met them, they often came up in our conversation – their fearlessness, their completely realistic and un-romanticised approach to traveling in Africa, their tutoring us in the best way to repel monkeys. (One word: slingshots.)

Back in South Africa

We drive from Gaborone through the platinum-mining belt around Rustenburg to Pretoria.

We would’ve thought that Pretoria, as the capital of South Africa, would be more orderly than it is. Like most large South African cities (Cape Town being a glaring exception), the middle of town has been left to degenerate into a slummy, unsafe no-man’s land.

Church Square is about the only picturesque place in town.

Church Square

Our accommodation is in the slightly more upscale neighbourhood of Hatfield, where most of the embassies are. We still hear gunfire at night, though.

Dutch bank building in Church Square

The Pretoria Art Museum is our first stop. On its grounds is a memorial to our old friend Bartholemeu Dias.

With a quote from Camões

From the Pretoria Art Museum, we walk several kilometres through the town centre to Kruger House, the last home of potato-nosed president of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger.

Kruger House in Pretoria

We are told by a security guard there that we are taking a serious risk walking around central Pretoria, that at any moment we could be robbed of everything, including ‘the shoes on your feet’. We heed his advice and take an Uber home.

One day, we take the fast, safe Gautrain into Johannesburg to do some business and shopping. (The Gautrain uses Bombardier cars, I believe.)

The Drakensberg Mountains are a day’s drive away. We’re happy to say that the major highways are still in top shape. Being toll roads probably helps.

The N3 between Johannesburg and Durban

The scenery is beautiful as well.

Adrift on the veldt

The Dragon Peaks Resort is where stay for the next few nights.

Must be braai o’clock

Camping, of course. We splurge on a site with a private kitchen and bathroom.

The eponymous Dragon Peaks

Next day, we visit the Boer War battle site of Spion Kop.

View from atop Spion Kop
Boer memorial
British memorial
Another British memorial

The most recent addition (2015) to the memorials is one erected to the Indian Volunteer Ambulance Corps, whose presence gets little mention in the history books. One of the names may be familiar – M.K. Ghandi.

Mahatma was here

We think this is the Monk’s Cowl. A lot of these formations have been given names that are, um, a bit overimaginative.

Winston Churchill was here as a war correspondent during the Boer War. He was captured when the troop train he was on was derailed. We finally track down – no pun intended – the small memorial commemorating this event.

Off the rails right here

We drive to visit the formation known as the Giant’s Castle. The only towns we see are Zulu settlements.

Informal settlement

After a 60 kilometre drive through scenic countryside, we arrive.

‘Doesn’t look like a castle to me’. says Maria

When we were visiting Spion Kop, we came across a South African couple who asked if we were going to Durban. We said yes. They said ”Ach, Durban’s a dump now. You should go to Ballito.”

So we do.

Sight or Insight of the Day

Apparently, a few weeks ago South Africa officially charged Israel with genocide at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. (We don’t pay much attention to news when we travel.) That’s pretty rich. Can this be the same South Africa that failed to arrest a crazed, blood-soaked Sudanese warlord, Omar Al-Bashir, in 2015?

Zuma yuks it up with Al-Bashir

Besides its unabashed life-long love affair with Moscow, the South African ANC government is well known for embracing genuine, bona-fide génocidaires. Just this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed another crazed, blood-soaked Sudanese warlord: Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, leader of the Sudanese rebel group, the Rapid Support Forces. The RSF’s tally of victims climbs higher every day.

Ramaphosa grasps the blood-soaked mitts of Hemedti

The hypocrisy is staggering. Can people really be fooled by the performative song-and-dance of the South African ANC government, surely one of the most rapacious and incompetent governments on the planet? Any shred of virtue the ANC ever held died with Nelson Mandela. I shake my head in despair.

Botswana north to south

While in Chobe National Park, we see this enormous lizard crossing the road.

Crossing monitor

Because we visited Moremi and Makgadikgadi last time we were in Botswana in 2020, we make a beeline for the south of the country. We overnight in Francistown and stay in a guesthouse for a change. We even go out for pizza!

Next day, I get a speeding ticket for going 95KMH in an 80KMH zone. 400 Pula, which is about 40$ CAD.

Document of shame

We reach Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. We stay at the delightful Mokolodi Backpackers just outside of town. It’s home to a menagerie of animals, including several cats, an enormous pot-bellied pig, and a very friendly bull terrier-type dog, Lizzie, who loses no time in attaching herself to us.

Good dog, Lizzie

Meat is a real bargain in this part of the world, as we’ve mentioned. For example, we purchase this gigantic tomahawk steak for the equivalent of 9.20$ CAD. They usually go for a lot more than that at home. As in ‘prohibitively expensive’.

We drive to Khutse Game Reserve. The reserve is 2,500 square kilometres. We are the only people in the park. It’s VERY remote: no cell service, no electricity.

A good test of our 4X4 skills

We don’t see any lions or big cats. We DO see elephants, giraffes, eland, ostriches, and several interesting birds.

At Molose waterhole

It involves 50-KM drives down 2-wheel tracks like this.

That Lonesome Road

We stay in a couple of campsites. This is Moreswe Campsite KHMOR-02.

Tracks4Africa describes the sites like this:

“There’s no water inside the park so visitors must be totally self-sufficient when staying here. Facilities at the campsites consist of a wooden shelter with concrete floor, bucket shower, and a surprisingly ‘unsmelly’ long drop chemical toilet. But no running water.”

Roughing it

Note the screening material duct-taped to the windows: we sleep in Dassie because these unfenced sites are well known for having wildlife walking through during the night. Including lions and elephants.

We are unvisited all night. Not sure if we’re relieved or slightly disappointed.

Sight or Insight of the Day

Going back to JoJo the mongoose – turns out he’s not just friendly, he’s super-friendly.

JoJo jumps into Maria’s lap

It’s unusual, because mongooses usual wander in big groups and are very social. This one seems to like hanging out with people.

He tracks us down to our campsite to pay a visit.

JoJo jumps into my lap

And his name isn’t even JoJo. When we first see him in his house, “JoJo” is emblazoned on the front.

This turns out to be a South African company that sells agricultural products. Including this owl house that the proprietors here provided for his dwelling.

Exit Namibia, Enter Botswana

It’s January 10th, Maria’s birthday! <Cue wild celebration>

We spend New Year’s Eve in Opuwo. We settle in for a comfortable stay at the ultra-posh Opuwo Country Lodge.

Said to be the largest thatched building in Namibia

Again, we stay at the campsite, the steerage class of posh hotels, where available. This has become a habit of ours: find a fancy lodge that has a camping option and enjoy all the amenities at a fraction of the price. Imagine staying at the Chateau Montebello for 30 or 40 dollars a night. Canadian dollars!

Maria spends a lot of time in the infinity pool overlooking a beautiful valley.

Opuwo has a lot of National Geographic-style costumed locals, mainly Himba people and Herero people. They are related, but quite different, both in lifestyle and clothing habits.

The following is a selection of each. (All photos taken surreptitiously by Maria.)

Herero women
Himba women
Herero woman
Himba couple
Herero woman
Himba women

We drive to Epupa Falls, on the Angolan border. It’s 350 kilometres down a gravel road and back.

On the way to the Caprivi Strip, we wind up stopping in Etosha for one last night.

King Nehale Lya Mpingana Gate

So we are back in Botswana. We stay at the Senyati Safari Camp.

On the road to Senyati

We stayed here in 2020, just when our trip was cancelled by COVID. It’s still a great place to stay.

Especially because of their waterhole, which always has lots of wildlife slaking their thirst.

We drive into Chobe National Park for some game viewing.

Hippos on the Chobe River

Sight or Insight of the Day

Among the pleasures of being back in Senyati: there is a tame banded mongoose on the property.

JoJo at rest

Turns out he is super-friendly. I can cross ‘pet a banded mongoose’ off my bucket list.

Namibia – Inland to Etosha

From the Skeleton Coast, we drive inland. We visit a petrified forest.

Petrified tree trunk

Nearby is the UNESCO-listed site of the Twyfelfontein cave engravings.

One-way menagerie

Our guide, Harold, is very knowledgeable and well-spoken. He says ‘Indeed!’ a lot.

The mute stones speak, Harold interprets

This is a puff adder sleeping between some boulders. They’re extremely poisonous.

Aptly enough, its Latin name is Bitis arietans

The next day, we visit another cultural relic, the cave paintings in the Brandberg mountains.

Brandberg Mountains

We have to hike a few kilometres in the company of a guide to get here.

The game’s afoot

Among the figures on display are the ‘White Lady‘ who it turns out is actually a man. Possibly.

We end up overnighting in the mining town of Uis, a rough-and-ready place with a tin mine on the outskirts.

After a lightning detour to Windhoek for an obligatory vehicle inspection, it’s back up north.

Near Outjo, we stay at the luxurious Sophienhof Lodge. (Just camping, of course.) There is a wild female ostrich that casually walks around the grounds.

We plan to spend Christmas in Etosha National Park. When we first arrive in the district, we stay at the Etosha Trading Post. It’s close to the Etosha’s main gate leading to Okaukuejo, the park HQ. In the park itself, we also stay in Namutoni (with its cool German fort), Halali, and Olifantsrus (about which see below.)

Site of the Great Windstorm

On our first day in the park, we are lucky to see some lions. This big male is guarding an eviscerated zebra carcass.

At Maria’s insistence, I’m inserting a photo of the eviscerated zebra carcass.

Some lionesses are nearby.

You can see how close we are.

One benefit of the recent rainstorm – the roads in the park are full of puddles that are fun to drive through in a high 4X4 vehicle.


We are really lucky to have a close encounter with a rhinoceros.

It really feels like being up close and personal with a dinosaur.

I ask Maria to take a lot of photos – these creatures could become extinct in our (dwindling) lifetime.

We always get a kick out of seeing elephants.

We see lots of other wildlife in the park – zebras, giraffes, many kinds of antelope, a hyena – but it’s more of a thrill to see them in the flesh rather than in repeated photos. So we limit ourselves to a few good examples.

For some reason, the local moths go berserk over wine. We have to put some in a plate to keep them from harassing us.

Moth Bacchanalia

There are giant termite mounds everywhere. Often they envelope a tree tunk.

Our last campsite in Etosha is Olifantsrus. It has a wonderfully designed waterhole observing platform.

It’s the most austere of the Etosha accommodation options. Remote. 10 Campsites only. No shop, no curio stalls. We love it.

Sight or Insight of the Day

Olifantsrus – which means ”elephant’s rest'” in Afrikaans – is ironically named. This was the site of an outdoor elephant abattoir between 1983 and 1985.

Over 500 elephants were butchered here. It reminds me of abandoned whaling stations. There is the same haunting sense of vast amounts of blood being spilled for dubious human purposes.

The Culling Fields

It has an excellent information centre describing the reasons and method for this considerable culling. In short, it was believed the number of elephants in the park at that time was unsustainable.

See you in another life, Jumbo

I was hoping to find the entire text online somewhere, but no such luck. One excerpt:

‘Taking the life of an animal, let alone entire herds of a species regarded as highly intelligent, is a decision made only after careful analysis and circumspection.’

According to this info, three conditions were strictly adhered to:

  1. Entire elephant herds (family units) had to be dispatched rapidly, in order that there be as little disturbance and trauma as possible for surrounding elephants.
  2. Optimum utilization of all elephant body parts was essential.
  3. As much scientific data as possible must be obtained from the culled elephants.

Namibia: A Few Small Contretemps…

We have had a few minor setbacks recently. But let’s proceed.

First, happy holidays to everyone at home! We think about you all the time.

We spend Christmas in Etosha National Park. The first few days, we stay at a campground a few kilometres from the park gate. While there, we are lashed by a sudden cyclonic storm that brought down waves of driving rain and gale-force winds.

One of our contretemps

Certainly not what we’re used to recently. Among the casualties: our poor tent now looks like it’s been through the wars, being patched up with duct tape. Also, all of the cables for our electronics were left out and thoroughly waterlogged. Some are damaged beyond repair, like the (one-of-a-kind) charging cable for our laptop. Hence the delay in blog-posting. See you in another life, charging cable.

Anyway, going back a few weeks: we drive up the coast on our way to Skeleton Coast National Park. We go seventy kilometres out of our way to camp in a wilderness campsite run by the Namibian Save the Rhino Trust.

The last few kilometres run along a narrow trail of sharp rocks.

There are no fences.

We take the unusual step of sleeping in the back of the truck. It’s not very comfortable.

On the road to this place, we see a lot of Welwitschia plants. These bizarre plants can be over a thousand years old. They really look prehistoric.

They are also the national plant of Namibia. If you look at the Namibian coat of arms in the previous entry, you’ll see a stylized Weltwitschia plant under the shield.

Sounds like ‘Welsh Witch’ to me

So after backtracking another seventy kilometres to the main road – ‘main road’ being still a generous description – we get a flat tire, no doubt from the sharp rocks of the Save-the-Rhino camp. The tire is ripped to shreds. We can’t figure out how to get the spare out from under the vehicle. Fortunately for us, a South African family pulls over and swiftly changes the tire. The spare is also flattish. Of course, this family has an industrial-strength air compressor. Once again, we are saved by the kindness of strangers.

So we wind up returning to Swakopmund to buy a new tire and get the spare repaired. (It turned out to have a nail in it.) This is not so bad, we get to see the dog Mischa again!

So, we set out again for the Skeleton Coast National Park. Skeletons of ships, that is.

Wreck of the Zeila

According to Shipwreck World:

‘MFV Zeila (L758) was a South African wetfish trawler that was sold as scrap metal to an Indian company by Hangana Fishing of Walvis Bay and got stranded 20km North from Wlotzbaken, Namibia on the 26th August 2008 when it came loose from its towing line while on its way to Bombay, India shortly after it left Walvis Bay.’

We pass Cape Cross, home of the Cape Cross seal colony. There can be up to a hundred thousand seals here.

Just imagine the smell

Because it’s breeding season, there are thousands of cute-as-a-button seal pups around. Unfortunately, there are also hundreds of dead seal pups as well, in varying states of decomposition. We find this so sad that we only stay for a few minutes. See you in another life, seal pups.

Cape Cross is so named because Diogo Cão, a Portuguese explorer, set up some crosses here in the 1480s.

And they’re still here

One of Namibia’s resources is salt. Lots of salt.

Salt of the Earth

Here’s another wreck that’s accessible from the road.

Wreck of the South West Seal

We come across the remains of an old oil rig from the 60s.

Any other contretemps? We had to make a considerable detour to Windhoek to fulfil the requirements of our vehicle rental that it be checked every 10,000 KMs.

All in all, nothing too serious. It’s almost New Year’s Eve – we’ll fill in more intervening activities soon.

Sight or Insight of the Day

Like everyone else, we’ve been getting ready for Christmas Day.

Maria likes the South African method of BBQ-ing, using a combination of charcoal and small bits of exotic African wood. So for Christmas, I thoughtfully gift her a bundle of artisanally-gathered (by me) Mopane twigs.

What every woman wants

In return, Maria’s present to me is a brand-new Hewlett-Packard laptop. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Um, thanks!

Actually, we need it to replace our fancy travelin’-and-blog-writin’ MS Surface laptop, which without a working charging cable – see entry above – is just an expensive doorstop. We have had to replace the oddball MS Surface charging cable 3 times since we’ve had the thing, at a cumulative cost of, well, a new laptop. Curse you, Microsoft.

More Namibia

As mentioned in the last entry, seeing that whale breaching was a real treat.

Whale-watching station

Note the small BBQ to the right. Almost every night, we dine on rib-eyes, T-bones, and fillet steaks, superbly grilled by Maria. Beef is a bargain in this part of the world.

Billboard at Namibian border

So is wine. We’ve been enjoying fine South African wines for half the price we pay in Canada. In fact, prices are very reasonable here (considering the standard of living) compared to east Africa, where prices are appalling (considering the standard of living).

Besides whales, the local waters hold other strange apparitions. We think this is a diamond-mining ship. It’s lit up like a Christmas tree at night.

Mystery ship

We drive around the peninsula to explore other parts.

Including Grosse Bucht, popular with windsurfers. Despite Arctic conditions, Maria insists on going for a dip.

You see a lot of flamingos in Africa. We’ve seen them in Kenya, and Malawi, and several places here in Southern Africa. They like salt marshes.

Escape from the Lawn Ornament Factory

Back in Lüderitz. Some more examples of German influence.




This is the main feature of Namibian tourist brochures and posters – mountainous red sand dunes, blue sky, and not much else.

Destination Sossusvlei

This is a Mecca for lovers of deserts. (Guilty as charged.)

Parking space is not a problem

The red sand gives everything a vaguely Martian look

Some of these dunes are hundreds of metres high.

Maria in front of the aptly-named ‘Deadvlei’

This is all part of the Germany-sized Namib Naukluft Park.

We trudge back from the half-hour trek to Deadvlei.

The Only Living Boy in Naukluft

Our camping location is in nearby Sesriem. There are jackals in the night and oryxes browsing outside the dishwashing area during the day.

Oryxes are found throughout Namibia. Their name comes from the ancient Greek word for ‘pick-axe’.

Also called ‘Gemsbok’ in South Africa

They feature prominently on the Namibian coat of arms.

‘Two Oryx Proper’, in heraldic terms

Then it’s through more desert on the way to the coast.

We finally reach the coast at Walvis Bay. Walvis Bay itself doesn’t look too appealing, so we carry on up the coast to Swakopmund.

The road between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund reminds us of the United Arab Emirates.

Lots of ship traffic at Walvis Bay. It’s Namibia’s main port.

Swakopmond, like Lüderitz, has lots of German-era buildings.

All that’s missing is men in lederhosen and women in dirndls.

We have a good time in Swakopmund. It’s pretty cosmopolitan, compared to Lüderitz. Less remote-feeling. The best restaurant in town is The Tug. We eat there twice. The town has great bookshops.


A few strange memorials in the middle of town. One is for fallen German soldiers of both World Wars. Even though South West Africa was administered by British ally South Africa for all of one conflict and three quarters of the other.

War Memorial

Close by is one even stranger, the Marine Memorial. It’s a memorial to the – relatively few – German soldiers who died in the Herero War of 1904-1907, commonly recognized as the first genocide of the twentieth century. (I always assume that everyone is familiar with this event, but whenever I mention it, I get blank stares. I find this surprising, especially in these days when everyone claims to be an expert in Colonial oppression.)

Sight or Insight of the Day

In Swakopmund, we stay at the Desert Sky Backpackers. It’s clean, comfortable, and well located.

The best thing is the owner’s dog, Mischa. She’s the friendliest dog ever, and soon latches onto us as a pair of attention-lavishing suckers.

Good dog, Mischa!

She follows us around the property. We kind of adopt her, taking her for walks along the beach.

Walkin’ the Dog