Sunday, June 24, 2012


From Botswana we flew to Sosussvlei in the Namib Desert for the last leg of our adventure.

Our days started extremely early here, as in 4:30 am. The first morning we were off to go hot air ballooning at sunrise! We arrived a little early, and watched the balloon get set up. The couple that runs this experience is Belgian, and about half of the other people on the balloon with us were French, so it was a morning filled with lots of French and English conversations.  Anyway, we went up just as the sun was rising over the dunes; suffice it to say the view was incredible. We floated by the Namib-Naukluft Park to the left of us [lots of mountains/rocks] and towards the red dunes of the Namib. While we were in the air we flew over lots of springbok and then a huge group of oryx – the oryx were terrified of the sound of the hot air being released into the balloon, and they bolted in different directions when they heard it! After an hour up in the air, we landed. This landing was a bit bumpy, and we were told to squat down in the basket, which we did. As soon as we got close to the ground the other men working for this company jumped up from the ground to grab onto the basket, trying to steady it and bring it down to the earth. This was semi-successful, but then the wind picked up and we were carried into the air again. Our second landing attempt ended in the basket toppling over. It was entertaining for my family, but I’m pretty sure the group of elderly French people was just confused. After we got off we found a beautiful brunch display, quite literally waiting for us in the middle of the desert! Best brunch of my life. Our French host used this massive knife to cut open the bottles of champagne, and we feasted on crepes, croissants, cheese, and other assorted delicious treats. It was pure heaven. I also tried zebra, and it was great!
the balloon!
our landing was a little bumpy.
That afternoon we checked out Sesriem Canyon. It’s pretty small compared to Fish River [in the south of Nam closer to my site], but still imposing.

Our second and last morning in the desert was another early rising to get to the dunes for sunrise. Our guide Jonas was taking us hiking! Unfortunately for him, Jonas assumed my sisters and I were like the majority of people who he leads around the Namib, and thought we would only make it up the baby dune (Dune 45) before deciding not to climb the biggest one. When we got to that dune, my sisters shut him down – why waste our energy climbing that one when we want to tackle the big one? So onward we went. BIG DADDY: challenge accepted. Big Daddy is a massive dune, 380 meters high, which sits along the Dead Vlei. We climbed up the first part of the dune, and my mom decided that was where she would stay, but I of course got pressured into tackling all of Big Daddy, and Jonas felt it his duty to take us as far as we would go [again, he thought we were going to give up before reaching the top]. Sadly for me, once I realized the magnitude of what we were doing and wanted to turn around, it was too late, there was no turning back. Flashbacks of climbing up the sand in Swakopmund came back as we slowly made the journey uphill. Thankfully Jonas wanted to lead us, and he was slow-going. After about an hour and a half we were at the top. At the time I thought the hike was not worth it, but looking at the pictures now I take it back, the view was awesome. We made it down into the Dead Vlei Pan, which is one of the coolest things I have ever seen – it literally looks like a painting the colors are so vibrant. We sat near the on the salt pan as we emptied our shoes of the pounds of sand that had gotten into them, and made it back to the van before collapsing in the shade. Jonas was not in a great mood from exhaustion, and told us begrudgingly that we were just the second group he’s taken in a year all the way to the top, and that almost everyone gives up after trying the first small dune or getting halfway up Big Daddy. Clearly he didn’t have a good sense of the determination within my sisters. Done. Oh I also vowed never to be pressured into hiking again after this experience [this has already been broken, ay tog!]
Petrified Acacia trees. Unbelievable looking.

And so ended the big part of the trip. We headed back to Windhoek, where we lost Mimi, and then Grace and my mom made the long journey to Luderitz to see my site! I took them around the town, showed them my school, and they got to meet my host family, my awesome neighbor/adopted host dad [who notably got them to eat goat meat without realizing it – everything tastes good on a braai!], and the other volunteers here. The day before they left we went on a boat tour and saw the massive colony of penguins on Halifax Island. After a final stint at the new coffee shop in town [which is so nice it reminds me of America], they were gone. And so ended the best holiday of my life. On to Term 2!

So at the end of Maycation, the tallies rest at:

Group 34 PCVs ran into unexpectedly: 2  - one at Vic Falls, one in Luderitz with his fam!
Cultural gain: learned how to greet people in Zambia and Botswana!
Items lost v. items gained: travel towel lost, lots of weather appropriate clothes gained!
New list of things I miss: quality toilet paper, hair dryers, private cars!!!, radios playing American music, the sound of city life aka cars driving by outside, heating [winter has just now arrived!], chocolate chips, tortilla chips, and good customer service
Things renewed: the many reasons I love Africa. Thank you month-long holiday!

PS Just saw this article on CNN about Sosussvlei - it's really well written and a great read if you want to learn more about this area 

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