My first few days in Namibia certainly yielded a rollercoaster of emotions for me. Whilst everything from the landscape to the animals to the food and the people were fantastic, it’ safe to say that a couple of things simply didn’t go to plan.
Let’s have a quick recap in case you are new to the blog: I landed in Namibia after 24 hours of exhausting travel; the brakes on my car failed and I plowed through a give way junction; we got held up massively in traffic as a bus overturned in the road; we couldn’t sleep and felt incredibly ill, retreating from our tent to sleep in the car instead; we then overslept and arrived at our activity for that day with moments to spare (the activity was a carnivore feed so feeding lions, leopards, cheetahs and other exciting animals); there was a booking mixup with the activity but fortunately they found space for us on it; the activity was absolutely incredible and blew my mind; the air-con on our car gave in and we had to drive back to the rental place to get a new car; we then drove to our second campsite but were too scared to sleep in the tent again so slept in the car again.
After such a crazy first day and a half, I was hoping we’d overcome all of the issues. But then that wouldn’t be real travel. Travel is full of ‘things not going to plan’. You only have to read over some of my past trips such as the time I got chased by a hippo or the time I didn’t get to go up Snowdon as I’d not booked beforehand to understand that travel is eventful but then if everything went smoothly, it just wouldn’t be as memorable or half as run to read, right?
Today was going to be another of those days. I’d foolishly overbooked our schedule for the day. At 9am we had a tour of the campsite’s animals including ostriches and crocodiles. Then at 12.30pm we were going to the Cheetah Conservation Fund for a cheetah feeding tour and a cheetah drive. Stupid me didn’t actually realise it was impossible to do both when I’d booked them. The ostrich tour took us to 10am and then there was a 3 hour drive to the cheetah sanctuary.
But anyway, as we ate breakfast and then started the ostrich tour, I was still blissfully unaware of the drama to unfold later on.
Our breakfast was delicious. We ate scrambled ostrich egg which came from the campsites resident ostriches and a sausage. I love the sausages in Namibia as they taste like biltong (my ultimate favourite food ever). After we’d eaten, we started the tour. Unfortunately, the crocodile was feeling shy and didn’t emerge from her pool so we never got to see her. Oh, well. We saw tortoises, a warthog and some very amusing ostriches.
The ostriches were rather demanding and were pecking our guide from over their fence, asking for food. One actually ripped her earring out! Our guide asked if we wanted to feed them. I was super excited so grabbed some pellets and lay my hand flat – like feeding a horse. The ostriches pecked excitedly. Their beaks are a little sharp but I was unscathed. My partner was a little more apprehensive about feeding them and turned down the offer.
“Are you scared?” Our guide joked.
That was enough for him to give it a go.
After we’d fed the ostriches, we saw some giraffes emerge from the trees. There was a whole family of them including a very young baby. It was cute to see them start to feed. We couldn’t stay for long, however, as we had to quickly dash of for our next activity.
We were using the sat-nav to navigate to the Cheetah Conservation Fund. I’d taken a postcode from the internet and to begin with it seemed like we were going to make it. We’d been driving for just over two hours along the same road and according to the sat-nav, we were expecting a right turn at any moment. The right turn never came and the sat-nav re-navigated, adding another 15 minutes onto our journey time. Strange. I didn’t think too much of it until it happened again! Then again! Now our time had increased so much I was worried we weren’t going to make it.
I pulled over at the side of the road, perplexed and worried. I concluded that I’d missed the turn over an hour ago but if we turned back, there was just no chance of us making it on time. I’d paid in advance for this so if we missed it, our money was lost. I had and no internet (surprise, surprise) so couldn’t find a number to call them on. I found one at the bottom of my email correspondence which I’d printed off, hoping to be organised. There was no answer. Great. I started to feel ill with worry, completely unsure of what to do.
After about 15 minutes of panic, we decided to give up on the Cheetah Conservation Fund and continue our journey to Etosha. This is where another issue became apparent. We’d already been travelling for 2 and a half hours but our campsite, Onguma was another 4 hours away! How did I possibly think we’d be able to fit the cheetah tour in? It was about 1pm now so we’d only arrive at 5pm at the earliest without the tour. Sometimes I think I’m crazy or stupid or both.
It was going to be a long day. Fortunately, we were very close to the town of Ojiwarongo so at least we could stop for some lunch and get petrol. That’s when the next trauma happened.
We stopped off for petrol which was no problem at all. We just needed to find some lunch. We saw a Spar ahead which we concluded was perfect because we could buy some supplies to cook with as well. But as we pulled up into a parking spot, I began to feel nervous. Four locals started approaching our car and when I say approach, they were right by our windows. I’d researched Namibia online so I knew it was fairly safe but people do hound tourists, trying to sell stuff which I hate. I went on about my absolute distaste for this when it happened in the Seychelles and I’m going to go on about it now. It makes me so uncomfortable and nervous. In this situation I was so hungry that I decided to brave it and as soon as I was out the car I was spitting ‘no, thank you’ like there was no tomorrow.
But then someone in a high-vis jacket asked to ‘watch the car’ for us. I said ‘no’ without really thinking about it and raced into the supermarket. That’s when I started to over-think it. He wanted to watch my car for me? What happens if my car isn’t being watched? Does it need watching?
“We have to get our food really fast.” I spoke frantically to my partner.
We began racing round the store as more and more thoughts began to spiral in my head. Was our car safe? What if they’d broken into it? I checked it was locked, right? The rental company warned us that some people have technology that blocked cars from locking so I did check, right?
“We have to hurry!”
We did the fastest shop in the world, forgetting half the items we came for before charging over to our car which was fortunately still there and looking intact. I breathed a sigh of relief but the drama wasn’t over yet. The car-watcher in the high-vis came racing over to the car and as I started the engine he lifted a ticket off the car which he had put under the wipers.
We have to get out of here. I thought as I rapidly reversed the car out of the bay and began racing round the one-way system.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the ticket he’d put on the car. I said ‘no’ to his services so what was the ticket? Did he decide it was so unsafe so he was going to watch it anyway? So, should I have tipped him? Or was it something more sinister? Did the ticket specify that the car wasn’t being watched? Either way, I was glad to be out of Ojiwarongo. The town had left a sour taste in my mouth.
The taxing 6 hour drive to Onguma commenced. As if to rub salt in my already stinging wounds, as we left Ojiwarongo, I saw a sign for the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Basically, we could have made it in time for our activities. I’d obviously put the wrong address in my sat-nav and when we pulled over, defeated, we were actually only 10 minutes away. The thought still grates on me now.
The drive was long and hard. I changed from a happy, bubbly tourist into a grumpy driver. The incredible landscapes started to blur around me and everything started to look the same. The smooth tarred roads seem to stretch out forever and I started to feel nauseous, as in I just couldn’t eat anything. My lunch was untouched and I had to eventually force a bite from it but felt sick so handed it to my partner to eat.
I saw a partially-eaten dead horse at the side of the road. It was a grisly reminder that we were in a third-world country now, a long way from cushy life in the UK.
Baboons crossing the road in front of me turned from a novelty into an annoyance. The cheeky baboons would often cross without warning which forced me to slam my brakes on. I was just fortunate that the roads were largely empty, although I did have to partake in some dramatic overtakes of slow-moving lorries. Our 4×4 wasn’t the fastest at overtaking and it felt like our lives were at risk every time.
The landscapes we passed were largely the same. There were low fences on either side of the road and then behind them, miles of savannah with trees and shrubs dotting them. Every so often there would be a break from nature with groups of tinned settlements about the size of garden sheds. It can be shocking to think that these are people’s houses but mostly the people seemed happy, smiling away as they socialised with their neighbours.
Just as the sky began to darken, we arrived at Onguma Fort, our campsite! The campsite was everything as beautiful as I’d hoped. I could have kissed the ground as I exited the vehicle as we had been driving for so long.
I feel like this is a good place to end this blogpost, right before we enter our new campsite.