Big Daddy

First, let me apologize to my loyal readers for the long delay in getting this next installment of my blog published. Spotty Internet connectivity in South Africa, aggressive travel schedules and other technological issues all conspired to handicap my getting this blog updated. Your patience and understanding is greatly appreciated.

Now, where were we?

There are so many things to get excited about in the Great Namib Desert. Over five million years old, it’s the world’s oldest desert, even older than the Sahara, the Gobi or the Mojave. Whether it’s the massive red dunes, the sparse yet intriguing landscapes, or the brilliant night sky, there is always something to fascinate you.

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My first night there, I was on my way back to my cabin after dinner when I paused and looked up at the southern hemisphere’s broad sky. The Milky Way was so dense, it looked like a massive cloud was obscuring my celestial view. Billions of stars. Incredible.

I looked at the eastern horizon and saw the glow of a light behind the mountains. Quite perplexed as to what might be giving off that kind of light, I quickly guessed that perhaps it was an industrial plant that was emitting that glow. But I didn’t remember seeing anything like that on my drive here. In fact, I was so far out in the middle of nowhere, there’s no way there would be any established industrial operation in these parts.

My quandary was soon solved as the light soon became the moon rising over the mountains. A few days after its full moon phase, it still gave off a lot of light.

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I set out at dawn my first morning there so that I could begin my ascent up Big Daddy while the sand would still be cool. The later one waits, the more time the sun has to heat the dunes. Big Daddy is the second highest sand dune in the world (at 325 meters, or 1,066 feet), second only to Dune 7, which is outside Walvis Bay, Namibia. I drove by Dune 7 on my way here, but didn’t have a chance to ascend it given my long trip ahead of me that day.

On my hour’s drive out to Big Daddy, I saw zebra, ostrich and kudu along the way. In fact, I spooked a kudu near the road and he took off running in the same direction as I was driving. I slowed as he began to cross the roadway right in front of my car. Chalk up another accomplishment – how many people can say they’ve drag raced with a kudu? I let him win, though.

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While in Swakopmund, a gentleman I met at that German restaurant / bar recommended that I hike to the top of Big Daddy in thick socks. He said he had done it and it worked out well because the socks allow you to get a better foot- (or toe-) hold when you step in the sand. With the thickness, you’re insulated from any heat the sand may give off. I decided to give it a try.

Big Daddy fulfills the boast conveyed through its name. It IS big. The morning I was there, others had gotten there before me and they were little teeny ants on the spine of this massive pile of sand.

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I set out to summit the prominence as well.

Some other folks also had an up close and personal encounter with one of the local denizens (that’s another kudu there).

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Because the sand is stacked at such a pitch, each step one takes along the route creates a lot of sandslide along each side of the path. That’s at least two feet of sand sliding down because the granules are stacked at such a steep pitch. It was cool to watch it tumble down with each step.

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I’ve never done a video blog before, also known as a vlog. I made two while trekking up Big Daddy. Here’s the first:

About an hour-and-a-half later, I got to the top. Quite a nice view.

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And my socks ended up getting me up there quite well.

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The sand blows in from the beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. And because it is high in iron oxide, it has a very distinct reddish color.

After spending some time at the top, I decided to follow some others who decided to take a short cut down. Straight down. Along the north face of the dune, it was a steep, straight shot all the way down to the bleached-white pan that lies at the base of Big Daddy.

So I went for it.

What took 1.5 hours to get up took seven minutes to get down. Seriously. I was trucking. And I have gravity to thank for my speed.

The pan is a very old lake bed that has dried and hardened over the years. There was no water in this lake as of about 900 years ago.

On the far end of the lake are dead trees that once stood in the shallow waters of the lake. The trees are looooong gone, having died due to no water. But interestingly, they are still around because the environment is so dry, there was never enough moisture to rot the wood away. These stark, black trees (or the wood from their living days) have been around for 900 years.

And with the black wood (also there are some trees that are more gray), white pan, red sand and blue sky, I was able to take pictures that make me look like a photographic genius.

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After my conquering of Big Daddy, I explored another phenomenon near the front gate of the national park – the Sesrium Canyon.

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It’s a small gorge that has been cut away by water streams over the last few thousand years. Taking the trail down to the dormant river bed was a bit of a leap of faith for me, as someone I used to work for died in a canyon somewhat similar to the one in which I was now immersed.

Gordon Chapple was a very smart marketing guy for whom I worked while at Del Monte Foods in the late ’80s and early ’90s. And when he wasn’t trying to figure out how to move more cans of vegetables or fruits, he was out in the deep reaches of wilderness taking pictures with special, old cameras and then using unique printing techniques to give his work that kind of black & white & silver quality that one sees in Ansel Adams’ works.

A few years ago, he and his family were in a slot canyon in Utah when a flash flood came roaring through. They were not close enough to to an exit point to escape the instant deluge. It may be blue skies above when one decides to go down into one of these gorges, but a rainstorm over twenty miles away can generate enough water to speed down the slot canyons with no advance notice at all. Gordon and his family were suddenly engulfed in the water. He and his wife drowned, but their two kids survived.

With Gordon’s family’s experience in the back of my mind, I decided to descend into the canyon anyway. After all, Namibia and South Africa are in a very severe drought right now.

The canyon was very hot and dry, but in one end, I discovered some tremendously interesting rock formations, created by the collapsing of the canyon walls.

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On my way out of the park, I came across the biggest bird’s nest I’ve ever seen. This nest is built by Sociable Weavers and they can weigh over 2,000 pounds.

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These are fascinating birds, who actually have taskmasters in their midst. These supervisors monitor all of the residents and continually observe the building process. If a bird slacks off, the taskmasters get on their case about it. Only two other animals have this trait  – the mole rat and humans.

According to the San Diego Zoo, the nests are so big, they play host to other bird species as well:

“The sociable weaver’s nest sees plenty of guests—a regular Kalahari Desert inn! The South African pygmy falcon Polihierax semitorquatus relies completely on the sociable weavers’ nest for its own home, often nesting side by side with the sociable weavers. The pied barbet, familiar chat, red-headed finch, ashy tit, and rosy-faced lovebird often find comfort in the cozy nesting chambers, too. Vultures, owls, and eagles will roost on the nests’ broad roof. Why are weavers willing to share the huge nest they worked so hard to make? More residents mean more eyes keeping a watch for danger. And the weavers often learn from the other birds where new sources of food can be found.”

My day of exploration completed, I headed back to the lodge for a well-deserved cold shower.

Swakopmund -> Sesriem

After my tremendous time spent in Swakop, I had to get back on the road and head southeast, my goal being the Sossusvlei area, famous for its harsh environment, red dunes, white pans and barren geography.

I traveled down the coastline toward Walvis Bay, and the massive sand dunes to my left were beautiful. Millions of tonnes of reddish, yellow sand piled high for many kilometers.

On my way to Sossusvlei, I passed Dune 7, not realizing that it’s the highest sand dune in the world (@ 383 m, 1,256 ft.). I mistakenly thought Big Daddy in Sossusvlei held that title. I guess I’ll need to come back to Namibia to knock that achievement off the list.

Along the way, I crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.

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After spending hours driving on Namibia’s famous dirt roads, I came across a very small outpost called Solitaire that basically consisted of a gas station, a scantily stocked convenience store and a restaurant. It also featured some interesting auto displays.

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And my favorite sign:

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I went into the convenience store to buy a beer as the temperature was hovering around 100* and a nice, cold beer sounded wonderful. I bought the beer and asked the cashier if she had a bottle opener, as the bottle was not the twist-off kind. She said no, but a local gentleman standing at the counter said, “I’ll take care of that” and proceeded to grab the bottle and pop the lid off with his teeth. Africans are famous for creating clever ways to solve any problem that presents itself. This guy was yet another example. I thanked him profusely and enjoyed my beer.

On my way out of the convenience store, I encountered another local guy who had the most unique hat on. He kindly have me permission to photograph him.

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Another hour, and I found myself in Sesriem, the gateway town to the Sossusvlei national park. Accommodations at the park entrance are scant, so I had to pay a premium for my lodging, but it was well worth it.

Swakop’s Jock Ups

Swakopmund is famous for its variety of outdoor activities, ranging from the benign to the extreme. Starting off fairly tame, I decided to ride a camel.

Camels have a well-deserved reputation for being somewhat cantankerous. My camel, Timba, did not fail to disappoint, as it was clear from the get-go that he was not happy to be carting around a camera-toting tourist. As I climbed aboard, he let loose a long, loud, gutteral grawwwwwooowww of disapproval. And he continued to bark his discontentment throughout the 30-minute journey. My guide, Morgan, was very helpful in keeping Timba in check.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a camel ride, though compared to a horse, one is placed higher and sways a bit more, the height of the saddle perched atop his single hump adding  to the vertigo.

We followed a well-trodden path 15 minutes away from his “stable”, which was a converted shipping container, took some pictures and headed back.

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In the end, I’m glad I did it, even though it was pretty kitschy.

Later in the day, I went sandboarding. Basically snowboarding on sand.

The boards look exactly like snowboards, but according to our guide, the bottom is coated with a type of linoleum. In order to create the right amount of slide, we had to take a couple fingerfuls of floor wax and smear the bottom of the boards to create a slick enough surface to slide on the sand.

After waxing, we strapped the boards on and headed downhill. The dunes we surfed were just south of Swakopmund and were about 300 feet high. Beautiful dunes of the type I would experience later in the week in Sossusvlai, just smaller.

Sandboarding is cool and uniquely noteable, though it turned out we would have to rewax after every run as well as hike the long slog back up the dune after each run (obviously, we didn’t have the benefit of ski lifts). I ended the day covered in sand and thoroughly sore.

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Swakopmund is also famous for its proximity to a beautiful ocean and beach, so what better way to view the natural beauty than from 10,000 feet?

The next day, I strapped on a harness, climbed into a plane, flew to the appointed altitude and then rolled out of it (the plane, not the harness). I’ve skydived before, so I didn’t have to deal with the attendant nerves of a first jump, but it was still a lot of fun.

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The woman I rode up with was jumping for the first time, and afterwards, she mentioned how odd it was that my jump instructor (to whom I was harnessed) and I scooted over the the door and were very quickly gone. No hesitation.

The jump was, as always, phenomenal. The view of Swakomund was incredible and after 35 seconds, we deployed the chute. Another seven minutes and we were then on the ground again.

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Watch the full video here:

 

Wait…Where Am I?

I have to be in Germany. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere because I found myself right in the middle of Bavaria. Seriously. When you see these pictures, I dare you to tell me I’m NOT in Germany:

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Then I went to dinner. Everyone was speaking German (or Afrikaans, which to my untrained ear sounds the same), beer was flowing, and the decor was straight out of some of the brauhauses I visited in Germany years ago.

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I ordered up a draught and had a Bratwurst dinner, complete with mash & saurkraut.

As I was enjoying my dinner at the bar, I heard my name called. Wouldn’t you know it, but my increasingly good friend, Patrick, was having dinner at one of the tables. You may remember Patrick from Mauritius, who I’ve now run into in Livingstone, Zambia; Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Maun, Botswana. We can now add Swakopmund, Namibia. It was a good reunion yet again. Patrick is one of those folks you meet and just have a really good sense about him. He’s a straight-up bloke.

After dinner, he recommended that since I was new to town (having arrived a couple of hours earlier) I should stay at the backpackers at which he was staying. But by the time I got there around 11:00, reception was closed, so I ended up staying at another backpackers a couple blocks up the road.

A little more about Swakopmund:

According to Wikipedia, “The Herero called the place Otjozondjii. The name of the town is derived from the Nama word Tsoakhaub (“excrement opening”) because when the Swakop River floods, it carries items in its riverbed, including dead animals, into the Atlantic Ocean. However, Prof. Peter Raper, Honorary Professor: Linguistics, at the University of the Free State points out that the name for Swakopmund is based on the San language, namely from “xwaka” (rhinoceros) and “ob” (river). The German settlers changed it to Swachaub, and when in 1896 the district was officially proclaimed, the version Swakopmund (German: Mouth of the Swakop) was introduced.”

The heavy German influence comes because Namibia (formerly known as South West Africa), was a German territory. The influence is seen and felt throughout the country, but it is very strong in Swakop.

One of my favorite TV shows, The Amazing Race, was here in Swakop last year. One of the challenges was to find a classified ad in one of the local German language newspapers in a local bookstore, Swakopmunder Buchhandlung. It was fun to be on one of their locations.

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Etosha -> Tsumeb -> Swakopmund

After our second day in Etosha, Giulia and I made our way out of the park and found a place to stay in Tsumeb, a quiet little town to the east of Etosha.

The next morning, I dropped Giulia off at the local bus rank, and she was off to a small town in northwest Etosha to spend a few days with a local tribe there.

I headed southwest toward Swakopmund, the second largest city in Namibia. I had heard so much about the Skeleton Coast, I really wanted to catch at least a portion of it on my way to Swakop. So instead of taking the main highway to Swakop, I cut off from the tar road and made my way to a small town on the Skeleton Coast north of Swakop named Hentiesbaii. The highway to get there was 122 kilometers (75 miles) of groomed dirt road. In the hour or so I drove the road, I passed no one. The flat, arid environment made me hope I would not be stranded out there if my car broke down.

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A whole lotta nothing on my way to the Skeleton Coast

I finally emerged from the desert and arrived on the famous Skeleton Coast. This stretch of highway is one of the most remote routes in the world. The road at this point is made of salt, which made for a smoother driving surface than the dirt road I had just been traveling, though travel resources I had read said that in rain or dense fog, the salt road can be as slippery as driving on ice. Fortunately, it was a bright, clear day for me.

The Skeleton Coast gets its name from the high number of whale skeletons that were found along the coast when it was first discovered by Europeans many years ago. It’s moniker has been enhanced as many ships have ended up being wrecked on the coast due to its dense fog and dangerous currents and shoreline.

Per HeniesBayTourism.com, “The Skeleton Coast is one of the most treacherous coastlines in the world due to strong crosscurrents, heavy swells and dense fogs caused by the ice-cold fast-flowing Benguela Current. Rocky reefs and sand dunes that stretch into the sea spell disaster for any vessel that get caught up in the gale-force winds and all-enveloping sea fogs, reducing visibility to virtually nil.”

I had the opportunity to see one of the wrecks as I was driving from Hentiesbaii to Swakop. The Zeila is only 50 yards from the shoreline, but has been languishing there since it wrecked eight years ago in 2008.

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When I was in Tsumeb, I stopped at a convenience store and discovered an energy drink called “Skull”. What better way to celebrate my arrival on the Skeleton Coast?

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I eventually got to Swakopmund just as the sun was setting, a long day now in my rear view mirror.

Some Notes On Notes

Money is an interesting thing here in Africa. Each country has its own currency. Well, almost every country.

Zimbabwe has the unique distinction of using the American dollar as its official currency. That’s right. The US Mint prints money for the government of Zimbabwe as well.

Back in 2008, Zimbabwe’s economy was so mismanaged by Robert Mugabe and his buddies, inflation began to spiral out of control. In fact, it got so bad so rapidly that people needed wheelbarrows of cash to buy a loaf of bread. Same phenomenon as what happened in Germany in the 1920s.

The Zimbabwean mint tried to keep up with the hyperinflation by repeatedly printing new denominations of bills. They finally gave up after their 100 Trillion Dollar note was rendered worthless (their unit of currency was also called the “dollar”). In fact, one can still purchase an authentic, discontinued 100 trillion dollar note on the street from enterprising street vendors.

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The US dollar is also the preferred coin of the realm throughout Africa. Vendors will always want to take the greenback over their local currency. The reason? Similar to Zimbabwe, African currencies tend to be volatile (usually not to the degree of Mr. Mugabe’s blunder, but volatile nonetheless). By taking US dollars, the vendor can rest assured that he will not run the risk of losing value.

Another curious discovery. Remember the much-maligned US two dollar bill? It’s alive and well here in Africa. It’s shown up a number of times in my travels.

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For those too young to remember, the two dollar bill was introduced in 1976 to much fanfare. The US Mint advertised that it would help streamline cash transactions by reducing reliance on the one dollar bill. The new issue quickly went the way of the dodo bird (which by the way, my friend Patrick from Mauritius said was exclusively indigenous to the island of Mauritius before it was hunted to extinction). The reason for the two dollar bill’s demise? Retailers hated it because their cash register drawers do not have a space for a two dollar bill. Ones, fives, tens and twenties, but no one was going to completely redesign the cash register for this new bill. Fifties and hundreds could go under the tray, but to do it for twos was too much hassle.

While still considered legal tender, the two dollar bill is virtually extinct in the US (except for collectors). Not so in Africa.

African currencies (at least the ones I’ve encountered) almost always have a depiction of some sort of an animal on the different denominations as well as a picture of a founding father (Mandela in South Africa, Sam Nujoma in Namibia – similar to the US and George Washington).

The currencies I’ve encountered on my trip:

Tanzania – Shilling (a holdover from the days of British rule)
Rwanda – Franc (likewise the days of French occupation)
Zambia – Kwacha
Zimbabwe – Dollar (previously Zimbabwean, now American)
Botswana – Pula
Namibia – Dollar (their own currency, but it’s tied to the Rand, so I’ve gotten a great exchange rate here too)
South Africa – Rand (though their currency has taken a beating recently due to economic mismanagement by Jacob Zuma, I’ve gotten a fantastic exchange rate while here)

Etosha National Park

Etosha is one of Africa’s greatest game reserves. Located in the northern part of Namibia, it encompasses 8,600 square miles (roughly the size of New Jersey) and is home to the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard & water buffalo) as well as a variety of other animal species.

The Etosha Pan is the main geographic highlight and is a vast depression in the center of the park. While dry most of the year, it will fill to a couple of inches during rainy season, when a couple of rivers deposit their contents into the vast depression.

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Giulia and I arrived late after our long drive, and made preparations to spend two days driving the park. Our first day was to be spent driving the western loop and the second day would be spent driving the eastern part of the park.

During our two days of driving, we encountered the following members of the Wild Kingdom:

Elephant (with zebra and oryx bonus)

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Giraffe

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Lion

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Zebra

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Ostrich (with Oryx bonus)

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Oryx

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Springbok

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Wildebeest (also know as Gnu)
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Animals have the right of way in Etosha

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And for good measure, let’s just throw a bunch of animals into the same pan

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Unfortunately, we did not have the luck to see any rhino, leopard, or cheetah – three of the species of which I was hoping to catch a peek. As visitors must stay on the roads in the park, there is a vast amount of territory where the animals can roam in obscurity. Whether one sees these animals comes down to just pure luck.

After our first day touring the park, Giulia and I paid a visit to the home of the bartender of the lodge at which we were staying. Kosmos is a member of the local Bushman tribe, and as such, his people live in Etosha, a concession provided by the Namibian government because the Bushmen have lived in Etosha for many centuries.

Giulia and I were not sure exactly where Kosmos lived, but it turned out to be very easy to find him as he is the only person in the area with that name. Ask anyone in or around the park, and they all know Kosmos.

We arrived late in the afternoon to find him in front of his home, with the neighborhood kids all running up to our car. We were quite the novelty for the day. Kosmos introduced us to his two beautiful daughters, and then Giulia spent the next hour photographing the kids while Kosmos and I talked about any number of things.

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The kids were fascinated with Giulia’s and my cameras, which we would hand to them to take their own pictures (thank God for the economies afforded through digital photos). The kids were natural subjects, comfortably striking poses for us whenever the camera trained its lens on them.

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While we were disappointed with the variety of animals available to us on our trip, Kosmos and his tribe certainly made up for it.

Windhoek -> Etosha

While at Chameleon Backpackers in Windhoek, I had the pleasure of getting to know Giulia, a Sicilian who owns her own travel company. She was on a trip around Africa to see the sights, but more importantly, to get to know the local people.

She will spend some time in hostels but prefers to stay in locals’ villages, getting to know the people and their culture.

She had been considering going to Etosha National Park in the north part of Namibia, but unless you have a car, it’s difficult to a) get up there, and b) get around in the park. When she found out I was renting a car to go to Etosha, she asked if she could join me, and I was happy to have the company.

After picking up the rental car, we were off on our five hour drive to see the animals. As Namibia (and the vast majority of Africa) are right hand drive, it was a bit of an adventure getting used to driving on the left side of the road. Combine that with the manual transmission in the car, and I’ve had to reprogram everything that’s in my nature when it comes to driving.

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Giulia and I stayed outside the park the first two nights – it was a little cheaper and we were able to stay in our preferred accommodations – she in a tent and me in a tent-cabin. My tent-cabin was a very cool place, complete with an outdoor toilet and shower.

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Shower on the left, toilet on the right – both outside  

Because Giulia is so outgoing, we were friends with the staff In no time, especially a gentleman  named Kosmos, who was the bartender at the lodge. He had an infectious smile and twinkle in his eye.  Giulia and I looked forward to getting to know him better.

Speed Dating, Namibian Style

One evening I visited a popular bar located about two blocks from Chameleon Backpackers. It’s a cool place called the Warehouse, and it features live music and cheap beer.

On a Friday night, I visited the establishment, and when entering, I noticed a poster advertising a “Speed Dating” night the following night. I’ve never been to a speed dating event before, but thought that it would be fun to go and meet locals in a unique environment.

The next night I showed up, paid my admittance fee and proceeded to have a fun and interesting evening.

The event was set up so that twenty women sat at twenty small cocktail tables. The men moved from one station to another at the sound of a whistle when three minutes was up. While there was a list of recommended questions for the shyer folks of the group, I was able to hold my own in getting to know these twenty women.

To be fair, I made it clear to each woman that I was an American passing through on holiday, but I still had some very nice (but brief) conversations with a number of them.

It turned out that there was a huge shortage of men, and the event was delayed while the women present were encouraged to call male friends of theirs to persuade them to come to the shindig. The event started about an hour-and-a-half late, but we were able to get a quorum of men and then the event commenced.

Problem was, there were forty women signed up, so we ended having the men do two rounds. The event ended about three hours later than planned, but I had a wonderful time and met some very nice women.

There was also a reporter for The Namibian, the nation’s premier newspaper who attended the event. She writes for the weekend section and had a number of interesting observations about the event, her first experience of something like this. I had a chance to get to know her a little better (beyond the three minute time limit) after the event, as she is friends with some of the people I hit it off with.

Her column came out about a week after the event, but wouldn’t you know it, yours truly got a mention:

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The Home of Good Hope

After settling into Windhoek, I reached out to the orphanage’s soccer team organizer to schedule a delivery of soccer balls. You may remember when I was in Zambia, two new friends, Ed and Matt, were distributing these balls in every city they visited on their trip through Africa.

Ed had raised funds from benefactors in London for the purchase of the balls, and he had brought over 100 balls to distribute to about 10 different orphanages. Earlier they had been in Windhoek, but had been unable to get the balls to the orphanage, and so left them at the hostel expecting to come back and see the kids. Their plan to come back to Namibia fell through when they decided to see the Africa Cup final match in Rwanda.

When they found out that I was planning on coming through Windhoek, they asked if I could deliver the balls to the orphanage. I was honored to have been asked.

I established contact with the soccer organizer, Peacemaker (and yes, that is his given name), and we agreed that I would come visit the orphanage on the next day. Peacemaker picked me up, and we made out way across town to the orphanage, which is located in a township that is pretty much a shantytown.

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I was greeted by Greg and Sandra, two local people who have dedicated their lives to making sure the orphans get at least one good meal a day. While technically it’s a soup kitchen, they hope to expand the operation to become a refuge for kids to sleep instead of wandering the streets.

I pumped up the balls and handed out the 13 orbs to some of the kids, who were very excited to have something new to play with. Per a promise made to Ed so he could show his benefactors, I took a picture with the kids and their new balls.

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They then assembled in the main room and sang me a few songs, mostly with a Christian theme.

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The kids are orphans for two main reasons: either their parents have both died of disease, usually HIV, or the kids have been abandoned. It’s an awful situation for these innocents. They do, however, go to school, as mandated by the Namibian government.

It was then lunchtime, and the kids assembled around some large buckets and began washing their hands in the soapy water. I was privileged to help distribute meals to the kids. According to Peacemaker, up to 400 kids show up at the Home of Good Hope for a meal, which the day I was there consisted of a slice of bread with a small ladle of stew on top. The kids were very grateful to even have that.

As I handed the plates out to the kids ages 3 to 18 sitting on benches in the room of the soup kitchen, so many of them would look me in the eye and say, “Thank you”. They were precious.

After a couple of hours, I said goodbye to everyone, and Peacemaker and I stopped at a lodge that is run by battered women. These brave women are learning to make a living on their own and have received support from the Peace Corp in their efforts. Peacemaker and I drank a Coke overlooking a lake next to the lodge.

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Peacemaker drove me back to my hostel afterwards. When I had a quiet moment to reflect on my day, I quietly sobbed thinking about those wonderful kids I met, many of whom had happy, carefree dispositions and outlooks while they have absolutely nothing but the shirt on their back. The experience really brought so much into focus for me, and I thank God for my many blessings, especially my wonderful parents.