All tagged Namibia

Into Jordan 17/10/16

Windhoek like Swakopmund was modern, bustling and clean. We had skirted it when we arrived and drove from the airport to Africats, our first stop in Namibia, the road to which passed through the outskirts of Windhoek. At that time we had the strong impression of its German cultural heritage, many of the older brick building being designed in a recognizably germanic colonial style. On our arrival today, the centre of the city strengthened this impression with graceful old neighbourhoods filled with colonial homes and a thoroughly modern CBD with stainless steel and glass skyscrapers.

Our hotel for the night, the Olive Exclusive Guesthouse, so named not to confuse it with a rival property next door, the Olive Grove Guesthouse, was charming and need I say, not exactly exclusive as it accepted us, scruffy, dusty and the worse for wear after 2 weeks on the road. Very, very large and modern suite and a wonderful restaurant on the property, our only regret was that we were there for only one night. Dinner in the restaurant, a long hot shower, a good nights sleep and off to the airport next morning for our flight to Amman, via Jo'burg and Dubai...

Out of Namibia 14/10/16

In my last post we were heading from Swakopmund to Sossusvlei after a surprising and interesting three days exploring the coast. As usual, a 6 hour drive over gravel roads but before leaving I made sure that we had our route set in my portable gps linked by bluetooth to my iphone and the Tracks4africa app. Road construction and detours out of Swakop so our usual three way discussion ensued, V with her paper map, the gps with its inflexible and naggingly annoying one-track mind and me with the steering wheel and a very short attention span. Finally got ourselves sorted and on the right road south to the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge.

Not a particularly memorable drive, gravel road and desert so with a brief stop for lunch in Solataire (sic), we pushed on, arriving in mid-afternoon. The lodge, like all &Beyond properties, a stunner, on a rocky rise overlooking miles of flat desert to hills and very large dunes rising in the distance.  There are 12 individual self-contained stone units scattered over the ridge, each with its own deck looking out over the infinite desert views, somewhat reminiscent of Doro Nawas, but there the resemblance ended. Instead of desultory service and a rundown air, the rooms and the lodge were spotless and sparkling, service was pleasant and attentive, rooms luxurious and food some of the best we have had. Only drawback is the 1 hour drive from the lodge to the gates of the Sossusvlei Reserve and a further 1/2 drive from the gates to the beginning of the Sossuusvlei dunes...

Out of Namibia 08/10/16

In my last post I talked about our 9 hour drive to Damaraland. Because we got our roads so wrong before the Tracks4Africa gps app came to the rescue, we drove to the Doro Nawas camp from the opposite direction than the one taken by visitors which meant that there were no signs for the camp on the sides off the road, we keep looking for them but never saw any, which given the overlong drive worried us considerably. One of the benefits of our wrong-way drive however was that it took us through parts of the country not usually traveled by visitors and over a mountain pass that was stunning, hairy driving but fabulous views. Our guide when we finally arrived couldn't believe that we made managed the drive in our vehicle, clearly a drive that is not normally taken by tourists.

Damaraland the region, and Doro Nawas our lodge, in neither case had any really compelling connections for us. Doro Nawas is reached by 4 or 5 kilometres of gravel road branching off the main gravel highway to a very rocky and wind-swept hill rising out of the dusty desert and about 40 or 50 metres high. The main lodge was perched on top and the various individual stone chalets scattered around the hillside. The 5k drive to reach it was unquestionably the worst piece of track that we have driven  in our entire trip. It was bone-shaking, teeth-rattlingly bad and while the gravel roads and highways are pretty pretty grim in places, corrugations really shaking the car, you can usually find an optimum speed that is not so slow that the car is is slowly being shaken into piles of bolts nor so fast that the bumps are minimized but the car is unsafe, slewing about on the gravel, but a happy and tolerable balance between the two. In the case of the Doro Nawas road there was no optimum manageable speed and we feared for the safety of the car as we pounded along it. Not a good introduction to the lodge, which is a Wilderness Camp, a brand for a number of camps throughout Southern Africa which like the &Beyond Camps is a guarantee of a high level of service and accommodation. Someone was not watching the store in the case of Doro Nawas and given the cost of the camp it was surprising that no attention was paid to the first impression that a camp creates, the road to the site. It quickly became clear that the road to the camp was not the only problem faced by the camp, the service was forgetful and unpleasant and the food less than compelling....

First day in Namibia

Friday was a very, very, very long day. Landed in São Paulo at 10 am and our next connection was at 11:30 pm for our overnight to Jo'burg. I had booked us a day room at the Wyndham Tryp hotel which is in the secured in-transit area of the terminal so that we could get some sleep and have a base for the 14 hour layover without going into the public area of the terminal and so avoid having to deal with passport control and security. Good idea on paper but 14 hours marking time is very slow in reality. Slept for a couple of hours and found that the best way of getting through the day was to concentrate on not looking at my watch until at least a half hour had passed since my last look, a game with a remarkably low engagement factor. I was reminded of a movie made 5 or 6 years ago concerning someone who, for unremembered reasons, lost papers?, could not leave the transit area. Couldn't go back and couldn't go forward, had no accommodation so slept on benches, and simply waited. Don't know who wrote the script but it should have been Beckett. I empathized.

Arrived in Jo'burg in the early afternoon on Saturday, slept for a few hours, took the train into the city and had a really good dinner at The Butcher Shop grill, we both had very rare steaks, lots of fresh vegetables and a gallon or so of a wonderful South African cabernet, the single best prescription for re-kindling the ashes.

On our way to Namibia

We left last night for the first leg of our trip to Namibia and then on to Jordan. This is our third trip to Africa since 2012, clearly it has attractions for us. We're flying to Jo'burg via São Paulo with a 14 hour layover in São Paulo. I'm not a great fan of Aeroplan, the only routing that allowed us to get to Jo'burg on points and in Business is the one we're flying. Aeroplan offered us other options, a leg to Montreal then an overnight to Frankfurt or London, a long layover and then another overnight to Jo'burg. However the Toronto-Montreal leg was in Business the two overnight legs were in Economy but Aeroplan wanted to charge us the full Business points total even though the only leg that was in Business was the one to Montreal. I don't mind paying the full whack to fly in the front cabin but I find it really galling to be charged maximum points to fly in steerage. I know, no handkerchiefs, a first world problem.

All flights to South Africa from North America, with the exception of a direct Washington to Jo'burg flight that's almost impossible to book on points, are right angled routes, no diagonals, so an overnight north-south or east-west, a long layover and another overnight flight perpendicular to the first. We're in São Paulo, halfway though our 14 hour layover and another overnight flight to go...