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Report from a month in Namibia, Cape Town and Garden Route

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Jun 11th, 2003, 12:55 PM
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Report from a month in Namibia, Cape Town and Garden Route

We spent an amazing two weeks in Namibia and two weeks from Cape Town through Garden Route during October/November 2002. We rented cars in both countries to explore the areas at our own pace.

In Namibia we used Cardboard Box to book our reservations because we did not have any response when trying to contact the lodges directly. We e-mailed them at www.namibian.org with our prepared itinerary and they handled all our bookings, offered helpful advice if needed. Our first day in Windhoek we were greeted by Rachael, the owner, and given a packet with detailed vouchers for every prepaid booking.

We drove a 12 day loop beginning in Windhoek, a few days in Sossusvlei, a couple days on the Skeleton Coast in Swakopmund area, couple of days in Damaraland, four days in Etosha, a day at Okonjima Lodge(home of the Africat Cheetah Rehabilitation and Conservation Center) and ending back in Windhoek. Our trip was a combination of budget and luxury- our favorite lodge was Mowani Mountain Lodge in Damaraland. Highlights were hot air ballooning over the dunes, seal colony at Cape Cross and Etosha. Our last day in Etosha was the most spectacular. At 7AM as we drove out of Namutoni Camp, a leopard crossed in front of our car and climbed into a tree just off the side of the road. With perfect view and morning light, we watched it eat the springbok kill it had neatly hidden sometime earlier. It was hard to leave, but we took some great pictures. An hour later we saw a couple male lions with full manes basking in the sun. A good tip for capturing the best photos at Etosha is to have the person with the camera alone in the backseat with all their equipment. This allows them to easily take pictures from both sides of the car. Some of our photos can be seen at www.slrobertson.com.

In South Africa we spent our first two days relaxing in the Camps Bay area of Cape Town. We began towards the Garden Route with a stop at the seaside village of Hermanus. This is a good place to see the Southern Right Whales swim extremely close to the cliff side. Our next stop was at De Hoop Nature Reserve, another great place to see the whales and enjoy a tranquil day on the deserted beach. We saw dozens of the whales tail sailing for 3-5 minutes at a time- what a sight! Then we stayed four nights at the lovely Wilderness Manor Guest House in Wilderness, about 20 minutes from Knysna. A few blocks from this guesthouse was where we enjoyed the highlight of our South African epicurean experience. Serendipity is a unique restaurant located in the formal dining room of the chefs home, only 4-5 tables, serving a wonderful 5 course dinner paired with South African wines.
After leaving the coast, we drove through Karoo and began our wine adventure in Calitzdorp sampling some award wining ports. The next five days were spent eating and drinking in the picturesque wine valleys of Franshhoek and Stellenbosch. Our final days in South Africa were in Cape Town touring Robbin Island and the Township of Khyelitsha, home to more than one million black South Africans. Our tour on Robbin Island was led by an ex inmate which made the stories of pain, suffering and survival even more moving than if told by someone else. The Township tour allowed us to go inside some of he shacks and meet with the residents, who were very friendly and welcoming. There is B&B called Vicky's Place for anyone who might be interested in staying in one- http://www.journey.digitalspace.net/vicky0.html. These last two days gave us a better understanding of Apartheid and the unfortunate struggle of the black and colored people of South Africa.

More of our trip details, photos and daily journal entries can be viewed at www.slrobertson.com. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Nicci
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Jun 11th, 2003, 04:47 PM
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DE
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Nicci,

I just had a look at your website and thoroughly enjoyed viewing the wonderful shots of the Namibian Desert and SA that you have posted. The commentary is great as well.

Some of the shots of the dunes etc. are quite stunning which makes me all the more excited to know that I will be in that magnificent part of the world in the next while.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip.
 
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Jun 11th, 2003, 05:23 PM
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DE,

Thank you-my husband did a great job with his website. If you go into the gallery section under Africa, there are links with 200-300 more photos listed in separate catagories. Take a look if you get a chance.

Have a wonderful trip!

Nicci
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Jun 11th, 2003, 10:15 PM
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Great report!
I'm hoping to go to Namibia next year. After seeing your beautiful photos, I'm even more determined
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Jun 12th, 2003, 12:57 AM
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Nicci
I already read your report and checked out your site, after you posted it on the other thread, but thanks again for sharing it - I really enjoyed the site and Scott's photos are absolutely excellent.
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Jun 13th, 2003, 04:08 AM
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I love your journal and pictures!! What type of car did you have in Namibia? Did you have or feel the need for a cell phone as you drove all over? Did you feel safe and welcome there? Any problems communicating with the locals? Thanks!!
 
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Jun 13th, 2003, 05:23 AM
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Peep,

Thank you!

We drove a Renault Scenic in Namibia and Neon in South Africa. Although 80% of our trip in Namibia was spent driving on dirt gravel roads, we did very well with a 2WD car. The only problem was some of the doors locked up from all the dust. It's common in any type of vehicle and can be resolved by blasting water into the locks. While on the topic of dust, it gets EVERYWHERE inside the car. Bring a good amount of Ziploc bags to store items like camera equipment and anything you don't want dust in or on. Also, make sure your rental car has a spare tire because the rental company forgot to put one in our car- they delivered one to us before we left Windhoek. We didn't need it, but met a few travelers who did end up with a flat. Car break in is supposed to be a problem, but we were lucky not to fall victim. Do your best to keep anything out of sight when leaving the car. The best solution is to make sure you hire someone to watch your car and pay them 5-10 Namibian Dollars or Rand, depending on how long you are gone. This service has actually decreased the crime rate and helped keep them somewhat employed. It seemed odd at first, but by the end of the trip I was worried when we couldn't find a "car watcher" on a couple of occasions.

We did not have or feel the need for a cell phone. It's not an option around most of Namibia since there are no cell networks outside of the large cities and we were outside of the grid almost the entire time. The only option is a satellite phone, which is very expensive.

We felt very safe and warmly welcomed in both countries. They were some of the friendliest people we've come across in our travels. They were even more so when they learned we were Americans, as it is a rarity to see American tourists in Namibia. Also we're known as consistent tippers- I noticed after game drives or tours that many people would not tip, until they saw us give them our money. If they do a good job, I believe it's proper to tip- the guides really do appreciate it.

I would like to add there is such poverty in these countries; I was surprised we did not come across any begging. Rather the locals sold handmade crafts or offered services like watching your car.

They speak English in both countries, so there isn't a problem communicating, unless you do not speak English. You will hear Afrikaans and English spoken in both countries, with the addition of German through out Namibia. In Namibia it was a treat to listen to the some locals speaking with the clicks in their tribal language of Xhosa.

I hope this helps. Have a wonderful trip!

Nicci
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Jun 13th, 2003, 06:21 AM
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Woo hoo!! I want to go BAAAAAAAD! Thanks for the info! I'm going to spend this weekend plotting...
 
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Jun 13th, 2003, 06:25 AM
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Just thought of another question: do you recall about how much you spent on gas while you were in Namibia?
 
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Jun 13th, 2003, 05:25 PM
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Peep

Sorry to say that we can't remember the cost of gas in Namibia. If you contact Cardboard Box, they'll be able to give you the exact rate since they're located in Windhoek. I highly recommend using them to book your trip- Rachael, the owner, is very helpful and is great with following up.

Make sure you carry plenty of cash because they don't accept credit cards for gas. Since there are not many gas stations and the distances are long, you may want to fill up on gas any chance you get.

Nicci
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Sep 5th, 2003, 04:36 AM
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Hi Nicci! Hopefully you'll see this! Did you just use your US drivers license for your car rental or did you also have an international drivers license? Thanks!
 
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Sep 6th, 2003, 02:14 PM
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Hi Peep,

We used our US drivers license and rented through Avis. No problem at all.
And make sure to double check the spare tire in your trunk before leaving the Avis lot. Ours was missing, so they delivered one to us first thing the next morning. Luckily we didn't need it on our trip, but met a few people who had flats while there.

Have a wonderful time and I look forward to hearing your trip report!

Nicci
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