Namibia

This is gonna be a long one.  We spent a big chunk of time in Namibia.  Our first stop was literally across the river from where we stayed in South Africa for lunch.  In the early afternoon we arrived at our camp for the night and where we'd be able to go see the Fish River Canyon.  According to somethjng I read at some point it said that it's the second largest canyon in the world, then I read somewhere else that that is a lie.  So I don't know, but it's a giant crack in the ground.
It's a pretty big crack, isn't it?
That night a guy on my tour Ben showed me how to take photos of the Milky Way (I've had a DSLR camera for a couple of years but hadn't gotten around to learning how to do night shots... See the Cambodia round two story of Nic and Tay's Asia Adventure... Whenever I get around to writing that).
not the sharpest, but hey, it's a start
Next day we were off into the Namib-Naukluft desert where we would be spending the next few days seeing Sessrium, Sossusvlei, Deadvlei, and climbing Dune 45.  The Deadvlei was the main selling point of this particular tour for me because well you'll see in the pictures.  It's been on the to do list for me for a little while now.
my tentmate Anita and I, camping at Sessriem
The desert in Namibia is definitely picturesque.  It was nice to get to a place where we got to camp out for a couple of days and get to see quite a few things.  In the early morning we got up and hiked up Dune 45.
starting at the bottom... Poor Stelly, all hung over
 
made it to the top!
 
more sand dunes
It didn't take too long to reach the top of Dune 45.  I was yet again reminded how much of a pain in the ass it is to climb in sand, brought me right back to the Arher dunes on Socotra island.  The scenery reminded me of Sand Hollow State Park in Utah (my parents lived right across the road from that park for a couple of years). Next stop was the Deadvlei, the one I had been waiting for. 
The Deadvlei!
It didn't take long to see why it's the one of the most photographed places in Africa.  A giant white clay pan, framed by orangy-red dunes that are some of the oldest in the world, with black petrified camel thorn trees dotting the pan and bright blue sky from above? YES!    
camel thorn trees
The last area we checked out the late afternoon before we left towards Swakopmund was the Sesriem Canyon. 
Down inside Sesriem Canyon
 Next stop was Swakopmund.  But first we had to stop at the Tropic of Capricorn! 
all those years of gymnastics paid off... can still scale a sign in nothing flat
 
the whole gang (stolen from Ben)
    I think we all had high hopes that we'd be sitting on the beach relaxing in Swampyland (Stelly renamed Swakopmund since it's such a weird word anyways)but that never really happened.  It was cold and kinda rainy the whole time, and the most eventful thing we all did was get pissed at dinner and go out dancing at a bar all night.  My alarm went off entirely too early that first morning there so that I could catch my ride out into the samdunes to go sandboarding.  I woke up with my hand inside a bag of greasy potatoe wedges I'd bought at a garage on my way back that night.  I stumbled outta my room and caught my truck headi out into the dunes.  Lovely, a truckload of bushy-tailed 18 year olds on some weekend break from college.   
That's Me!!
We all grabbed out gear and started the trek up the dune.  Once at the top they separated us into a group that'd had never been on a board before and a group that had.  There was only three of us in the group that had, he other two had only snowboarded before.  I'd done or at least tried out every board sport except for sandboarding till that day.  One guy went down and he did alright, only had a few wrecks, the next guy went and had been saying how he was representin' Vermont.  He couldn't make a turn without wiping out.  I shredded down that dune in nothing flat, it was real similar to snowboarding the only big difference I could tell was the difference in sand resistance and snow resistance.  Waxing your board was odd too.  Everythime before you go down you have to re-wax it.  The wax is the consistency of crisco.  Oh, and by the end of the day you have sand any and everywhere imaginable.  I couldn't imagine how much worse it would've been if I had actually crashed. The last day we spent out in Swampyland we walked out to the ocean and wandered around town.  such a weird town, it looks like a German village in the middle of southern Utah (yes I am fully aware that the Germans set up camp and colonized Namibia).  
The Atlanic Ocean, from Swampyland
Finally, the day had come.  We were getting the eff outta Swampyland.  Goodbye hangover from hell, 3 painful days and sand in my buttcrack (it did take about 3 showers to get the sand outta every possible place you could get sand). We were so happy to be loaded back on that truck and on the road again.  We were off to Spitzkoppe next, a strange rock formation just north from where we were at.  The campsite we were staying at was at the base of Spitzkoppe and had two friendly resident meerkats and I couldn't wait.   
Spitzkoppe
We got to our camp and first thing we did was set up our tents and out came the meerkats.  They are very curious and friendly little critters       I later found out that their names are Boris and Igor.  If I could have stolen them they'd be chasing each other around my living room as I type this.     When I was in college, even if I had been out all Friday night and had two hours of sleep, every Saturday morning I'd be home by 8am to watch Meerkat Manor with my Mom.  So naturally I had to send this picture above back home to rub it in.      Ok, I'll stop with the meerkats.  But aren't they so cute!?!?  Ok so we did do a hike around Spitzkoppe and then climed up into a rock and watched the sunset.  And since this was gonna be our last night out in barren desert, more star pics 
Stars over Spitzkoppe
I was getting the long exposure night shots down a little better this time. I got in one more frolicking with the two little meerkats before we left to the Cheetah Farm.  A family has taken in injured cheetah and has a giant chunk of land that they live on.  Three of the cheetah are domesticated, and we got to go in the yard with them.
Jan and two cheetah
 
Anita petting the big kitties
I was a little nervous to go into a yard with three giant cats, but once I got in there it was like being around oversized house cats.  They purr, they rub on your legs, they do the head boop thing house cats do, they lick the salt off your skin.
Petra, the cheetah and I
 
two wild cheetah
After all was said and done at the cheetah farm we got up the next morning and our next adventure was Etosha National Park.  Our first night we were going to be camping out at a park called El Dorado just outside the park.  We would get to squeeze in an afternoon drive that same day.
Oh hey guys.... heeeeeeeeeeeey
 
Everybody's got that ONE friend
We got to see a few animals that afternoon, which was more than I thought we'd see since we went in at the hottest time of the day.
That's one pissed off kitty
That night was when things got real interesting. I had went to take a shower before bed.  When I was in the shower I ran outta water completely about 45 seconds in, and then I hear a big ruckus in the toilet next to mine and a bunch of screaming and banging around.  I didn't find out until I had gotten out that Ben had gotten attacked by a cobra that had leapt outta the door frame at him (I don't know what to call it, snakes don't have legs so I guess they can't really leap... But you get the picture).  Luckily for Ben the snake had spit venom on him and it landed right below his eye.  Had the venom gotten in his eye he'd be blind and if had bit him he'd be dead.  Steve our truck driver had heard all the commotion and came over with a crowbar and killed the snake and saved the day.  Shit just got real, we really were in Africa!  Next day we packed up early and went into the park before the sun rose to get a good start on wildlife viewing.   
Look! a Dik-Dik!
We got to see quite a few animals on our game drive.  Giraffe, zebra, a kabillion antelopes, elephants, ostrich, oh and a rhino...but only his ass, he wouldn't turn around.   
an Oryx
I'm not kidding by Etosha we had Seen so many antelope, mainly Springsbok and Oryx that we'd tell Steve to keep going.  The first few  we all freaked out and made Steve stop so we could take a shit ton of pictures.  I've now seen the other side.  When I had gone into Denali national park before me and my friends all laughed at the buses full of tourists piling out and oohing and ahhhhing over a moose.  Come on people it's a moose, I've already seen 30 today.  There's probly some Himba's that laughed their asses off at us with the Namibian version of a moose. 
Rhino ass, and a bunch of oryx
 
Elephant at the wateringhole
So a little about Etosha National Park.  It became a game reserve in 1997 and got bumped to a full blown national park 60 years later. It's consists of woodlands, grasslands and giant saline desert pans.   114 mammal species, 340 bird, and many reptile and frog species.
look at all them zebra!
After traversing 150 km of the park we set up camp at Namutoni for the night.  There is a wateringhole a short walk away from out camp to view wildlife at night.... If the lights are working, which they weren't that night.  So we sat there in dead silence listening to animal sounds for about 30 minutes before giving up.    
dead Nellie with the pan in the background
 
The group out on the Etosha Pan
  We headed out at sunrise the next morning to get in a last short game drive before making our way to our next camp outside of Grootfontein to relax before heading out to the Kavango River. From Grootfontein we left to the town of Rundu right on the Namibian-Angolan boarder and then up to the Caprivi strip and on to the banks of the Kavango River for the night.  You definitely saw a transition this day as you get up to the Caprivi Strip, much greener than I had seen in a couple of weeks.  We had the opportunity that night for a booze cruise on the Kavango River, most of our group went, especially since it was RRRaymond's birthday that day.  I only managed to snap a few good pictures since ya know hey it's a booze cruise.  
Hippo on the river. That mouth isn't intimidating or anything...
So the camp has a deal that if you don't see a hippo you get your booze cruise money back.  Well they're everywhere.  I dare you to go for a swim in there.   
Ben and Stelly posed out on the river
  That afternoon (before I got on the boat) I decided that I would behave and call it an early night after the cruise.  But drunk Nicole came off that boat and was like fuck that, I'm staying out all night at the camp bar with everyone.   Which was fun, until my alarm went off waaaay too early the next morning.  Who am I kidding it was like two hours later.  Everyone did have a good time, we were jumping up on the bar dancing, singing, drinking, got burnt by some guys cigarette. .. Here I am 5 months later back in Alaska with the scar on my arm.  Oh and Stelly lost her camera, or it got stolen, possibly ended up in the bottom of the pool.  We'll never know. The next day was the payback hangover shit day from hell.  Oh and then let's throw a painful border crossing, immense heat and these stupid foot and mouth checks every few miles.  We all wanted to fucking die.  The entire truck reeking of death onto beauuuuutiful Booooootswana.

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