We were so happy when we arrived in Walvis Bay, so proud and feeling independent. The first day was a little rough because our car rental (needed in Namibia - we winged driving on the left side for the first time) apparently did not have a GPS plug in on the car. So we had to go to the office, and half way there we realized it DID, but that the front blinker was going out. We then accidentally scratched a parked car, and had to pay like 60 bucks each to this angry red headed lady we were scared of. Bad start. BUT we got the light fixed AND we high-tailed it to Swakopmund, leaving all bad memories behind. We were all a little hangry.
The magnificent dunes and coast eased us though, and we felt better. I fell asleep in the car while we found our airbnb place, and we quickly unpacked. The place was magnificent. It had a zebra hide rug, a spiral staircase that was adorned with hats, a fancy garden, and a mysteriously terrifying abundance of animal horns and skulls. ALSO A CAT. We then ate at this cafe that was German - heavy German influence in Namib. We walked around, and grocery shopped. I successfully drove on the left side! It isn't so different, just feels weird. I have this nightmare of falling off a cliff - but luckily, Swakopmund was sans cliff. We ended the night spectacularly by watching Holes and playing with the cat - quirky beast.
Day two was much more exciting, especially since we weren't tired. We were going to head to Sousselvei, what we thought was a 7 hour drive, but the GPS said it was 22, and this travel lady in Walvis Bay said it was a nightmare driving it, especially since we didn't have a 4x4. Also, a girl in our program died last year driving in Namibia, so we were pretty nervous. We decided to stay in Swakopmund, especially since we had stuff we wanted to do there. We cancelled our hostel and stayed an extra two nights at our magnificent airbnb.
We drove to Dune 7, one of the biggest dunes in the world, with some tunes playing. We went dune biking and sandboarding. IT WAS AMAZING. I laughed the entire time, we went up and down HUGE dunes! It was so much fun, and the dunes were breathtaking. My favorite part was when our guides had to take us to the top of this big dune we were going to sand board down, and we had to get on the back of their bike things, and grab onto them for dear life. They laughed at my laugh. Sandboarding was basically sledding on your stomach. They greased up these pieces of metal and just shoved us down this dune. It was the BEST. After every time, you would have to get on the back of their bike and ride with them again. So much fun!
Eat my dust
After that, we ate GOURMET nutella sandwiches on the beach next to some flamingos, and headed to the camels. They are hideous, ugly, weird, fluffy creatures that make the most atrocious yells. I love them. They are so TALL and it was fun getting up and down on them. I liked riding them more than a horse because I felt less bad, because they are so huge I feel like they don't even notice me up there on their back. Aisha's was so short and behind me, it's head was basically on my thigh the entire time - I pet him a lot. After that, we planned more stuff to do back at the house, and went for pizza. We got hot chocolate/coffee and talked. We went to this Food Lovers Market and I got some dried mango and chocolate and a huge thing of water, which I later dramatically found out was sparkling.
Our airbnb host, Sugnet/Pierre, was then back from Cape Town (hey!) with his daughter, Anya. They were Afrikaans, and Anya is an art student at Stellenbosch Uni. They were so nice! We watched Devil Wears Prada and talked to them. They had two dogs, one a Dalmation named Alexa and one a wiener dog named Casper. The cat's name, who I was growing very attached to, is Lisa. I was calling her Sneaker before that (she sneaks around). I love the name Lisa, and I love human names for pets. Sugnet and Anya brought us snacks and tea. Great day, was out like a light.
I ate some rusk (kind of like biscotti) and coffee, starting my Saturday and day three off right! We went on a Sandwich Harbour tour, which is a road that disappears every day because the tide comes up, and it is where the dunes meet the beach. It is magnificent. We sat in this huge 4x4 with our VERY Afrikaans driver. We went to Pelican's Point to pick up our three South African Afrikaans companions, who were HILARIOUS. My gay-dar was working that day, also, because it was a gay couple and a sister of one of the husbands (Grace asked what their sitch was). All three of them cracked me up. Pelican's point had dolphins, jackals, giant grasshoppers, a huge colony of seals, and flamingos. We drove along and stopped for palmetto geckos and to hang out on the dunes, and I loved driving along. The guide told us that this was his "office" and the one Afrikaans guy was like "I like what you've done with the place." They called Sam "Se-am" which we are still doing now, and we went to the top of this huge dune to see the ocean. It was like a rollercoaster getting there! After we failed at taking jumping pictures, we went down again (my seat belt unbuckled and my chair fell out of its holdings while going down this dune, I am alive).
Garnet sand - prettier than Bermuda? I think so
We ate these seeds and this leathery stuff that was advertised to us as "tastes just like chocolate" that Bushmen would eat in the area - it did not taste like chocolate. We saw a lot of field mice in the plants and Sam and I were transfixed by this huge bug. We ate this seafood lunch with the Afrikaaners from the other 4x4 that was traveling behind us - sometimes they let us in on the convo, other times not. The older people asked why Rhodes fell - awkward, because they are probably racist. Didn't catch onto that, so I gave my account of equality and basically said he may have put in place some pre-apartheid institutions. The old Dutch Santa Claus said "it should have just stayed." Alright. But the food was great - calamari, this local tomato things stuffed with cheese, fish, this amazing couscous (the rice so nice they named it twice; gay couple called it "gay rice") with feta and squash in it, mussels and delicious bread. We made the beautiful and crazy ride back, but not before our driver stopped the car and said, "Get out." So we got out in the middle of no where, a little confused. Then, once we had walked for a little, he demanded we got in a circle and jumped, clockwise. So we all linked arms and did - and the sand became mushy, and before we knew it, we were mid-calf in sandy water. We did it some more, laughing. The old Afrikaaners came, and I was excited to see them do it (especially Dutch Santa) but they demanded us do it again. And then again. We were pretty dirty for the ride back, and only a little exhausted. So, we called it a night and watched Pitch Perfect.
Deliciouso (can you spy Dutch Santa in red?)
That was us a minute before
The next day, we left early to go camping in Spitzkoppe, two hours away. Sugnet REALLY hooked us up by telling us about it and by lending us sleeping bags, tables, mats, and some blankets. I drove there, and we jammed to tunes the whole way. I really missed driving and listening to music, so I was on cloud 9. We got there and we were so excited - it was BEAUTIFUL! The orange smooth rocks made beautiful mountains. I bought a hat in the reception area (the only one being sold) and stared at the meercat with me in the store just scurrying around.
We drove to a campsite, unloaded some stuff, and I changed out in the open (freeing) into my bathing suit so we could enjoy the mountain pools. It was a kind of tiny pool, but it was nice and hot, so we put our feet in and relaxed. I joked there was a huge crocodile in the middle. There were little tadpole things EVERYWHERE and a few sucked on my feet. The water felt SO GOOD. We walked up some more rocks just to see what we could see, and came back down when we saw some other people by our stuff (phones, wallet, PASSPORT). Later, we found the rock arch and climbed up it. I was a little shaky, but managed. We had fun there for a while. After, we caught the magnificent sunset by our campsite. We noticed the intricate ant trails and tried not to disrupt them on our way there and back. The sunset was unlike anything I had ever seen - so beautiful, so many colors.
Bridge on bridge
& the sun sets
We went to dinner by the reception area, the only restaurant. I ordered spaghetti, and Sam and I took the two hammocks and talked about our study abroad experiences and how we had changed. The pasta was spicy. On the way back, Sam drove so I could do what she had been doing - sitting on the ledge of the window and just looking at everything as I drove. With the stars out, I could not breathe. I may have cried at the beauty. We got back to our campsite and made s'mores and a fire. Best s'mores I have ever had -we used cadbury chocolate and these biscuits (for lack of graham crackers). We talked about politics and the world on our blankets and looked at the stars. We could see galaxies, and I saw 11 shooting stars. I can not impress how magnificent it was. I feel like that sky put things into perspective for me. I tried to take a picture, but of course it failed. Some things can't be captured, I guess.
I had a hard time sleeping because I was so hot in my sweatshirt and sleeping bag. Also because I saw some huge bugs by our campsite while making the fire, and we did not have a tent and were just sleeping on the sandy ground, I was paranoid. I took my clothes off in the sleeping bag but the sleeping bag was just too hot. Eventually I fell asleep, after I was too tired to care about whatever animal was screaming and the weird clicking I was hearing near me. I was sad to see the stars gone when I woke up. We drove to the other side of Spitzkoppe really early to catch the sunrise - worth it. We ate delicious french toast at the restaurant, and Sam drove us back. We dropped off the stuff to Sugnet, returned our car at Walvis Bay Airport, and we were on our way. I tried to buy some Namibian biltong (African dried meat) on my way out at the airport, because it was the best biltong I have had all semester, but it wasn't as good as the bag at Swakopmund when I tried it the next day. I slept on the first flight, and the second Sam and I made a cup tower and I drank red wine and felt very reflective. We had terrible turbulence, which I found very fun. The whole trip was amazing, and probably the most unique thing I have ever done. So much beauty, so much fun, great friends.
& the sun rises
The last week has also been very event-filled, since classes have ended and exams are underway. I only have two exams left, and they are a week away. I spent a day studying at Truth Coffee and missed some of my Starbucks Lovers from home, but the next day my homesickness was gone when we headed to Green Market Square and I had a chai tea at Motherlands coffee that was so cheap and the best one I have ever had. I would call that "essence of fall" because that is what that day felt like. We went to Eastern Food Bazaar and had great convos there, and met up with more good friends by accident! Also, the new twentyone pilots album is great - I like "Stressed Out". Just saying. I have also been obsessed with sushi lately, and order it every where we go.
Fun times, good vibes
We just attended a Drink & Draw event that was really fun in Woodstock and we grabbed Jamaican food after. And yesterday we went to High Tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel with the whole Forest Hill crew, which was extraordinarily fancy. We had a whole room reserved. The food was so good! Finger sammies, this pastry with mushroom and beef in it, this little tarts and mini macaroons, peanut butter cookies dipped in chocolate, roibos tea (SOUTH AFRICAN TEA THAT IS MY FAVORITE). Great conversation. Fancy AF place. I am ever-grateful to my RAs, Sam and Solethu, for putting it together and being my friends this semester. They are so hysterical and nice, I am truly going to miss them! I am getting sad just thinking about leaving them. Sam (not RA Sam) and I went to this thrift market where I got a shirt, two skirts, a sweater, and a scarf for under 15 bucks. How am I going to get all my luggage home? The countdown has begun - see all my Americans soon. I have conflicted emotions just like when I came. I am happy to see everyone at home, but sad to leave the place and the people here. But like a CIEE student said on our third day here, "There's just something about home."
Beloved Sam & Solethu
Entrance to thrift market
Drink & Draw