One of my most memorable holidays was a three week road trip around Namibia in a slightly battered open back Hyundai truck. Namibia is a vast country, the fifth largest in Africa, with a tiny population of 2.4 million, so you can drive for days and not see anyone just spectacular scenery, endless blue skies and an abundance of wildlife. It’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the drive. The highlights of my trip were:
Watching the sun rise over the sand dunes at Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei in the Namib desert, a landscape of contrasts with glowing orange dunes, piercing blue sky and white parched earth below. We climbed the Big Mama dune and looked down at the blistered landscape of the Dead Vlei valley.
Big Mama, a paw print in the cracked earth of Dead Vlei (valley) and the blackened skeletons of ancient camel thorn trees.
Seeing the ancient rock art at Twyfelfontein
Twyfelfontein is a UNESCO World Heritage site, in the Kunene region in north-west Namibia, famous for its petroglyphs etched into the red sandstone by the San people over 2,000 years ago.
Exploring the Skeleton Coast
We had to abandon our truck and fly to this remote region, part of the Namib desert and the least inhabited in Namibia. It was worth the trip. It’s a strangely beautiful coastline littered with shipwrecks and the bones of whales and seals. We saw desert adapted elephants in the Hoanib river, went on walking safaris and met with some of the Himba people, Namibia’s last semi nomadic tribe.
Top: endless dunes, the coast littered with driftwood, shipwrecks and whale bones, lunar landscapes. Bottom left: a tiny (slightly larger than the end of a pair of sunglasses) but deadly scorpion in the sand.
Bottom right: desert adapted elephants
Driving through the countryside we spotted ostriches, baboons, antelope, oryx and camels. We spent a few days at Etosha, one of Africa’s largest game parks and went on several self-drive game drives stopping at various waterholes and waiting and waiting and waiting until finally the animals started coming in to drink.
Above: seals and dolphins surrounded our kayaks in Walvis Bay
The people we met along the way
We stopped and chatted to Sussie and her daughter selling Herero dolls in a makeshift wooden shack miles, from the nearest village, en route to Twyfelfontein. They looked so cool and elegant in the sweltering midday sun and were very keen to have their photographs taken together and to be sent copies.
The ladies are dressed in the traditional dress of the Herero tribe; long hand sewn dresses padded out with petticoats based on the clothing worn by German settlers in the 1900s. This was a period of intense conflict and tens of thousands of Hereros lost their lives. The remaining women were forced to wear this style of dress to work in the households of the German settlers and have since adopted it as their own. The voluminous gowns are accompanied by a flat headdress which is designed to represent the horns of cattle as the Herereo are a pastoral cattle herding tribe.
Our Himba guide at the Hoanib River camp near the Skeleton Coast took us to meet some Himba nearby. We took maize meal as a gift and were welcomed into the homestead and given an insight into the culture and traditions of the Himba people. This elderly lady showed us how to make Ofjizu, the red paste which the Himba cover themselves in to protect against the sun. Above she is grinding the ochre stone which is then mixed with fat and aromatic herbs to create a paste which is applied daily.
The Himba, fed up with being misrepresented, have made their own film about their lives”The Himbas are Shooting”. You can see a trailer for the film, which is based on traditional storytelling, here.
This is where, nine years ago, I discovered these exotic hand painted and hand printed cushions. I bought a couple for my kitchen, which I still have, and decided that when I opened my shop I would stock them. You can view the collection here and read the story behind the collection here.
Where to stay
We stayed at camps run by Wilderness Safaris, an eco travel operator committed to conserving wildlife and investing in local communities and would recommend them.