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Tuesday Travel Diaries: Namibia

12 June 2012


Jessica from Eternally Enlisted writes....
The basics:
I went to Namibia in July of 2010 to volunteer at Harnas wildlife sanctuary for three weeks, although after all my traveling was done I was gone just over a month.


What route did you take? And how much was the flight?
Here's an outline of my travel schedule.

Day 1: Departed early morning Phoenix --> Arrived Washington D.C. afternoon.

Departed Washington D.C. evening --> Day 2: Arrived late evening Johannesburg, South Africa.

Stayed night in Johannesburg.

Day 3: Departed late morning, Johannesburg --> Arrived Windhoek, Namibia afternoon.

Stayed night in Windhoek.

Day 4: Departed late morning, took group "bus" out to Gobabis where we met up with another "bus" and caravaned to Harnas. Arrived early evening. I was so grateful that night that I had finally arrived.

On the way back it was for the most part the same. I stayed an extra day in Windhoek though instead of Johannesburg, and I flew into the U.S. through JFK instead of D.C.

I only paid for the first and last leg of my trip (both ways) because my dad graciously let me use his frequent flyer miles to get me free flights from East Coast to South Africa and back. At the time this helped me cut costs so much since plane tickets had almost doubled in price in anticipation for the World Cup Finals. If I had had to pay my whole way there, it would've cost just under $3,000. Thanks to my dad I only paid around $800.

Who did you travel with? 
With the exception from Windhoek to Gobabis, I travelled all by myself (much to the displeasure of my mother). I had tons of people ask me if I was scared or nervous about traveling so far on my own, but honestly I wasn't. I knew how to navigate airports, and at almost every stop in Africa I had already arranged for somebody to be picking me up to take me to my next destination (the exception being, of course, in Johannesburg which I'll talk more about later).


 


Tell us where you stayed.
Because I was signed up as a volunteer, most of the time I stayed in a makeshift cabin - two regular walls and two walls made of netting - provided on grounds by Harnas. I also spent a couple nights on a plane, one night in a hotel, 3 nights at a hostel, and a week sleeping out in the bush by the campfire.


 


Did you encounter anything unexpected?
I could probably write a whole book about all the unexpected things I encountered. Most of the things that really stick with me though are the ones I encountered upon first entering Africa since I hadn't learned how to "go with the flow" just yet. I'll just name a few for you here though.

The rand I exchanged my American dollars for in D.C. was the same denomination people were counterfeiting in South Africa and Namibia and so wasn't accepted anywhere except banks and high end electronic stores. My hotel in Johannesburg also didn't exist where they said it did so I spent half my night in Johannesburg taking various shuttles, trains and cabs and talking to locals trying to find out where it really was. And after going through my bags on arrival, I found that some of my soap/shampoo had leaked out and completely soaked my camera. Bye-bye camera.

 

A few things were a great surprise though. After arriving at Harnas, I learned that I had been one of the people chosen to go out into Bushman Land (Nyae-naye area) and help set up a new research center - which turned out to be my favorite part of my trip. Because of that I got to spend a week camping out in the African bush with just a campfire and a rifle to protect us at night. Also I was pleasantly surprised at how nice everyone was to me. I know this may seem like an odd thing to say, but as Americans we really are quite rude and mean to each other in our day-to-day dealings.


Tell us about the food.
I'm actually not a picky eater, so most of the time I didn't really care what I was eating, nor did I ask. In Namibia they eat lots of meat though, so if you're visiting and you're a vegetarian you're going to have some problems. For the most part they have the same dishes as those in South Africa. My favorite dish (besides the Boerewors) was a Zebra steak I had a Joe's Beerhouse. Promise me you'll go eat there if you're ever in Windhoek.


 


The only thing I had a problem with at first is a dish called mielie pap (sounded like milli pop with a South African accent to me). "Mielie" means corn and "Pap" is a kind of porridge. So put them together and you have corn porridge. It was a big staple in our diet along with all the meat. They'd make a fresh batch at night and you'd eat it for dinner. Then in the morning you could add a little milk to it. And if you could stomach it you had it with your lunch. Then we'd let it sit for a day and then feed it to the Warthogs. I never really learned to love it, but after a while I didn't mind it.

Were there any must see’s?
Namibia is a very beautiful country, and just about everything there is a must see!! Tourism is a big part of their economy and just about every time I talk to someone about being there I learn about some new spot I should have visited while there. Probably my biggest regret was not going over into Namibia's Coastal Deserts though.


Would you go back?
In a heartbeat! I would love to visit Namibia again, although I'd really like to just live in South Africa. I'm still secretly trying to find a way to get R.J. (my husband) to relocate there. So far, no luck.

Anything else you'd like to share?
I know this is a shameless plug for volunteer work, but I'd really recommend using volunteer work in lieu of travelling. Most of the time they will provide food and housing for you wherever you are staying. And I think you really get a better sense and love of the culture and community than if you took the regular tourist route. Plus it's a great way to give back to the community where you are staying!


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{Emily here} Wow!  What an incredible experience.  The animal lover in me is ready to hop the next flight.  Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this amazing experience, Jessica.  Readers--if you enjoyed Jessica's post, please go visit her blog, Eternally Enlisted, and show her some love!



If you'd like to be featured on Tuesday Travel Diaries, send me an email at
emmyjuneborninmay{at}gmail{dot}com
I'd love to feature you!

7 comments:

  1. Ah! I volunteered at CARE in Phalaborwa, SA, and we had tons of people that came over from Harness! I love this!

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  2. So, so cool! I've always wanted to do a trip like this (alone, too, haha, which probably wouldn't sit well with the hubby now) but this looks amazing!

    And, Emily, how go your travels?? Can't wait to hear about them!

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  3. I don't think that was a shameless plug at all! Volunteering is a great travel option that is often overlooked. Actually, more and more, universities are supporting students to take gap years before entering college. One of the best ways to spend that gap year is by doing something like AmeriCorps. A lot of my fellow corps members in City Year were completing gap years, and I think it greatly affected their chances in be admitted to their top schools.

    What an awesome trip Jessica took! Even though he camera was ruined on her way there, she still shared some really great photos! But I'm not sure how I feel about that "Windhoeck Experience" photo. :-/

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  4. Annnnddddd now I want to go on Safari. This is amazing.

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  5. Please tell me this is a joke - you have been to South Africa too! Oh boy....I added this to my travel list too.

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  6. Wow, that sounds like an amazing experience!! :O

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts and love!
Every comment makes me smile :)

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