Ever since I heard stories and looked at photos of my sister sandboarding in the desert dunes from fifteen years ago, I have wanted to see Namibia. Coming from snow country, who ever heard of boarding on sand? That is crazy! But it stuck with me.
If you remember back to a couple posts ago, I mentioned my excitement to ride in the overland camping truck which is one of the reasons I signed up for the camping tour. While that is true, my main reason for looking for a tour in the first place, was to see Namibia. I wanted to see the places my sister told me about so long ago.
If you are not familiar with the location of Namibia, here is the map again to get your bearings. It is situated northwest of South Africa along the Atlantic coastline.
For the sake of size comparison, let’s look at Namibia in relation to the state of Texas. Namibia covers just over 318,000 square miles and has only 2.3 million residents. Texas, on the other hand, stretches just shy of 270,000 square miles but is home to 27 million inhabitants. Wow! What a major difference! Considering how much land and how few residents Namibia has, plus the fact that 16% of the land is sandy desert, I am sure you can imagine how empty and desolate this country can feel when you travel for hours between towns. But that my friends, is where the beauty of Namibia comes alive.
First, let me give you some very brief history and information about Namibia. History can be traced back to the 14th century when several different African tribal groups occupied the land. In the 19th century, a German Empire was established in Namibia which is still evident in architecture when you visit the larger towns like Swakopmund and Windhoek. Following World War I, South Africa took control of Namibia and remained in power until Namibia achieved independence in 1990. It is still viewed as one of the youngest countries in the world. Upon receiving independence, Namibia adopted its current flag design. Namibia has seen its fair share of oppression and devastation over the years. But in their independence, as a nation, they have worked hard to combat segregation and corruption. The country is clean, the people seem kind and the landscape is extraordinary.
We entered Namibia from the south where the flat, brown earth scattered with scrub brush stretched to the mesas in the distance. From that point on, the dramatic scenery of Namibia was ever-changing with each passing mile.
With windows open to the hot whipping wind, I was captivated as the scrub brush grew to larger tree shrubs, brown mesas transitioned to green, pointed peaks emerged from the flat mountain tops, smooth slopes turned rocky, and tan earth suddenly became red. All the while, my only job was to watch and remember to breathe.
In the midst of passing through the desert, we happened upon an area known as the “Moon Landscapes.” This very unique and peculiar area of land is speculated to have once been a high mountain range but over the course of time, erosion and the effects of the Swakop River, it is reduced to a barren wasteland of visibly defined rock layers as far as the eye can see. Its location seems out-of-place as it shows up in the middle of a desert. Because of the unique characteristics of the “Moon Landscapes,” it has provided an intense backdrop for a number of movies.
We also had the opportunity to visit Fish River Canyon and walk along the rim at sunset which presented some beautiful views that my pictures cannot do justice. It is the largest canyon in all of Africa and the second most visited attraction in Namibia. It reaches 1,800 feet deep, 100 miles long and 18 miles wide. Fish River winds its way through the very base of the canyon. During the summer months, the river often floods but during the rest of the year, it tends to be a stream, connecting pools of water.
On the opposite side of the landscape spectrum in Namibia is Etosha National Park. According the Park’s website, “Loosely translated, Etosha means ‘Great White Place’ in the Ovambo language.” It is the reference to the seemingly endless salt pan which makes up much of the park. When it was dedicated as a national game reserve in 1907, it was easily the largest reserve in the world. But as with most other plots of land, the boundary lines were negotiated, changed, pushed and taken. While Etosha is only about a fifth of its original land size now, it is still the number one attraction in all of Namibia.
The landscape is made up mostly of grasslands, the salt pan and watering holes. Visitors can take a drive through the park at leisure looking for animals. As you reach the edge of the white salt pan, keep a close eye out for the “Great White Ghosts,” or elephants who use the salt for protection from the sun, turning their skin white in color.
We happen to be in the park at an unfortunate time for whatever reason as our sightings were fewer than desired and some off in the far distance. However, the park itself is beautiful and well worth the visit.
God’s vast creativity of terrain in this country is simply incredible. If you are looking for a place of incomparable scenic beauty, this is it. Namibia’s desolate, ever-changing landscape is far more than I can describe. Go soak it in for yourself.
And we have not even started to talk about the desert sand dunes yet.
God said to me, “I have brought you here to see because I know you. And when you see these things, you automatically see me. I love that about you. You are worth every penny for this moment.”