20 Day African Safari


DATE: November 22 to December 11.

COST: 11,450 Rand PP. Plus local fees USD $ 270 PP. (Needed in US dollars)

OPTIONAL: There are many activities that are available at an extra cost. $1,000 has been suggested as an amount suitable for the extra activities. We think half this would be enough per person.

Day 1. Sunday

The tour officially began at 08:00 at the main office of Nomad in Green Market square of Cape Town. We were handed a sheet of the rules and regulations and conditions of Nomad. After reading it we were required to sign a separate paper saying we had read it. Then we paid our local fees.

After the “check-in” we took our bags around a corner to the truck. Our truck was called Morrison. After Jim Morrison of the Doors. [all of some 60 + trucks of Nomad are named after deceased rock starts and singers]. We met our guides; Patrick and Albert and loaded our gear.

We drove to a Dolphin Beach just on the outskirts of Cape Town. It offered great views of Table Mountain and Robins Island. (Robins Island is were Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 eyars) It was also the popular place for kite surfing. It was a 15 min stop.

Drove on to a shopping mall. 1 hr there. Our cook; Albert, bought groceries. We bought water and snacks.

Drove untill about 1:30 for lunch. Simple sandwiches. Slices of tomatoes, cucumber and onions. Some cheese and lunch meat for the non-vegetarians.

Drove on to our camp Gekko camp ground. We were shown how to put up the tents. Then did so.

Then went for a nature walk with a local guide. Mr. Skokkie. He carried all kinds of nasty things in his small back pack.

These things he pulled out of his bag at various times to enhance what he was telling us about. A worm-like snake, he had a big black beatle the size of your fist… but it got away. He had other bugs and crawly things in his bag. At one point he ran into the bushes and came back with 3 scorpions wrapped up in his hat. One of them was pregnant.

From the office of the campground I made a call to the Visa people to try to get them to release the hold on my debit card. I told them that I had called them FIVE times and told them I was in South Africa until December 16th. The woman, told me that, that information was connected to my old card, not the new one. HOW stupid can you get?. Do they think that I just quit my work and travels and went home because Visa canceled my other debit card??? The old card was canceled so do they think I was no longer in South Africa? MORONS FUCKING MORONS at VISA. This is just the tip of the iceberg of absolutely stupid things they do. I wish upon the Visa company severe economic and business problems. I hate them.

Dinner rice and some kind of over-cooked stew.

After dinner we had our nightly briefing. The briefing was done to tell us about the next days schedule and events so we could prepare ourselves properly. On this first night our guides; Patrick and Albert, told us about the company; Nomad and about our overall schedule and the rules of our trip.

Day 2, Monday

Stayed at Fiddlers Creek Campground Monday night on the Gariep /Orange River. Nice campground. Patrick told us that there were cockroaches in this area. In the evening I saw one in the sink of the mens bathroom. It was enormous. I am not exaggerating it was as long as my middle finger and twice as fat.

Day 3, Tuesday

Tuesday was a slow day. In the morning there was an optional canoe river trip. It was 196 Rand. I opted to stay around camp and get some things done. Soon Jeong wanted to go swimming but was not able to get into the water from the small dock. I washed some clothes and laid them in the burning hot sun.

We had reached the heat and sun that one associates with Africa. By 10:00 am the temperature was over 90 degrees.

The canoe people arrived back at camp at 11:30, soaking wet and cooled off. The rest of us were sitting in camp sweating.

The river was the boarder between South Africa and Namibia. The immigrations office for the boarder crossing was better described as a desert outpost. All around us nothing but dirt rocks and the burning sun.

Everyone crossed into Namibia. The 24th country for Soon Jeong and I. The day before we had picked up four 5 liter bottles of water. This was water for the next 4 days. Just Tuesday along we drank two of them. At one point we stopped in the desert just to hear the total silence and see up close the landscape. It was impressive; it was also over 107 degrees. (42 C)

We reached Fish River Canyon and set up tents then went out to the viewpoint of the canyon for sunset photos.

Fish River Canyon, our handout said, is the second largest canyon in the world. ( I assume the Grand Canyon is the largest)

It is 27km long and 550 meters deep. The handout also said it IS the oldest canyon in the world with rocks that date back 2600 million years. The sunset was pretty good.

Day 4, Wednesday

Continued driving north along the West coast of Africa in the country of Namibia. We drove into Namib desert into Naukluft National Park.

The Nambi desert is over 2000km long. In this desert there are many sand dunes. Unlike other sand dunes these dunes do not move; they are permanent piles of sand. A nature guide told us the reason they do not move is because there is a plant that grows on them. The plant puts in roots and grows above the surface of the sand. The wind blows and covers the top of the plant. The plant then grows more until it reaches above the surface. Then the wind blows and sand covers the plant again. Again, the plant grows more and rises above the surface… more wind and sand, more growing. This process continues until the roots of the plan are as much as 100 meters deep. The plant has then reached its limit and dies. The sand covers it and it disappears. However, the roots are still in the ground acting as natures rebar holding the sand together. That is why the dunes do not move. Inside they are held together and in place by dead roots of plants.

And because they don’t more, they have been able to give the dunes names. But that would be too many names to remember so they just numbered them. Our dune of investigation was Dune 45.

Day 5.

We got up at 4:00am. No breakfast, no shower, just get dressed and into the truck. We drove a few miles out to the dunes. In the dime blueish light just before dawn, we climbed Dune 45. Patrick told us we had to get there early so we could be the first ones up the dune. Walking on virgin sand just makes the whole experience more auspicious. It was.

Soon Jeong and I were the last ones up the dune because we were so busy getting fantastic photos of the dunes and the others climbing in the predawn light. Fabulous.

We came down from the dune and our usual cornflakes, bread & jam, and hot chicory (Nomad’s cheap tasteless substitute for coffee) was ready for us. We were encouraged to hurry up and eat because we had to drive a little further into the park to meet a guide.

Our guide gave us a 90 min tour and education of desert life. We learned how you can get water from the sand and how you can store water in ostrich eggs for up to 3 months. He showed us lost of bugs, insects and lizards. Lizards were plentiful and he had no problem catching one. He the showed us how the lizard will bite into something and hold on. The bite amounted to just a tickle. But the interesting thing was the lizard would hold the bite for as much as an hour.

Our guide told us you could get two lizards and attach them to your ears to wear as earrings.

The most interesting thing our guide told us was his story of when he was a boy our hunting with his grandfather. They were charged by a big male lion. His grandfather taught him to not move and just stand there when the lion charges. If you run… then it become a cat and mouse game and you’re the mouse. If you stand firm this will put fear in the lion and he will back down.

The story was a fascinating tale and our guide was a good story teller. Since then we have been told many times by local people that if a lion charges you, don’t move and stand your ground. Good information to know when your walking in the bush. Information I do not want to put to the test.

Day 6

Still driving north we crossed the Tropic of Cancer. Stopped for photos.

We stopped in the town of Swakopmund where we were taken to an adventure sports company. We were given a video of the optional activities that we could do. Soon Jeong and I thought about going skydiving but decided not to because of the price and because it was a tandem jump. Meaning that you would be strapped onto the skydiving instructor and he would do all the needed things for the jump….you were just the passenger.

I’m going to stop with the day by day journal account of this trip and just tell the highlights. I figure most of you are getting board with the “Day 1, Day 2, Day 3” thing.

Just after Swakopmund we stayed at a bush camp. No electricity, no water, no nothing. Toilet was just a hole dug in the ground. Our camp was at the base of a rock mountain called Spitzkoppe. Spitzkoppe is known as the Mattererhorn of Namibia.

It is not the highest mountain in the country but because of the pointy shape the granite rock (about 1790 meters high) is the best known in the country. Indeed it was an impressive sight at sunset. Here we were also given a nature walk and short hike.

The best part of Spitzkoppe was the stars. For some reason I woke up at about 4:00am. I stepped outside our tent to have a look. It was amazing. I have never seen so many stars. The milky way was a very distinct and bright highway running right across the sky. I could even see “star clouds.” So many stars all together that they made a cloud. I woke Soon Jeong up to come and see. We both stood there for 10 minutes or so just looking. Soon Jeong went back in but I stayed a bit longer. It was then that I saw 3 shooting stars.

For me, it was a spiritual moment. I cannot accurately describe the feeling to you because it was deeply personal. Standing in the desert of a country in Africa looking up at our galaxy. I felt I was not alone there. My father, grandparents and even Soon Jeong’s cousin Miss Kwan were all there. I did not want to go back in the tent. But, like every moment, they pass. I went back to bed.

We visited a tribe of people called the Himba people. This is the last traditional tribe of the Himba people. One Himba woman decided that she would adopt some orphan children and raise them in the traditions of the Himba people.

Other young couples joined her and now it is a thriving tribe that lives the old traditional way. Our group was invited to visit and we were told to bring gifts of sugar and corn meal and give to the queen of the trib.

It was quite interesting to see how these people live and especially how the women did their hair. Their hair was kind of their trademark. It was impressive.

We saw the people, played with the kids and were told about the lifestyle and traditions. But for me, I just had one question. A question for the queen of the tribe. With our guide helping to translate I asked her the one same question I have been asking people everywhere we go all over the world: Do you think the world will be better, worse or the same 20 years in the future?

She thought it would be better. She believed her people and traditions would thrive and flourish to a better future.

We spent a couple of days in Etosha National Park.—Northern Namibia, over 22,000 square km and a fantastic amount of wildlife. The government gets some points here….for once. Elephants in the park were venturing out into local farm lands searching for food and water. Farmers were shooting the elephants to save their crops and to get some cash from the ivory tusks. The government decided to make a few dozen man-made water holes inside the park. So when the natural water holes dried up in the dry season, the elephants didn’t go into the farm fields, there was still plenty of water to keep them around….inside the park.

This plan has worked quite well and there are even campgrounds and lodging huts next to some of these water holes. There is an electric fence separating the campground and water holes. It is a fantastic place to watch wild animals.

We stayed at one water hole-campground one night and another one the next night. In between we took a couple of game drives. Just look at the photos below to see some of the results.

In Botswana we went into the Okavango Delta to a bush camp for two days. It was really cool because people from a local village were our hosts and guides. They took us into the delta by Mokoro (traditional canoe). The bush camp was nice. Our mission there was to do game walks and relax in between.

During one of those in-between times a few of our group decided to give a try at using the mokoros. The proper way to pole your way through the narrow channels in the mokoros is to stand up at the back and push with the pole. Just like the gondolas in Venice Italy. Easier said than done. As one of our group found out. He went swimming, the boat when to the bottom. Fortunately it was only about 3 feet deep.

Chobe National Park was the next high spot. Call this elephant country. We were told there are 55,000 elephants in the park. We saw many. They are indeed a fantastic sight to see.

To wrap up our tour we spent the last two days in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The falls were amazing.

The best way to describe Victoria Falls is to imagine a wide and shallow river flowig along. Then tear apart the earth creating a crevice that is about a mile long and a hundred plus meters deep.

The Zimbabwe side is the dry side where you can see the falls. The Zambia side is the river side. BUT there is one spot on the Zambia side that you can go swimming in. It’s a small pool of water right on the edge of the falls.

Overall the trip was very good. There were some things that I thought were very unpleasant and very unnecessary.

First was the food. The cook was on the cheap cheap budget. For more than 15 of the 20 days we had sandwiches for lunch. Not just sandwiches but the same pathetic sandwiches. Day after day after day we were served bread, sliced onions, cucumbers and tomatoes with grated cheese. Sometimes there was some lunch meat with it. That was the main course of lunch. A couple of times we had some extras with it like noodle macaroni salad or potato salad.

Breakfast was cereal with bread (not toasted, just plain bread) butter and jam.

At all meals we were given something called Ricoffee. Which was not coffee at all it was a chicory based coffee substitute with dextrose and some other fillers added. It was horrible.

Dinners were mostly starches; rice, potatoes, pasta. Vegetables were used as garnish in all but a few meals.

Overall the food was pathetic and totally unnecessary. I personally talked to 4 other people who said they lost weight on the 20 day trip. Simply because they got so tired of eating the same starchy foods they just stopped eating. I make the 5th person I know of who lost weight.

The menu can be summed up as… SSDD…. Same Shit, Different Day.

The other thing that I thought was unnecessary was the pace of the schedule,. The trip started out fine but by day 8 we were getting up every day at 5 am so we could hurry up and finish our breakfast cereal by 6:30 take down our tents, load the truck and be moving down the road by 7:00am. Then we would arrive at our destination at 6 or 7 in the evening and dinner would be served anywhere between 8 an 9 pm. Then we had the daily briefing and normally at 10 or 10:30 we were released to do our own personal things. Nonsense!

It got so bad that people were washing cloths at midnight and drying them on the back of the chairs in the truck the next day. Several people just didn’t bother to take their luggage out of the truck… there was no point to it.

Often we would pull into a town for a stop to do some things. Our driver would inform us there is a bank across the street if we need to get some money from the ATM machine. There was an internet café on the left of that. On the corner there is a grocery store if you want to buy some cold drinks or snacks. And please take care of all your business and be back in the truck in 30 minutes. Or frequently,…be back in 15 minutes. It was a joke.

At one time or another I saw every couple in our group has some squabble or argument over getting things packed and into the truck on time. They were so irritated and tired of the rush rush rush schedule that tempers were getting very short.

Completely unnecessary. Just slow it down a bit, cut out one activity in three days and give people the afternoon off.

Unfortunately our guides did not want to hear any complaints or suggestions about the food or the schedule. We did try, but their ears were not open.

None of those things were necessary. Not necessary at all.

It took us two days to drive back to Johannesburg. We had only two days there then we flew to India via Dubai on Emerates Airlines.


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