Leaving Swakopmund behind, it was hard to believe I was on the final leg of my trip, only 6 days to left!
We drove down the coast for a while before turning back inland, as soon as we were away from the coast it started to heat up and we were peeling off layers of clothing. The landscape was very dry and rocky, and as it began to even out we passed across the Tropic of Capricorn.
We got into camp reasonably early at 3pm, spent the afternoon relaxing, enjoying a hot shower and the wildlife wandering through camp. We had an early start the next day so we were all in bed straight after dinner.
Up at 5am, we didn’t pack up the tents as we would be coming back to camp after our morning excursion. We passed into Namib-Naukluft National Park at 6:00am, half an hour before the rest of the crowds showed up who weren’t camping next to it. We had about a 20 minute drive to Dune 45, 170 metres high and the point people go to watch sunrise. There were already a fair few people climbing up the dune when we got there, now I don’t consider myself a competitive person but when I saw those people ahead of me something sparked inside me and I was like NOPE I WANT TO BE FIRST! I think I was motivated by the fact that I wanted sunrise pictures without people or footprints in them.
Don’t know where the energy came from but I passed about 40 people and ended up being 3rd to the top! Hard work! For every step you take up the sand dunes you slide back half a step.
When I got to the top I collapsed and completely forgot that I had wanted to be up there to get pictures without footprints, a woman walked by me and I ended up half chasing her across the dune to try get ahead to get a photos but she powered ahead of me, oh well!
Getting down the dune is a lot more fun, running down the side you slide just as much as you are running, got to the bottom covered head to toe in sand!
At the bottom our cook had prepared breakfast for us, delicious spread! We quickly ate before hopping back into the truck to get to the next point to beat the crowds. Ten minutes later we got to the carpark, dozens of trucks and jeeps, there were guides jumping out of vehicles and sprinting to the ticket point to line up for their tourists.
They don’t allow private vehicles to drive further than the carpark because too many self-drive tourists get stuck in the sand, so they have a jeep shuttle system to bring the tourists in and out.
Luckily we only had to wait about 20 minutes for our turn to get in the jeep. 10 minute drive later we arrived, on our left was Big Daddy, the largest sand dune in the world standing at 300 metre high and on the right was Big Mama the second biggest sand dune.
We were given 2 hours to explore the area, our guide suggested we climb the smaller dune next to Big Daddy and we would get a good panoramic view of the dunes and Deadsvlei, then we could go down to Deadsvlei and look around. I asked why he didn’t suggest Big Daddy, he said it would take the full 2 hours and I would miss out on Deadsvlei. Myself and 2 friends (Debbie and Ross, Australian couple) looked at each other… challenge accepted! Our guide told us we better start running if we wanted to make it, so off we went!
Started running across the sand, which then turned into a salt pan that we were running across, took us 15 minutes to get just to the base of Big Daddy. I kept chanting in my head “we can make it, we can make it”.
It was only 9am and the sun was already blaring down on us, a guy had just come down and we asked him how long it took to get up, he said it took him an hour but it was very hot now so it would take us longer. Didn’t like his attitude… not very positive I don’t think! Besides we are from Australia, this isn’t hot yet (ignore the fact I’m from Canberra).
We started the climb, stopping occasionally to check the time and catch our breath. It was A LOT harder than the dune this morning, I think because in the morning I had been stepping in other people’s footsteps which makes it a bit easier, but the footsteps here had already sunken away.
After 45 gruelling minutes we finally made it to the top! Dripping with sweat but sooo happy! We sat down for about 10 minutes taking it all in, we could see right down into Deadslvei. Took a few photos and then decided to head back down as we had 45 minutes to get back to the meeting point.
Getting to the bottom of Big Daddy took only 5 minutes, almost disappointing after the effort involved in getting up. It was fun though! We were sliding/running down the hill and it felt never ending, I saw a sand diving lizard on the way down too!
We reached the bottom at Deadslvei, emptied the ridiculous amount of sand from our shoes and started walking.
It was a huge salt pan, we started jogging because we knew we were short on time. We finally got to where the trees were, the trees are dead and some are over 800 years old.
The black contrast against the white salt pan, red sand and blue sky is beautiful! We kept on walking to get back to the start point and amazingly we got back at 10:50, 10 minutes to spare!
We were so pleased with ourselves, red faced and dripping in sweat but we had conquered Big Daddy!
The drive back in the jeep to the carpark was eventful, I got the last seat which was in the front with the driver. The whole way he was on the radio screaming that there had been tourists who had jumped into a jeep without paying the fee and that they couldn’t get away with it. Apparently it’s common for hotel jeeps to only charge tourists one way fees which meant that jeep drivers like him lose money. He would go silent and then 30 seconds later scream into the radio GET THE MONEY! He was screaming at other jeeps as they passed telling them what happened, it was intense! I was happy to arrive at the carpark!
Got back into the truck with sand everywhere, in my hair, in my mouth, everywhere! We drove 45 minutes back to the campsite, put the tents down and had lunch before heading off!
We only drove 2 hours today, after truck cleaning duty I raced to the shower still filthy from the morning. After dinner we played a bit of pool in the bar, exhausted after the big day went to bed fairly early.
Had a freezing cold night, terrible sleep because I kept waking from the cold. My tent mate (Steph) told me I kept waking her because I kept breathing heavily, oops!
We headed off after breakfast, stopped in a small town called Bethanie on the way. We were going to have cheese and crackers that evening so we tried to scrounge what we could in the small town. I found chilli bites (dried meat) at a small butcher, block of cheese at the mini market and some plain biscuits. That’ll do! The town itself wasn’t the nicest, there was a lot of creepy men hanging around asking for money or whispering hey there lady, I was glad to leave.
We stopped at a bridge along the way to take some pictures of fish river, the river was dried up so we took photos of the sand instead.
We continued on the drive and at one stage I could smell something burning, after the tyre incident in Etosha NP I panicked and quickly told my guide. They stopped the truck and jumped out, turns out a tiny bit of wood had got stuck in the brake and had been burning. I can cope with that! As long as no more fires on the truck!
We got into camp at 1pm, it was a new resort under construction but it looked like it was going to be very expensive when finished! Beautiful bar and pool area. We had lunch and relaxed until 3pm then we got in the truck and drove 10 minutes up the road to Fish River Canyon.
We got dropped at the starting point of the walk along the canyon, it was a 3km walk back to the viewing point. Really hot weather! The canyon was super impressive though, 600m in depth at some points. Took about 40 minutes to walk, stopping for pictures along the way.
We had a water break at the viewing point then walked a further 2km along the canyon in the other direction to check out the view before heading back for sunset.
Next 2 hours we enjoyed the view with our cheese and crackers. Once the sun was down we all got back into the truck to go back to camp. Had another excellent dinner before heading off to bed.
Following day we only had about an hour or so to drive to our next campsite, we got in and it was beautiful, lots of lush green grass everywhere.
At this campsite we would be switching to a new truck, reason being South Africa doesn’t allow tour companies to use trucks that aren’t registered in South Africa and the one we had been in had been registered in Kenya. We emptied out the truck, I had my things strewn everywhere in my two lockers and in the overhead compartments and back seat pockets. Guess that’s what happens when you are living in a truck for weeks! The new truck was a lot smaller and my big bag did not fit inside the locker! Took out the important things for next couple of days then put the big bag underneath.
Rest of the afternoon I laid on the grass napping, went down near the pool for a while as well. After lunch we got told that our driver John would be leaving us here and we would have a new driver from South Africa from tomorrow. Really sad after spending 40+ days with him, really friendly guy!
That evening a few of us were talking to our cook and driver about their first experiences with western culture. John had never used a knife and fork until he started working for the company, and he used to hide in the truck watching tourists using cutlery until he was confident to eat in front of them. Our cook when he first went to a restaurant and was given a teabag had torn it open to pour into the cup because he had never seen one before. Crazy such little things that we don’t even give a second thought to.
We had a really nice dinner that night, lamb chops, roast potatoes, vegetables, our cook really put on a show for John’s last night. We finished the night with a drink with John at the bar before bed.
Early start at 6am, we had breakfast, said our goodbyes to John and met our new driver Goodman, very chatty guy from Johannesburg!
We drove only 10 minutes to the border, very straight forward being stamped out of Namibia and into South Africa. Apparently normally when they enter South Africa we have to empty out the truck to be searched with dogs and everything but Goodman somehow talked the officer out of it. My guide just shook his head and said I don’t know how he does it, he is the only driver that never gets searched.We stopped in a town called Springbok to go supermarket, I was so excited when I saw they sold hummus! FINALLY! I had been craving it for weeks and there it was! Bought that and went back to the truck, I demolished the whole tub before we headed off.
We got into our final campsite for the trip, it was at a beautiful winery with green grass and nice views over the vineyards. I had planned on upgrading for my final night of the tour but the campsite was so nice I didn’t feel the need to.
At 5pm we had a wine tasting, we tried 6 different wines with cheese and crackers, really enjoyable evening. Had a delicious final meal which included chocolate pudding for dessert. We all went up to the bar for a few drinks, played a few games of pool and then went off to bed.
Woke up to a beautiful view from the tent overlooking the vineyards. I packed up my tent for the last time in 63 days, felt a bit sentimental. That was short lived when my finger got pinched by one of the poles. We hopped into the truck and drove the final 300km to Cape Town.
As we got closer to Cape Town, Table Mountain came into view super impressive!
We arrived at the ending point hostel, myself and Steph were the only ones who had booked rooms there and everyone else had split to other hotels. We emptied out the truck and all said goodbye to each other, the crew were staying at the hostel so I’d catch them later.
Lots of friendly staff at the hostel, I had decided to splurge and stay in a private room with Steph instead of the dorms. Got into the room and collapsed on the bed, laid there for about an hour not really doing much. I needed to do laundry but even that seemed like too much effort. Finally at about 5 we went down to the bar/restaurant for a few drinks. Ended up having a couple of drinks with the crew and chatting with them. Had a really nice pizza from the bar and enjoyed a few beers. I felt like I got some weird kind of culture shock looking around at the people at the bar. Everyone was dressed so nicely and seemed so clean compared to my filthy clothes after 2 months of camping!
I went up to my room at one point to get a jumper, told the crew I’d be back in 10 minutes, sat on the bed aaaaaaaaaand fell asleep!
Following morning I couldn’t believe it when I woke up! I quickly raced out of the room to catch the crew before they left because I knew they were leaving early. Bumped into them in the hallway and they were like what happened? Classic Shannon falling asleep, I apologised and explained. We said our goodbyes and off they went with the truck.
Had breakfast then went to meet Debbie and Ross for the day.
We spent couple hours wandering around the markets and buying a few things. We were all keen to do Table Mountain but the issue was the weather. Because of the crazy weather in Cape Town the cable car opens and shuts non-stop throughout the day, part of when you buy a ticket up there is they say you have to be prepared to have to climb down if they can’t run the cable car. Before we went to the market the cable car had been closed, we came back afterwards and it was open! We quickly bought tickets and hopped in a taxi to race to the mountain. Got to the station and after a short wait hopped into the cable car. The wire stretches 1km long, takes a minute to go up to the top at 1080m high. The inside of the cable car rotates and can fit 65 people and the views were amazing.
We were starving once we got to the top so we went to the buffet style café. With full stomachs we had a wander all around the top for an hour, incredible views over Cape Town and the south coast.
We decided to head back down and get on the hop on hop off bus that goes around the south peninsula of Cape Town, we booked tickets online and just as we got to the bottom of the cable car the next bus had arrived. Got seats on top of the bus and listened to the audio while looking at the views. Really beautiful scenery all along the coast, we got off at the Camps Bay stop and had a wander along the beach, really buzzing area, I’d like to come back and explore if I have time.
We headed back towards the city getting off at the main stop, we got there just before 4pm and we were able to join the free walking tour to Bo Kaap, perfect timing!
Bo Kaap is the Islamic area in Cape Town, made famous for its very colourful buildings. We got shown the oldest mosque which was built in 1764, he said this was strange because at that time the Dutch were still in charge and the Dutch were intolerant of any religion other than theirs.
We got taken all around the streets for 2 hours, the tour finished up and I made plans to meet Debbie and Ross the following day. Went back to the hostel and met Steph for dinner, the place we wanted to go was booked until 9pm, we decided to go to bar nearby for a drink before going there. At the bar I bumped into a girl from Canberra! Never met anyone from Canberra while travelling, she was just as excited as I was!
We headed back to the restaurant and ended up ordering a feast, so delicious! We got butternut squash mash, spinach feta pumpkin rolls, calamari and caprese salad and a serve of fries. Food was so good!
Got back to the hostel and Steph went to bed, I stayed at the bar chatting with some hostel staff and other travellers. A few of us decided to head out to the clubs, went to a super touristy bar which wasn’t bad. I asked a guy from the hostel if he knew any local spots and he took us all to a place around the corner where there was not a tourist in sight, perfect! Ended up having a really good time at this club and got home in the early hours.
After a couple hours sleep I got up and showered, Debbie and Ross came to meet me at the hostel at about 8 because we wanted to hire a car for the day to explore south of Cape Town. After a lot of confusion about whether we could hire a car or not because it was a public holiday we got the location of a place nearby, hopped in a taxi and after a bit of searching found the place.
Ended up paying $25 each for car hire for the day, perfect! We headed off down south, first stop was Hout Bay. Cold weather but was still nice to walk along the pier where all the fishermen were. One of them was feeding a seal from his boat which was cute!
We hopped back into the car, the scenery was seriously breathtaking! High mountains and sheer cliffs all along the way, stopped at a lookout point along the way and saw a couple of whales in the distance!
From there we drove inland towards Simons Bay, to see the penguins at Boulders Beach. We had a walk along the beach to watch them for a while before stopping for lunch at a café near the beach. Had a nice meal, we could see a few penguins from where we were sitting, cuties!
After lunch we continued our drive to Cape of Good Hope the most south-western point of Africa. As we got closer we could see the hoards of tourists there, we parked the car and walked up the hill to the lookout point. Tourists were still piling in so we decided to head towards the lighthouse 10 minutes away.
Parked the car and walked about 20 minutes to the top, the whole way up there were baboons on the path. Signs everywhere saying to not have food, leave them alone etc. We saw a number of baboons charging at tourists who ignored these rules.
At this point we had almost run out of time so we missed out on going to Hermanus Bay to try see some whales. Headed back towards Cape Town on the inland road, definitely not as scenic but it was quick. We drove through a small town called Fish Hoek which reminded me of some coast towns in Australia, I’d like to go back one day and explore!
We got back to my hostel and parked the car. We went inside to book tickets to Robben Island for the next day, unfortunately it was fully booked out! Debbie and Ross headed off and I went up to the room to start packing my bag for my flight the following evening, ended up laying on my bed for hours just looking through pictures from the trip and then falling asleep without dinner!
Following morning I did a quick pack of my bags and checked out. Met Debbie and Ross, we dropped the car back at the car rental place, then got a taxi to the Apartheid Museum for Nelson Mandela.
We spent an hour and a half at the museum, it was fascinating. All about Nelson Mandela from when he was born, his youth, education, activism, imprisonment and then once he was president.
We were pretty hungry so we walked to the VA waterfront, sun came out just as we got there so we chose a café outside overlooking the water. Debbie and Ross shouted me lunch for my birthday which was really nice of them. Had a really tasty lamb dish, best meal in Cape Town so far! We went back to my hostel where I said my final goodbyes to them!
Spent the next half hour moving things around in my bag before ordering an Uber for the airport. My Uber driver was from Zimbabwe, he got super excited when I said I had just been there, we chatted the full 45 minutes to the airport. Check in was straight forward, next 2 hours in the airport I was feeling nostalgic for all the adventures I’d had in Africa, I was so upset to be leaving but knew I had more amazing adventures ahead of me.
Back in Australia when I had booked the tour I had only been excited for all the safaris and animals I was going to see. I didn’t realise how much I was going to enjoy Africa, the animals were just the start. So many beautiful friendly people I had met along the way, the constantly changing scenery and such varied cultures not just from different countries but within the countries themselves. I really fell in love with Africa and I know it’s a place I will return to many times throughout my life!