10 reasons why everyone should visit Namibia at least once in their life

Africa, Uncategorized

Africa is a big ol’ continent and I’m incredibly lucky to have visited 5 countries within it. As much as I’ve loved each country, Namibia has always held a special place in my heart and I discover new reasons to love it every time I go. As one of the most unheard of and underrated countries, I thought I’d put a little list together to tell you why it’s worth visiting the beauty that is Namibia.

1. People

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Everyone says this about everywhere they go so I’m going to join them and tell ya that the people you meet in Namibia are just so so so lovely. As well as being kind, caring and smart; the friends I have in Namibia are also ridiculously hilarious.

2. Sunrises and sunsets

Get up early (I’m talking like 5am), find a hill or building to climb up and watch the sun rise along the horizon.

Watching the sunset is equally as stunning; the colours change each evening and you’ll feel like you’re in the real life version of The Lion King.

3. Culture

 

Namibia has an estimated population of 2.2 million people, made up of 13 ethnic groups. They are: the Herero, the Damara, the Nama, the San (Bushmen), the Rehoboth Basters, the Coloureds, the Whites, the Caprivian, the Kavango, the Topnaars, the Tswana, the Himba and the Owambo. Visit Opuwo in the north to see how the Himbas use ochre on their skin and hair.

4. Drinks

Windhoek lager and Tafel are brewed in Namibia. Savanna and Amarula are from South Africa but readily available at all times in Namibia. You’ve gotta give them a try.

5. Etosha

Etosha National Park is a game reserve in Northern Namibia and should be on every bucket list. You can expect to see lion, springbok, gemsbok, impala, hyena, giraffe, rhino (black and white), elephant and if you’re lucky; leopard and cheetah.

Instead of following radios and keepers to find the animals, you can self-drive and wait for the wildlife to come to you at a waterhole.

6. Braais

Afrikaans for BBQ, but so much better than a pathetic British attempt at grilling meat outside. Braais don’t take days/weeks of notice and hours of preparation. Just call some friends, bring drinks, meat, make a fire and enjoy.

7. Ghost towns

Vogue photoshoot worthy ghost towns (yass, really), Kolmanskop is worth a visit if you want to fill your insta with artsy pics of abandoned houses and a forgotten town.

8. The landscapes

If you enjoy wide, open spaces then this is the country for you. Namibia is huge (3 times the size of the UK) but with 62 million fewer people living in Namibia than the UK, there are a lot of open spaces. You can drive for hours on end without encountering another person.

From rocks, to bush, the desert – the changing landscape is a major appeal to tourists and photographers from all over the world.

9. Sossusvlei

Who knew a visit to the desert would be so tiring?! Sossusvlei will test your endurance and tolerance to extreme heat. In return, it will reward you with breathtaking (seriously) views, wildlife, a sense of accomplishment and pockets full of sand.

10. Swakopmund

Feel like Mad Max as you speed through the desert to reach the German town. The ideal spot for souvenir shopping, eating fresh seafood, hopping between cute little cafes and getting your adrenaline fix with quad biking and sand boarding tours.

Spot flamingos, climb Dune 7, walk along the jetty, collect shells on the beach and enjoy the cooler weather of the coast.


So there you have it, just a few reasons why I might be addicted to travelling to Namibia.

love, Mary

x

p.s. follow on insta for more wanderlust worthy pics: @girlgotlost_

 

 

I’m currently 3 floors high in an apartment in Berlin listening to the noisy street below and preparing for a day of sightseeing. The past 2 weeks have been crazy and I’ve worked out that I’ve slept in 6 different beds (alone, don’t worry!) in 3 different countries, in 2 different continents, in 6 different towns/ cities/ villages and gone from seeing donkey carts, bakkies and women carrying bags of rice on their heads to bicycles, Mercedes and businessmen in suits having meetings on the metro.

Back in Namibia –
I joined Paul and his son Matty for the 5am drive to Otjiwarongo; we saw a bat-eared fox, kudu and we nearly ran over a skunk, not your average drive to school. I then hitch-hiked to Windhoek in a 5 seater car and 7 people. I sat with a 9 year old girl on my lap for the next 3 hours, not my favourite car journey I have to be honest. I made my way to the Cardboard Box hostel, dumped my bags there, emailed people to tell them I was alive then headed to Katatura; the not so nice part of town. I had to travel to the Baileys Reo Liner ‘head office’ (basically a poorly constructed, messy concrete box), I’d booked a return coach ticket back to Cape Town that I could no longer use, I’d hoped to get my full $600 back until I noticed the ticket said NON REFUNDABLE.. oops. I found the manager and explained the situation, he told me there was no way he could give me any money back. I used my skills from GCSE drama and started crying and giving my best ‘lost, confused teenager’ look. I think he saw right through my acting but agreed to give me half of my money back. I then jumped in a taxi back into Windhoek and was laughed at a lot by everyone when they all tried to speak Afrikaans to me and I could give no response. My last few hours in Africa were spent trying to book hostels, travel and attempt to check in online (it wouldn’t let me, I panicked and then the women at the hostel convinced me it would be fine).
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I travelled to the airport with my new Swedish friends Martin and Emille, we enjoyed our last Windhoek lagers and Savanna ciders with pizza and chocolate before messing around in the (tiny) airport. We somehow lost track of time and ended up being the last ones to board the plane, about 3 minutes before take off! I kissed the ground outside of the plane, hugged one of the air hostesses and settled into my window seat, ready for the long flight. Luckily the plane was almost half empty so I could spread out over 2 seats, some people had 4 seats to themselves?! I watched most of ‘The Book Thief’ and avoided both of the sad looking plane meals. The most exciting part of the flight was waking up at around 3am to see we were flying over Nigeria; Martin, Emille and I noticed there were flashes of light in the sky below us every couple of seconds. We were watching a thunder and lightning storm happen from above, such an amazing sight.IMG_1049

We decided to start a clap when we landed in Frankfurt (you know, as people sometimes do at the end of a flight…), no one joined in an we had a really awkward 30 seconds as we stayed committed to the clapping (and the occasional ‘woooo go Germany!’) and everyone on the plane turned around and glared at us. Just glared. A tiny bit awkward.IMGA0056

Somehow I was the last person off the plane too! I said my goodbyes to the Swedish guys and they gave me one of the bank notes folded into a shirt shape for remembrance. I was now in Frankfurt with a few euros and my hostel name written down with no idea how to get there. I was directed by a really nice woman at information to take the shuttle bus to the train station and then take the train to the nearest station (I can’t even remember where I got off, oops) and then the hostel was a 20 minute walk away. So off I went, the morning before I was in the African bush seeing crazy wildlife and watching the sunrise and now I was sitting on a stuffy train with miserable looking businessmen. No one was talking to each other, no one even looked up from their phones. Such a contrast to life in Namibia and Cape Town. I just missed the noises and the atmosphere of ‘Africa’.

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My hostel was huge and looked really clean and safe but the next day I was proved wrong when I was covered in bed bug bites… I made friends with one portuguese guy who was travelling back from 6 months in South East Asia; basically, he looked exhausted. My explorations in Franfurt included trying to find a shop that sold a travel adapter, it took over 6 hours and cost €10 😮 I know in Bags Etc they used to be around £2.50?! I visited the Skyline Plaza shopping centre and spent way too much time in shops like H&M, Mango and Zara. I couldn’t believe how expensive everything was; I was converting money in my head from €’s, then to £’s and then to South African Rand and standing in shock at almost everything. A day in Frankfurt was enough and a message from my friend Nina made me book a coach ticket to Berlin for the next morning.

9 hours on a coach is like a breeze for me; soon enough we arrived in Berlin to some cloudy skies. I hadn’t actually arranged where or when I was meeting Nina so hunted for a cafe with internet so I could check my Facebook. The only place I could find was a chinese restaurant with awkward waitresses pressuring me to order more than a glass of water. I gave in a got some disgusting tuna, rice roll things. At least I managed to find Nina and meet her friends Emma and Daniel. We waved Daniel off as he was getting a bus back home then we went to get ice cream, yay!

Nina and I met more than 3 months ago on a coach from Namibia, we then were on the same coach back to Cape Town by coincidence and did lots of driving around and beach hopping before she moved to Berlin. So to see her in Germany and stay with her for a few days is strange but awesome!

Mary x

Africa, Europe

Hello Otjikondo, Goodbye Otjikondo

Africa

This time last week I’d just booked a flight to Frankfurt but had almost 4 days to wait around in Windhoek for it; 4 days in Windhoek is 4 days too many, so with some broken communication, Gilly agreed for me to come and visit Otjikondo with Ottilie and Chelcie for the weekend. Our wait in Windhoek included ice cream in the park, shopping for fabric for Sara, making use of the internet at the Carboard Box, eating at Nando’s and Joe’s Beerhouse before meeting Paul on Thursday morning.Image

Chelcie and I ended up in the back of the open bakkie with a very strong natural air conditioning, lots of luggage and 2 mattresses to sit on. The mattresses would have been perfect if only they weren’t covered with plastic sheets that flapped around in the wind and made so much noise that it was almost impossible to hear each other.Image

 

Arriving at Otjikondo nearly 5 hours later was no less than magical; Paul beeped his horn and kids came running. Chelcie and Ottilie were greeted by hugs and squels, I got a few of the same then some ‘Miss Mary you’re back again?!‘s… It was great to see everyone again but I had to explain quickly that I could only stay for the weekend so the chance for them all to get a dance lesson was pretty slim, sorry kids!

Seeing current GAPs Rebecca and Eleanor again was awesome and they haven’t changed a bit since I last saw them. We got straight to work on Friday, I opened the shop and helped Destiny learn her rap for one of the songs in Wind in the Willows, their summer play. That evening most of the children watched Frozen in the evening but I went to look after the little boys as their hostel sister was away. We watched Antz and Matilda, I fell asleep on the freezing cold floor and woke up to some of them having a giggle at me. I got a few cuddles before I walked home.

Saturday’s normal routine was replaced with sport; the under 11s, 12s and 13s played netball and football against Kamanjab on maybe the windiest day I’ve ever experienced in Namibia. We won all games except 1 which was amazing! I looked after Brenda’s baby Crushanda and hung out with my girls Tjazupo (my sponsor child) and Eengwi (her best friend) whilst some of the older girls somehow convinced me to let them use my camera so went around documenting the matches and supporters.

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That afternoon was spent running the shop whilst the others did bank (gave the kids their pocket money). I don’t know how it took so long but Priska and I were in the shop until it was dark; we couldn’t find our way out and had to stumble over to Gilly’s house without dropping the bags full of coins and notes we had. I was exhausted and felt so ill but decided not to turn down Paul and Sara’s offer of dinner!

Sunday’s church service was enough church to last me a lifetime; it went on for 2 and a half hours and I can’t bring myself to write any more about it. Tjazupo, Fillemon, Tenesses and Dankie (our sponsor children. + Eengwi came as her and Tjazupo are pretty inseperable) were invited into the GAP garden afterwards and were spoiled by us with presents and sweets. Tjazupo and Eengwi loved their plastic princess accessories and I showed Fillemon how to play snakes and ladders and do races with his toy cars.

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The rest of the day was spent teaching the drama kids a dance, having lunch (Mina’s chicken and chips!!!!) at Gilly’s, messing around with the over excited Grade 7’s, eating fudge in the big girls hostel, reading Mr Strong to the girls in Weavers Nest hostel, hearing the girls own stories and acting them out, dinner with the ex and current GAPs and watching Pitch Perfect in my room with the girls.

Although my visit to Otjikondo was so short it felt really special and it’s always great to see the Stommels, staff, GAPs and children. I said my goodbyes and made sure they weren’t too emotional as I wasn’t in the mood to cry and be upset! I’ll miss everyone huge amounts and know I won’t be able to visit again soon which is a horrible feeling! On the plus side, I’m so thankful that I was able to go back and visit twice less than a year after I finished my 12 months there.

Goodbye Otjikondo, thank you GAPs and Stommels for putting up with me once again! 🙂 Love you, miss you, mean it 😉

Mary x

Filling the gaps – February 23rd-24th

Africa

Hello!

The past 2 days have been so busy that I feel like I’ve been here for weeks already (in a good way!) Sunday evening was spent watching the GAPs do their drama rehearsal. This year’s play is ‘Wind in the Willows’ and from what I’ve seen/ heard so far it will be a really good performance. The kids were so enthusiastic when they sang the songs that it reminded me of how unenthusiastic they sometimes were with us when we we rehearsing for ‘The Giant Slayer’!

Monday morning felt like the first day of a new job for me, it’s so different seeing everyone in their school uniform and attending lessons rather than on the weekends when life is a lot more relaxed. Monday morning also was the first time I saw the teachers again! Hugs and questions about England filled my morning. I spent 2 hours assisting Miss Bitz in the grade 2 classroom. We played games and used beads to teach the number ’13’. I then read ‘The Sly Fox and the Red Hen’ to the children before asking them questions on the book to help their understanding. By before 10 o’clock I was already on to the next set of jobs. Gilly had trusted me with the school car (God knows why!?) to collect the Christmas presents for children who are now at High School for me to sort out. Driving in Otjikondo is bizarre as you can only really go about 20km per hour… Later on I sorted out templates for the kids to send thank you letters to their sponsors for their Christmas presents and typed up examples for them to copy. The rest of my morning was spent in the birthday cupboard, basically a big room full of cupboards of clothes to which we give the children 3 items from when it’s their birthday. Anyway, the room was a mess because of a big pile of new clothes so I sorted them out and put them away in the relevant cupboards.

In the afternoon I played football with the grade 1 boys who are all very sweet. There’s even a boy called Frans who is ADORABLE and I know Fran (my friend, other volunteer Fran) would love. After offering 2 girls a quick dance in the hall I was greeted by almost 20 girls begging for a dance lesson. I also played table tennis with the older boys so it ended up being quite a hot and sweaty afternoon.

That evening we were invited to the Stommel’s for a music concert. We had a delicious buffet (and laughed at how small the mustard spoon was…) and then listened to Rebecca and Faustinas on the violins and Ian on the piano. They’re all so talented so we felt pretty lucky to be listening to them play. When you think about it there aren’t many people who can say they’ve listened to live professional classic music on a Monday evening on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Africa. Life is bizarre here but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lots of love,

Mary xx

UK to Cape Town(ish) 1st -21st Feb 2014

Africa

Hello!

Here’s a quick round up of my time in South Africa so far, I’ve had an incredible time and it’s difficult to express in writing. I left the UK on 1st February, saying goodbye to friends and family was as horrible as ever, especially as I don’t have a definite date of return. My parents dropped me off at Gatwick airport and after i went through security I suddenly felt very alone. It was weird not having ANYONE to chat to, I’m so used to having Fran by my side that I felt a bit lost without her. After watching Bridesmaids while I waited for my delayed flight I boarded the Emirates plane to Dubai. From Dubai I waited for 4ish hours to then board the next flight to Cape Town! In total my journey was over 24 hours long but I managed to keep myself entertained and almost sane.

Stepping off the plane onto African land was amazing, I felt like I’d arrived back home again. I forgot how slow everyone is though. Everyone’s chilled out, no rushing around… Which is great most of the time but not so fun when you’re waiting 20 minutes for some fast food. I now live in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town with my boyfriend Callum and a friend Dirk. It’s a quiet town but it feels safe and I like to compare it to Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives… Just a bit more ‘urban’. Even though I’m looking to move here permanently, I spent the first week on holiday.

My first evening here was spent drinking cocktails at a bar by the beach, meeting the guys and discussing different words we use in England (apparently we call pineapple’s ‘Cosapungas’…) The week took me from the Waterfront where Callum and I spotted seals whilst on a boat tour, to go karting at Canal Walk (I crashed into the tyres and lost). One day was spent beach hopping, from Cape Town to Muizenburg to Kalk Bay to Fish Hoek, all for 30 Rand (like £1.80). Another day we went ice skating and seemed to be the only non professionals in the rink, which was daunting to say the least! The same day Callum and I played some old school games at the arcade and watched Wolf of Wall Street at the cinema (amazing film!).

I’ve managed to get 2 jobs in our local town since being here which is amazing as they’re both doing things that I love. The first is working for Camber Clubs, leading children’s parties. On my first day we travelled to Durbanville to set up a toddlers party. Setting up the slides, climbing frames, see-saws and ball pit didn’t seem like too much hard work. The house where the party was was maybe the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen. The second job is assisting in a children’s photography studio in Plattekloof, I haven’t started yet but I can’t wait to get involved.

I think I can say I’ve occupied myself well since arriving and now I’m on my next adventure, in Namibia on my way to Otjikondo, the school where Fran and I spent a year volunteering. I’m returning without Fran which feels horrible! But I’m still extremly excited and I’m looking forwards to seeing the children, Stommels and new GAPs!

Sending lots of love to everyone at home,

Mary xxx

Weekend in Swakopmund! 4th-7th October 2012

Africa

 

On Thursday 4th October Fran and I had our first weekend off from Otjikondo so we decided to travel to the coast to a town called Swakopmund! We set off at 8am, hoping to hitchhike to Otjiwarongo or Outjo. After about 5 minutes of standing at the side of the road a man stopped and told us he was travelling straight to Otjiwarongo which was really lucky. On the 2 hour journey he told us about his wife and children which made us feel a bit more safe even though it was pretty daunting being in the car with a total stranger. He dropped us on the outskirts of Otjiwarongo so we walked in random directions for about half an hour until we found a wimpy burger, result! After a massive club sandwich (this is like my traditional ‘last meal before we go somewhere’) and muffin we tried to start the next part of our journey, from Otjiwarongo to Swakopmund. Somehow we ended up on a combi bus, paying around £10 for a 5 hour drive. Fran complained about how hot and stuffy it was but seeing other combis on the road with the double the amount of passengers piled in made ours feel like luxury… I chatted to a really nice Namibian woman who told me all about South African Idol and how they’ve just had the first black winner since the show started; I love hearing about TV stuff even I don’t even know any of the contestants! I read the South African version of Heat magazine which was strange and fell asleep and woke up about 20 times. There was nothing interesting to look at out of the window but we did manage to see 2 giraffes by the side of the road which was amazing!

Arriving in Swakopmund was a shock because of how cold it was there; it was probably warmer than England but it was different after being in constant heat for 5 weeks. We stupidly didn’t have a map or directions to our backpackers so we wondered through the industrial part of the town, walking over train lines and passing miners for over an hour. After being pointed in endless different directions we reached our backpackers and the owner knew of Gilly and Reiner, our hosts at Otjikondo! It reminds you of how small Namibia actually is in population. On our first night we went for a romantic meal (I swear me and Fran have turned into a married couple) and had an early night. On the Friday morning we treated ourselves to a well-deserved shopping trip around Swakopmund; not even stepping into a shop for 5 weeks is hard for 2 teenage girls. We found a cheap shop called Mr Price and stocked up on cheap clothes (living the high life!) then went to the pharmacy to buy boring things like oil for our hair that’s drying in the sun 😦 On Friday evening we decided to go Swakopmund’s only club, Gruniz. You can’t really compare it to anywhere in England because it was full of over 50s and German tourists but we managed to have a good time. We discovered that Namibian men can be quite possessive and think that because you’re talking to them you are now their girlfriend.. Luckily not all of them were that bad and we made friends with someone looking a lot like pitbull and his friends.

On Saturday morning Fran and I went sand boarding! We were picked up by the company and drove into the desert; after having a safety chat and meeting the others in the group we climbed up a massive sand dune to do our first run down. We realised that we were probably the only people there who weren’t in a couple, how depressing! Going down the dunes on a board was so much fun but a bit daunting as you just get a face full of sand if you do it wrong. Which me and Fran both did the first time round. I cried out the sand in my eye and we climbed the next dune. We spent a few hours there which was really fun but hard work as you have to climb back up after going down; I was knackered but the instructor seemed to think I was ridiculously athletic for some reason. Maybe because I felt like I was on a film set or something so didn’t stop running around. They measured how fast we each went and I managed 67kmph on one slope and managed to go down twice as much as Fran because she liked to ‘rest at the top’!

When we got back to the hostel we noticed the 2 beds beneath ours were taken; we spent ages trying to guess what these new guests would be like by looking at their bags and pyjamas. We guessed 50 year old travelers but a few hours later they arrived and it was George and Jamie! They’re 2 of the other Project Trust volunteers in Namibia, they’re teaching at a school in Guina. We were both so happy to see them and hear all about their projects; we decided our kids were cuter and smarter at Otjikondo but George and Jamie are treated much more like teachers than we are. They even have to wear smart shoes!? That evening we had a pizza together then me and Fran went back to Gruniz; we had a really good night, meeting a friend we’d made in Windhoek in August and watching a wet t-shirt completion (very strange!). We also met a group of stunt men who were in Swakop working on the new Mad Max film; they were all pretty cool and made us very jealous by telling us all the different countries they’ve worked in and all the celebrities they’ve met. The next morning we packed and said our goodbyes to George and Jamie and headed off to find out how we’d get back to Otjikondo! Our journey home was a lot more stressful than the way here as tour buses told us they had space for us but would then tell us they didn’t. It was a long day traveling back home but somehow between combis, hitchhiking and dodgy taxis we made it back before it got dark. It felt great to be back even though we had an amazing weekend away; it’s nice to be back ‘home’, feeling safe and knowing that the kids are around to talk to and play with. Being away for our first weekend was a totally new experience for us both and the first time I’ve felt properly independent; I kept thinking my parents were around to pay for activities and choose the restaurants. Somehow we managed without them though 🙂 Luckily me and Fran will definitely be returning to Swakopmund; for the Grade 7 outing and for music week. We can’t wait! 🙂

lots of love

Mary x