• Bon Garden Business Hotel
• Jinjiang Shenzhen Airlines Hotel
• Seaview Hotel Shenzhen
• Sunway Airport Hotel Shenzhen
* This article is not about Thailand or even SE Asia, but the writer is a regular contributor hence he was given leeway. Further, a submission from a couple of years back which compared Thailand and Nigeria was showed there was interest in Africa hence the decision to post this one, even though it is not Thailand related. I hope you enjoy it.
Well here I am sitting at the Kulala Desert Lodge awaiting my room to be ready. Have enjoyed a cold Coke and a cup of tea, watching the red dunes in the distance, observing the other residents of the lodge milling about, checking out or in the pool cooling
off. It's weird being here alone. I wish I wasn't.
A light breeze has just come up which has taken the heat out of the air for a while. It's quite pleasant. Some rooks (White and Black) bleat in the background, nestling in a group of trees just yonder. One's even decided to come and sit right next to me as I type this. It's a desert scene. Not a drop of water in any direction. A very dry river bed is close by with green trees, so there's some underground water I am guessing. I'll put up the Google earth coordinates later once I fire up the GPS for anyone interested. To one side are the seemingly endless and huge red dunes of Namibia and on the other side are the mountain ranges that serve as a boundary of some sort between the coast, the inland and the dunes. The lodge is situated in the plain between these two leviathans.
Let's step back to last evening. I took the hire car to the airport in Cape Town, which is under extreme renovation. The signs from the car parks to the international departure take you in a circle, which actually doesn't get you into the international
area at all. After a lot of walking (and face it, I need it), I finally got there. The staff of Air Namibia were very pleasant and I got through the ticket / boarding pass with some items to sort out, but it was all done with a smile. The bus
out to the plane again, it seems that on this trip we won't get to go directly into any terminal. All buses so far!! The plane looked a little old, which is always a worry, and the business class seats were old black leather, worn and really
old fashioned. Sort of a 60's Beatles look. Back in the donkey class area, the seats were small, but it was only a short flight and the cabin was relatively empty. Huge thunder storms encircled Windhoek, Namibia's capital city (After
independence from South Africa in 1990) and I worried that there would be bad weather for the trip. My pickup is there and we proceed to the Kalahari Sands Hotel. A Texan couple are in the vehicle with us, they're off to Etosha. Half their
luck!!! They've come from Angola for a break. I can imagine why!!
It's a 7:30 pickup. I am awake at 5am, cannot sleep. Looking forward to the adventure ahead. We head to the "local" airport and I make the trip to the park with a German couple of ladies and a staffer from one of the camps. Our Pilot, a nice young lady called Simone, flew us there without any issues. I didn't have my camera with me, but I'll take some pictures on the way back now I know what to expect. The pilot implied it was just old mountains, so I left the camera in the bag. Big mistake. It was a lot of mountains, but the shapes and size of the scenery was quite amazing. The photos may not be the best, but it'll certainly give everyone a good feel for what the terrain is really like.
I'm on a hiatus until 3pm when I then get to go to the "Canyon" run. I am doing a early morning run tomorrow into the actual dunes. I have no idea what the afternoon will bring, but I am ready for it (I hope)
I am a shirt short, so I'll be cleaning this one later. Not something I do often.
3pm comes and goes and the boss who's looking kind of sheepish approaches me. It seems that the guide has been super efficient and left spot on 3pm (note I was loitering about at the reception). Oh shit, this is a good start I am thinking. I've been dicking about for hours and I sit there resigned to my fate of a hot boring afternoon. There is a French couple with a guide who are heading out that way and they offer me a "at your own risk" trip out to Sesriem Canyon. Of course I jump at the chance and jump into the blue Nissan Patrol with the French couple who profess little English, as do I regarding French so were going to have a chatty drive in for sure. Out driver heads in at 200 miles per hour (or quick) and we catch up with the guide and the unsuspecting tourists wandering into the mouth of the canyon. It's more of a light gully really compared to the Grand Canyon, but there's some water there and some nice rock formations. A Snake, some beetles and a lot of bees (who like the water) greet us.
We head back the way we came in the Land Rover I have swapped into. A British couple (Well a Brit and an Aussie) and a few French and Germans round out the numbers. Half way home we stop and are introduced to the concept of a sundowner. This means we get snacks and drinks as the sun goes down. A great concept and is enjoyed by all. It's still warm but it's a pleasant respite from the heat of the day. I am looking forward to a cold evening.
Back at the camp, after we're plied with drinks on the way in, I go to the cabin and set about processing the photos. After an hour or so I bring them up to the lounging area where a few gather to see them. Dinner is served and a nice feed is had. I am feeling knackered. I head down to the cabin tent thing around 9pm, put the battery on the charger and collapse into bed.
Bang bang… "Hello sir, time to get up!!". Ah shit, 5am already. I've slept well so I am in a good frame of mind. It's really strange again being by myself for a 5am wake up call. I shower and head up to the breakfast area and have
some nice cereal. We're herded into the truck at spot on 6am and head to the Vlei.
I must admit, I wish the guide was not so verbose. As a photographer I am keen just to get there. But I must be patient as I am one of many going on the trip. The French couple join us, as do the Brit/Aussie combo and another French couple take the front seats. We dick about getting there but finally arrive in Sossosvlei, which after 1.1 km of sand hopping becomes Deadvlei.
Deadvlei: We take a circuitous route up the side of a dune to get there. I imagined we were heading to the other side of the dune. As it turned out there was a direct route and the 3 years of blood pumping my heart was forced to do in 20 minutes only served for some aerial shots of the vlei and back over the Sossosvlei area (some look quite good me thinks). I gleefully walked down the side of the goliath and headed into Deadvlei proper. The photos will tell the story here. It's basically a Vlei (or valley) where the river used to flow around 900 years ago. The dunes have blocked all river access and the trees are locked in permanent hiatus. They are perfect photographic specimens.
Reluctantly I trudge back to the Land Rover. They are all waiting patiently for me. I fail to see why people spend so much to be here and then take three photos and bugger off back to the car ready to go home. I'm milking it for all it's worth!!!
We stop for brunch and a jolly good sandwich and leg of chicken is consumed. Sparrows and Finches, who are more interested in the water than the food, surround us. We're buzzed by dozens of bees also looking for a free drink or sugar kick from a can of drink. The birds attack the hand washing water with gusto and hang around our feet looking for crumbs. It's a pleasure to give them a snack of bread. It's a good time.
In no time, after a snoozy trip in a hot hot Landrover, we're back at the camp, obligatory drinks are thrust at us on our arrival and we retire to our private areas. I use this time for contemplation, a shower and more photo processing. I copy the photos, and set about having a quick look-see. Tired now I have an hours snooze. At 2:30 I head up to reception, have a coke and inquire as to the afternoons events. A Nature drive is offered and I am not wildly interested and say "maybe". I think it's going to be a quiet afternoon so I do some more photo processing and play a few games on the Macbook Pro!
Knock knock… Lecter!! What are you doing this afternoon?? Willem stands there and asks me a strange question ( i.e. I didn't understand him). He then follows it with a "do you want to go back to the Vlei?" to which I answer a resounding
"Yes". It seems it's just me for a private tour. Yippee…. I can stop where ever and whenever I like. This sounds like me!!
We head out and see the dunes with no interruptions. It's ended with a sundowner drink on a dune down near Deadvlei. I climb up and Willem follows with a table and drinks and snacks. We watch the sun go down as the "self drives" all flounder through the soft sand heading back to the gate so they don't get fined. I wish Mrs. L. were here to experience this. I'll be bringing her back to do this as soon as it makes sense. Wow, what a stunning place!!
I'm now at the bar, a G&T refreshingly is being gulped. I am feeling a bit lonely, wish I was comparing photographic notes with Mrs. L. and contemplating another trip out to the vlei tomorrow before heading back to work and Cape Town in the afternoon. The Manager's confirmed the 5am wakeup. Excellent…
I am awake already when the "crunch, crunching" echoing off the guides' feet resonates down the path to my cabin. "Knock, knock." I acknowledge the wakeup and head to the bathroom for another excellent shower. It seems that the
best showers are in the most unlikely places on earth. I wish Thailand had great showers… oh well.
I gather all of the equipment and head up to the dining area for a plate of cereal. I am expecting to be with a group of four. MY companions are from France, are Hotel owners from Lyon and are traveling with their two kids. This is their last stop in Namibia before heading back to work and school. I am looking forward to the next Vlei expedition when inexplicably I am called away to another vehicle. Confusion reigns. The other vehicle appears to be full of impatient people so I am glad when I am left in the original setup once the initial confusion is sorted out. Willem is the guide again and he gets on with it this morning. We head off to all the right spots and my French companions, toting a Canon 400D DSLR appreciate it when I stop Willem at every interesting looking place. It's a chatty drive as we all get to know each other a little. They make it clear they don't want to climb any dunes and we get into the vlei proper in quick time. I tramp over to the Deadvlei in good time and take 70 odd pictures of the trees and scenery. Again the people seem to walk 1.1km to the vlei, go "wow dead trees" and head back to the car for a drink. They were very polite, but I could tell they were not overly impressed with waiting about 45 minutes for me to finish. I am there to photograph, so I am not feeling particularly guilty. The mornings brunch is a repeat from yesterday, same food, same birds, same bees. Still tasted good!
Another snoozy trip back to the camp and upon arrival I inquire as to my departure time. "2:30" was the response, and I was asked to vacate the cabin in 15 minutes. Hmm, this was going to be difficult as I had to change, shower and pack. I negotiated a little more time and heading down to the cabin. Once completed, I headed to the to wait and mess around with images on the PC. A few of the people I met came over for a look-see and some of the staff looked in as well. I must admit I enjoyed the "wows" again and in good time was ushered out to the airstrip (about 14 km). A Hot looking couple had been sitting there for 45 minutes awaiting another camp to pick them up, and Willem rescued them and took off into the distance with them.
The plane trip back was for me only. And I was prepared. I had the Hasselblad all charged and ready to rock. But the views sucked, the rain came and I wasted my time. Oh well, the rest of the images make up for it.. hehe
And there it was…… Namibia 2007
Sounds and looks like an interesting place!