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Saturday, June 19, 2010

All Things Namibia

When we arrived in Namibia the border guard asked us how long we planned to stay. We looked at each other, then back at him, "6 weeks?" Ok. As he was about the write out our visa we interrupted him. Can we stay 8 weeks? Sure. Cool. We didn't dream that we would be here that long, but as we have learned, it is better to overestimate than underestimate a stay. That was about 8 weeks ago. Today or tomorrow will be our last day in Namibia, so I thought I would reflect on the past two months.

Visiting a foreign country for the first time is always exciting. Neither Glenn nor I are planners. So we often have absolutely no idea what to expect. We don't make reservations, we don't make plans and we rarely know where we'll be tomorrow. So when we crossed through from South Africa we had our Lonely Planet, a couple of maps and a very vague idea about where to go and what to do. I should add that I am a fan of the Lonely Planted Guidebooks to an extent, they certainly map out a friendly no-hassle itinerary for the masses; but if you follow along too closely, you end up going where everyone else goes, eating where they do and seeing the same touristy sites, at the expense of an authentic experience. So we use our LP's as rough guides, consulting them now and again, which is how we found ourselves in Swakopmund having a drink with Wayne and Jennifer. As I have written earlier, Wayne is an expert on all things Namibia. And in less than one hour, we had three pages of nearly legibly scribbled noted that dictated the duration of our visa.

Wayne suggested we head up dry riverbeds, through uncharted parks and into remote villages, which is what we did. And we loved every minute of it. We bumped along rutted out, whooped up sand tracks for days, discovering the lesser known gems of this beautiful country. Some of our favorites were:

  1. Whitewater rafting the Kunene River Gorge
  2. Exploring river valleys searching for the endangered desert elephant
  3. Driving for days on end and seeing scores of animals, the giraffes being my favorite
  4. The opportunity to experience life in the semi arid desert through the eyes of the Bushmen
  5. Seeing the old ways of the Himba prevail amidst modernization, climate fluctuations and other threats to their way of life
  6. Riding bikes over perfectly worn footpaths, waving and greeting the people along the way
  7. Crossing the cultural 'divide' that keeps many travelers along the safer, more known routes
People often ask what our favorite parts were. That is such a hard question to answer. Here I have listed 7 experiences that thrilled us, but there are so many extraneous circumstances that make an experience memorable. Usually it is the people and the interactions you have with them, but not always, sometimes it is your mood/attitude, how long past lunchtime and other trivialities. Travel is a complex organism that doesn't often fit into 7 neat bullet points. But here they are…our favorites.

Namibia is a beautifully diverse country with a population to match. To our delight we have discovered a common thread that holds this entire country together: the warm friendly graciousness of the people. No matter where we went or what we did, we were welcomed with whole face smiles. How can you not love that?

Thank you for reading and being part of our experience. We love and miss you all,

Corrin + Glenn

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