Since I'm lazy and I don't want to re-write everything about the trip, I'm just going to post the emails I wrote home to family and friends. That way I can have them to look back on later and you guys can read about my trip as well :)
We finally caught up on our sleep and had a wonderful day today. We are leaving for the first campsite tomorrow so I wont have internet for a while. We will be going to Gobabeb tomorrow if any of you want to look it up.
Today we went on our first bushwalk at a nearby game reserve in Windhoek. It was so beautiful! Its amazing to drive by and see savannah and grasslands as far as the eye can see. One of the areas we drove through was very well known as a leopard area. Although, it is very rare to see one. Our guide was telling us that people often live there for 20-30 years before they actually see one! On our walk we talked about a bunch of different bird species and also some trees that we saw. We saw some Springbok on the way into the park (members of the antelope family) but they were really far away so the pictures aren't great. BUT, on the way out we saw a huuuuuge Wildebeast RIGHT next to our car. He even stopped and let us take pictures! It was awesome!!!
You wouldn't believe how cute Windhoek is!! It totally took me by surprise how much like most American towns it is. I guess I was expecting that since it was Africa it would be all shanty towns and little villages, but it is not like that at all. Yes, there are some shanty towns but they are on the outskirts and none were very big. I'm sure we will see more of what I was expecting on our journeys tomorrow. Namibia is a very big cattle raising/breeding country, so we will likely see some farms tomorrow too.
After we returned from our bushwalk, we went in to the city to exchange money and shop around. We also got lunch. The food here is very good so far!! You have to be very careful though because the crime can be bad at times. I didn't feel uncomfortable at all but we also did have our whole group with us. One of my roommates bags was lost yesterday on one of the flights and she just got it back today . . . they undid her lock and took a lot of nice things from it: clothes, toiletries, phone, camera, jacket, sandals, etc. She is really bummed out and I can definetly relate because of what happened to me in Costa Rica last year with losing my backpack. Luckily, no one else has had any problems.
I'm excited for the DESERT tomorrow, I'm sure it will take my breath away!!
So we are finishing up our first week now and I am absolutely in LOVE with Namibia. We just spent four days in the Namib desert at the Gobabeb Research and Training Center which was AMAZING. We were surrounded by sand dunes, gravel plains, and the Kuiseb River bed. We spent most of our time conducting field studies but we had a lot of fun as well. One of the worst days was on Friday when we stayed outside for 8 hours in the blazing hot sun collecting data for some temperature and humidity analysis we had to do. My friend Morgan and I walked up to the top of the sand dunes at 2pm in the afternoon in 111 degree sand!!!!! We about burned our poor feet off getting up there. (For those of you in brazil, thats about 44 degrees C). But, we did get some pretty interesting data collected and we got to see first hand just how well adapted these animals have to be for the extreme temperature fluctuations that happen throughout the day. Its really fascinating actually.
The more fun parts involved touring the research center and meeting all the interns from all over the world - so much fun! The head intern was like a second guide for us because he knew so much information. He is a post-grad student here from Grinnell College in Iowa and he was just an encyclopedia of interesting information. For instance, we went on a scorpion tour one night and right after that he was telling us all about snakes and spiders- then he went into geology and then we talked about constellations. . . it was never ending. We also got to learn about all the different projects that the interns were working out. One of the guys was doing a really interesting project with Hydrology where he was trying to grow important desert plants in water. So far it was unsuccessful but I learned a lot from that discussion with him.
We also got to meet some of the local people called topnaars. We went to their village yesterday and got to learn about their very successful organic garden (in the middle of the desert thats an amazing accomplishment!!). They also answered our questions about their way of life and we learned a little bit of their language which is fulled of clicks and all these really interesting sounds.
The highlights by far were yesterday in the evening. First of all, our teacher dropped us all off alone on the gravel plains right before sunset about 100m apart from each other. We got to sit there by ourselves and enjoy the sunset free from everyone else and with our own thoughts just to reflect on our time so far and enjoy all the sounds and sights around us. It was absolutely beautiful and I'm so glad he did that for us. It was such a unique and wonderful experience. THEN, last night all the girls and I (we are 7 in all) and a researcher from Spain, plus a bunch of interns hiked up to the top of the dunes with just our sleeping bags and stayed the night up there. We seriously had the time of our lives, it is one of those things I'm sure I will never forget. Right after we got up there and set all of our stuff up, one of the girls screamed out "SNAKE!" and sure enough we looked down and there was a sidewinder literally 5 feet from us!!!! It was just calmly making its way towards our stuff (most likely we disturbed it setting our stuff down). So we got lots of pictures and videos and eventually some of the girls we were with brought it to the other side of the dunes. That is so rare to see and it left us all so excited (and a little freaked out in some cases) so we stayed up talking and trading stories until 2 in the morning or something like that. Then we were woken up by a beautiful sunrise at 6am and it was just breathtaking. The desert sky is so clear and it is really just something special to see.
Now we are in a beach town called Swakopmund
taking a break until Tuesday when we leave for our next destination which is Etosha National Park
. We will be stopping along the way to stay one day each at the Brandberg and Hobatere campsites before we enter the park.
Last 2 Weeks:
We are finally back in the capital city of Windhoek
. We just returned from our last stop at the Cheetah Conservation Fund
, which was interesting to say the least. I was not impressed with the organization for various reasons, which I'll have to explain later, but we did get to stay in a pretty awesome old Namibian farm house which totally rocked! I went in to the bathroom once we got there and opened the toilet to find the world's largest gecko looking back at me. Needless to say, I didn't use that bathroom. hahaha.
Before that we stayed at Etosha National Park, which was absolutely amazing. Just on our way into the park we saw giraffes, elephants, a lion, zebras, a spotted hyena, and all kinds of birds. The most beautiful bird I've ever seen is found here: a lilac breasted roller. I am normally not a bird person but I got really excited everytime we came across one of those. They are beautiful! We also got a behind the scenes look at how the park works, how its managed, etc. We also learned about the different projects and internships that were currently going on there. A huge water hole was right by our camp site where we could walk down at any time and see all kinds of antelope, zebras, giraffes, black rhinos, elephants, etc. Plus, there were hourdes of jackals all around the campsites trying to weasel their way into some food every chance they got. That was a definetly a very cool experience.
We stayed at two other parks in the days before Etosha. One was Brandberg (which is a mountain range here). We got to hike and see the White Lady painting there. The next day we stayed at Hobatere which had a nice sized water hole that we frequented during a few kudus during our stay. Those were just pretty much in-between days where we could relax a little.
And now I am just relaxing with friends and taking it easy before the long flight home! This has been such a great trip and I'm so grateful to have had this wonderful experience. I have loads of wonderful memories to take home with me from this trip, many of which I'm sure I will never forget! Plus, I've met some pretty amazing people too. This was a great trip and I will definetly be making my way back to the wonderful continent of Africa in the near future!