31 Mar Nosing around Namibia
My first and foremost, or should I say real, gap-year involved an art tour around Italy with a group of fellow fresh-faced (or rather bleary eyed) adolescents. With very little knowledge of the world, or anything for that matter, we paraded around Italy from rustic Rome to scenic Siena.
Looking back on this impressionable interlude in my life, with what I hope is a little more worldliness, I realised that my gap-year could hardly be classed as, ‘a great adventure’. After all, the closest that we got to budgeting was flying Ryan Air and the wildest incident involved having my camera confiscated by an official looking guard, (cameras and art don’t mix, apparently).
Realising that it’s never too late to pack-up your bag (and life) to embark on a little soul-searching, I decided to try my hand at the gap-year-saga, a second time. This time however, for the real backpacking experience.
But where to go? Thailand? (Too predictable) Australia? (Too expensive) South America, (risk of stabbing)! This is when I casually stumbled upon Namibia, a sparsely populated country set along the Southwest African coast that seemed a suitable place to stage my journey ‘off-the-beaten track’, (yes, I hate that phrase too)…
…And off the beaten track (apologies) it truly was. From the undulating dunes of the arid Namib Desert to the flowing water of the Zambezi River, Namibia was unlike any other place. Think ‘The Lion King’, because with expansive plains, rugged savannahs and wallowing watering-holes, you really can’t conjure up a more tangible image.
For fear of delving into further personal rambles, I shall aim to keep things short and sweet with a list of the top three places for nosing around Namibia. For those people who like to peep behind curtains into their next-door neighbour’s garden (don’t pretend you haven’t done it), this list is for you…
As the buzzing capital and commercial hub of Namibia, Windhoek is a wonderful place for nosing around. Just walking along the streets lined with colonial buildings, you will see friendly faces pass you by. True, no one is likely to mistake you for a local but exploring the native cafes, shops, restaurants and market-stalls is a great way to delve into the travelling experience. I would recommend the Namibia restaurants but particularly, if you have a stomach-of-steel, the Otikaendu restaurant in the remote suburb of Katutura. Run by an African lady known as Milba, ‘Smilies’ are served up on an African platter. Don’t smile too soon as I can just about guarantee that you won’t be smiling by the time this dish reaches your table. Unless that is, that roasted and stuffed sheep’s head floats your boat. Best to stick to the delicious chicken curry, if you ask me….
2. Etosha National Park
The beautiful Etosha National Park, in the northwest of Namibia, is definitely worth a peek. With protected wildlife from black rhinos to pelicans, flamingos and impalas roaming around the waterholes, Etosha is a prime spot for some spectacular game viewing. Poke around the wilderness some more and you will stumble upon the Etosha Pan, an impressive salt pan spanning 130km. Costing just 80 NAD /Â£7.24/€8.24, this trip is perfect for the budgeting backpacker.
3. Township Tour
Close to Swakopmund, lies the culturally rich township of Mondesa. Perhaps the most interesting stop on my tour of ceaseless curiosity, Mondesa’s ethnic diversity was truly astounding. Exploring this colourful colony on a personal guided tour was one of my most memorable experiences of Namibia. As I watched the Damara women hang their washing in front of their shanty-shacks, I felt my tourist days slip away, as the traveller inside of me firmly took hold….
By Isabella Rose
Isabella Rose is an enthusiastic traveller with a love of adventure. Having studied History of Art and Italian at university, it has been her lifelong dream to move to Italy to revel in the art, culture and of course the gelato!