Namibia, Day 4

Our morning started with huge confusion as we could not figure out the time and we had to be at the waterfront in Walvis Bay at 9. They changed over to day light saving (or is it from???) and as South African’s who do not have this we suddenly had a watch showing one time, the phone and TV another and we were not sure what was going on. In the end it seems we scored an extra hour of sleep. We went on a three hour catamaran cruise with Laramon Tours and what a fabulous and exciting experience. They take you around the harbour which is in a bay and then out to Pelican point where the lighthouse is and also a small colony of about 50 000 seals. On the way we saw dolphins, seals, pelicans and some people even saw the rare mola mola (sunfish).

Some of the seals are so tame that they jump into the boat to come say hello before going overboard again. A seagull also caught a lift for a while sitting on one of the motors and we had the most spectacular dolphin show as they swam in the waves created by the boat. They serve sparkling wine, oysters and other snacks on the boat and you can just sit and take in the beautiful surroundings with the dunes in the distance. We learned a lot about the dolphins as well as the oysters harvested in the bay.

After the boat trip we shopped at all the fun stalls and craft shops before heading to the lagoon which is home to about 10 000 flamingos. We got a guide to take us around the lagoon to explain the two different flamingo types as well as the salt works and the 25 salt pans which provides salt to most of europe and africa. It was interesting to see. The salt in the pans have a pinkish colour due to micro organisms that they put in the pans but the colour apparently changes based on the saline levels.

We headed to the dunes just past Langebaan as my cousin wanted to do sandboarding. Swakop is known as the adrenalin capital of Namibia for a reason. It offers many extreme sport activities. I was happy to play photographer again and watch my cousin slide down the dune which also incuded a trip on quad bikes again to take us to the site. It was a great deal of fun. We had coffee and cake afterwards at Cafe Anton which is a traditional German confectionary and decided on pizza for supper. Our holiday is almost over as we head to Windhoek tomorrow.

Namibia, Day 3

We went to the crystal gallery in town which has the biggest quartz cluster crystal in the world (weighing over 14 tons and about 520 million years old) and other beautiful crystals. We browsed a few shops looking for gifts to take home and then went north to Henties Bay, about 70km from Swakopmund.

There is nothing between the towns except for places to fish. Henties Bay (and it seems everything on the way to it) is about fishing. We were set to find the seals at Cape Cross north of Henties and the dead sea which we weren’t exactly sure where it was. Henties was a bit of a let down in that it doesn’t seem to offer much if you are not into fishing and the tourist centre was closed already so we drove through town looking at a few colourful houses and then set off to the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. What a sight. There are seals where-ever you look. There is an estimate 300 000 cape fur seals that live there which is the largest colony of these seals in the world. I have seen big colonies of seals in Houtbay previously but nothing compares to this. It is however a stinky and noisy place where a mother seal can apparently recognise her pup through smell which seems surreal if you see the masses and catch a whiff of that stink.

North of Swakop is also the start of the Skeleton Coast which has many shipwrecks due to the thick fog by the coast. There is dense fog about 2/3rds of the year which is due to the cold sea current. We found more fishing spots which look deserted and reminds a bit of scary movies in isolated areas ut apparently this fills up over holidays. After searching for quite a while we found the “Dead Sea” which is an old tin mine that is now a swim hole from ground water that rose up. It is near the Fisherman’s Inn with very bad signage which can be easily missed. The water looks green due to all the minerals and apparently it has the same boyancy as the dead sea but as we were all alone out in the nothing (it is about 17km inland on a dead gravel road with not a living soul in sight) we decided not to brave it and only put our feet in the water. Along the main road there are lots of little stalls that sell salt crystals and they have an honesty policy with a bottle or old rusted tin out so that you can take a crystal and leave some money for some soul to return in the near future.

We arrived back in Swakop quite late and decided to have dinner at The Tug Restaurant which is built with pieces of a real tugboat. It is apparently one of the best seafood restaurants. We decided on meat dishes which was a big mistake and a horrible experience so the lesson learnt is that is a restaurant is known for seafood, don’t try anything else they offer. The cocktails were however amazing.

Namibia, Day 2

What a phenomenal day! Our day started early. We were picked up just before 8 and went on a 5 hour living desert tour with Tommy. What an experience. We drove through the Namib desert between Swakopmund and Walvis bay which is a 6 kilometer stretch of dunes in the oldest desert in the world.

A desert forms due to a lack of water. The average rainfall here is between 3-15ml per year. Few plants and animals can live in this inhospicable conditions and those that do are adapted in many special ways in which to get or store water and also what they can eat such as turning dead plant material into energy, having two stomachs, being able to draw water from their blood etc.

 

We saw dollar and nara plants, two types of geckos, cameleon, different kinds of beatles, a tunnel spider nest, jackal and an adder snake. It was an extremely informative and educational tour. We even tasted the horribly bitter sap of the nara plant. Where there is a nara plant, there is water – it might be 85m down in the earth though. The desert sand can get up to 75 degrees Celcius.  

After the tour we had lunch at Tiger Reef beach bar on the beach before going to Walvis bay about 30km from Swakopmund. We headed out to Dune 7 and had the most fabulous time driving on quad bikes for an hour among the dunes. Brendan was our tour guide and he showed us an adder and a nara fruit along the way. Riding in the desert was one of the best experiences ever.

 

My cousin climbed Dune 7 which is a 85m high dune. I took photos of her on all fours battling the sand but she managed to get to the top. The oldest recorded person to climb the dune was 81 and the fastest was in 2.04min. 

We ended the day with supper at the Jetty.

Namibia, Day 1

Namibia, a land of incredible beauty and contrast. My cousin and I flew from Johannesburg to Windhoek in our neighbouring country, Namibia. We landed at midday and found only one other plane at the Windhoek airport. Windhoek is the capital of Namibia and located in the central region. We left and headed east to Swakopmund, a coastal town in the Namib Desert.

The airport is about 40km outside Windhoek. You have to travel north on the B1 before heading west on the B2. There is only one tar road to Swakopmund and somehow my cousin and I missed it (difficult to believe, I know, but we are notorious for taking wrong roads or turns so I guess no Amazing Race in our future). After we managed to find the correct road at last we realised that we were hungry and thirsty and were so happy to see the Engen One Stop garage only to realise they were still building it. There are no stops on the road so if you want something or need the bathroom, the only places to stop along the way is either in the towns of Okahandja or Karibib.

We did however manage to have a whole lot of fun on our 5 hour trip and saw a great deal along the way. We saw giraffes, warthogs, horses, goats, squirrel, eagle, kudu, falcon, quailes, cows, baboons, guinea foul and an unconfirmed rhino (which most time in Africa turns out to be a big fat rock).

We watched the lanscape change from the plateau to the barred dry land of the desert and what an interesting sight. We checked in to our guest house and headed off to the Jetty to watch the sun set over our first day. We ended the day with a fabulous dinner at The Wreck restaurant overlooking the ocean. I am looking forward to some sleep as we have a half day tour at 7.50 tomorrow morning.

The past two weeks…and a bit

I can’t believe how time flies. It all started with my cousin’s youngest 2nd birthday party on 1 December where family and friends were invited to celebrate. While the children were outside decorating their mini pop cakes, Samantha (not allowed to call her Sam because that is the cat’s name) was inside in front of the bookshelf reading a book oblivious to all the fuss made about her birthday.

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On Sunday I joined friends to watch the new Bond movie, Skyfall which we all enjoyed which is extremely rare as we have such diverse tastes so definitely worth a watch on the big screen.

Tuesday, 4 December we had our team CSI project at work. We are involved with the Johannesburg Cubs which is a project that involves boys aged 12-17 from the townships and boys from the affluent areas and private schools to mingle and get to know each other while playing sports.  Some boys from the townships who may be orphans or come from desperate circumstances are bright and hardworking and get scholarships to the fancy private schools in Johannesburg but they found that the boys just don’t fit in and rebel until they eventually get expelled. This program teaches them life skills and helps them make friends with the wealthy kids so that they understand each other’s worlds. We played with the boys doing various cricket and ball exercises with their coaches which was a lot of fun and created many laughs. Afterwards when the rain broke out we had something to eat and drink and gave each one a gift for the holiday season.

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Saturday the 8th I had Christmas dinner at friends’ house. It was a good time to catch up with friends seen long ago and also to reflect on the past year. Some of us had a great year while others had a sad year especially where deaths of loved ones were involved. We played secret Santa and exchanged gifts and got an extra surprise when a friend bought us each a lotto ticket with the understanding that if anyone won it was to be shared with the group of course. On Sunday I met my friend for lunch at Ga Rouge restaurant in Centurion which is an old farm house from the late 1800s which has been declared a heritage site. They serve a Sunday buffet or a la carte. It is always special to visit with my friend and share our lives. I also got to see their new house as they recently moved.

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On Tuesday I went with friends to the Bryanston market again where we had boerewors rolls for supper as we were drawn to the braai smell when we walked in. Thursday we had a team breakfast at the Mugg & Bean in Sandton. Initially we were going to have a day outing but it is our busiest time so in the end it meant a 7am breakfast which was rushed because of a meeting back at the office at 9am. There was however some time to catch-up on the dress of our boss, who was getting married, discuss strategy for next year and find out about all the children of the mothers and how people were spending Christmas.

In the evening we had Christmas dinner at a friend’s house. Like me she is not the most talented or versatile cook so she asked if we minded a pasta dish as it is almost the only thing she can properly make. Good food is good food so no one minded not even when it came out that she had to call in the help of good old mother to cook and deliver the dish as we were so busy at work. The evening was great fun and she did take a lot of trouble to beautifully decorate the table.

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This past weekend I went to Magaliesburg for the weekend. It is about an hour’s drive outside of Johannesburg and although I had many plans of things to see in the region, I just relaxed, slept a lot, played some games and had a great time. We stayed just outside of Magalies on a farm so it was great to wake up to beautiful sunrises, horses that bolt, cows that moo and breathe in the fresh air. On Sunday we went to Askari game lodge where you can watch the elephants play in the dam while you are having a luscious lunch. The buffet is really great and reasonably priced. The one thing I was disappointed about is that I forgot to pack any of my camera chargers and both batteries were dead. I did mange to take some photos with my phone.

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I also watched the movie Bel Ami with my friend on the 17th and it was really boring. It had a fabulous cast but unfortunately it didn’t help much in the end.

A week of fun

This is a busy time of year with people trying to finish off work before the summer holidays hence my lack of time spent here. Last Saturday morning I went to help my friend with her Corporate Social Investment (CSI) project. She started this project a few years ago where she offers free MS Office training to people less fortunate and what is great is that our company has embraced it and offered the training rooms over the weekend. Another company sponsors training material and people from work offer their time on Saturdays to come train. The courses finished for the year and I oversaw the pupils writing their tests.

 

Afterwards we met up with friends at the German Christmas market which was held at the German Country Club in Paulshof. It was overcast with a few showers so we couldn’t sit outside. There weren’t very many stalls so we were a bit disappointed and ended up having lunch at a favourite restaurant, Fillet where we introduced our one friend to the fabulous beef trinchado they serve there.

 

On Sunday we all got back together to watch the end of the Twilight saga. Although this has not been one of my favourite movies and I haven’t read the books, I was looking forward to the series finishing and after the dismal storyline in Part one of Breaking Dawn I was expecting great action. I was so very disappointed and actually extremely annoyed. This has now moved to one of my Top 10 worst movies ever. The acting was the worst I have seen, even Michael Sheen seemed like he didn’t care. Nothing was explained in the movie as my friend was telling us all the meanings of the different things that were in the book and I honestly hated every second of the movie and the super triple cheese galore soppy ending was the worst I have seen in my life.

 

Tuesday we had a baby shower for a friend at work. It was great fun and she received some stunning gifts. After work I went with friends to the Bryanston Organic & Natural Market which has a night market every Tuesday for the month leading up to Christmas. It is a stunning market with original and interesting goodies and food. It was so full that we could not find a table to sit at to have supper so we went to Luca’s Pizzeria in Sunninghill which is an Italian restaurant. I had the butternut panzerotti which was magnifico!

On Thursday we had our supplier year end function at the Morningside Country Club where we invited some of the agencies we work closely with for a day of fun at a Grand Slam party. Everyone was dressed either in Wimbledon whites or with hats and sunglasses ready for sports. There were tennis and volley ball matches and if you did not feel up for a game you could sit by the sideline and watch or camp out under a tree or an umbrella. It was a fun day out although the food was extremely disappointing.

Rock n roll circus party

We had our departmental year end party last week Thursday and as far as office parties go this was great fun and well organised. We went to the Barnyard theatre in Rivonia where the theme was “Rock ‘n Roll Circus”. Everyone got dressed up as either a circus or rock act. It was amusing to see some of the more quiet guys come out their shells. We had one of the actuarial teams dress up as Alice Cooper, two guys from finance came with polystyrene U’s around them indicating U2, there was a clown, Dolly, Katy, Madonna and even the King himself was there.

 

We arrived at 11:00 and received a welcoming cocktail and then went into the theatre where you could choose a table to sit at, each with seven chairs around it. The table was filled with a beautiful picnic basket with an assortment of pâtés, mini bread loaves, a salad and quiches, wine, colddrink and beer. We watched the Big Top Rock concert after starters where circus acts performed while artists entertained us with the wonderful sound of rock music. There were various acts but the most entertaining was the pole acrobatics and the contortion ballet. The show was sweet and short, just less than an hour. Main course consisted of fillet mignon in a balsamic and rosemary reduction with Cajun onion rings served with creamed spinach, chips and a choice of sauces. There was also a vegetarian option for the non meat eaters.

We had a prize ceremony for best dressed. There were a few categories, one was for the person who dressed according to their alter ego, one for the person who dressed opposite to what their personality is at work and then for best team and best overall. The dance floor was then opened followed by dessert, Belgium chocolate truffles, red velvet cupcakes and seasonal fruit kebabs. I left after the prize ceremony as I am not one to party late with work colleagues. I have seen too many stupid people do silly things and then they have to face the people from work the next day. The party was however great fun and I loved the idea of mixing some theatre with good food, music and dance.