Sunday, August 24, 2008

NY Times article on Namibia

Check it out! Click here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vacation in Namibia - Pictures to prove it!

Bob and I were originally going to go to Sao Tome and Principe to do some diving in August but had issues booking the trip so on the advice of two coworkers we went to Namibia... and had a wonderful time. Once we got out of the Windhoek airport, we rented our double cab pickup truck and were on our way to our first destination, Okapuka Ranch, just 30 miles north of downtown Windhoek. It was a great place to relax at the start of our trip. The scenery and the buildings/rooms were beautiful and it was our first introduction to game viewing. We could have camped, for a different experience that we would have enjoyed, but I needed a luxury vacation!

Drinking a Windhoek Lager! Mmmmmm! At Okapuka we saw tons of animals and we saw white rhinos, both old and young. Here I am in my rock star sunglasses and one of the adult rhinos!
The one year old rhino. Can I say CUTE?
Giraffes, and lots of them... here are two of them. From Okapuka we headed north to Etosha National Park where we stayed at Okakuejo Ranch, which had an amazing waterhole that attracted TONS of animals, then we stayed in a chalet at Numatoni, which was tone of the nicest places I think I have stayed (and we paid for it!!). We prefer not to go on big group trips so doing the self-guided safari was just our style. Below are pics of some of the animals we saw.

Some animals were encountered on the road and on one occasion we had an incident with an elephant. There was an overlander in front of us stopped in the road and at one point we all had to back up as an elephant was coming our way and seemed to be a bit annoyed. It finally moved off the road, the overlander went by and then we started to go by. Curious Bob wanted to take a longer look at the elephant and it no longer wanted us to... so it charged us. I screamed and got mad at Bob because I was scared as the elephant was charging my side of the vehicle. Thanks to Bob's responsiveness we got away and now have a funny story to tell about it. He still thinks I over reacted and maybe I did but I am glad we did not have to find out! ; ) Another giraffe...

It was so cool to see the giraffes in the distance!

When we first arrived at Okakuejo waterhole there were 20+ elephants and when they left twenty more arrived. Later that night the white rhinos showed up.

Sunset at Okakuejo Waterhole

We saw hundreds of zebras at the Salvadora waterhole. This picture shows just a few of them.

While it is hard to see in the photo below, this zebra was given a second chance. If you have ever watched the National Geographic shows to see how the lions can attack from behind, paws/claws on both sides of the rear end, and bring the zebra down. This zebra has large wound likely from a similar attack, and he luckily got away. We did see lions on two occasions, but from a distance. This photo was taken from my point and shoot camera and am now convinced I need a better camera.
There were many ostriches and other large birds (Kori Bustard).

A herd of springbok. This is the most ubiquitous antelope in the park. See close up below.

The black-faced impala looks a lot like the springbok at first glance but the black-faced impala is slightly bigger, has different coloring and has has larger antlers/horns. The oryx or gemsbok is a striking animal, with distinct coloring and large straight horns. The oryx is the national animal of Namibia.
Another elephant... in quite fa risky mood!
Blue Wildebeest
From Etosha National Park, we had quite a drive to get to our next destination, Swakopmund, a German town on the west coast. We drove along the coast and went for a walk on the beach and downtown. Here is a photo of us on the coast. We took a drive on Welwitschia Drive to see the moon landscape, or badland topography along the Swakop River, the resistant dolerite dikes (OK... so I had a geology guide book!) and the Welwitschia plant, which exists only in the northern Namib Desert.

Just south of Swakopmund, we entered the Namib Desert and a sea of sand dunes that met the coast. Swakpomund is known for the adventure sports and we could have skied down the dunes or rented quads but having grown up vacationing in Glamis in southern California... been there, done that! It did make me miss spending Thanksgiving there with my family. Swakopmond also has sky diving but we had no time for Bob to get in a jump. I am sure the view is breath taking at 14,000 feet! We checked out Salt Works and the flamingos at Walvis Bay then headed towards Sesriam & Sossusvlei. The landscape changed drastically along the drive as we south. Below is a picture of Kuiseb Canyon, where two German geologists went into hiding for nearly three years during WWII. Their story is described in The Sheltering Desert, written by one of the geologists Henno Martin. It is on my list of books to read and I know I will wish that I read it prior to our trip.

Bob and I had to stop for a picture at the Tropic of Capricorn, one of the five major circles of latitude (~23 degrees south of the equator) you see on maps of the Earth. When we go to Sao Tome and Principe (possibly Feb 2009), we will stand on the equator... We finally arrived at the sea of red star dunes in the Namib Desert. We stayed within the park at Sossus Dune Lodge an eco-lodge with 23 different chalets that were amazing. We woke up for the infamous sunrise picture opportunity of the 325 m dunes at Sossusvlei, only to find a lot of fog, which eventually burned off and made for a beautiful day.Bob descending from a dune top into Hidden Vlei of the Tsauchab River that only receives water during during heavy rain seasons. The whitish clay is deposited on the valley floor during the heavy rains. The white clay is left behind as the water seeps into the ground.
Dead Vlei no longer receives water during the heavy storms and the subsurface waters have dried up causing the trees to die. The trees are said to be 600+ years old and preserved only because the climate is favorable... not enough moisture to cause the trees to rot and intolerable for tree-eating bugs. Me pretending to be a tree! ; )
Bob tolerating another picture!

Collecting a sand sample for the nephews.
Sesriam Canyon, a slot canyon within the park and 3 minutes drive from Sossus Dune Lodge.

If you have not noticed yet, I don't always publish my posts on the date the I actually wrote them. I try to post on dates the activities occur as this is serving as my trip journal. I hope you don't mind!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Vacation in Namibia

We just returned from vacation in Namibia where we drove all over (2500km (1550miles) in 6 days)! Until I get a chance to update the blog, here is a list of the places we went to and some links so you can check it out.

August 8 – Fly to Windhoek, Namibia, rent a 4x4 to drive ourselves around, even within the wildlife park (safari).
August 9 – Stay at Okapuka Ranch in Windhoek
August 10 – Drive to Etosha National Park, stay at Okuakeujo Resort
August 11 – Drive through Etosha National Park, stay at Numatomi Resort
August 12 – Looooong drive (660km) to Swakopmund, stay at Seaside Hotel and Spa
August 13 – Drive to Namib Naukluft Park, stay at Sossas Dune Lodge
August 14 – Drive nearby to Sossusvlei, stay at Sossas Dune Lodge again
August 15 - Drive back to Windhoek, stay at Olive Grove Guesthouse
August 16 - Fly to Johannesburg, South Africa, stay at a hotel by the airport
August 17 - Relax in Jo-burg before flying back to Lagos

Saturday, August 9, 2008

One of the Negatives of Expat Living - Friends Leave

On this assignment, friends will come and go and I was sad to see Nancy leave a few months ago. Nancy was our next door neighbor and she really made the most of her time here in Nigeria getting out to listen to local music and mixing in with just about every group of people here.

Nancy and her devoted driver Eduard, just before boarding the bus to the airport
The crowd bidding her farewell as she travels to her next African destination! Good Luck!

Just recently, Mike and Terri moved the Middle East. Mike and Terri are tennis addicts (who will be missed by their tennis addict friends, as well as by us spectators) who kept the weekly tennis social alive in our housing complex. We hope to visit them in their new location and go shopping and diving!

Group of folks at Sharon and Jonathan's place for a going away dinner. Mike and Terri are the couple over my right shoulder.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fabric Shopping in Abeokuta and a Visit to Olumo Rock

Today a group of folks, either looking for fabric or looking to get out of Lagos, drove in a company van (with security) to Abeokuta. We were not sure how traffic would be as this is the first day that a section of the Third mainland Bridge, connecting Lagos Island to the mainland section of Lagos, was closed for repair. The bridge will be closed until the end of September (at least) and will wreak havoc on the morning commute for many of my coworkers. Anyway, bridge traffic was fine but the traffic on Ibadan Expressway was bad before the turnoff to Abeokuta. Once off the expressway, the ride to Abeokuta was smooth as the former president Obasabjo's home town was Abeokuta and he made sure his road home was a good one. The 50 mile trip took us about 2.5 hours and we were ready to shop for adire, tie and die, and batik fabric. I like burgundy and blue colors so that is mostly what I walked away with, although I did buy something red.
Susan in one of the fabric shops.

Kay shopping... imagine that!

Fabric from the recent Jankara / Balogun trip and this trip
After shopping for one hour, half of the group went to see Olomu Rock, one of Nigeria's biggest tourist attractions. Abeokuta, the name of the town, stands for "under the rock" in the Yoruba language. Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun state, is situated on the east bank of the Ogun River, around a group of rocky outcroppings that rise above the surrounding savanna. Olumo Rock is the highest of the rocky outcroppings and is a place where the Egba people took refuge during inter-tribal wars in the 19th Century. I was amazed to see there are elevators to got you to the top but we chose to take the stairs which then led to the hike up short ladders between and over the large rocks. Once at the top, the view over Abeokuta was terrific, with the rusted red roofs and the churches and mosques along the winding Osun River.

View from the parking lot... not just one elevator but two elevators to get to the top. Or you can take the stairs and some ladders to get up onto the top.

Mosque near the Ogun River
St. Peter's Church, the oldest church in Nigeria
Another church in the midst of the red tin roofs

The group standing on top of Olumo Rock. Chris was the photographer.

Front - Lisa (me), Namisa, Adebayo (guard), Sunday (guard), Back - Anthony, Bob

Tree growing out of the rocks

Our guide told us about the shrine, where the used to sacrifice strangers, but now they just sacrifice cows... lucky for us! Read more about Abeokuta on the Nigerian Field Society website or another blog posting I ran across.

Here are some other pics of life in Abeokuta.

Woman with baby buying beef

Woman carrying yams on her head