Friday, 1 May 2015

Study Tour Number 2 (The West)

For our Easter Break (aka Spring Break), our group of PLU students went on another study tour!

The first day, we left our hostel in the late morning and drove for 4-5 hours to Sossusvlei. We stopped for lunch in a cute little town called Solitaire—which is infamous for its delicious bakery—and we reached our campsite at about 4 pm. We set up our tents at Sesriem campsite, and then we went for a “sunset” drive (actually a night drive because everyone and everything is always late in Africa) to a small-ish dune. Tickey and Scobie (our tour guides) told us about the dune formation and other fun facts about Sossusvlei.

The next morning, we woke up super early to get on the dunes before it got too hot. We got to “Big Daddy” (the dune we climbed and one of the tallest in the Namib Desert) just as the sun rose. It took an hour-ish for most of the girls to climb to the top, but it took me about an hour and a half because I kept stopping to look around. IT WAS SO DANG BEAUTIFUL. I think I have a new favorite place. When we reached the top, we took a bunch of pictures and I made a sand-angel! The descent was so so so fun. It was like walking down a grass hill when you can’t help but run. For 300 meters. At the base of the dune, there are a bunch of dead trees. These trees are Camelthorn Acacias that have been dead for over 40 years, but the intense heat of the desert prevents bacteria from decomposing the trees. After Sossusvlei, we came back to the campsite for lunch and then explored Sesriem Canyon.

We packed up our tents the next morning and drove for another 4-5 hours to Swakopmund, where we stayed in a traveller’s lodge. On the drive there, we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn (which is pretty unexciting, but there is a cool sign)! The next morning we went quad-biking!! It was so much fun! After that, we checked out the cute little shops in downtown Swakop, and I found some pretty neat things. Then we got back in the van and drove to Brandberg, where we stayed the next night. We all went to the pool at the campsite, where we saw some meerkats! Then we had a “traditional” Namibian meal (consisting of pop porridge, meat, and a vegetable dish, all eaten without utensils) for dinner. While we ate, a Damara singing group sang us some traditional songs and danced along with them.

After packing up our campsite in the morning, we travelled to the site of the famous White Lady painting. It was a decently long hike, but it was worth it to see the cave paintings. The White Lady is colored with rocks, treebark powder, and ostrich egg shells. The paintings are 2000-5000 years old, and a milky substance from tree branches were used as a glue-like adhesive to mix colors. We then set up camp in Twyfelfontain and went swimming at the hotel that Jan and Tony stayed at. Our swimming time got cut short when we went on a drive to see a bunch of nearby desert elephants! We even saw a baby elephant (which is my new spirit animal).

While in Twyfelfontain, we explored the Bushman engravings. There are over 2000 engravings in this area, which is the largest concentration of engravings in southern Africa. These engravings were used for teaching in the hunter-gatherer society; they indicated how to track certain animals and which animals to avoid. People also played games—like mancala—by engravings. Specific animals—such as elephants and rhinos—were carved more frequently because it was believed that they would bring rain. After seeing the engravings, we went to the Damara Living Museum, which was very informative about how traditional Damara people lived and it was super fun! We also saw the Organ Pipes in Twyfelfontain! They are a really neat geological formation and I was nerding out so hard.

On the drive back to Windhoek, we stopped at the market in Okahandja and went shopping! It was stressful and we were swamped by every person in the market, but we got some really neat things. It was a fantastic week!

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