Not your average travel blog
Packed around forced-manicured grass; a village of A-framed huts and boxy bungalows are agonisingly, tightly and tidily organised into poured concrete conveniences. All anti-organically strewn around an actually rather difficult place to live in an attempt at human consolidation. It just doesn’t quite feel right.
When observing the officious people in Namibia in these OCD nooks, people work wonders at impersonating well-ushered sheep. German-esque Hobbitons are spring-up pads. Everything has its place although some things have still been tossed into spaces which seem obscure to any westerner. Extra tiny bungalows in the middle of a car park, taking up two car spaces, for example.
Language, architecture, food and drink, shop fronts, signage, and the organised systems everywhere, all tip their caps to remnants of being managed by the efficient Germans, and yes, everything works and western amenities are very available – in the cities.
Namibia is more than double the size of Germany (over 824,000 square kilometres vs just over 357,000 square kilometres). Put primitively: The sand, the expansive desert and the heat are the only prevalent items that distinguish it from its European counterpart. Namibian urbanisation at least, still manages to cling to being uber-organised and is soaked in colonialism, but with only two million inhabitants!
With a white-african population of over 154,000 (about 9%), the languages in Namibian towns are mainly Afrikaans and German. As everything works with price tags similar to that of northern Europe, with the roads maintained and the street signs relatively easy to navigate, it is desperately hard to notice that we are still, actually in Southern Africa.
Some aspects of this european life are hard not to appreciate once you have been in the bush for so long. If one was more inclined to hold such humanity to ones bosom more closely, it might be an impressive welcome.
Good beer, excellent german food, efficient customer service, detailed maps, many comfortable accommodation options are all wonderful aspects to why Namibia is so popular. It’s an impressive set up. However, flip the coin and it means most things need booking more than four months in advance (in the tourist season), excursions are filled with strangers, everything has a form to go with it or some bureaucracy to work with and it’s probably the most expensive country in southern Africa – mainly because it’s simply German-South-Africa with infinitely more diamonds under it.
Namibia is visually incredible and to state simply that it is a spectacle for the senses wouldn’t do it justice, but the way modern society paints the environment with its industrial and architectural erections is unmerciful and sadly, lacking in much nostalgia. It is very functional, but urbanisation has a strange and unappealing mix of instant german convenience, south african nonchalant-after-thoughts, and some unappealing muddling of middle eastern sandiness. Ancient Arabs seemingly created some of the most beautiful and colourful, intricate designs on Earth. Clearly, the lesser inspired creatives met with european blandness, and then Namibia, unfortunately, was where they collaborated. All the new builds springing up out of the desert have no real right to be there – and they haven’t received a single shred of sympathetic thought towards their aesthetic design or how they should compliment their drastic and unforgiving surroundings. A welcoming african aura has not been completely lost in the cities. There is a gentle nod visually to African passion, desert “nomadicness” and art from the vast continent, but people have seemingly refused to hug their backdrop.
The only neighbourly triumph appears to be a communal surge towards celebrating shutting out a seemingly unappreciated landscape. Short, cinderblock walls are the instantly-cheap boundaries which people have embraced to segregate all manner of anything coming and going from city and desert. The sand clearly is something to endure but it appears a shame that such magnificence loses out to disappointing obstructions around organised life. I just find it a bit sad, over-sanitised, and unpleasing to both the eye and imagination. I guess I am just a stubborn soul who appreciates effort when it comes to being empathetic towards the natural world and how we should be part of it…..not forcing a lifestyle against it.
Back to the beauty: The Namibian wilderness is a scoured arrangement of desert and various rocks which saturate a desolate landscape that imaginatively rolls and spikes, seemingly forever. It sporadically disappears into titanic sand dunes, and occasionally shoots upwards from red-earth farmland across the interior.
There are vast, very vast, pancake-like, unfrequented flats which would engulf small states or even countries, occasionally spattered in tiny dry shrub. It took us a whole day to drive from Karibib, south over the rock-strewn mountains to Tinkas Flats and then west to the coast over the very northern section of the Namib Naukluft National Park Desert.
We ambled and took lots of photos, many of which had a similar dry, hazy hue to them. It is baron beauty at its most prolific. Anyone farming, living, or even just traversing the harsh Namibian environments needs to have a certain resilience and unfazed-character about them. There really is very little to see – apart from a lot of moonscape-esque, glorious nothing – which is strangely breathtaking and completely appreciated.
Despite being possibly affronted by extremity, it is impossible not to be in awe of what you see. The sand and rock is iconic; add the behemoth sky and the rugged coastline and around every corner lurks an overwhelming and colossal vision capable of stealing anyones breath.
I have travelled to many parts of the wild world and often hills, mountains, deserts, lakes, forest and meadows remind me of other places I have already visited. The rocky mountains, gravelly pans and the grey, red, brown and yellow dusty deserts that stretch east from the Atlantic coast are unlike anywhere I have ever travelled. It’s drastic! Sporadically dotted in the dry season with unhurried wildlife, it’s a desolate and unpopulated land in the middle of the day as most critters take refuge from the heat.
Traversing mile after mile after mile of unearthly rough-ground, conversation simplifies to saying only the following words, “Zebra!”, “Snake!”, “Gemsbok!”, ”Wow!”, “massive warthog” and “Look, a tree!”.
I’ve skipped over and had a few adventures through many Namibian spots. Some of them are going to require closer inspection, as well as, if you’ll indulge me, a little more commentary on my part…
Hi Ben, utterly fantastic, video bought tears to me eyes and a longing to go back there, must talk soon. George