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Text: Annelien Robberts
Millennials want to travel, and preferably in an authentic, interconnected way. We push conventional travel boundaries and design our own itineraries. We prefer to avoid mass tourism by rather staying with the locals. Peer-to-peer booking sites (think Couchsurfing) and room-sharing services (need I even mention AirBnB?) are our travel guides for full-on local experiences that will reverberate with purpose and meaning. Large parts of Namibia are uninhabited, which means that Couchsurfing manifestly makes way for Bushsurfing. Camping is a joyful way to connect with the environment and the company you take along. So, together with four other girls, I headed south on a camping trip. For the next three days, the answer to any question was ‘bikini’. Namib-Naukluft National Park was our destination – the largest park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world.
The camping spots are right next to the river. Our spot also proved to be great for “connecting” with all kinds of animals. Since we left the Wi-Fi signal behind in the city, we were bound to find some other connection. At night, after dinner had been cooked and all that was left were smouldering coals, our only source of light was Bugger Off mosquito candles and a starlit sky. The smartest “thing” in sight was the person beside you. Not a Smartphone, an iPhone or the likes. No beeping or ringing. Bliss. Disconnected from the outside world, or anything further than two metres behind us, for that matter.
During daytime, it was another world – this same black wall around us transformed into a cluster of sweet thorn trees adorned with bright yellow flowers. Unlike the dassies basking in the sun, we were trying to lie torpid during the hottest time of the day, only chasing the sporadic shade provided by the sweet thorn trees. On one such lazy afternoon, the dassies began squeaking for dear life. It is hard to believe that these rock hyraxes with their huge fangs are closest related to elephants! This mind-boggling fact was deduced from similarities in the structure of their feet and teeth but let’s leave it at that. (Remember the answer? Bikini.) Not long after the dassies started making such a racket, we were honoured with the rare sighting of an African wildcat swiftly making its appearance among the shrubs.
We had two days of hiking through splendid hilly landscapes. Climbing into sycamore fig trees. Swimming in natural crystal-clear pools. Eating chops and braai pies (two pizza bases stuffed with filling and grilled on an open fire). Ticking off birds we spotted and expanding our knowledge of trees along the way. Lazing and reading during the hottest part of the day. After all, it is a semi-desert savannah.
Namib-Naukluft National Park is a well-known hiker’s destination. Hiking is a fun activity for those seeking to connect with the environment, especially in the milder months of the year. An 8-day trail will take you in a 120 km loop. Intensity level? 10/10. This is one of the few hiking trails that require a medical certificate, which means you need exceptional fitness levels. If the mere thought of this already makes you drip with sweat, read on to discover less stressful options.
For an unguided day hike, the Olive (10 km) and Waterkloof (17 km) trails are perfect. There are also 2 km and 4 km self-guided trails – a great, leisurely way to explore. These short hikes are all the same rewarded with a swim in a natural pool that formed among the rocky ravines. You can choose between a bigger pool at the bottom and a small one at the top. It is nature’s own infinity pool without the chlorine.
In Namibia, the summer months seem infinite, but the milder months are fast approaching. I will be one to take advantage of the last fiery sunrays before winter comes. A time of year that makes way for new adventures, such as a 120 km hike! But for now, when in doubt, bikini!
Happy authentic travelling, Generation Wanderlust!
This story was published in the Autumn 2018 edition of Travel News Namibia.