Monday, April 18, 2011

End In Sight

I have about one week left in my trans African Adventure, before we are expected to reach Cape Town and the end of the line for me, on this adventure. Five in a half months later, 15 countries, and 25,000 kms covered, I look back at another journey in my life, another chapter, and can't believe everything that I experienced.

The trip has been like a semester long course, of African studies. Our truck being not only our transportation and our lifeline, but a time machine, that took us across harsh terrain, terrible roads, dangerous countries, and back in time to an period when man still lived in mud huts and stick houses, walked around barefoot, had no running water or electricity, and no cars or even domesticated animals.

It would actually be an amazing course that a university could offer. An African studies course for 6 months, where a group of students along with a professor, travel across the entire African continent, the same way we did, not flying over troubled areas or difficult roads, but to drive through the heart of every country we passed, and experience places that are rarely seen by outsiders. It's the only way to get a well rounded idea about what it is truely like to be African, to really understand what the word poverty, corruption, struggle, and hope really mean.

At the end of their trip, they could try their luck at writing their own thesis about the future of Africa, something many writers have tried to tackle and yet have solved.

What is my thesis? Africa is one hell of an interesting and beautiful place to travel across. A place I don't judge for where they are now, but who they are inside. A place every person should experience at some point in their lives. For any reason you can think of, because it's impossible to leave Africa, the same person you came.

What is my opinion on Africa and all it's troubles. Let Africa be Africa. Every civilization since the beginning of mankind has had growing pains. While African problems are plentiful and their road to a better life is a long uphill climb, getting into their business and forcing them to live their lives the way you want them to, will only make things worse.

Through all the civil wars, corrupted governments betraying them, and enslavement from foreign powers, if you travel through even the poorest of the African countries, you will realize something inspiring,really happy people.

Kids running happily down the streets,pushing only an old bike tire, one of their favorite games. Adults working in the field 14 hours a day and still waving to you as you drive by, and whole towns greeting you when you pass through. Some of the warmiest hospitality we recieved, was in towns that had nothing. But what is nothing? Is there a price tag on happiness?

While everyone is busy trying to fix Africa's problems, some even at the same time trying to exploit them for their resources, they should be instead learning something from them.

That even in a harsh lifestyle where tomorrow isn't guaranteed, a level of income and level of healthcare at the bottom of the list, involved in an war against AIDS, that effects a high percentatge of every countries population, live in fear of a mosquito that kills a million Africans a year, they still manage to be happy, friendly to foreigners, proud of their culture, and positive about their future.

To find this you only have to visit the heart and soul of Africa and visit places outside national parks, outside five star hotels, outside the major dirty, overpopulated, and dangerous African cities that you fear, and what the world media and foreigners love to discribe as dangerous lawless places full of savages, and experience the small villages, yet corrupted by material wealth, modern technology, and loss of hope.

When David Livingstone, an explorer who discovered Victoria Falls and explored Africa for the British Empire died, his body was shipped back to England to be given a hero's burial, but as requested before his death, his heart was cut out and buried under am African Banya tree.

They say mankind originally came from Africa. Our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago, evolved and migrated to other parts of the world, and now take the many different forms, skin colors, complexities, and personalities that we have today. Why are most of us so interested in Africa? Maybe because it was originally home to all of us.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Namibia. Overlander's Heaven

If you want to travel to a place so rugged, beautiful, and endless, that it seems too amazing to be true. A place almost designed for overlanders with national parks full of unique wildlife, countless dirt roads that take you to stunning geological features, and plenty of unique culture to discover, than make your way to Namibia. The list of things to see and do will keep you busy for months.

If you enjoy viewing wildlife, the huge salt pan of Etosha National Park, won't let you down. From the opening gate you will pass large numbers of animals drinking at the many watering holes, gaze in awe at the size of the largest elephants in Africa, and if lucky spot a leapard stalking through the grass, with it's white tiped tail dancing in the air behind him as a guide for her young to follow.

Those who arrive with their own vehicles can camp in the park in a few locations. Listen to roar of a pride of lions at night, warning other lions to stay away. I sat in my tent in a camp ground in Etosha and listened to the lions get closer and closer, till they were so close you could hear them breath.

If wildlife viewing isn't enough adrenaline for you, you can head to Swakopmund, and experience the newest adrenaline capital of Africa. You can go four wheeling through the endless sand dunes, sandboard down the largest dunes, take the leap of faith out of a plane 10,000 feet above the beautiful skeleton coast, or go deep sea fishing along one of the last plentiful fishing grounds left in Africa.

If all the adrenaline makes you hungry, you can't miss going to Beryl's Burger joint and pick from a list of massive burgers that make McDonald's burgers look like a movie star from LA on the way to rehab. Go to the meat market and buy a 9 pound steak that would fill even an Alaskan brown bear.

If isolation is what your looking for, you can travel through the remote regions of damaraland and the skeleton coast, where you can travel for days without seeing another soul. The ruggedness will get you over any problems you might have in your life because there is nothing else out there to blame them on.

Head far east to the Kalahari Desert and experience one of the most preserved ecosystems left in the world. If you are lucky you can see the black maned lions that are the biggest lions left in the world, the elusive honey badger, pound for pound most aggressive animal in the world, the beautiful oryx with long pointed horns, or the deadly yet beautiful cobra as it slithers through your camp and into your nightmares.

There is nothing more awesome, then watching a thunderstorm move it's way across a dry desert. The lightening flashes,the rolling thunder, the huge cell growing upwards, till it hits the upper stratasphere and spreads out, then releasing, drops of rain,the lifeline to those who call the desert home. Don't be fooled by the lack of vegetation, exploring the desert you soon come across many animals, insects, and plants, who have adapted to life in a world that looks like it belongs on another planet.

If you feel like hiking, make your way to Sossusvlei and climb the largest sands dunes in the world, stand atop them and enjoy the 360 degree panorama that photographers get off on. If you have the time, climb up dune 45 with a few beers and enjoy watching the day come to and end.

The amazement of Namibia, doesn't end with the setting of the sun. When light turns to night, the stars start to pop up like holes of light shinning into the heavens. They will shine brighter than you have ever seen, so clear that even the disk of our solar system is visable to the naked eye. Crawl into your sleeping bag under the night sky, stare up and enjoy the show, as icy fragments from deep space, heat up and streek across the sky. You will see so many that you will beable to wish for everything you have ever wanted.

As the night becomes colder, don't forget to zip up your sleeping bag tight, the creepy crawlers of the night might want to cuddle up with you.

Namibia is a place so spiritual that the world's problems seem to vanish like moisture in the sunbaked soil. The oldest desert on the face of the planet, has no memory. When you leave the place, all evidence of you visiting, is erased by the blowing sand, like ocean waves to foot prints.

While in the capital of Namibia, Windhok, a few of us bought some lunch at a supermarket, got some cold beers, got a ride to a private game reserve that was closed, but were allowed in, to go on a private game drive.

As the sun moved to it's hottest time of the day, we pulled over on the side of the road, walked down to a watering hole where large herds of oryx, eland, and springbok, were drinking and enjoyed our lunch, a few cold beers, and watched as our long legged guests, came and went. It's Namibia at its best.