Following the shoreline north from Swakopmund, one enters the Skeleton Coast, which is rumored to be both desolate and wondrous. We cannot attest to either as we chose an inland route north, traversing Damaraland on the way to Etosha, Namibia’s premier game park. In addition to its indigenous tribes, which speak one of southern Africa’s clicking tongues, Damaraland is famous for its desert-adapted elephants, and it is in search of these that we made our way to the Doro!Nawas conservancy.
“Do you like rollercoasters?” our driver asked as he crested to the top of an impressive sand dune. “Yes!” we said in unison. “No!” protested S’s mom. “Oh shit!” added our toddler from the backseat as the car completed its slow, vertical descent and the driver gunned the engine to rocket up the next dune.
Ancient deserts, incredible birds and wildlife, the peace and quiet of a sparsely populated landscape – there were many reasons why Namibia seemed an attractive travel destination. Stumbling across the stunning images of Deadvlei as we researched possible routes for our trip sealed the deal.
We sometimes wonder what goes through our young son’s head during our travels. He won’t remember these early trips – the ten European countries he visited before his second birthday, the African safaris and boat trips, the sojourns in New England to visit his grandparents – but does he enjoy these travels in the moment?
The Kalahari Desert derives its name from an indigenous word that is variously translated as either “the great thirst” or “a waterless place.” Its arid name notwithstanding, the Kalahari is not considered a “true” desert in the same way that the Namib is. In fact, the Kalahari is home to quite a wide array of birds and animals, and its red sands support entire ecosystems of trees, grass, and shrubs.
Parenthood is a bittersweet experience. The highs are vertiginous. Feeling loved, needed, and cherished by a tiny human who depends on you for his everything brings indescribable joy. The lows can by dismal. It’s not the whining, screaming, and kicking, nor the nights of sleepless exhaustion that leave the deepest scars. It’s the fickle rejection. Crafty little monsters that they are, from a young age children intuit our weakest pressure points and exploit them mercilessly. Loving one moment, distant the next. Few things sting quite as much as watching your child snuggle someone else while he tells you that you are not his friend or screams bloody murder if you want to give him a hug and kiss.
Despite last-minute cancellations and unforeseen delays, we still arrived in Namibia a day before S’s parents, who were due to land in Windhoek around noon the following afternoon. We had agreed to rendezvous in the Kalahari Desert for the start of our tour together, and D suggested tacking on a short visit to Daan Viljoen, located less than half an hour outside the capital, as a way to pass the time until their arrival.
From the desert elephants of Damaraland to the dead trees of the Namib and the red sands of the Kalahari desert, from the coastal charm of Swakopmund to the endless plains of Etosha, we covered a lot of ground during our two weeks in Namibia. Before we attempt to do justice to this beautiful country’s striking landscapes and incredible wildlife, we’d like to start our travel tales with a word of thanks.