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Where’s Namibia?

March 7, 2018

Namibia was not on my bucket list…and then I went.

After a 24-hour journey from Boston, I had just enough time to settle into my little cottage at the River Crossing Lodge and meet my roommate, Margery, before the first assembly of our little group of photographers and guides, a father-son team of native Namibians named Steve and Dayne. The lodge is perched on a high spot about 25 km south of Windhoek, the capital, and it feels like the end of the world.

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It was in the 90s today, but at cocktail hour on the veranda a refreshing breeze kicked up as the sun started to set, and we enjoyed sundowner cocktails as we watched the swifts swoop and dive before nesting for the night. By the time we finished dinner the waxing crescent moon was an orange fingernail slipping behind the mountains to the west, and the eleven of us had started getting to know each other.

After a sumptuous breakfast the next day, we set off south toward the western edge of the Kalahari Desert. At the outset there were small jagged mountains dotted with scrub, but the further we traveled the more the land flattened The featureless landscape was mostly comprised of scattered scrub acacia and trumpet thorn bushes laden with small white flowers. We passed several larger acacias where sociable weaverbirds had constructed their enormous nests. Along the way we spotted the ubiquitous kudu antelope grazing in the scrub, and stopped to commemorate crossing the Tropic of Capricorn.

 

The Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge was our destination for this night. We had lovely little cottage-tents (two walls cement, two walls tent cloth). During lunch (smoked kudu salad) we watched as wildebeests grazed just off the veranda, and a herd of elands approached to have their pictures taken.

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The highlight of our stay was a sunset game drive. We set off in open Land Cruisers around 5:00 to drive through the 4000 hectares of the preserve in which the lodge sits. We spotted a variety of wildlife, including eland, wildebeests (blue and black species), a couple of bat-eared foxes, oryx, blazebok and a family of giraffes. From a distance we spotted zebras, but they disappeared before we could catch up with them. As the sun was setting, we parked atop one of the red dunes to make pictures while our drivers set up the bar. A freshening breeze blew away the heat of the day, and a gin and tonic slaked my parched throat. The sky was ablaze with orange as the sun disappeared, and the vibrant color lingered for a good long while as we reflected on the good fortune that had brought us to this picturesque spot.

Back at the lodge, diner awaited. After an amuse bouche of shrimp and a peppadew pepper, and an appetizer of a “fancy deviled egg” salad, our entrée choices were roasted marinated chicken thigh or slow-roasted warthog! Our guide Dayne explained that warthog is a very popular dish in Namibia, but thinking of the ugly animals I saw in Tanzania, I couldn’t bring myself to order it.

The lodge owner has adopted a sweet little meerkat named Timon, and he slept on my feet all through dinner.

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Margery and I realized that the mosquito netting around the beds was not just for show when we discovered that an army of termites had invaded during the night. Yuck! I hope I’m not taking them along to our next stop.

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