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A Whole Lot of Beautiful Nothing

As we traversed around Namibia, there was one phrase Ronit and I kept repeating… “There is just nothing here….” I think we were expecting there would be something. But so many hours of our drives, we were struck by the absolute openness of the country. There are just 2.4 million people who live in Namibia, a country about half the size of Alaska. By comparison, there are 3.5 million people who live in the city of Dakar. Namibia has the 5th lowest population density in world, at an average of 2.9 people per square kilometer. This low population density means there are hours and hours of dusty dirt roads, where our enemies were large pointy rocks which rattled off the underbelly of our rental car as we bounced through the desert (our V-Dub Vivo, nicknamed the Golden Gentle Giant, didn’t have the clearance we were used to). The ping, pang, bam of smaller stones rattling around the wheel well was only superseded by the deafening rumble of the chasse rattling over washboard roads. Somehow, amazingly, I would look back over my shoulder during this racket to see Shai and Micah peacefully napping, oblivious to the natural desert beauty they were missing.

 


One highlight came when we went sandboarding in the Namib-Naukluft National Park next to Swakopmund. This consisted of us traversing up high hills of soft sand only to fling ourselves down again at break-neck speed. I chose the standup boarding, which is basically snowboarding on sand. Ro & the kids did lie-down boarding, in which the rider takes a flimsy piece of plywood, and glides down the hill with their face inches from the sand. Ronit held our family record, topping out at 57 km/hour (yes, they had a radar gun). 

The most remarkable drive came when we traveled from Swakapmund on the coast up to the Grootberg Lodge in the mountains.  We crossed into Skeleton Coast Park, where the miles of untouched coastline run smack into the lunar-like desert. We came across bluish-gray volcanic rock, which lined either side of our bumpy dirt track. But as we left the park heading inland, the landscape transformed into this rusty red sand, with large rock formations. It looked so much like Mars that as we rounded a bend, I half expected to see Matt Damon on the side of the road dusting off solar panels.  We then climbed up towards our resort, which was situated on the top of a mesa, overlooking a wide valley populated by only kudu (or other African antelope), baboons, and the occasional elephant. Both our rock and thatch-roof rooms and the infinity pool overlooked this giant valley.

The following day we headed to Etosha, a national park in the north, which is home to many of the animals you normally think of when you hear the word “safari.” We were lucky enough to see lots of these animals, including a cheetah, a lion eating a wildebeest, giraffes, zebras, elephants, and lots and lots of impalas, among others.
We had a truly remarkable adventure in this beautiful country, and it wasn’t just because every gas station had delicious meat pies. There were hours when there wasn’t much to look at, and that nothing was absolutely beautiful.

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