Thursday, 5 June 2014

Dragon ladies and does lightening strike a tourist twice?

Let's answer the lightening question first.  During our Nambia trip we called on Elizabeth for help.  As we tried to check in to our lodge on the south side of Etosha we were informed that due to overbooking they could not accomodate us and we would be moved to the camp/lodge next door with a complementary dinner or game drive for our trouble.
It seemed like deja vu all over again.  We went next door and the place was definetely geared to the camper and backpacker.  In the meantine we had emailed Elizabeth with our predicament.
It is worth mentioning that a few days before our trip I had contacted the main office of the hotel to ask for reconfirmation, directions and GPS coordinates.  At that time they reconfirmed my reservation.
Anyhow within an hour Elizabeth and lodge staff informed us that there was an "opportune cancellation" and we would be moved back to our originally reserved lodge.  (I am very certain this would not have happened without Elizabeth's efforts.)
Moving on to dragon ladies and Namibian impressions.
During our stay in Namibia we came to appreciate that almost everything important is a two step process.  Let me explain.  Starting with our dragon lady encounters.
On arrival we queued up at passport control.  There were multiple officers handling passengers.  Most couples on line would approach an officer and would be processed accordingly.  When our turn came up we approached an officer together - because it is rather obvious that we are travelling as a couple.  Dragon lady cautioned us to approach her one at a time and if the other person was not called they would have to wait behined the line with their own travel documents.  The area was extremely crowded and noisy so I had to ask dragon lady to repeat her instructions.  She grew increasingly combative as my wife was called by the next available officer.  Meanwhile, dragon lady asserted her authority by asking me to repeat and confirm every detail on my passport and the entry form I completed.
In the meantime my wife was waiting with her officer because obviously we would have to be given the same duration to stay in the country and dragon lady was the more senior officer who would decree the length of our stay and the officers would have to coordinate!
When departing Namibia there were two officers. So logically (applying lessons learned from arrival) we approached the officers separately.  WRONG!!! Dragon lady II barely looked at my wife and continued to do what she was doing without any attempt to provide further instructions or start the exit formalities. After waiting several minutes and seeing that I was done my wife walked over to my line and off we go.
I wish that border control agents ( for whatever country) keep in mind that they help shape the first and last impressions of visitors.  I digress....
Securing park entry permits was an interesting process too.  At some parks like Etosha and Namib you drove past one gate where you filled out a form or provided some required details.  Payment of fees required a second stop.  Securing a permit to drive to the moon scape (mentioned in an earlier post) also required going to two offices in the same building.
Car rental process took forever both picking up and returning.  On pick up one agent literally counted and documented every ding and scratch (but failed to tell me that the GPS unit they rented me could not be recharged because the cigarette lighter was broken.  So I had a working GPS for a whole hour of the rental.)  The condition of the car and spare tire etc had to be checked at the exit gate again.
Returning the car required enduring a discussion about the exact location of a windscreen chip that was clearly prexisting and documented.  I requested a copy of the rental closeout paperwork - and had to get the copies in the terminal.
Why am I mentioning all this?  A long winded way to say nothing happens fast in Namibia.  If you are looking for western style speed and efficiency you will be surely frustrated and dissppointed.
If it is the destination that interests you and not the journey to the destination you will find the long drives on mostly dusty and unpaved roads boring and uninteresting.  If you seek rest stops, shops and places to stop along every road you drive you are in the wrong place.
In my research and reading I came across a blog that described driving on unpaved roads in Namibia as a "freeing experience."  I would not agree with that.  Driving in Namibia demands your full attention and wit.  Yet if you keep in mind that things are slower in Namibia, that driving will be slower than you may want, that your drive will invariably take longer - but all these are not negatives- you will have a good time and experience great natural beauty.
These are the realities if Namibian travel by road.  We heeded the realities and planned accordingly.  We were rewarded with spectacular landscape and nature. Along with a couple of moments when fatigue and the road wore us out.

Would recommend Namibia with the proper preparation and time - you'll enjoy it.

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