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Sailmithril: The voyages.

To Namibia
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Newry

Lion hunting by overland truck.

Click here to see photos of Namibia and its wild life.

Namibian desert in Etosha Park
truck-shadow.jpg
our truck and its shadow

Once we left Reunion the days of carefree sailing were over as we were approaching the thirty somethings south and Southern Ocean weather fronts crossed us fairly frequently. We were still caught out with too much sail up on one occasion. It had been drizzling and misty with very light winds and no seas for much of one day when we saw a line of blips on the radar. With no front forecast we assumed this was just a line of heavier rain and didn't reef. We were wrong and got blasted by 60 knots of wind and torrential rain. Thinking it was perhaps just a squall Peter took over the steering from Faithful Fred but the wind didn't drop. Steering became impossible in the gusts and we couldn't get the genoa reefed either. I really thought the end was nigh as there seemed nothing we could do. We were doing 12 knots most of the time but the boat was handling it very well presumably because there were no waves - because it had been calm earlier and because now the rain was so heavy it flattened the sea. Eventually we steered downwind far enough to blanket the genoa and haul it in. Then we dropped everything and lay ahull for 12 hours until we had blue skies once more. Next time we see blips on the radar we will reduce the genoa - just in case. We have also bought a new reefing winch for the genoa which should make life a lot esaier. This little Lewmar winch was 80p in a boat jumble - didn't work of course, but now it does - what a bargain!



It was eerie going along the south coast of Africa as the Agulhas current runs westward at 10 knots in places. As you can imagine it's not a place to get caught with a wind against current situation. They have recorded 20 metre waves with big deep holes in the troughs as the continental shelf also runs along there. The advice is to stay inshore and if a west wind is forecast make for harbour. We did meet the westerly off Port Elizabeth and it took us 7 hours of motor sailing and nearly 50 litres of fuel to make the 16 miles in. We sat there for 1 night only and then had a favourable wind again which took us almost to the Cape of Good Hope. After that we had light head winds or calms and we motored for the last 24 hours.



This is our third visit to Africa and we've never seen a wild animal. Hoping to change that we booked a 2 week overland trip to Namibia. Peter wanted a little luxury in his old age, he said, so we went for the accommodated rather than the camping version. It also said in the brochure that their trips weren't recommended for over 55 year olds!!! I expected back-packer type digs but we had mostly air conditioned, en suite doubles in guest houses with coffee making facilities and sometimes tv. One in particular - see photos - was lovely; in the middle of the desert and only our group in residence. The group was very diverse from a Belgian soldier with his mother to a young Swiss ski instructor finishing up 3 months learning English in Cape Town. There were 3 Spaniards and a Swedish couple on their world tour and the rest were Germans on holiday. It was a bit like an OYC friends cruise with rough seas and wet sailing boat being swapped for gravel roads and a rattly overland truck. Cooking was done by the guide on the back of the truck and we all helped the camp assistant with washing up. And like on a sailing trip the crack was always good.



Namibia is full of superlatives with one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world as it is mostly desert of various sorts from Australian type scrubby outback to real Beau Geste, French foreign legion type sandy desert complete with white castellated forts in some places. The biggest sand dunes in the world are at Sussussvlei, which we visited for the dawn when sunlight and shadow create spectacular pictures of light and shade on the massive orange hillocks. Then there's Fish River Canyon half a kilometre deep in places and the second biggest canyon in the world. We visited the Himba people in the north of the country. These are nomadic goat herders and the women still wear their traditional dress of goatskin mini skirts and fake ringlets of goat's wool bound with butterfat and stuck to their head with cow dung and red ochre. They also wear lots of metal rings on their ankles and smear themselves all over with butter fat and ochre which smells very strong. For days afterwards we kept getting whiffs of the rancid fat off our clothes. A related tribe adopted western dress from German missionaries about a century ago and it is bizarre to see the two groups together. In the supermarket you could be in the queue behind a smelly Himba with bare boobs and cow dung in her hair and also behind a Herrero woman who would be wearing a long Edwardian dress complete with bustle and a peculiar stuffed hat with wings - a bit like a nun's wimple or a tricorn hat. And both these groups were one at a time.



After a couple of rest days on the Skeleton coast where the cold Beneguela current and the hot desert air mix to give lots of fog and shipwrecks - hence skeleton - we went inland again to more desert and the Etosha national park. This was incredible. We saw thousands of animals some of them very close up. There was a flood lit water hole at the campsite and we sat til midnight watching black rhino come to drink and to fight with each other. The first day we saw a male lion walking about in the mid afternoon when he should have been lying asleep under a tree. We later saw lots more lions which our guide said was unusual. But we drove to many different waterholes looking for elephants and didn't find any which was also unusual. Then back at the campsite there was an elephant at our waterhole spraying himself with mud and lumbering happily about. I knew elephants were big but I didn't realise quite how big until seeing one in flesh. They are EEnormous. We saw four out of the big five; missing out on just the buffalo. I had always wanted to see an elephant spraying itself to cool off and Peter had hoped to see a giraffe drinking. Both ambitions were amply satisfied.



We really enjoyed our trip - the first package tour we've ever taken. It was a very busy and tight schedule but we saw a lot. I wouldn't recommend it for someone who likes to sit around in the sun on their holidays nor for someone who gets travelsick or who dislikes getting dusty. And as for not being recommended for over 55s... Peter led the way up the famous Dune 45 which people buy the t shirt for climbing. The Belgian mama was going on to Victoria Falls hoping to ride on an elephant when she got there!

copyright Geraldine Foley 2008. "sailmithril ocean sailing adventures."