Tag Archives: Africa

I Once met Gentle Africa

Nature’s Artful Display 

The Namaqualand Flower Route is a highly volatile and colorful natural exhibition of around 4,000 different kinds of flowers. It only happens once a year – and nobody knows exactly when. Between the start of August and the end of September, the semi-desert dusty planes of Namaqualand are suddenly transformed into what has been described as ‘a torrent of color’. This spectacular display of flowers makes its appearance when weather conditions are just right, and sometimes not at all. A lack of rain or one or two violent thunderstorms could easily put the show on hold for the year. Despite the risk, many avid adventurers travel all the way to South Africa in the hope of catching nature’s magnificent show each year. I thought, why not take yet another trip to Africa, and check it out – maybe I get lucky and Mother Nature smiles at me in this very special way.

Africa  View

Back to Africa, again

I booked my ticket to Cape Town international airport and excitedly started counting off the days to my departure. After doing some research I discovered that the flower route lies along the N7, and that an escorted flower tour is highly recommended. As always, I preferred doing my own thing and, instead of joining a group of tourists, rented a four-wheel drive car and a bicycle, stocked up on water and food and hit the road. I headed north; my plan was to quickly drive the entire route, all the way to the top, and then taking a leisurely drive back. As with all road trips through Africa – it is impossible not to experience breathtaking moments around every corner. Whether I saw Namaqualand in bloom or not, I knew I would have a great time. 

Are you scared of snakes?

I drove all the way to O’kiep on the first day, only stopping for supplies and fuel. It was a grueling trip and I collapsed into a guesthouse bed without even having dinner. The next morning I was in a hurry to find some food and start sightseeing. For some reason I missed the signboard, and several signboards after that (even after stopping for breakfast!). The signboards I was oblivious to obviously showed that I am driving on the N14, and not the N7. By the time I realized I was lost, I was in a place called Pofadder (Afrikaans word for puff adder, which is a very dangerous snake), two hours away. I stopped for a well-deserved lunch at a gorgeous little restaurant and met some friendly locals. The owner of the place thought it was hilarious that I drove for over two hours without realizing that I am lost. After she finally stopped laughing at me, she showed me around town and helped me to find accommodation for the night. Although Pofadder is most certainly not a tourist attraction, it has some beautiful old architecture and great locals, like the lovely Lyndi – who, although she laughed at me, served me some of the best food I’ve had in Africa and was very helpful.

Flower Carpet

Soft flowers, sweet rain

After my Pofadder adventure, for the following three days I enjoyed leisurely driving and stunning sights along the way – stopping many times just to take in the absolute beauty of the landscape. Sometimes I thought it was like an alien landscape, other times I felt like this is what heaven is like. For the first time in Africa I didn’t feel assaulted by the heat, I hardly noticed it. I also barely noticed the caress of the soft rain; I just knew that I felt really nice – I felt really nice. The gentleness of the flowers and my surroundings soothed me, and touched my heart in a different way to what I have experienced in Africa. I have met Vibrant Africa, Colourful Africa, Harsh Africa and Friendly Africa. This was my first encounter with Gentle Africa.

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Seven Things you Should Know Before Visiting Africa

Getting to Know the Final Frontier Before you go

Sure, space is the final frontier. But how many of us will get to explore it? I prefer calling Africa the final frontier of travel. This is one of the places on earth where you can truly get lost, and enjoy every minute of it…

To get the best out of your visit, a little bit of research goes a long way and some inside information from a veteran African traveler like me might just be helpful. Here are a few pointers: Continue reading Seven Things you Should Know Before Visiting Africa

Off to Uganda to Meet Some Giants

Meeting Africa’s Most Enigmatic Animal

Imagine spending hours following a narrow hiking trail through a dense and unforgiving tropical rain forest, the canopy above allowing only a trickle of sunlight through – enough to give your surroundings an almost magical ambiance. You feel tired but energized at the same time, the sounds, sights and smells enveloping you in a cocoon of enchantment. Imagine you hear a rustle of leaves up ahead and you know that somebody (or something) is coming towards you through the forest. It is the tracker, Matsiko, who has been scouting ahead of your group returning from his mission with a look of excitement on his face and three heavily accented words: “They are here”. Continue reading Off to Uganda to Meet Some Giants

The Uhuru of Getting up Kilimanjaro is Intense

How I got up Kilimanjaro

When I first started talking about hiking up Kilimanjaro my friends really thought I lost the plot. I was fit and strong but so are the other some 15,000 people who try to make it up there every year and less than half actually make it. There is always snow up there and if that doesn’t put you off there is altitude sickness, weird insects, dangerous animals and not a single Starbucks. I had been to Tanzania and loved the culture and the people but something in me was sparked and I left quite unsatisfied. For some reason I felt that I had to return one day and make my way up the tallest mountain in Africa: to Uhuru Peak. Continue reading The Uhuru of Getting up Kilimanjaro is Intense

My First African Experience – Morocco

Although you would imagine that a city in a semi-arid climate would look dull and desolate, quite the opposite is true of Marrakech, the heart of the exotic African country Morocco. From the intricately tiled railway station to the exotic architecture of the riads, Marrakech is a mythical marvel. For university students used to going away for party weekends by driving to Brighton or taking a quick flight to Amsterdam, Marrakech was an eye-opener. It is old and new at the same time, both chaotic and peaceful and very, very mysterious. This was not just a party place; it had culture and a heartbeat like only African countries have. Continue reading My First African Experience – Morocco

Expensive Angola – A Country not Interested in Tourists (but Incredible Anyway)

As a veteran traveller I was astonished at how difficult it was to get a visa for Angola. The last time I had such a hard time was when I visited Russia. It took over a month, a costly letter of invitation, other well-written supporting documentation, a criminal clearance and quite a few pounds to finally secure a visa. Then the advisories about crime, live landmines and unexploded ordnance arrived. Although I was very excited about going to Angola, this was cause for concern. After all, I was about to enter a country that was war-torn for decades. I kept wondering why Angola was not interested in tourists but after arriving, my question was soon answered.

Angola = Oil

Angola is beautiful. The landscape and vegetation are quite similar to Mozambique and other parts of Africa. Only on this incredible continent will you find grasslands, savannahs, jungles, deserts, baobabs and mountain ranges, all in one country. A tourist’s dream destination, except for one little problem: something known as black gold. To say that Angola is a producer of oil is an understatement. Angola and oil may as well be synonymous. Unfortunately the oil business in Angola is pretty much run by foreign oil companies taking advantage of a corrupt government to exploit natural resources and abuse a cheap labour force. Sadly, this is the reality for many contemporary African countries. Continue reading Expensive Angola – A Country not Interested in Tourists (but Incredible Anyway)

Namibia is Perplexing, Captivating and Humbling

After living in Europe for a while, especially in London, you start developing a profound appreciation of open spaces. Despite days and nights spent hankering for the vastness of the African skies, the sheer enormity of Namibia’s open spaces was a shock to my system. The desolation that stretches beyond imagination has a strangely pulsating energy – not unlike a bustling city. Except on most of the roads in Namibia there are no buildings, no cars, no fences and not even pylons or telephone poles as far as what the eye can see in every direction. The immensity left me breathless.

Skeleton Coast   (wikipedia photo)
Skeleton Coast (Wikipedia photo)

Our incredible adventure started when we landed at Windhoek (which means windy corner) airport and picked up our rental car, a 4X4 double cab camping vehicle, complete with our new home on top of its roof – a surprisingly well-equipped tent. Our journey involved traveling more than 1,000 kilometers over a period of two weeks and it was a relief to know that it would be in relative comfort – although our initial idea was to rough it. We stocked up on supplies and set off West towards the Skeleton Coast where we set up camp at Henties Bay, the fishing hub of the Namibian coast. We had delicious super-fresh seafood in a little restaurant called Fishy Corner.  Continue reading Namibia is Perplexing, Captivating and Humbling