The Gallery: Trees

Namibean desert treesThis is DS, aged 4, at Dead Vlei on the edge of the Namibean Desert in 2012.

Dead Vlei means ‘Dead Marsh’; hundreds of years ago this salt pan was flooded by water from the Tsauchab, which is an stream that only flows during and after rain in the nearby mountains. These days it exists mainly as an empty river bed, but rain in this area was more common back then.

The dead Camel Thorn tree that DS  is leaning on died over 900 years ago, from lack of water once the climate changed. When drought hit the area, huge sand dunes surrounded the pan, cutting it off from the river and the possibility of ever being flooded again.

There is a nearby pan called Sossuslvlei that is not surrounded by sand, and had been flooded when we visited. There were birds all around the vlei and green plants were growing beside it.

But Deadvlei appeared completely devoid of life, apart from the few dozen tourists who had trekked across the desert with us to visit this strange place. At one point the kids found a lizard to chase; later on we learnt that it probably survives by burying itself in the sand during the hottest part of the day and takes water from the morning mist that rolls in from the nearby sea.

The skeletons of these long dead trees are not petrified, they are still wooden, but they do not decompose because there is not enough water for them to do so. They are black from being burnt  from the fierce desert sun.

Despite their stark appearance, and lack of leaves, they are still majestic and make Deadvlei a truly beautiful place to visit.

The Gallery theme this week is trees. If you’d like to see what trees other bloggers have been taking pictures of, then please check out this week’s post at Sticky Fingers.


The Gallery: A Photo I’m Proud Of

Sunset at Swakopmund
In August 2012 our summer holiday took us to Namibia and South Africa, where we  hired a car and drove around on deserted gravel roads for 3 weeks.

It was quite an adventure and I had many great photo opportunities, but I think this is my favourite photo. I’ve posted it before but I still get a kick out of looking at it.

We were staying Swakopmund, a small city on the East Coast of the African Continent, for a few days.  It was a winter there, and because it’s surrounded by desert on three sides, you get this sea mist that rolls in off the Atlantic ocean most mornings but usually clears up later in the day. The temperature often started off in the mornings at around 10C, which was quite chilly after the warmer days we’d gotten used to. We were pleased we’d  bothered to pack our fleeces after all.

In the evening we wandered down to the beach front and watched the sun go down. It always looked enormous  and there was a concrete viewing platform that allowed a good view. One night the kids were in the playground, and I was on the beach watching the sunset, when a lone figure wandered out onto the platform. I quickly moved along the sand a little, so the figure looked like they were standing right in the middle of the sun and took a few different shots.

I liked this one especially, because of the mural/graffiti on the wall by the platform and newly lit streetlamp to the left of the picture.

After I took the photo, the figure walked down past the playground and proved to be a teenage girl. I approached her and gave her my email, and said I would send her a copy of the photos if she contacted me, but she never has.

To see more photos that make people proud, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.


The Gallery: Adventure

I don’t feel very adventurous at the moment.

I suppose I could post a photo of my kids and write something trite about parenting being the biggest adventure ever, but I’ve just gone a couple of rounds with a 12 year old and feel parenting is more a misadventure right now.

So I’m going to go back a couple of years and blog about our summer holiday in 2012, which was a real adventure. As a family it gave us a taste for independent travel and road trips; this is something I hope our children will take with them as they become adults.

We went to Namibia and South Africa for three weeks and it was amazing.

We flew to Johannesburg, then jumped on a smaller plane to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Despite being in the Southern Hemisphere, Namibia is only an hour ahead of the UK in winter. This is great when travelling with children as it really does minimise jetlag.

We stayed a night in Windhoek, collected our vehicle and the next morning we hit the road.

We generally drove for most of a day from place to place and then stayed in one place for 2-3 nights. The driving was an adventure in itself. There are very few shops and petrol stations, so you stop and fill up whenever you see one.

There was plenty to see while driving. The scenery was incredible and changed constantly. We often saw wild animals and were able to stop off whenever we saw something interesting.

kids on the tropic of capricorn
The roads in Namibia are not like the roads in the UK. They are generally in good condition but are  surfaced with gravel and are mainly empty. We sometimes drove for hours without seeing another vehicle. You don’t want to go too fast as there are unexpected potholes and rocks dotted here and there. At one point we saw a car ahead of us burst a tyre and go hurtling off the road into a fence; thankfully no one was hurt.

On the road Namibia

During our holiday we climbed huge sand dunes,

kids climbing dune 45
wandered across deserts in search of long-dead forests,

Dead Vlei Namibia
watched the sun set on deserted beaches,

Swakopmund sunset


And had many close encounters with wildlife, some big

Shade for the baby

And some small.

biting lizard

It was mad, wild, exhausting three weeks of driving and sight seeing and we literally never knew what would be around the next corner.

And that’s what a real adventure is all about, isn’t it?

warning sign for penguins

For more adventurous photos, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.


The Gallery:Sun

sun setting Namibia
Last year we spent two weeks of the UK Summer in Namibia. It was winter there, but winter on the African continent is rarely as cold as a miserable British summer day. We certainly saw plenty of sun during our travels.

This photo is of a winter sunset in the coastal city of Swakopmund. It actually got quite cold there when the sea mist rolled in; we actually had to wear fleeces for some of the early morning excursions.

While we were there, we made a point of going down to the beach each evening to watch the sunset. One night the kids were playing on the beach, wave jumping , and I spotted this person standing out on the sea wall. I moved around a bit until I had their silhouette framed by the sun and took several shots as the sun went down.

And once it had, I kept an eye on the  figure on the wall to see if I could get a closer look at them.

The figure turned out to belong to a teenage girl and she walked right past us. I spoke to her and told her I had taken her photo, and gave her my email address. She was friendly enough and told me she was staying with her grandmother during the school holidays. She seemed happy and was excited to have been photographed.

I would have loved her to have contacted me, so I could send her the photos, but I never heard from her again.

If you haven’t had enough sun already this week, then check out The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

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Namibia Part 6: Last Couple Of Days

After 3 nights at Anderssons Camp, it was time to say goodbye to Etosha.

Our plan was to drive South, taking photos of all the different road signs as we went, down to Africat in Okonjima. The plan was, we were going to see cheetahs in rehabiliatation, since we didn’t see them in the wild.

Then we were going to stay one night at nearby(ish) lodge; Franz Indongo, and then head back down to Windhoek to fly down to Cape Town in South Africa.

We made such good time on the sealed roads that we were on track to turn up at Africat an hour earlier than our scheduled slot; this was not ideal. We considered dropping our stuff at our accommodation first but it was going to add an hour to our travels. So we had a nosey through our guide book and decided to visit a nearby crocodile farm instead! read more

Namibia Part 5: Etosha At Last

From Twyfelfontein, we drove another 300kms North-ish for our biggest adventure; 3 nights in Andersson’s Camp, 8km from the Etosha gates.

We stopped on the way to visit the Petrified Forest on our  way up. The ‘Forest’ is basically a bunch of logs that were washed down an ancient river 200 million years ago, and have been fossilised while buried in the sand.

DH and I found it all fascinating as you can see the rings, bark and knots of these ancient trees, but it was very hot and the kids were decidedly underwhelmed. They were just pleased when we got in the car and headed off again. read more

Namibia Part 4: Two Nights In Twyfelfontein

When I last posted, we were heading up to a guest house in Twyfelfontein for a couple of nights.

It was a long drive, and at first it seemed weird to be heading out of town again. We passed the local prison, and some sort of ‘research facility’ and then it was onto another gravel road through another scrubby desert type landscape. read more

Namibia Part 3: Swakopmund

I was dreading the drive from our Guest House near Sesriem 300km north to the resort town of Swakopmund.

First of all we had to retrace our route for almost 100km of it; I hate driving over old roads on holiday, and secondly we had been warned how bad the road between the two places was. I’d heard mentioned more than once that people could only travel 30km/hour on it; it was so badly corrugated.

We needn’t have worried. The C14 must have been freshly graded as we managed to do between 60-80 km/hr pretty much all the way. The Hyundai handled it very well, rattling along happily. We had a bad moment when we hit a big rock that ricocheted under the length of the car and DH and I waited for a warning light of some sort to come on, but no, it was all good. read more

Namibia Part II: Mountains And Sand Dunes

The number one rule about driving in Namibia is Never Drive At Night. Obviously you can if you are staying in an urban area, and there are street lights. But if you are out in the woop woops, then when night falls, you avoid the roads. There is no lighting and animals like to lie on them and soak up the warmth, especially if they are sealed. And  when even a medium sized antelope can make a mess of your car and the nearest garage may be 100s of kms away, it’s not a risk you want to take.

Unfortunately, we broke this rule our second night in Namibia. We simply miscalculated how long it was going to take to travel the 160 kms between Windhoek and our Lodge in the Naukluft Mountains. We were so taken with the quiet gravel road and our sightings of so many animals on the  way, that we dilly dallied a little too enthusiastically and before we knew it, it was 5:30 pm and night was falling. read more