This morning we were introduced to one of the most known men of the town called Swakopmund. Mr. Muller is Namibian who dedicates his life to serve country’s need and engage others in finding the solution for Namibian situation. Ever since the independence 26 years ago, Mr. Muller was actively involved in the politics of Namibia as well as its economics and environment. Also = we were also introduced to his daughter on the meeting, who is now a math and science teacher at the Namibian University for Iron Mining, where her dad works as a director. But what was more significant about this meeting is that students learned more about the history and culture of Namibia. Unity and Diversity were the key words of the morning as we learned about the existing tribes and their traditions. There was one thing that stood up to me personally. While many cultures were seeking for unity in their traditions, cultures and the only spoken language, Namibia, in contrast, used its diversity for its own benefit. This country proudly hosts many tribes, languages, cultures and traditions. It is what makes Namibia different from other African countries. It is what makes Namibia- Namibia.
Another day of driving in the vans, listening to our iPod classic filled with songs from 2005 and prior. We barely passed any cars on our journey from Kulala Desert Lodge to the Hansa Hotel in Swakopmund. Everyone was so exhausted and sore from hiking the dunes that we used the rest of the day to shower and edit our photos and footage from the previous days. We split up and got the choose where we ate for dinner in Swakopmund.
The day began while the moon still shined in the sky. Bright and early, we scurried to breakfast to start our day on the right note and prepare us for what the day really had in store. With our water bottles filled, and our cameras charged we began to head out to embark on our first journey in the Namibian dunes. The first 20 minutes consisted of yet other bumpy ride filled with amazing and breath taking scenery. In awe, nearly everyone was posted near a window ready to take a shot of that perfect picture when the opportunity came. Our first stop was along side of the road. The air was chill and people were still half asleep, but those were two minor challenges that were easily overcome. Beautiful pictures of the scenery were produced. Props such as a unicorn head and a glittery shawl were used to create surrealist images that would go on to tell a unique story. We loaded the buses and proceeded to another stop where we did the same thing. At last we made it to the real challenge of the day, Big Daddy.
Upon arriving to Big Daddy we stopped before hiking up the vigorous mountain to take a quick group picture. We were separated into two groups, those who wanted to climb up the easy route and those who wanted to climb up the hard one. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We began our way to the first small dune. We all said it was going to be easy, but ascending the first dune, was a complete disaster. Only being about twenty feet high, we were all exhausted in the first 10 minutes. This is when we realized that the climb to the tip would be difficult. We continued up the dune cheering each other on, no one wanted to quit because the ending prize would be a remarkable view of the Namib Desert. After an hour and half, maybe two, and several stops on the way to the 325-meter (1,066 feet) summit, we finally arrived to the top. We sat and chatted for a good forty-five minutes, took pictures and caught our breaths.
After relaxing for a little bit we started to slowly descend the dune one by one and some with groups. As we ran down the mountain, it felt like we were on the moon. The adrenaline and breeze felt amazing. By the time we got to the bottom that is when the exhaustion and excitement hit us the most. Ahead of us, we had another thirty-minute walk to the car in the sizzling Namibian sun and another forty-minute drive to our hotel, the Kulala Desert Lodge.
After our long and exhausting morning, we relaxed and jumped into the pool. At six in the afternoon those who wanted to go bike riding went. We biked through the desert and saw some animals on the way, such as oryks. We biked to the top of a mountain and watched the sunset. We continued out descent down to hotel and had an amazing outdoor dinner near the pool. We received beautiful singing and dancing from the staff members and we decided to join in and dance with them. The entire day was remarkable and we couldn’t wait for what up next.
Ashley and Jordyn
Today was a early start, we woke up at 6:30 to so we could get an early start on our eight hour travel from the hotel in Windhoek to the dunes in Kulala. We got in the vans at 7:30, and left. We then stopped at a gas station to get snacks and drinks for the journey ahead. After this we drove into a small town to look for supplies needed to show our photos. Then the long journey began.
During the morning the temperature was a cool 82 degrees Fahrenheit. By the noon the temperature had raised to about 109 degrees. Our van had broken air conditioning, but we tried to make the best of the situation by playing music and singing to forget about the heat. We traveled through Namibian park “Spreetshoogte Pass” and were surrounded by by mountainous landscapes and various different animals. We stopped a few times to take pictures of the scenery. We also stopped to view the animals. We saw Oryx, Eland, Cows, Donkeys, Baboons and Springbok Gazelle among many other animals.
After eight hours we finally arrived at our hotel. Once we passed through the hotels gate there was a 20 minute drive to the hotel. We were then greeted with cold drinks and towels and took a swim in the pool. Dinner was served and we are now going to sleep on the roofs of our chalets and view the starry night sky.
Eric and Milo
Today we went to the Home of Good Hope Orphanage just outside of the city of Windhoek. Upon arriving at the orphanage we were warmly greeted by the children and their caretakers. We were then given a brief introduction of their mission and how the orphanage began. The orphanage takes in children as small as infants and takes care of them until they are in their teenage years. Many of the children who stay there have parents who died from HIV. They also feed hundreds of local children daily and provide them with food to take home.
We were then split into two groups, one of which went on a walk around the township and the other group sang songs and played with the township and the other group sang songs and played with the children. The groups then switched and did the opposite activity. After finishing the activities we transitioned into their meal time and assisted with serving the children and cleaning the dishes. This was a hectic time as there were hundreds of children flowing in and out of the very small eating area.
Before leaving we handed out school supplies to the children as well as left them with school outfits in all sizes, which they were extremely grateful for. This experience was exceptionally humbling for all the members of our group. Leaving the children was very hard, but we hope to revisit them again at the end of our trip.
Hannah and Leila
February 22nd we got to Ross at 4 am to board the bus to JFK to finally begin our journey. We stopped at the infamous deli, Kitchen Kaberet, to get our last and final non airborne meal. Once we arrived at JFK, we had to get our bags wrapped to prevent theft in Johannesburg. This took forever due to multiple babies (camera bags) and bags per person, but we finally made it past security and on to our 15 hour flight to Johannesburg. This flight tested many of the students patience and mental stability. By the 8th hour people were stretching, doing yoga poses, and creating social circles in the middle of the aisles. Somehow we made it though and had to now focus on running to the next flight with only 15 minutes to spare. Again, we somehow made it, and suffered only a quick 2 hour flight to Namibia.
The minute we stepped off the plane we were surrounded by the vast beauty of the Namibian mountain side and could finally say we made it! This view made every challenge of every flight worth it! Lastly, we hopped into our vans and arrived at the lodge, where we will be staying for two nights. The lodge is set up like a small village, with various little cabins and a main building with a restaurant and pool at the center. The 360 view of a gorgeous mountain range surrounds the entire faculty. Finally we stopped and took a breath and realized where we were. The journey truly is the destination.
116 Degrees. 116 degrees. “116 F” blinked on James’s GPS thermometer. Our skins still somehow cooled by the near coastal wind. There we stood atop “Big Daddy”, the highest dune in the area. At 325 meters we saw the red desert slowing shifting with the breeze, and as we all looked, snapping quick photos in between moments, reeling back into the sand in exhaustion, we noticed the silence. Complete Silence.
In the Hamptons we have the friendly reminder that the world is still moving, the waves crash, the woods whistle and rustle, and birds have unique songs for every hour of the day. But on top of big daddy the silence was deafening, again only broken by the sounds of a camera shutter. The only other thing we could listen to was our thoughts and memories of our past week in Namibia. The cheerful screams of the orphans who we formed bonds with at the Home of Good Hope, the subjectively gentle massage from driving on the mile long dirt roads, and sleeping under the powerful vast Milky Way that stretched across the night sky.
These memories didn’t last long, for we still had a long way to travel on our trip. The first step in continuing was barefoot, and in a full sprint down big daddy. Even for how magnificent it was no one looked back. The Road awaits…..