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It looks like you guys saved the best for last.

I could not imagine you scared of anything after all I have been reading but you seemed terrified and good reason to be.

Your prayer and swear words helped you.

Great stories indeed.

I loved your guitar story so much.

Say hi to Heather for me.

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Wow Todd!!! Thank you so much for sharing yours and Heather's incredible adventure! I've been hooked to your ramblings for several weeks now - great escape from the monotony that coming to work everyday holds! And that last travelog had me completely blown away, with tears streaming down my face - OMG, thanks to the Ottawa Folklore Centre for making that possible - just amazing! :)

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Of course I had to do my own crossing so I directed Heather to a good spot for a pick and did a couple of strolls. The rain and the crowds mingled with my lack of sleep to take a bit of the shine off it, but it was something I had to do and I'm glad I did.


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Stardate 053012

Somehow we managed to pack all of our stuff and our new pile of souvenirs into our two backpacks with only one plastic bag to supplement our load. With the expanding top of my bag fully employed my backpack stands almost as tall as me and just about as heavy, but we got 'er all squared away.

We met Richard and Maya (my apologies for spelling her name wrong in previous logs) for morning coffees and then I booted it to Shoprite to buy some sausage rolls for breakfast and a little travel snacking. They are on a long traveling adventure and had been contemplating their next move. We're pleased that they've decided to accompany us on our return to Windhoek on today's bus.

We whiled away the morning enjoying one last sit by the Fawlty Towers pool, and shortly before noon Heather and I loaded up and walked to our bus stop with a couple of errands left to run. Dropping our packs at the tiny booth that serves as a bus station, I first went to the post office to mail some postcards and returned to watch the bags while Heather returned to the craft market in search of a wooden rhino. She had seen some enormous wood-carved critters yesterday and wanted one, but she only had about $26 left. I was afraid she'd cut a deal and I'd be stuck lugging around a forty pound statue for the duration of our travels but such was not to be; the guy wouldn't budge any lower than $40 so she came back rhinoless.

Taking turns with our chores I then ran down to the local market and found a table selling hard liquor. Of course I found no Canadian whiskey available so I bought a 26er of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum for about $14 and went back to wait for the bus with Heather. Maya and Rich had showed up by this time, as had the Inter Cape bus to Windhoek. There is only bus service between Windhoek and Livingstone twice a week but the route is serviced by two companies, and oddly they keep almost exactly the same schedule. Both Inter Cape and In Sight were scheduled to leave at 1pm today and we were on In Sight. When the Inter Cape bus pulled out our bus was still nowhere in sight (ha!).

While the four of us and our veritable mountain of gear waited in the hot sun we passed the time munching bananas and peanut butter sandwiches and trading travel tales. An hour late (AKA right on Africa time) our bus pulled up, we juggled and struggled for seats and pulled out.

A few hours later we arrived at the Zambian border post. We all filed out and jockeyed for position in the small concrete building to sign out of the country. When we emerged our bus was nowhere in sight (I'll be here all week, folks!) which was a bit troubling. Some locals who had been on the bus as well assured us there was no problem and waved us to follow. Turns out we had to walk across the border to re-enter Namibia. At the chain link fence we all had to trod upon a dingy floormat that sat soaking in the dirt. Rich assumed it was drenched in some sort of disinfectant, I surmised that the border cops may have used it as a spittoon.

I noticed the Inter Cape bus was there at the border idling next to our bus, which seemed odd as it had a good hour's lead on us. Inside the border control building we split into a pair of lines and got our passports stamped while outside immigration officials were inspecting all of the baggage which had been unloaded from our bus. When they finished we all got on the bus before being ordered off again as the border cops wanted to inspect the inside of the bus and all the carry on luggage in the overhead compartments. We were all ushered to a fence on the Namibian side where our passports were again scrutinised, and eventually the thirty or so In Sight passengers gathered together on Namibian soil and waited for our bus to be cleared, which took a pretty long time.

The Inter Cape bus had moved on by this point and after perhaps ninety minutes at the border we were back on the road as well. At our first gas stop I asked the driver what the border hassle was all about and was told the inspection and wait was normal procedure.

Back on the smooth Namibian highway our driver made good time, passing the Inter Cape bus shortly after entering the country. About an hour later we were stopped at an immigration road block where our passports were checked yet again and we were all made to stomp on another soggy unwelcome mat.

The bus was significantly fuller than when we had traveled to Zambia so having two seats to myself was not an option. The video screens flared up and we were treated to a repeat performance of the cheesy-screamy safari thriller Prey. Just before it ended we made one of the milk-run stops and I spotted an empty two-seater and grabbed it. With admirable foresight I had in my pocket a pair of earplugs and sleeping mask from our Turkish Air toiletries kit, and with these implements implemented I zoned out the world and managed some sleep.

A few rows back Heather spotted an elephant standing beside the road while in front of me people saw some lions out the window. I saw nothing but sawing logs.

A few stops later the bus started filling up again and I ended up back in my original seat curled up with my lady. Could be worse but there was absolutely no getting comfortable, sleep came in short bursts but at least it came; Heather spent most of the ride reading. I spent my waking hours making peanut butter sandwiches and munching chips and beers and my sleeping minutes practicing contortionism.

Shortly before dawn I managed to find another two-seater so Heather and I both managed some sleep but neither of us were disappointed when the bus pulled into Windhoek at 6am, a full four hours earlier than we expected.

After seventeen hours on the bus we four stretched, smiled, and grabbed our packs, walking off together into the Namibian sunrise ignoring the touting cabbies.

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Stardate 053112

It was a short walk from the bus stop to Cardboard Box Backpackers. The four of us arrived shortly after 6am, almost a full hour before reception and the bar opened. Luckily Richard and Maya had some instant coffee in their bag; I dug out our cache of sugar and after a bit of boiling in the communal kitchen we were all kicking back with java and surfing the free internet.

At 7am our travelling companions found out there were no private rooms available so we gave up our reservation for them and we booked a camping spot. Everyone got everything straighted away, we all hit the showers and reconvened in the bar for more coffees and complimentary pancakes.

Our new friends had a whole Namibian vacation to plan whereas we were just killing a few days until our flight home. We gave advice when needed, loaned them our maps and guide book and while they put their heads together and worked out their next month of travel Heather and I sat back, put up our feet and did nothing.

Such was the basic course of our day. Heather had a nap while I made a trek down to the grocery store for some snacks and mix and did a quick perusal of the touristo souvenirs available on the busy Post Street pedestrian mall. The busiest part of the day was when I cooked up our last pot of pasta for this vacation while Richard and Maya opted for the in-house braai (barbeque).

Shortly after dinner last night's bus ride caught up with us and we all turned in, Maya and Rich to their private room dubbed “The Ritz†while Heather and I crawled in to our tent once again. Fortunately our friends let us store my bag in their closet or I might have had to sleep on the dirt.

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Stardate 060112

Early to bed, early to rise. I hit the showers before all the hot water got used up (that's hostel experience talking) and found Richard in the bar. We chatted over the included breakfast of instant coffee and crepes and soon our ladies joined us.

Between scouring the guidebooks and asking both locals and info booth personnel we have come to the definitive conclusion that there is absolutely nothing to do in Windhoek, and very little in the way of day trips. The city is a rather new one, shortly over a hundred years old and built by the Germans as a strategic defense point, and though it is a pleasant and safe place to visit with a refreshing lack of touts and beggars it is thoroughly boring for the intrepid traveler.

With these facts firmly established Heather and I were in no rush to start our day, bidding Richard and Maya good luck as they hurried off for a day of booking inquiries. For our part, when we did get moving we headed out to the local craft shops. Up and down Independence Avenue we found the more upscale shops that sold stuff from all over Africa. We were pleased to see Malian blankets for sale at $150 apiece; we have a stack of them at home from our last trip to Africa, I think we paid less than $10 each for them. We discovered that we were wise to do the bulk of our souvenir shopping in Zambia. We found several of the same items here for between double and ten times the prices we paid.

Empty-handed we walked a block over to the larger craft market where we started with a fantastic lunch. Inside we meandered the thirty or so booths and found lots of unique items, though we decided to mull our options and come back tomorrow if we did indeed want to buy anything. It's pretty easy to think everything you see will look good on a shelf at home, but like the guy who flies home from Waikiki with a dozen Hawaiian shirts only to have them take up shelf space for the rest of eternity (read: me), it's often good to think these things through.

Back at Cardboard Box our new friends had rented their car and planned their trip. They will be leaving in the morning for a nineteen-day romp through Namibia so a farewell was in order. We juiced up with a handful of frosty beers and called a cab. We were going to eat at Joe's.

We had heard about Joe's Beerhall since we had arrived in Windhoek nearly a month ago. Even in Zambia we were told not to miss it on our return. I couldn't imagine what all the fuss was about, but never one to pass up a unique experience I was eager to check it out.

The four of us flagged a cab outside of our hostel (the easiest chore imaginable) and for a fee of N$18 per person we were whisked to the outskirts of town and deposited in front of our destination. The first thing I noticed was a weather-beaten Austin Mini perched above the entrance. We had made a reservation and noticed our names were at the bottom of a long list, this was clearly a busy place.

The hostess walked us just a few feet to our table. As we sat down all four of us scanned the room which contained more stimulus input than the eyes could take. Everywhere you looked there was something strange to look at, scuba tanks hanging from the ceiling, kudu horns for doorknobs, the bar was ringed with toilets instead of seats. On a shelf above us was a row of mason jars holding the most curious objects and ringing the wall was an admirable collection of Jagermeister 40oz bottles. On and on, the place was a boggling feat of Africa pub-style interior design.

The waitress came and took our drink orders and I asked for a bathroom. “Follow me,†she said. She led me across the 'hall' and into the bar. Wow. There was so much stuff in there I didn't notice the stuffed rhino head on the wall until I was on my way out, and it was easily half the size of a Volkswagon Beetle. On my way back to our table I noticed the establishment extended further back so I went for a stroll and was flabbergasted at the size and scope of Joe's. It really was quite incredible, one minute you're inside one minute you're outside, there was a bonfire here, an old piano there, traps and bottles, tricycles and game horns, the place was truly massive and packed, every table was full. And every single wall was lined with the same 40oz Jager bottles, there had to be thousands of them. When I returned to the table I told the others they had to see the place so we all took a little tour.

Oh yes, plus there was food.

Anyone that knows me knows it would take a lot for me not to order the burger, and this one sounded good, the Double Trouble burger, two burger patties & spicy sauce topped with a tiger prawn and chips. But Joe's specializes in game meat so we all gave it a try. I ordered a zebra steak and was disappointed to hear they were out, only skewers of zebra were available. Heather ordered the 300 gram kudu loin steak with mushroom sauce while Richard and I both settled on the Namib bush fire, which consisted of ostrich, springbok, and oryx fillets with red wine sauce, green beans wrapped in bacon, straw potatoes and a tot of Witblits. Maya got the Bushman sosatie, a skewer of ostrich, crocodile, zebra, kudu, and chicken (!), served with mango-chili sauce, corn fritters and salad.

When the food arrived we were in awe.

Heather's steak was huge and delicious. Rich and I had three large chunks of meat surrounded by fries topped with crispy bacon, a chili pepper, and in the centre of our trays was a shot of sweet smelling, clear schnappes. Maya's kebab skewer was big enough to be used for a spinal tap and was served on a huge woodblock.

On our waitesses recommendation we all ordered our meat medium but it was all on the rare side. The ostrich was surprisingly red inside and tasty, if a bit tough. The springbok was wonderful but the oryx was the best part of my plate. It was like a delicious ultra-lean steak, and all of it drenched in tasty, tasty gravy. Maya shared some of her zebra with me and it was one of the most tender, subtly flavourful pieces of meat I've tried. I had a nibble of her crocodile and found it quite fishy.

We all ate until we were full, and everyone loved the food. Rich and I saved the shot for the end and wow did it take us by surprise. The sweet smell led me to believe it would be a harmless aperitif but it kicked us both in the stomach hard. I almost fell off my bench. We all ordered more drinks and even dessert to close out the meal and the total bill came to less than N$800, which worked out to $25US each with tip.

We made another walkabout and wondered at the immensity of the place. Joe's truly lives up to the hype and a trip to Windhoek is not complete without a stop.

Outside we waited a few minutes for a cab. You don't even have to hail one around here, they see you on the side of the road and pull over for you as a matter of course. Curiously, the cab back to the hostel was half the price; it's N$18 each to head out of the city and N$9 each to head in, just as we were told it would be. Back at the hostel Maya turned in while Heather, Rich and I hit the bar for a nightcap. It's nice that you can bring your own drinks to the bar and we did just that, Heather grabbing beers from the communal fridge and me with my rum and coke.

We had a nice hangout for a half-hour or so while an absurdly drunk guy staggered around us. He ended up beside me at the bar and tried to speak occasionally but was wholly unable to form any coherent words. He would often and abruptly slap the bar with prodigious strength, making the stone surface rock. When he eventually tried to engage us and ramped up the bar pounding we decided our night was over, Rich heading off to the Ritz and Heather and I to our tent.

But our night wasn't over, unfortunately. Before too long Mr. Drunky came down to the camping area, and finally able to form words he did just that, swearing at the top of his lungs for about a solid hour. All he could do was swear, and he did it well. Ultimately he retreated a bit away from the camp area and limited his noise to pounding something, I suppose it was the washing machine, and swearing loudly every ten minutes or so.

I figure that the fact that he kept at it so long pointed to the likelihood that he had more than just alcohol in his system, but one thing's for sure, he was harbouring some intense anger. He kept at it until close to 4am, and when he stopped I finally managed to squeeze in some sleep.

Such is hostel life sometimes.

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Stardate 060212

I was not well rested when I woke up this morning before 7am. That crazy dude who was up half the night screaming seemed a bit too crazy for me (or, so it seemed, anyone else) to go off on, so we campers collectively let him burn himself out, and with the rising sun rousing me after a tidy three hours of sleep I used the shower and coffee method of wakefulness. I ran into the owner and told him what happened. He said he would kick dude out and I felt a bit bad about it. Luckily for my conscience in the end he didn't do anything about the guy at all.

Heather got up about an hour later and soon we were four collected together for the appetite-inducing tiny crepe breakfast that is ubiquitous here at Cardboard Box Backpackers. After breakfast it was hugs and handshakes as we bid Richard and Maya safe travels. The four of us have been virtually joined at the hip since we met on our second day in Zambia, they're a very nice couple and I hope we cross paths again.

That's one of the great things about international travel; it's very easy to meet like-minded individuals and because you are all off on some sort of adventure it's possible to share some unforgettable unique experiences together, which makes for some primo bonding. It was Maya and Rich that convinced us to book our microlight flight over Vic Falls and I'll always thank them for that. Lots of different people travel for lots of different reasons and it usually only takes the shortest of conversations to find the sort of folks you know you'll be exchanges addresses with. If we're ever in Cardiff we know where to turn and if and when they are ever in our neck of the woods I look forward to showing them the best of times.

With them gone Heather and I packed up the tent and moved our stuff into The Ritz for our last night, tonight will mark our only bed sleep on this trip to Namibia. On our own and with little in mind for the day we decided to make the rounds at the craft stores again; Heather had decided on a few things she wanted to pick up. Though it seems very counter-intuitive, on Saturdays most shops close at 1:30 in the afternoon. We managed to catch a few places before they closed and found a nice large shop that was open all afternoon. For a day with little planned my dogs were tired when we got back to the hostel around 4pm.

Packing was up next but not until we had a cold beer or two. We relished the double bed and lounged as long as we dared, but with a lot of stuff to cram into two backpacks we had to get to it. Heather seemed to prevail without too much effort; by the time I finished packing I looked like I had just gone three rounds with Ali, shirt off and sweat dripping, but I did it. Using a lifetime of packing skills acquired as a furniture mover, performing musician, and backpacker I took advantage of every nook and cranny I could find, expelled air from ever pocket, stuffed socks in every gap and managed to squeeze 31.2 kilograms of stuff into one pack. I was tasked with finishing my rum before we left and stuffing today's clothes in the pack come morning, but I'll manage.

We had been keeping a careful eye on our Namibian dollars for the last few days. We tucked our airport taxi fare away and the money we'd owe for the room and shopped accordingly. As dinner approached we had just about enough for a fairly good meal so on Heather's suggestion we went down the street to a traditional African place called Fusion. We had to be a little careful perusing the menu with our shortage of local currency, Heather skipped the wine opting for water instead and I drank nothing, but her chicken curry was great and so my kudu and salad was even better.

Back at Cardboard Box the bar was hopping but we skipped it, booked our taxi for the morning and headed to the seclusion of The Ritz. I finished off my rum and on her insistence even drank Heather's last beer. We somehow managed to stay up past 10pm, and needlessly setting the alarm we lay down for our last sleep of this trip.

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Stardate 060312

Well, this is it. We're on our way home after a month's vacation, a time that seemed so long when we started and seems so short now. We are on South African Air, currently cruising at 800kms/hr, ten kilometres above Angola. We'll be touching down in Dakar before continuing on to Washington, then a ninety minute layover and we'll be headed home.

We're in Business Class again on the way back. Heather and I started this leg by clinking champagne glasses together before I moved on to a steady diet of rum and cokes.

We woke up this morning before the alarm, as we have every single time we set it in the last month. We were packed and ready to go, just a shower and the coffee/crepes daily ritual and about an hour spent twiddling thumbs and we were in our taxi.

We then shuffled off to another guest house to pick up a loud-talking Australian miner who was headed to Nashville before finally zipping off to the airport. Our check-in was a breeze, no lineups for first class, and we were surprised that the small Windhoek airport even had an executive lounge. I stuffed myself silly on snacks and started into the self-pulled draught well before 10am while Heather lounged on the comfy couches with coffee as we waited for the first leg of our 28-hour journey, a short jaunt from Windhoek to Johannesburg.

We've really packed it in on this trip. We both experienced a lot of things for the first time, things we'll never forget, visited three new countries (four if you include jumping back and forth over the borderline in Zimbabwe, plus our few hours in England was my first time in the UK) and saw some truly remarkable stuff.

We both agree that one of the major highlights was Etosha park, particularly our first visit to the camp watering hole where three elephants and a half-dozen giraffe quenched their thirst at sunset before our gaping eyes. I'll always remember playing guitar to the Himba women and tromping in the ancient dinosaur footprints, sharing drinks with my lady as the sun went down over the Royal Livingstone Hotel and driving some of those crazy dirt roads in Snakey, our rented Nissan Tiida.

I know Heather really liked Cape Town, the beaches and the cool boutique hotel in Camps Bay and taking pictures of ostriches in Sesrium with the golden dunes for a backdrop. We witnessed about 31 sunsets and sunrises and soared above the world's biggest waterfall together, saw at least thirty different kinds of crazy critters in the wild and drank an admirable amount of beer. We even made a couple of good friends along the way.

We just finished an excellent meal up here in the sky. Heather warmed up with a glass of Moet's & Chandon Brut Imperial champagne and I picked one of the red wine choices, Plaiser de Merle Merlot 2009, both served with canapes. I asked the stewardess if she would pour me another rum to accompany the wine and she did, with a smile.

I started with the potato and leek soup, Heather opted for smoked salmon and prawn salad and we shared our mains of garlic and chili lamb chops and Moroccan chicken thigh stuffed with olives. Our meals were followed by dessert and a cheese tray and plenty more drinks. Heather is currently plugged into a documentary on Nelson Mandela while I type away. Our seats fully recline and come with AC power outlets, complimentary toiletries kits and lots and lots of leg room. It truly is a world apart up here at the front of the plane.

I can't recommend Namibia enough as a travel destination for pretty much anybody. The roads are good, English is spoken everywhere, the food options are plentiful, hell you can even drink the tap water. Call it Africa for beginners: it's safe, easy, has great weather and lots to do. It's European when you want European, true Africa when you want true Africa, it has all the wildlife you could ask for and it's reasonably priced. I spent slightly less than I anticipated, going through about $2,400 in the month, not including the flight, though one could easily spend $300 a day here if they were so inclined.

For those willing to pitch a tent Namibia is a campers paradise. Everywhere you go you'll have your choice of camping options, and everywhere you go you'll find friendly faces willing to help with whatever you might need. For those with a camera and a zoom lens you'll never want to leave, it's a photographers dream come true. And when you feel like you've seen all that you want, the country borders South Africa, Botswana and Zambia to name a few popular destinations.

The lights have gone dark on the plane, passengers are reclining all around me – our seats even have a massage option. Breakfast looks great, we both selected the cheese frittata with grilled back bacon, stuffed mushrooms and ratatouille. I think I'll catch a movie and get some shuteye, I have to work tomorrow (you can actually reasonably do that when you fly Executive, even after more than a day of travel you arrive refreshed, if a little tipsy).

In conclusion I'd like to thank any and all of you who took the time to read these logs, and I'll go out of my way to encourage you to put Namibia near the top of your travel wish-list. Young or old, experienced traveler or novice, it really is a great travel destination. I promise you'll never forget it.

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Ah, always sad to read the end of a wonderful voyage.

Things I liked about your trip:

The penguins!!!!! Pictures please!

Cat encounters

All other animals encounters

The Nissan's strong performance (I drive a Nissan)

Flying above the falls

The quiet moments you had watching sunsets and sunrises

Imagining the contortions on the bus, in search of sleep

All mentions of alcoholic beverages

On another note, I met a Snelgrove at a wedding this weekend. First name Will. Acccording to him, he is not family. He's from North Gower.

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