Southern Africa – Day 42 – Ballooning, Namibrand Family Hideout, Namibia

Ballooning this morning, which means an exceptionally early morning start. Up at 3.30am to pack the car- the only problem with having your home on your back! We travel for around 70km, which wouldnt be so bad if it wasnt for, the abysmal headlights on the Ford Ranger, the extremely corrugated roads & the very real danger of running into an oryx! We meet our pick up/ escort, and then, follow him for another 25km to the “Le Mirage Resort” – wish we had stayed here – looks like an old castle in the middle of the desert. After signing the indemnity forms, we are loaded into their transfer vehicle and driven to the launch site. You can see the balloons being filled in the distance. This is a first, for all of us – how cool. There are 3 balloons in total today, each one has 16 passengers.

Once the balloons are filled, we can load, 4 people per each compartment. There are, two, foot holes for you to use to leverage yourself in, as the basket would stand about chest height. They fill the balloons with more extremely hot air- would be nice in winter, and we start to slowly ascend into the clouds. We rise to around 850m above ground level with our lives in the hands of our 2 Belgian pilots – Denis and Lenny.

We are gently floating towards the Sesriem canyon, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park – we were only there yesterday. The view of the sunrise over the vast lands is spectacular, and one I don’t think I will ever forget.

All too soon we are landing – it was very precise, coming down just metres above the canyon opening and settling on the road just a few metres past the lip. No drama’s or excitement, though we had been warned that if the wind picked up when we were landing, it could become a “very exciting” landing .

The balloon is deflated quickly and the staff pack it all away in no time. We are driven, a little further along, the edge of the canyon, where a champagne breakfast is laid out on beautiful white and silver linen table cloths.

There is a variety of food to choose from. Both Brendan and I try the smoked zebra, at first David refuses, but as Brendan goes back for seconds he relents and tries a small mouthful… We are given “Ballooning Survival” certificates and asked to donate to a school project if possible, which we do. There are also recycled balloon material shopping bags for sale – I purchase one, as well.

Once back at the campsite we all take a long nap – it is hot but the wind is blowing so this cools us down a bit. The wind gets stronger…

Andrew our ranger/ manager comes by at 5pm to take us for a guided drive thru the park. Apparently, we had been booked in for a 4×4 self-drive permit- we didn’t know anything about this and have nothing in our paperwork. We decided to change to a guided tour so David doesn’t have to drive anymore & we don’t have to pack up again. We had to pay the difference in US dollars as no credit card facilities and we are just about out of local currency. David sits in the front – a smart move as it is exceptionally windy in the back. We only see oryx and a few different species of birds. Towards the back of the park Andrew points out the fairy circles- they still do not know how or why they are formed. The water supply is one of the best in the area – they had to dig 93m down, to get it.

Finally, some sand boarding. We have to climb more dunes! Andrew laughs at the competitiveness between Brendan and David, they both mark lines in the sand for their longest ride… I agree, after much encouragement from David, to do one ride – you have to sit crossed legged on the board and pull back. Wooosh, off I go, and of course go the furthest – gold medal to me! Sandboarding champion of the World, Namibia, Namin-Rand Game Reserve!

We had to have dinner in the bathroom enclosure again, and even then, had gritty bits in it.

Dinner in the Ablution Block, to escape the sand storm!

The wind picks up even more – early night for us.

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