Surprise your friend by saying hello in the Jo-burg airport when she thought you were only going to meet up after going through customs in Windhoek, Namibia. Wonder if you've slipped through a wormhole when the driver is waiting for you at the airport with your name spelled correctly on the sheet he's holding. Get further confused when an operational electronic billboard rises above litter-free streets to welcome you to the capital city. Walk from the hotel to the iconic Joe's Bierhaus and order beers that aren't lagers to wash down the plate of ostrich and oryx steaks. Throw the waitress for a loop when she brings the bill by saying, 'In my culture, the woman pays.' Walk back to the hotel in a warm downpour, hoping you haven't made too many wrong turns but knowing that it don't matter none cuz hypothermia doesn't exist at 30 degrees C. Get the rundown on how to pitch the rooftop tent, keep dust from impregnating all the camping and cookware. First stop, fill the tank, second stop, grocery store. Buy food, wine, and mozzy repellent (though your travel partner won't use any even after her ankles look like the kid that got the worst of it before chickenpox vaccine was invented.)
Load the back of the baakie (truck), turn on the fridge, hit the highway. Head north and east to Etosha National Park. Meet the first unfriendly Namibian, the woman who's job it is to welcome you into the park. Marvel at how easily the rooftop tent pitches. Let roaring lions serenade you to sleep. Wake and strike the tent while it's (relatively) cool. Drink coffee. Head north, see giraffes, zebras, and a leopard. See litter along the road and realize that you may indeed still be in Africa. Spy an Augusta-Westland 139 and wonder what in the wide world of sports it's doing in northern Namibia. Check the map, realize that Angola is on the other side of the river. Continue to drive a bit too fast on a road the map doesn't recognize. Come over a rise and hit a dip full of water with too much speed, break the two eggs, let the bleu cheese marinade in the yolk white mixture, get a fright. Slow down.
Sneak off the road and camp illegally just south of Epupa Falls. Mess around with shutter speed while taking pics of the falls, go for a swim in the pools where the locals are washing bodies and clothing. Try to follow the road to complete a loop. Turn around. Ask the commander at the police post if you should carry on. 'Ah it is difficult.' Okay, yo-yo back to the next turnoff.
Become mesmerized by the constantly changing scenery. Caramelize the onions on the one burner propane stove, preferably while watching a killer lightening storm from one of the most beautiful and desolate places on the planet. Check out the nest of sociable weavers and wonder if the trees ever fall down from the weight of the nest (they do.)
Swim in the Atlantic Ocean, keeping an eye on the pile of shoes and clothes on the beach so you know how strong the rip is moving you.
Wonder why everyone said, 'You gotta go to Swampkumund,' until you realize that it's cuz that city has lots happening if you spend all your time in Maun, Botswana. Wrap the leftovers from the second dinner not created on your one burner to put in sandwiches the next day.
Work up an appetite by climbing Dune 45. Enjoy the view from the top, all alone. Fascinate in the gecko that lives on the dune that puts on the brakes by splaying his legs and tail in the air and digging his belly into the sand.
Roll the dice by booking a scenic flight in a 210. Thank the French family for taking the empty seats and making the flight more affordable. Take pic after pic of dunes and coastline and fairy circles and wonder what it would've done to ship morale if you crashed on that coastline.
Sautee the pears. Layer the bread with caramelized onions, pears, and bleu cheese. Patiently and continually turn the sandwiches so the bread doesn't burn while your traveling partner watches, convinced that charcoal is on the menu for the evening. When you can lift up the top slice of bread and the rest of the concoction comes along for the ride, the gooey goodness is ready to eat.
Cut the sandwiches in half. Serve with boxed chardonnay, opera music from a park employee's cottage, and a billion stars in the sky.
The 10th Annual James Garfield Miracle!
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