And so the saga with the bees continued. I opened my sleepy eyes, safe within my roof-top tent. Outside I could hear insistent buzzing as bee after bee flew past our tent, some bashing into it. The Rostock Ritz campsite may be beautiful but damn, they have an awful bee problem! There are bees absolutely everywhere. They chase you, crawl on you and don't leave you be! As a result, I sadly had a terrible time here and wouldn't recommend it for anyone who is remotely scared of bees. It's such a shame as it's a truly beautiful campsite in the Namib desert.
That morning was uncomfortable. I needed to pee so badly but was too scared to leave my tent. My partner wasn't much better. Fortunately, whilst safe in the darkness of the night and the bees were tucked-up in bed, we'd packed up most of our stuff. Now all we needed to do was brave the outdoors to put our tent away and of course get changed, go to the toilet and brush our teeth.
I braced myself and leapt out of the tent, running towards the toilet block. I thought it would be safe there but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. The block was alive with the rumble of thousands of bees singing in synchrony. The tips of the taps were yellow as the more bees than I had ever seen in my life attached themselves to the bottom, frantically trying to drink. I didn't stay to asses the toilet situation and I left as fast as I could, stomach cramping up with how much I needed the bathroom. Why? Why, bees, do you do this to me? The image of the bees in the bathroom has forever engrained itself into my mind. It was the stuff of nightmares.
An oryx near our campsite
After that trauma, we both leapt into the car, and put the key in the ignition. We both let out a sigh of relief when the engine started up. In case you haven't read my previous blog post, our car wouldn't start yesterday. Our kind neighbours helped us to figure out what the problem was and were able to fix the loose connection to the car battery. Imagine if the car hadn't started? I'd be stuck bursting for the toilet in an area surrounded by bees. I cannot think of anything worse.
Our plan now was to drive to the main reception (a whopping 16 km away) where we could get changed, brush our teeth, go to the toilet and eat breakfast. The reception was indoors so at least we would be safe from the bees.
Breakfast was everything as heavenly as I'd hoped. After cooking your breakfast outside on a gas canister (which might I add, can burst into flames if you're not careful, as I unfortunately discovered) for several days, a breakfast buffet feels like luxury. The only slight issue was that a bee entered the building and fell in the yoghurt! My partner didn't even notice and was about to take a scoop out when a waiter stopped him and fished out the body. God damn bees.
After breakfast, I was delighted to be on the road again. At the back of my mind, I was a little concerned that the next campsite would also have bees. I'd never stayed in the Namib desert so could it bee that bees are in abundance here? The thought disturbed me.
As we were leaving the campsite, I noticed something amazing. There was a stretch of ground surrounded by a very low fence. Within that area was a meerkat! It was adorable. My heart could have melted. The little guy was standing watch in the centre of his territory. When I got out the car and approached the fence, the little fella bounded over to greet me. He didn't seem alarmed. He looked at us for a while and gave us a sniff through the fence before racing back to his watch.
The meerkat wasn't the only animal we saw whilst driving out of the grounds of the campsite. We also saw oryx, springbok and Heartmann's mountain zebra. Oryx and mountain zebra are 2 species that are rarely found outside of Namibia. I felt overwhelmed to see so many up close. Little did I know, today was going to be full of Oryx sightings!
Hartmann's mountain zebra
Springbok and oryx
Our drive took us to the quaint town of Solitaire. Not gonna lie, I had been dying to visit this town! I'd refused to stop off for gas recently as I had my heart set on this little place. Photos of the rusted cars at the entrance and the small gas station were enough to draw me in. I hadn't expected it to be quite so small, however.
When driving on the main road, you can't miss Solitaire. A fleet of up to 10 rusty old bangers lie in the sand at the entrance, beside a large sign. There's a small sandy car park near the petrol station and finally there's a little café. That concludes the town of Solitaire.
I was so excited to fill up with petrol whilst my partner raided the little shop, buying biltong and ice cream to keep us going. From my car, I heard one of the petrol station staff speaking to the car next to us.
"Looks like one of your front tyres is punctured." He pointed out.
"Oh, no! What should we do?"
I didn't hear the rest over the constant roar of my air-conditioning. I felt bad for the family. A punctured tyre would be a nightmare and I felt lucky to have not encountered one yet. I wouldn't know where to begin with changing a tyre! Then you have to buy a replacement. I shuddered at the thought.
After filling the car up, it was time to take a look at the signature cars outside the town. I only intended to take photos of them but then I got excited and we started crawling inside, being careful not to cut ourselves on the broken glass littering the sand. My personal favourite was the tractor perched atop some rocks. I was surprised that the tractor didn't shift as I clambered on top and started dancing.
Onlookers looked on in amazement and after we left I noticed that we'd started a trend and a women began climbing onto the tractor.
Why is Solitaire the Best Town in Namibia?
Solitaire is my favourite town that I've been to in Namibia so far. What appealed to me the most about this tiny little place was that it was oozing with character and culture. It felt like a typical little desert town, cactuses growing beside the petrol pumps. The locals were all very friendly and there was absolutely no hawkers - something which I cannot stand and is enough to ruin a place for me, like the Skeleton Coast. Finally, the food was amazing! I've heard the apple pie is the best in the whole of Namibia and arguably the world. I didn't try it myself because I'm not a fan of fruit but I can't tell you how many times I've read about the apple pies.
From Solitaire we had a relatively short drive to our next campsite. I've mentioned this before in my Namibia series, but there are so many benefits to ensuring you keep your drives between campsites short and sweet. Today we only had an hour long drive between the 2 campsites which allowed for us to stop of frequently at any exciting sights and really take our time. I really can't think of anything worse than driving in a rush for 5 or 6 hours per day with no time to stop-off and enjoy the area.
After visiting Solitaire, we stopped of 3 times to either fly the drone or take pictures. The landscape was alive with numerous groups of oryx and several times we saw a couple of ostriches. There was something truly magical about driving along a rugged gravel road, oryx crossing right in front of us one after another.
Flying my drone!
By early afternoon we had arrived at our next campsite: The Gondwana Desert Camp. Like with the last campsite, the camping sites were located several km away from the main reception and lodging area. The campsite was quiet with each camping spot relatively spaced out. There were 3 spots per ablution block but the campsite wasn't full that night so we only had to share ours with one other couple.
Gondwana Campsite Review: Campsites Near Solitaire
This was our second time staying at a campsite owned by 'Gondwana'. The campsites are decent but if you want to eat there, they only offer an all you can eat buffet and are very strict that you cannot share a buffet for one person between. It works out at around £30 per person which is ridiculously expensive for Namibia. Both my and my partner only have small appetites (and for some reason by appetite was even smaller than usual on this road-trip) so it was very poor value for money. We had no other option but to eat at the buffet when we stayed at their Etosha campsite because the guards at Etosha had to confiscate our meat due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the north of Namibia. But at the desert camp we stayed well away from the overly-priced buffet and cooked our own meal.
Another negative of Gondwana is despite me staying for 2 nights with them, when I cancelled another site I had booked (due to our major re-arrangements on this trip), they would not refund me for my stay, saying I didn't give enough notice (I gave 3 days notice but they didn't check their emails till 1 day before). Poor customer service considering I spend quite a bit of money with them.
Back to the campsite! Fortunately, there didn't appear to be any bees which was a massive relief for me. That's not to say that this campsite didn't have its own critters, however. When I went to do the washing up at an outdoor sink to the side of ablution block, I suddenly got flashbacks from the toilet in Etosha. Geckos were everywhere. I simply wasn't expecting it and so leapt out of my skin at the sight of a couple on the wall. Hesitantly I turned to look up only to see at least 7 more on the ceiling and near the top of the walls. Man alive! How was I supposed to do any washing up with that many eyes watching me?
As darkness fell, things got pretty interesting. Our cooking took us quite late into the evening and the lights from our head-torches started to attract unwanted attention. A deep buzzing filled my ears but this was not the sound of a bee, the sound of some unknown giant beetle which we had encountered previously in Damaraland. I honestly have no idea what these things are but they are very noisy and very big. They loved our car so much in Damaraland that some actually got stuck under the bonnet and died. When lifting the bonnet yesterday to fix our car that wouldn't work, I noticed their large furry bodies. I kid you not, they are the size of small mice and are covered in white fur. Yet they have bee-like wings and are the shape of beetles. Google couldn't show me what they were so I guess they'll have to remain an unknown species to me.
Anyway, these guys are huge and crazy annoying. I started to freak out, unable to see where they were coming from. They buzzed creepily close to me ears. In the near distance I heard bushes rustle and the strange low squealing of an animal. What was that? I shone my torch in the direction of the noice but caught nothing but a spiky bush in my spotlight. I didn't think I was actually in danger - it sounded a lot like a warthog - but not being able to see what's around you is quite unnerving.
We finally finished our dinner and were forced to wash up surrounded by geckos. I thought that would be enough crazy encounters with the native wildlife for one night but I was wrong. The loud rumble of a beetle snuck up on me from behind. I began to jog towards the bathroom to have my shower, desperately trying to escape the beetle. The buzzing sounded desperately close to my ear. Seriously? Was the beetle trying to harass me or something? Then I heard the flap of a wing. It flew past my face, whipping up my hair as it grazed the side of me. What in the world?
"Oh my god," My partner chuckled behind me. "A beetle was flying near your face and a bat swooped down and tried to grab it."
I mean, I can't really complain. I wanted to experience some of Namibia's wildlife and immerse myself amongst nature. That's sure what I was getting. But nature wasn't quite finished with me yet.
I made it to the bathroom only to notice with dismay that there was a gecko on the ceiling above the shower.
"Well, this is going to be fun." I grumbled before leaping into the shower, being watched by a gecko.
On the bathroom window I watched a moth flutter on the other side of the glass. Better out there than in here with me. I thought to myself. In case you didn't already know, I'm rather terrified of moths and somehow seem to encounter them quite a bit whilst camping. Suddenly, a gecko appeared on the glass, it's white underside pressed against the glass. I could see every fine detail in its large feet as it crawled up the glass towards the moth. In a flash, out came its long pink tongue and the moth disappeared into its mouth. Damn, nature!