Cullen Hamill always knew he’d return to Africa. The 25-year-old Scotia MacLeod Investment Associate and his dad Hugh had been to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and gone on safari in Tanzania, but they left wanting to see more of Namibia and the venerable Victoria Falls. When they discovered Renedian’s Waterfalls and Wildlife Safari would get them there—and on motorcycles—they committed to going. Their biggest wildlife adventure however, was not on the itinerary.
The tour started predictably enough in Windhoek, Namibia and headed east to Botswana, whose flat landscape and straight roads reminded Cullen of Saskatchewan; beautiful in its own flat, big sky, way.
Except you don’t get elephants walking through your campsite in the breadbasket of Canada. One of the Okavanga Delta game viewing vehicles had broken down, which meant half the group had to wait at camp for another vehicle. That’s when the elephants emerged from the trees, walking towards them. “The African guys did get a little worried,” recalls Cullen, “but the elephants, who were within 20 feet of us, seemed very gentle. They knocked over our little outhouse, walked through the campsite, and moved on.”
After the motorcycle tour they arranged a quick visit to Swakupmond, an eclectic city sandwiched between the ocean and the desert, and a popular Namibian seaside town.
Brandberg White Lady Lodge, was their first night’s destination. The Brandberg is the highest mountain in Namibia and a national monument, known for its rock paintings and carvings, particularly the White Lady. Even with a late start, they had plenty of time to get there.
While they had an excellent detailed map with GPS bearings, distances, and timing, they hadn’t considered their leisurely pace of travel. The directions were bang on—until the last 200 kilometers when a sand road slowed them down. With nowhere to stop, they had to keep going in the African desert. “It was the darkest night of the whole trip, with just a sliver of moon, “ says Cullen. “It wasn’t a great road, but the conditions only fueled our adrenaline.”
At long last they arrived at the lodge, dusty, hungry, and exhausted, only to be told their room had been given away. Fortunately it was an administrative error and they were soon settled in.
The next day’s route took them across dry, hard, sand country before an abrupt transition to massive sand dunes—and the Atlantic Ocean. Father and son spent the evening exploring Swakupmond. “It’s like Kelowna meets Africa,” recounts Cullen. “It’s incredibly safe with cobblestone streets, little shops, local bars, and restaurants.
There’s a strong German influence, with a mix of retired South Africans, ex-pats, and young Europeans travelers.” It was a relaxing way to absorb the culture and wind down from their adventure. The next morning, a major highway returned them to Windhoek.
“It’s an amazing country, with beautiful scenery, and friendly people,” concludes Cullen. “Don’t let stereotypes and advice from others who have not been there but are quick to tell you how dangerous it is, get in the way. Make sure you visit it at some point in your life.”
Hugh and Cullen Hammil
Photo Credits: Cullen Hammil