Meet Katey Gormley, Fellow Debaucheress
Tell us a little bit about your background. Where all have you traveled?
I was born and raised in central Pennsylvania and didn’t really get to travel much as a kid. I’m the last of six and my parents had me when they were 46, so they did their exploring way before they had me. But I did go to state parks and decided at age nine that I wanted to be a park ranger.
I went to University of South Alabama without ever having been to Alabama. While there, I road tripped to California and saw a ton of national parks on the way, including Organ Pipe in Arizona (which is why I live where I live now). I earned a bachelor’s degree in Geography and interned for Congress to see how National Park policy was created and applied. After, I went to Yosemite to see it in action, mapping giant sequoias and giving programs to inner city kids who had never been to a park. I worked at Gateway National Recreation area in New York City and New Jersey doing a variety of things—led kayak tours, led boat tours down to the World Trade Center site, protected nest bird populations, and designed brochures with National Park Service maps. In Sitka, Alaska, I led tidal zone programs for students. (I took a train across the country solo, to and from Seattle at the beginning and end of that job.)
I married Air Force and we moved to Adana, Turkey (I love Turkey!). We traveled all over the country and visited several other countries, as well—Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary… Leaving Turkey, we drove across the United States to Los Angeles and flew to Hawaii. Flew to Anchorage, Alaska, and stayed there for a few years. We drove out to the Yukon a couple times and camped everywhere we could. When we left Alaska for Nebraska, we drove that, too. Visited Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Kluane, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Badlands, all on the way to Omaha. That’s when we went to Africa.
Global Debauchery in Namibia
How did you decide on Namibia? Were other destinations in the running?
I have always been fascinated with Africa. We chose Namibia because it’s easy. It’s the perfect introduction to the continent. The capital city, Windhoek, is small, orderly and easy to navigate. Plus, I love the desert. In general, my husband and I prefer quiet places. I found this incredible deal through Emirates that gave us a big discount if we stopped over in Dubai for a day… so, of course we did it. We went to Johannesburg from there and spent four days in Cape Town (incredible city!).
What resources did you use to plan your trip?
I only had a map to start. Then I found places that were interesting and searched for accommodations online around there. Lots of searching and emails and calling and trying to secure reservations that way. No credit card at all, just my Wells Fargo Bank card. We didn’t secure many reservations, just Cape Town, and then we booked stuff online on the go. Didn’t even get the flight to Windhoek until we were in South Africa! We just showed up at campsites; because it was January, there were zero issues.
Why road trip it?
It’s the best way to see the country; it’s sparsely populated. We rented a truck with a rooftop tent for $700 a week.
Where did you stop?
We wanted to see Etosha National Park, but there’s a lot to see between the city and there. We camped at Otijhaenamaparero, with dinosaur footprints all over the place and visited a giant meteorite called Hoba. Etosha is amazing! We stayed in a little thatched “luxury” hut when we needed a shower. Drove to Swakopmund, a Bavarian-looking town on the ocean and in the desert, and to Walvis Bay to see the pelicans. On our long desert drive, we camped. Didn’t see a single other person.
Which stop was your favorite? Least favorite?
We spent a night in a guest house in Johannesburg before our flight out, and I did not like it. Not at all. I can’t explain why, I just didn’t. Too big, too bland…
What did you wish you saw, but didn’t?
I do regret not seeing more of South Africa, away from the city.
Anything you wished you’d brought, but didn’t?
We shouldn’t have packed much more than jeans and whatever we’d wear here. I got camping clothes and boots and other stuff, and it wasn’t necessary. Shorts, dresses, jeans, t-shirts of any color and fabric would have been perfectly sufficient. Sunblock, mosquito spray, the typical malaria meds… nothing special beyond that. Basically it’s just like packing for anywhere else, but you can’t have multiple bags. You can, but it’s a pain. At the airports, they wrap them together in huge sheets of plastic wrap so you have an oversized awkward bundle to haul. (You absolutely do not need to show up at the airport a couple hours early, by the way. You can’t check in that early.)
Did you encounter any snags along the way?
No snags at all… except for driving a stick on the opposite side of the road.
How would you describe the country of Namibia as a whole?
Namibia is incredible. It’s friendly, it’s easy, it’s beautiful. Like I said, a very good introduction to Africa.
What other places do you hope to visit? What’s next?
Cambodia is on my list for sure. Vietnam, too. And I will get to Ethiopia. Realistically, Mexico will be next just because I live a half hour from it.
Today’s featured photos: Katey displays amazing photography from her Namibian road trip.
© 2015 Jordan Campbell. All rights reserved. Photo credits: Katey Gormley.