Monday, May 24, 2010

Fish River Canyon

Our last stop for Namibia was at Fish River Canyon. The canyon is 160km long and up to 27km wide and is one of the most popular multi-day hiking trails for those adventurous ones.

We arrived quite early to the campsite and spent the afternoon relaxing. Another overlanding company was in the site next to us and were having problems with their truck, so when we decided to head out to the canyon edge for sunset we took them with us. We were all dropped off at a small viewpoint and then had the opportunity to walk the couple of kilometers back to the parking area along the canyon edge. The view was spectacular.

Loo with a view!

Lighting conditions were quite difficult. The river only flows for a couple of months a year.

The canyon is up to 500m deep
Back at the truck JP had set up a surprise of champagne and nibblies while we waited for sunset. We then discovered that our truck was going to be staying at the canyon for dinner and some stargazing. Luckily for the other group, Jacques had managed to get their truck working again as we didn't have enough food for them. Apart from that, as soon as the sun set the temperature dropped to near freezing and the other group didn't have any warm clothes.Trying to keep warm. TIA - This Is Africa!!

We finished the evening back at camp with an 11 person game of cards (with glow in the dark cards!!) held inside one 2 man tent. I think it was the first time we had felt warm since the sun set!

Believe it or not but all 11 people have at least one body part in this photo...

It was also here that we realised our trip was nearly at an end as the next morning we were crossing the border into South Africa.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Dune 45 and Sossusvlei

We were up before dawn to be at the National Park Gates when they opened, ready for the race up the dunes for sunrise. Dune 45 is named because it is the 45th dune from Sossusvlei and coincidentally 45km from Sesriem. While its not the biggest of the dunes (170m) it is the most accessible to normal vehicles.

Full credit to JP, as we were the first vehicle to arrive and we all sprinted up the dune in time for sunrise. When the sun appeared it was quite mesmerising. There are dunes all around and each one become a different colour as the sun hit it and the shadows are created from ridge lines. It is important to remember to turn around and look away from the sun as the colours on the dunes behind us were some of the most dramatic.Our tracks from the walk up
Leading the charge
First group to reach the top and as you can tell it was a little cold
A bit of perspective. Steve is still on the dune taking this photo of the rest of the group
While Steve was at the top of the dune with most of our truck, Claire and one of the other girls weren't feeling 100% so decided to sit halfway up. As they started to make their way back down after sunrise, they met a group of cyclists walking up. One of the group was having a panic attack with the height. Between them Claire and Cara helped the lady back to ground level while the rest of the cyclists continued up to the peak. It turned out that this lady was doing a similar trip to us but doing a mix of cycling (1ookm) and driving each day. Makes our trip seem very easy.
Even though these people had missed sunrise they were still making the trek up
Once we were all back on the ground, we discovered that Jacques had cooked us omelette's for a champagne breaky. You may be thinking 'how do you do omelette's for 20 people on a single gas burner stove?' Well the answer is, that you make the mix in a big bowl and then split it into 20 snap-lock bags, seal and boil in really big saucepan. Not the traditional way, but tasty all the same. The same has to be said for having champagne out of a tin camping mug.
Popping the champagne!
After breaky we drove another couple of kilometers down the road to a carpark where we met Bushman. He is a former member of the Namibian army and had learnt survival techniques for the desert from the Kalahari bushmen. We all piled into the back of his ute where we were driven to an area surrounded by dunes known as Dead Vlei.
This is a standard size ute, and yes we did all fit
Bushman was one of the most interesting guides that we had of the entire trip. Firstly he suggested we take off our shoes, which most of us did with a bit of apprehension. Surprisingly the sand wasn't hot. At the end of his first talk he said "i walk fast, don't try to keep up". Naturally that was just an invitation to try. We are sure he would win gold at the Olympics. He was gone over the dune before we knew what had happened.Waiting patiently for us to catch up
When we finally caught up to him the sight was stunning. There was an area of white salt pan is surrounded by dunes that are up to 200m high. Dotted around the pan are fossilised remnants of trees. He explained that some of the trees had been dead for 900 years, and because of the lack of water they can't decompose. It was a little eerie walking around it. The cracked and dried ground of the Vlei
Some of the useful tips that bushman taught us included: getting a spider to open its 'trapdoor' in the sand; catching a lizard without running; and tracking the small antelope. Since the temperature was heading back to the high 30's we all piled back into the ute and headed back to the truck.
These are the spider tracks and the outline of its 'door'
Door is open. We stayed and watched while it pulled it back down and resealed it
This poor lizard was caught and released around 10times. Apparently this is the best source of water if caught in the desert.