The road is long....
11.04.2007 - 17.04.2007 31 °C
Any fears I had about being the granddaddy of the tour were very quickly relieved as the 7 other travellers on our overland trip arrived at the departure briefing. Overlanders are synonymous with the 18 – 21 year-old drink, copulate and be merry set. Judging by the other overlanders we have seen on the road this mantra rings true but by some stroke of luck our truck is bucking the trend in a major way. For starters the truck is only half-full giving us the luxury to spread out but more importantly to change seats when the blistering sun turns your set into a painfully intense tanning salon. We have a great mix of interesting people on our trip, a older (very funny) German couple, an Australian family of three from rural WA, a 29 year old Londoner and a 33 year old Seattlite. Just the right mix of youth and experience. We get on very well with Leila and Rob, the two kids our age, and end doing a lot of stuff with them including staying up once everyone else has gone to be for some cards and vino in the cool of the evening.
The first few days of the journey was all about getting miles under the belt. Western South Africa and southern Namibia remind me a lot of the Red centre with vast open spaces and an endless blanket of low shrubs although the base colour here is more of a sandy beige than a red ochre and the endless plains are punctuated by massive mountain ranges rather than the relatively smaller ridges that divide the red centre. The similarities don't stop there, for anyone who has driven around the red centre you will no doubt remember the hours and hours of road in-between "attractions". Fortunately in recent years my tendency towards motion sickness has improved dramatically and the hours on the road are being passed effortlessly with a stack of good books. Plus if the books ever get tiresome you can engage in a few minutes of high speed game watching. Most of the time you can spot a bok or two, ostrich or even the rare mountain Zebra within a few minutes. Unfortunately the Namibian Brains trust thought it would be a good idea to build a tall fence along the side of the main highway (with is an unsealed dirt road) to protect cars from stray animals. Trouble is the animals seem to be on the road side of the fence more often than not and as the truck approaches they freak out dashing all over the place and at the last minute they make a dash for the open spaces beyond the fence only to run full speed into it to the horror of all on board especially the vegetarian member of our entourage….
Heading north from cape town we stopped for our first night in Lamberts bay, a small fishing village with a big fishy smell. Fortunately the fish processing factory wasn't in full swing so the stench was barely detectable once unless you were right near the factory. It was a windy night and the temperature dropped well and truly below the expected Africa minimum. Come morning I was ruing the decision to send my sleeping bag home from Cape town.
The next two days were pretty much more of the same, a couple of hundred kms followed by an afternoon of exploration. Our second campsite was at a beautiful campsite on the banks of the Orange river.
Day three was spent exploring Fish River Canyon, the second biggest Canyon in the world. I'm not sure who is in charge of the size based claims to fame but someone has a lot to answer for. Unless Kings Canyon (California) and Fish River Canyon are exactly the same size someone is telling fibs. Me thinks it's time to call in the good people from Guinness to sort this one out. We made camp and after a much needed swim at the camp ground we spent the afternoon walking around the Eastern rim of the canyon which became more and more pleasant as the cool of the afternoon settled in and with a wine in hand we watched another spectacular sunset.
By day four the vegetation was very slowly starting to change. The mountains were getting a little bigger and more frequent and by the time we reached our destination we were in the heart of the Namib desert. With a few hours of sunlight left after the big drive we decided to stretch our legs and test our dune climbing abilities. While the good people of Guinness are down here measuring the canyon they should swing by the Namib desert as I'm sure the dunes here are strong contenders not only for the highest but also the hardest to climb, with one step forward, and then 90% of that step sliding back. With the sun setting at record speed, as it always does when you're racing to catch it, our stroll became a death march to the top to catch the last rays of the day. The thing about sand dunes is that they appear small from ground level, as you reach what you think is the summit you soon realise that they are much much bigger than they appear. After 4 or 5 false summits my legs and lungs were burning, my eyes were stinging with sweat and my boots felt twice as heavy as they should. I finally caught up to Rob who was sitting at the top, looking like he'd taken a leisurely stroll. Nat joined us a couple of minutes later and watched another brilliant sunset. I wonder if sunsets are always this good but we more often than not miss them because we're still staring at a computer or worse, watching tele…
We started the next day the same way with a 5am sunrise from the top of Dune 45, another massive dune. After a hearty dessert breakfast we wandered the dessert for the morning ending up at Dead Vlei which is kind of like the Oils Blue Sky Mining cover surrounded by 300 meter dunes. Very surreal.
We have been staying at some pretty swish campsites thus far. It's all very civilised with plush toilet blocks overlooking rivers and swimming pools surrounded by deck chairs. It's not the roughing it in Africa one might expect. The food has been good, we're making friends and loving Africa thus far. Nothing else to report other than I'm getting a wicked truckies arm and Nat is still trying to work out what a hundred men from mars (aka a million men or more) has got to do with Africa….
It's supposed to be a challenge, it's a shortcut! If it were easy it would just be the way.
Lots o' love,
Ev and Nat