It’s just a lot of sand, isn’t it? November 24, 2006Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Out of the city.
Before coming to Namibia, I was quite disheartened to hear that most of the land was classified as desert. Having spent more time in lush rainforests, often near white-sand, turquoise-water beaches, the idea of spending time on a big beach but without the benefits of the sea immediately nearby didn’t hugely appeal. I spoke to as many visitors of Namibia as I could find, who all said how diverse and beautiful the Namibian landscape is. I never thought sand could be so diverse, apart from in a sandcastle-building competition. But then I arrived, I understood what they meant.
Last Saturday morning, we loaded our sleeping bags, tents, beer, meat and firewood into Ben’s 4×4, hungry for an adventure. “So where are we going then?”, Ben asked. The plan had been to go to Spitzkoppe, some startling peaks in the middle of the flat desert plains kind of near the coast; but I had learned that the new Wesley Snipes (zombie western!) movie is being filmed there, and that if they were still filming, the bit where you camp and with the cave paintings is sealed off. We needed a new plan. Out came the maps of Namibia and the guidebook, and decision was made to head towards the Namib-Naukluft Park, aka the oldest desert and least habitable place in the world. Joost knew of a great camping place, which we decided to head for. Shortly after leaving
Windhoek, the tarmac stopped and it was dirt roads of the next 4 hours, twisting and turning through mind-blowing landscapes. We left behind the familiar green and brown hills of Windhoek, and entered an infinity of rolling yellow and green hills, moulded by empty river valleys (in a weird way, the pattern kind of looked like brains, in a non-gross way).
We rested at the top of a hill, to discover the entry to a different world. We were leaving the gentle pretty hills for the grey, rough and raw Gamsburg Pass: I still can’t figure out how was got down to the bottom of the pass as the road twisted and turned so many times that I got dizzy, but we made it. It felt a little like being in Lord of the Rings, passing from one realm of Middle Earth to another; it won’t cease to amaze how the landscape can change so dramatically from one moment to the next. We continued weaving between sheer cliffs and vulgar ridges, until it began to open up onto flat yellow grass plains, with green shrubs and trees snaking along the empty riverbeds, against peaking blue hills. This was where we (miraculously) found our campsite; a few concrete tables and stools under a tree, with braai pit, and a long-drop out in the bush. Just us. No one around for miles. Perfect. On the other side of the nearby riverbed was a watering hole, attracting ostriches, springbok, warthogs and a variety of birds.
We set up camp, went for a walk up some rocks, and got back just in time to set up the braai before sunset, when the temperature plummeted. Typically the boys tended to the fire and beer, whilst the girls prepared the food.
As darkness descended, the noises from the bush became louder and closer. We could hear jackals and hyenas cackling around us, shifting through the bushes just out of the firelight. Later on, we could hear a herd of hoofed creatures stampeding and braying near the watering hole. We decided to investigate. Armed with just torches, we gently crept through the long grass towards the riverbed, but our crunching on the gravel or scent spooked the herd, which stormed off into the night in all directions before we even caught a glimpse of them. We then realised we were in the middle of the bush, on a new moon, surrounded by hidden creatures, and our braai and belongings were unattended. %&*!
Due to miscommunication about tents, I slept in the car (by default, being the smallest), which I felt quite smug about the next morning, after hearing how the others were kept awake by jackals ransacking the campsite, and pawing their tents. I was woken at dawn by the light though, which I shan’t complain about, as it was blissfully awe-striking, and I discovered that meerkats lived in the holes surrounding the campsite.
We had quite a lazy morning, hanging out in the sun. Matthias and I went for an overly ambitious walk, on which we saw a jackal, an oryx amongst the more common creatures. We also discovered the hoof marks of the stampeding creatures of the night, and being amateur trackers,decided that they must have been zebras.It was tempting to stay, as it was just iddylic and so peaceful, but we were running low on food and hadn’t passed a shop or village since we left
Our journey home was as stunning as we left the desert and began to enter the Khomas Hochlands. We teetered along precipice, thundered down valleys and after 5 hours made it home, suitably filthy and exhausted and reeking from the fire the night before.
So I was proven wrong: Namibia is far more than just a lot of sand, but mind-blowingly beautiful in the most surprising ways. Truly a geographer’s, geologist’s and anthropologist’s heaven.