Sand and stones

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
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Trip End Oct 25, 2010


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Spitskoppe

Flag of Namibia  , Otjozondjupa,
Sunday, September 26, 2010

When I asked my South African friend would I like Namibia he answered: 'If you like sand and stones.'
Travelling through the Namib desert now, I see what he means.
An abundance of sand and stones, rocks and dust. Little or no vegetation, population, or traffic. Or roads for that matter.
It's empty - the most empty space I have ever experienced.
Passengers on the truck are not looking out of the window, hoping to spot an animal, a picturesque village, childeren waving by the road side; they are reading, sleeping, chatting as we move on to the next campsite. Spitzkoppe, where we shall camp out in the wilds. I hope it will really be wild, we just stayed in a hostel at Swakopmund for 2 nights, that's near Walvisbay, and though it was good to sleep in a proper bed again, not to mention the putting up and pulling down of our tents, the town didn't interest me in the least. Nothing exciting or out of the ordinary, even the shops were closed for most of the time as it was week-end.
I do wonder what it must be like growing up, living in a place like that. Small town surrounded by desert, sealed off by the Atlantic Ocean.

So, where was I? I am now watching the sunset, by myself having managed to slip away from the group. The campsite is indeed wild and primitive, our tents at the foot of the Spitzkoppe mountains, and I am totally amazed by the beauty of it all. I keep telling myself: 'Look where you are, what you are seeing - never seen anything like this before and probably will never again.'

We went walking up the mountains with a guide earlier today, a mere boy, and I saw things that were so strange to my eyes; the shapes of the rocks - mostly round and smooth like big scoops of icecream, enormous dollops of dough, slapped on top of each other, piled up in ways that get your fantasy going. One heap resembled a Sumo wrestler, another a sleeping hippo, the next a voluptous naked lady, and I swear one looked like a woman crouching to give birth.
The facts and the numbers are explained, about the mountains and the bushmen drawings we find, but I don't care if they are 800 or 8.000.000 years old, I just want to feel the stone, wander around and feel part of it all for a while.
The young guide promised to show me where to find the rough semi-precious stones, so we ran off together and he took me to what looked like a mound of diamonds, the sharp edges and colours caught by the sun.
Like last year I am leaving Africa with bags of stones, shells, leaves, berries and bark.
And sand.

Did I tell you about dune 45 yet? No, don't think I did. That's going back, but that's how it is now, so much to tell, so little opportunity.
Dune 45 is another phenomenon. We had to rise really early to see that, like 5 am, to see the sun rise. That meant rummaging around in the dark, stiff limbed and silent we stumbled into the truck. After about 45 minutes we park at the bottom of the rusty-red dune. It is huge, it is high, like a pyramide of sand, razor sharp edges, perfectly clean cut.
Might be an enormous modern sculpture or some surreal scenery for the making of a pop video or science fiction film.
Still dark we proceeded to climb up the endless wall of sand, where 5 steps equal 1 as you keep sliding back.
It was cold and getting colder the higher you reached. Misty too. Eddie was amazed; in the 8 years he had been coming here he had never seen the dune in mist. The air was thin and we were huffing and puffing, some giving up and going back. Must have been near freezing, my hair now wet, cold drops dripping into my t-shirt. None of us were dressed for this bitter cold.
We made it to the top, sank down gratefully (not gracefully) and waited for the sun to make an appearance.
Looking down on the mist banks it was rather like watching the sun shine on the clouds when you are in an aeroplane. Took a while to also feel the sun, for the dampness to evaporate, and still it was one side warming up, the other side still freezing.

Hold on, we have now reached Kamanjab, 340 km north of Spitzkoppe, almost 6 hour drive. Things have changed rather dramatically. First of all, it is hot, seriously hot, I mean, I can't even cross my legs for the sweat, very slippery. And nature is now a mix of desert and savanah woodland. Not like any wood I know, the trees, Mopania, are leafless and grey, the grass is yellow and hard, some prickly, hardy shrubs, and of course, rocks and sand.
We have just erected our tents, Katie is preparing lunch, and when the worst heat is over we will make our way to the Himba tribe, not far from here.

I just sat down on the toilet seat of the roofless, doorless, flushless toilet and burnt my derriere. To think that this morning I went for a moonlit walk and wore my furry boots.
 
Africa, full of contrast. How can you not love it though :)
 
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Comments

Linda & Ivo on

Katherine,
So wonderfull reading your blogs! It feels like we've been there! And of course, yes we were there with you. Thanks for sharing our great trip in such beautiful words! Enjoy your time in South Afrika! We're back in Holland again..
Linda & Ivo

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