Wednesday, 10 June 2015

May 14: Sand

Today was one of those “looking forward to this day for a long time” days and I have 668 pictures to prove it, of which I will share about 90, so I apologize for the long-ish post… 

For today, we were up at a quarter to stupid, caught the sunrise…

Spectacular sunrise colours here
…watched balloons drift over the mountains…

A speck in the sky 
Getting closer
… suffered a cold (5°) desert morning…

Fog shrouds the ground 
Sunrise over aloe 
Desolation and crisp light 
Purples of morning 
A sweeping panorama 
Driving deeper into the dunes
…and saw lots of early morning critters including mountain zebra, oryx, kudu & springbok…

Oryx herd 
A loner 
That they find anything to eat here impresses me  
There's that balloon again
…all to see sand dunes, including the tallest one in the world. We had driven 50 km into the dune field. From here to the sea, 75 km away, for 1,000 km to the north and south, there is nothing but sand dunes. Endless, endless sand. 34,000 square kilometres of sand.

Dunes ahead 
And so they start 
Unique colours and shadows 
Mr. Dramatic Oryx 
Oryx on the road 
Complex shapes 
Beautiful contours 
Dramatic shadows

Some have rock under them this far inland 
Evidence of water
Stop one was to climb Dune 45, who is a mere 125 m tall.

Dune 45. People visible on the summit 
Zoomed in 
"Easy" route follows the crest. "Hard route" on the left 
We start up the easy way 
One step forward, 2 slides back 
Getting there 
Less of a slope makes the climbing easier 
A foot's eye view 
Looking back 
Paloma crests the last bit 
Celia struggles at the end 
Isaac claims the dune for Hong Kong 
Coming down is easier 
Karen and I came straight down this 100 m face  
Our team still descending
We did not have the dune to ourselves. In addition to beetles and birds, we saw spiders, lizards and tracks of mice.

One of the famous dune beetles 
The place looks incredibly dry, but still stuff lives here.

An acacia tree, presumably with 30 m deep roots
Next stop was to bomb around in Toyota Land Cruisers (just like in Australia, they are the 4X4 of choice here, not Land Rovers) past the end of the 2-wheel drive road.

We (and others) blast 
Fun in the sand 
Driving basically wherever 
Beating the other truck 
Why 2 wheel drive cars aren't allowed in this space

The next stop after that was…
Guess where we're going
A vlei is a marsh, so Deadvlei is “dead marsh”. This used to be a marsh 800 years ago, but then it dried up and the trees all died. But the climate is so hot and dry that the trees did not decompose. They are desiccated, preserved and frozen in time. They sit on a layer of white evaporitic clay, and the stark contrast between the black of the trees, the white of the clay, the red of the sand and the blue of the sky is striking and surreal.
Crossing a small pan to get there 
Deadvlei. Look carefully. There's a person in the left centre of the pan 
Petrified trees 
How long have these been here? 
There are a handful of people at the base of that 380 m tall dune
Fascinating shapes 
Dead trees 
A stunning place
And again, you are not alone here. In addition to birds we saw tracks of several different kinds of antelope, wild cat tracks and hyena tracks.
If there are bugs, there are birds to eat them 
Some kind of sparrow thing
Next stop is at Sosusvlei itself, which is another dead marsh flanked by “Big Momma”, a 180 m tall dune that is popular to climb.
Yep. People on top.
And in the distance was Big Daddy, a 380 m tall dune (that sits at the back of Deadvlei). Not the tallest, but right up there.
That's 380 m above the flats. Taller than mountains where I live
We headed back out of the park, which was now 35° or higher (it gets to 50° in the summer), passing more oryx, some of which were hiding from the noon sun…
A barren landscape 
Not stupid 
That this "grass" can support critters amazes me
…and fairy rings, which are caused by termites.
Those circles are ~5 m wide
The mountains around here are cool.
We're staying behind that mountain range 
Interesting black band 
Tabletop banded mountains
Our final stop for the day was Sessriem, a 50 m deep slot canyon that has “water” in it all year round. At this time of year, it’s in areas that you can dig a small hole which will fill up with water – but you risk disturbing a hibernating catfish. Endemic to the creek, these fish bury themselves in the sand and hibernate when the water dries up, only to come to life when deeper water returns.
The canyon entrance 
Tall conglomerate walls 
Narrow slots 
Ahead, a canyon collapse 
Rocks block the way 
Cool in the shade where the water "source" is 
Here's a better sense of scale 
Memories of Bryce Canyon's slots 
Paloma gazes up 
Near vertical walls
There’s more than just fish and people in this canyon. Meet the Peringuey's or Sidewinder Adder, native to the Namib desert.
He's only about 1' long but someone almost stepped on him
Alas, ‘twas time to go back to our lodge (the Zebra River Lodge), along the way passing more wildlife like springbok, oryx & kudu.
Camouflaged springbok 
Mom & baby kudu 
More moms 
Probably the dad
The road into home is an E Road.
Home is straight ahead 
And yes, there was another spectacular sunset.
Just like yesterday
Dinner tonight on the truck was BBQ pork chops, rice with tomato veggie cream sauce and cole slaw.

Today was just a freaking awesome day, (looking back) possibly the best day of the entire safari. Tomorrow we are once again up with the sun, heading for Swakopmund with stops along the way.


Today’s Africa Travel Tip: Bars, cookies & laundry

There are bars – really nice bars – everywhere. There are bars at every campground and at every lodge. The bars in the parks and campgrounds are unexpectedly beautiful and very reasonably priced, though wine is starting to get “expensive” (R120/bottle for a very good wine that you can get for R50 in a store) in the middle of nowhere.

Want to make your safari truck a happy place? Buy cookies to hand out in the afternoon or morning. There are lots of grocery store stops, cookies are cheap, and everyone likes them (including the truck staff). Everyone on our truck is doing it, so we now get cookies twice a day.

Laundry on this particular safari is an issue. In 21 days on the road, we had exactly 1 down day where you could do a full load of laundry (day 7, coming up next). For 14 straight days after that, our only choice was to hand wash some items almost every evening -- which sounds great, but many evenings are hugely rushed, so laundry can't get done until late, and you better hope it dries between 10 PM and 5 AM (ceiling fans and stand fans help the drying process, by the way). So essential packing items:

  • quick dry clothes, especially socks and underwear. Our shirts and pants were fine, but most everything else took 2 nights to dry, and we carried damp clothes with us almost every day.
  • Laundry soap. We carried a squeeze bottle of Coghlan's biodegradable Camp Soap, good for laundry or dishes or even washing you.
Some folks on our truck managed this problem by carrying very few clothes (3 days worth) and washing everything every night. Personally, my feedback to Nomad was that a "down day" to do laundry is needed every 7 days at least, but be aware that laundry is something you need to worry about. 

No comments: