Tuesday, 2 June 2015

May 13: North from /Ai-/Ais

I never assumed that every day driving would be a world of wonder (just most days). Today wasn’t really wonderous, but it was over 550 km of driving, mostly across arid plateaus with not much in the way of super exiting views.

Before we left /’Ai-/Ais hot springs, I had to find out the source of all the water for the springs. I was disappointed.

The spring is under the arch 
This is it 
Obviously there is more water here than just the pathetic spring
Yep, that little 10’ diameter still pool is it. I guess they pump all the water out before it gets to the surface, meaning the spring basically has nothing left in it. Plus, despite being in the middle of its own national park, there’s not one interpretive sign explaining the geology and why the spring is there. Imagine if they did that to the Cave and Basin in Banff.

And all that green, by the way, is the Fish River, about 62 km as the crow flies downstream from our overlook of yesterday. Yes, /'Ai-/Ais is in the bottom of the Fish Canyon, but it's only ~200 m deep at this point.

Once we climbed out of the Fish Canyon, a road that is like driving through mining tailing piles…

The washboard is good, too
…it was dry barren desert time.

Desolation with rocks
This was interspersed with the very occasional farms of varying quality.

Hmmmn.... not at all like an Alberta farm
In the morning, we saw zebra, kudu, springbok, baboons and oryx, but the afternoon was devoid of consequential wildlife, all of whom had better sense than to be out (like us) in the 27° sunshine. In truth, while the sun is hot, it's fine in the shade.

One of our stretch break/"pee in the woods" stops was under a tree with a nest complex of the Sociable Weaverbird. These dudes build one giant next for their colony.

A big tree with one big nest complex 
Home to hundreds 
The entrances in just one section 
Two separate yet connected colonies 
Backlit for artificial dramatic effect 
The moment we got into the truck, they all flew back home. They’re sociable with each other, not with us.

It’s interesting to find an acacia tree in the middle of nowhere. 

Makes a good bathroom, too
For a while, our route paralleled an important railway line that runs from Windhoek to Johannesburg.

The narrow gauge railway
An important railway deserves pretty bridges
We crossed the Fish River, too, that lives in the bottom of the canyon we saw yesterday.

Wow! Water! In a river! Sort of!
A couple of guys were playing cattle dogs to some cows moving through the valley.

A huge herd 
It takes 4 to manage all 12 cows
But mostly, today was just endless miles of flat arid desert.

Ironed, again 
Like Saskatchewan, but without the excitement 
98 km of our 550 km today was on pavement 
Straight and barren
We stopped several times, including in one town at a store that sold monstrous bags of Cheetos…

I suppose out here you should "stock up" when you shop
…and gave away a free newspaper that had interesting news headlines unlike the news I have at home.

Who said it was? 
Do animals drown in YOUR water supply?
Our afternoon stop featured another acacia tree, full of seed pods…

About 3"-4" long
…that also made a good outdoor john.

Acacia trees have tap roots up to 30 m deep
About 45 minutes before sunset, we finally descended into a canyon…
Descending into the hills
Penetrate 5 km straight ahead to find...
…which was home to our home for the night, the stunning Zebra River Lodge.

Photo just does NOT do the place justice 
Our digs 
From our balcony, we had a beautiful sunset.

And the hills turn red 
Sunset glow 
Various colours of orange 
A sky colour rarely seen by me before
As we were getting changed for tonight’s dinner, we found this guy on our bathroom carpet.

Frickin' dude is huge
It’s some kind of cricket or katydid that’s so poisonous, no animal eats it. It’s also about 3” long. We caught it and threw it outside, and were told later not to squish it lest we break out in blisters. And there were hundreds of them crawling around everywhere.

The complex has a lit watering hole next to the dining area that is apparently popular with zebras and leopards. We hung out for a while near it, though saw nothing except bats. The stars, however, were amazing.

Today was not an inspired day. We were doused in road dust all day, and at the end of the day, we felt like a pile of grit. We took a dip in the pool to try and de-dust; mistake. The pool was FREEZING.

Tomorrow, however, is a BIG and exciting day. We’re up at 4:15 for a 5 AM departure to the Soussusvlei sand dunes, where we will climb Dune 45, visit Deadvlei, and hike the Sessrim Canyon.


Today’s African Travel Tip: Namibian Road Numbering & Rivers

In Namibia, all roads have a letter and a number, like B27 and D414. The A roads are major highways, usually divided. The B roads are important and usually paved, but not always. The C roads are never paved. The D roads are only occasionally graded. While the paved roads are fine, anything from B on down become generally worse than any gravel road you have at home. The A through D roads are marked on my detailed Namibian map.

And I saw one E and two F “roads” today while having my butt vibrated off on the washboards of a D road (our Nomad team calls that “African massage”). E roads looked pitiful.  I question whether an F road is really a road or is just, in fact, a designated 4X4 track.

Every day, we cross bridges over named rivers. In all of Namibia, only two of these rivers has had water in it (the Fish, that we saw today, and the Swakop over near Windhoek we'll see in a few days). Major cites are on major rivers, but there is no water. I guess the idea of a “river” in Namibia is somewhat “fluid”.

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