Sunday, November 23, 2008

Full speed ahead to nowhere! (Nov. 20, 2008 - Sesriem, Namibia)

As promised, were up before the crack of dawn, at 4:30am, to break camp and be on the road by 6am. It's funny how wide awake you can be so early when it's so warm and bright outside! The first hour of the drive was beautiful, as the morning sun cast a pretty glow on the savannah. Animals are active at this time of day, and we started spotting wild ostriches and little springbok bounding away from the road. The gravel road followed the train tracks for what seemed like several hours, and we turned occasionally at junctions with other gravel roads that disappeared into the horizon in another direction. We trusted that Raymond knew where we were going, because we were literally in the middle of nowhere.

After hours without seeing a single building or vehicle, we pulled into a little town called Bethanie just in time for ice cream and a washroom break. Then back on the truck for several more hours of bumpy roads... A lunch stop at a camping spot behind a gas station in another tiny whistle stop, then back on the truck. Are you seeing a pattern here? C'est la vie on long driving days, and such is life on an overland safari! But this is territory that few people get to (or care to see), so we considered ourselves lucky.

Mid afternoon, we pulled over to check out an amazing feat of nature - the giant nest of the Sociable Weaver Bird. These little finch-like grey birds build huge multi-roomed nests in and around branches of Acacia trees by weaving pieces of grass together. Raymond said this nest could house about 1000 birds! It literally enveloped the tree, and probably measured 15 feet in all directions - just massive! The birds carried on with the construction as we gazed up at them - they fly away, come back with a piece of grass, find a spot, stick it in, and fly off to get another. Somehow, the blades of grass sort of intertwined enough to hold the whole thing up. It was so large that the local farmers had to brace one end of it with a post to keep it from falling to the ground. It was amazing. But we did notice that virtually every tree that had one of these bird condos had pretty much killed its host tree. Oops.

Finally, we turned west and entered Nama Rand Nature Reserve, and the scenery changed yet again to dark eroded hills flanked by flat plains of yellow grass with sporadic green trees and a horizon of looming red sand dunes in the distance. Almost at once, the wildlife started to appear - groups of springbok and oryx huddled in the shade of trees, ostriches roaming in the grass, and lots of keen eyes keeping an eye out for giraffes, as we ha heard they were around and the saw a "giraffe crossing" sign! No such luck today though.

Soon, we pulled into the camp site at Sesriem (from what I could tell, the camp site WAS the town!) and set up camp, huddling our tents under the shade of a tree with barbed branches. Some people went for a swim, but most of us piled back into the truck for a drive to Sesriem Canyon. The canyon is very different from the massive Fish River Canyon we saw yesterday. This one was simply eroded into the ground by persistent streams flowing west off the inland mountains. But the canyon is only about 20 to 30 feet wide and 80 to 100 feet deep, with twisted walls and eroded caves and windows. We were able to walk down through it, even finding the standing water at one end that farmers draw from to water their cattle up on the savannah. The geologist in me loved it.

For one final adventure of the day, Ken went to the campground shop in the dark with a headlamp to get some water, and not only got lost trying to find his way back, but had a close encounter with a scorpion on the way. After describing it to Francis, she confirmed that it wasthe type of scorpion that is most poisonous.

Oh, and as we were washing dishes, a jackal was spotted running between our tents. Ah, the joys of camping our way across Africa!

1 comment:

  1. when we were driving through Wyoming/South Dakota/Colorado, we saw about a million antelopes. Every time we saw one (which was about 12 a minute) Dad had to point them out. I bet that would get annoying in springbok country, eh?

    by the way, i'd recommend taking photos of the oh-so-rustic washroom 'facilities' you encounter. It's everyday to you right now, but man are they entertaining when you get home (and to those of use at home). Still remember the two broken plank 'boards' over a black hole pit i encountered in Tanzania....a mental image i'll never forget!