Malawian Rice Vendor

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Another day, another adventure

We were able to return our rental car early Sunday morning with relatively little hassle. Golf ball size rock chip in the windscreen aside, the car was in damn good shape considering that we traveled on some pretty bad gravel roads. We decided after such a long journey that we would take it easy and hang out in Windhoek for a couple of days. Giving us some time alone to relax and re-energize from the journey up North. Chameleon seemed like just the place. We spent the better part of the day trying to get the brown, red dust removed from not only every piece of clothing and our now, near unrecognizable backpacks but from our hair and bodies including about a pound in each ear. We, unfortunately, had to wash and re-wash our filthy clothes many times over because the water kept turning milky brown. Our next mission was to figure out how we were to get down to Soussesvlei, Namibia's number 1 attraction. It is an enormous series of red sand dunes stretching for hundreds of kilometers along what is known as the skeleton coast. The problem, once again, is that there is absolutely no public transportation so we needed to figure out a way to visit. The stress of driving on those gravel roads was almost too much. As luck would have it, that very same day, we met a couple of other Americans. A researcher and his intern who just happened to be planning a trip down to Soussesvlei the very next day. They kindly invited us along for the ride on the condition that we would split the costs. At the time it seemed like a no brain er for us, even though we had wanted to stay an extra day or so in Windhoek we just didn't want to pass up this opportunity. The following morning, we packed and loaded up the old VW van and set off West for the dunes. On our way we made one quick detour to pick up a couple of foam pads since both of our air mattresses had "expired". Despite repeated attempts at patching and re-patching, they were as flat as Swedish pancakes. Sleeping on the hard ground had finally taken it's toll on our ravaged backs so we needed something, anything! The 1/2 inch foam seemed better than nothing. We spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon driving south and west from Windhoek leaving the comfy confines of the tarmac about an hour outside the city. The bumpy, gravel road undulated like an old wooden roller coaster through the barren, rocky hills. Occasionally, opening up to large swaths of bright yellow savannah grasslands. Fortunately the van is a 4x4 as we had to cross several clear blue streams. There was quite a bit of wildlife strewn about the parched landscape. At one point we came upon a huge troop of baboons and their young. We stopped to take a quick peek as many of them scampered toward the tree line for safety. As soon as they felt they were a comfortable range, they turned back and peered at us wondering if we had any provisions that they could possibly pilfer. But before they could make a move back towards the van, we took off knowing how ferocious and relentless these beasts can be. As we ventured further down the windy road through the stark yellow and brown landscape, we finally reached the aptly named settlement of Solitaire. Calling Solitaire a town would be quite an exaggeration. There are only 4 little buildings and a petrol station. We decided it would be as good a place as any to camp for the night since it was isolated and empty. After settling in, Erika and I decided to take a little stroll out into the Savannah as the sun was beginning to set. The 360 degree panoramic view of the yellow grasses growing in the desert wind contrasted with the brown mountains in the far off distance. The sun had never looked so big as it dropped down towards the Craggie hills turning the sky ablaze in oranges and reds slowly turning to maroon and purple. After walking back we made a hearty dinner by campfire and settled in as the heat of the day rapidly dissipated. Soon it was getting so cold that we retired to our little tent to the warmth of our well used sleeping bags. As we looked up the sky seemed to be filled with a million stars as we fell fast asleep to the stillness of the Namibian desert.....

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