A Travellerspoint blog

Southern Circle: Day 5

sunny 30 °C

3 July 2017

We had an early departure at 6.30am for the drive to Dune 45. I originally thought we would be going to the dune to watch the sunrise but apparently that option is only available to the groups that camp inside the national park. We were staying just outside the park and arrived to find a line of cars at the gate before the opening time of 6.45am. Once inside the gate Dune 45 is still about 50kms away – an incredible drive, on either side there were hundreds of massive red sand dunes.

Dune 45 is the main attraction, it’s one of the dunes that you are allowed to climb. My goal was to climb the dune to the top but the conditions were terrible – it was cold and the strong wind was whipping up the sand. I managed to get about three quarters of the way to the top when my asthma forced me to turn back. I did stop and take in the view from high up on a sand dune … not something you get to do every day.

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Breakfast of bacon and eggs was being prepared at the truck as people started coming back from climbing the dune. We sat around shivering wearing coats and beanies.

We drove further into the park to see Sossusvlei and Deadvlei – dried up lakes surrounded by red sand dunes. To get there we boarded open seating on the back of four-wheel drives to take us on a wild ride down a very rough track with deep sand – there were a couple of vehicles stuck in the sand.

The temperature had now risen to around 30C and we had about a 20 minute walk through the sand. The hot walk was worth it to see Deadvlei – a dry pan with petrified trees, with a backdrop of high red sand dunes and clear blue sky.

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Another four-wheel drive journey and we were back at the truck emptying the sand out of our shoes. I was hot, sunburnt, very dirty and tired … and it was only lunch time. Well it should have been time for lunch but William decided to visit the Sesriem Canyon before we went back to the Desert Camp. I went down into the canyon but wasn’t too impressed after the incredible things we’d seen in the morning.

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It was around 3.00pm when we finally had lunch, just sandwiches, and we then had time to shower and rest.

Once again I enjoyed the beautiful sunset. Later we had dinner, lamb chops, sausage and stir fry vegetables all cooked on the barbeque.

Posted by MissWalker 11:53 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 4

Another long travel day

sunny 28 °C

2 July 2017

I got up early so I could explore the lodge grounds (and visit the donkeys) and take some photos in the early morning light. Breakfast was served at the lodge and we were on the road at 7.30am for a long day of bumpy dirt roads and dust. Another travel day with 530kms covered today. Before we left the lodge driveway we spotted some springbok and oryx, and a bit further on there were a couple of mountain zebra.

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We drove through some quite remote areas that appeared to be farms because they were fenced off. The only thing the farms seemed to produce was rocks. Barren sandy red soil and rocks everywhere. Some of the fields had donkeys. For most of the day there was a mountain range with flat plateaus in the distance – it seemed to stretch on forever.

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During the day we made a couple of comfort stops to stretch our legs and go ‘bushy bushy’ … find your own bush or tree. Our only town stop was at Bethanie, where BB King received some fuel. It was only supposed to be a short stop but the Elvis crew beat us to the diesel pump so we had to wait and wander the one street in the town, where the most exciting to look at was the creative decorations on the rubbish bins.

We had lunch beside a dusty road in the middle of nowhere and made one more stop to look at the massive social weaver nests.

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I had done lots of research about this trip and I knew about the long days, the dirt roads and the dust. But the reality is much harder than I expected – the desert stretches on and on and the hours in the truck stretch on and on. The truck is heavy and slow and everything shakes and rattles. There is no air conditioning in the truck so we have to open the windows and when a vehicle passes by they leave a huge dust cloud that envelops the truck – have to make sure there are windows open on both sides so the dust can escape.

The payoff for the long hours of travel comes when you arrive at a special place like the Desert Camp just before sunset. The camp is not far from the entry to the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Clever and JP actually had a small kitchen to work in and we sat around outside for a dinner of spaghetti bolognaise. Later, when it was very cold and very dark I heard animal noises outside – no idea what kind of animal it was because I wasn’t going outside to see.

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Posted by MissWalker 14:44 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 3

Endless Namib Desert

sunny 28 °C

1 July 2017

It was dark when we arrived at the lodge last night so I got up a bit earlier to have a look along the river and take some photos in the early morning light. I was actually awake quite early and the birds were very noisy. I realised why I could hear the birds when I went to have a shower – there was no window, instead there was a mesh screen.

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Breakfast was at 7.30am at the truck. Clever and JP were cooking up scrambled eggs and toast. We sat on our little camp chairs and soaked up the early morning sun. We were on the road at 8.30am and received an ‘African massage’ as we bounced along the corrugated dirt road. Not so sure about the massage part … it’s a really rough ride and everything on the truck shakes and rattles.

We stopped in the Namib Desert and had some time to walk around and explore the landscape.

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The next stop was at Ai Ais for a swim in the hot spring pool. We were supposed to be staying at the Ai Ais resort but they are renovating, some people especially wanted to swim in the pool so we detoured there and made that our lunch stop. I went in the pool, it was nice and warm but not really worth the detour as it’s school holidays and the area was crowded.

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We made a couple of stops along the way to look at the quiver tree (branches were hollowed out to hold arrows) and a poison milk weed. We arrived at the Canyon Lodge around 3.00pm – amazing setting in the desert surrounded by huge boulders. But we didn’t have time to look around, just dropped our bags and got back on the truck to head to the Fish River Canyon (second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon).

We were dropped off and walked along the canyon rim, making our way to a lookout point for the sunset. Jude and I were taking too many photos and didn’t quite make it to the lookout – not that it mattered because we still had a good view of the sunset. Because it’s winter the sun sets around 5.00pm and only takes a couple of minutes to disappear below the horizon, leaving a brilliant yellow/orange glow.

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Dinner was provided at the lodge and then I had time to enjoy my beautiful room.

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Posted by MissWalker 12:08 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 2

30 June 2017

It was really cold this morning! Breakfast was at 7.00am and it was indoors out of the cold. We were on the road at 7.30am for a long, long day of travel – 565kms.

The scenery started with citrus orchards with rich dark soil, then quickly turned to barren rocky red soil with sheep grazing on the small bushes. There seemed to be mountains in the background for most of the day and we travelled through some mountain passes.

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We made several stops along the way – to have a look at the rooibos tea bushes growing alongside the road, for snack and toilet breaks, and another roadside lunch from Clever’s truck kitchen. The stop in Springbok was supposed to be half an hour but was much longer because the supermarket was chaotic (apparently the last day of the month is payday).

We were stamped out at the South African border and then stood in a long line for almost an hour at the Namibian border. So we were still driving after dark – arrived at our lodge near the Gariep (Orange) River around 6.30pm. We had our first dinner at the truck tonight. By 8.00pm Clever and JP had set up the kitchen and cooked a beef and vegetable stew with rice.

This was just a travel day and despite the frequent breaks it was a long time to sit in the truck. The truck isn’t set up with nice soft suspension like a bus and even on the sealed roads it’s a rough ride. The hardest part for me is actually getting on the truck – it’s up really high and it’s a huge step up for people with short legs. Tomorrow we start on gravel roads as we head further into Namibia … it should be a wild ride.

Posted by MissWalker 10:00 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 1

Elvis and BB King hit the dirt roads in Africa

sunny

28 June 2017

I was up at a ridiculous hour because we had to be at the NOMAD office by 6.30am. I received a packed breakfast from the hotel – cereal and yoghurt, toasted cheese sandwich, fruit box, bottle of water, an apple, a banana, a muffin, two pastries and a small bag of potato chips … enough food for the whole day! Our personal security man walked with us for the two blocks to the office, which was nice because it was dark.

The check in process took a while because there were two trucks leaving at the same time – also doing the same route but one camping and one accommodated group. There are 18 passengers in our group - I'm the only Aussie. We met our guide/driver William and cook Clever and were on our way by 7.30am. Our truck is named BB King and the other truck on the same route is Elvis.

The first stop was to take photos of Table Mountain and then we stopped at the Bayside Mall for Clever to buy some fresh food supplies and for us to buy a 5 litre bottle of water. At this stop we also picked up the third member of our crew, JP, who is a young guy on only his second trip.

There were a lot of wineries (or wine farms) just outside of Cape Town and the next stop was for wine tasting and then we stopped by the side of the road for lunch. Out came the tables to hold the salads, bread rolls, tea and coffee. We all grabbed a camp chair from under the truck and enjoyed our first roadside lunch.

The scenery changed from farmland and wineries to orchards of citrus fruits with the Cederberg Mountains in the background. We arrived at our accommodation, an orange orchard, in Markuskraal around 4.00pm. The camping group arrived soon after and started putting up their tents. Both groups joined for dinner inside with a roaring fire because this area is very cold.

I'll try and add photos later.

Posted by MissWalker 23:01 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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