African shoestrings – Namibia Day Fifty seven – Namib desert
We had actually booked a campsite for the next day but took a chance that they had a vacancy for that night. That almost backfired when the camp manager said that they were fully booked but then went on to say, “I think we can make a plan”.
Strange sort of saying that! I had first heard it in South Africa and we sort of guessed it means “we can work it out” or “I think we can do something” etc. Namibia was effectively colonised by South Africa from the end of World War I until 1990 when it gained independence. They were only meant to administer Namibia for a short period until the League of Nations worked out (‘made a plan!!’) what to do with the place. But the South Africans were a stubborn lot and had also become paranoid about National security, so once they took control, they had no intention of leaving in a hurry.
The South African influence is still pretty strong. Even though English is the official language, Afrikaans is spoken by nearly everyone as a first language and most of the whites that live here are either South African or have South African ancestry.
So anyway we had now become accustomed to coming across these pseudo South Africans, who, to be fair think of Namibia as their home.
The campsites in nearly all of these National parks are big enough to take up to eight people, so in this instance even though there was only about ten sites, a couple of them only had two people and we were able to share a site and still have room to spare.
It was a beautiful shady campsite nestled in a small but deep valley between huge sandstone boulders on one side and a steep rocky bank on the other. It did have a couple of major drawbacks, no electricity even in the ablutions block and no shop or fuel. Can’t really say that the latter really worried us. But as the days were now quite short we ended up showering in the dark, a unique experience not to be missed especially when you drop the soap.
We were there for one reason; to walk the 17 kilometre Waterkloof trail…… and quite a hike it was. It felt like thirty kilometres!
Up at sunrise the next morning, we followed the yellow feet (markers) along a riverbed or two for most of the way. You know, riverbeds are often rather tedious and awkward to walk on. They’re usually cluttered with big boulders, rocks and stones and sometimes an occasional metre or two of sand and this was no exception.
There were some pockets of small clear pools of water populated with a few frogs, crabs and tiny fish. But they died out after a while and then reappeared around 3 or 4 kilometres from the end, bigger and deeper, deep enough in fact to revitalize our weary bodies and aching feet.
Between these two riverbeds we had actually climbed till we reached and then crossed a flat treeless plain to reach another, though steeper ascent to the trails highest point of 1910 metres. From here there were great views of the surrounding Naukluft Mountains and the desert, despite the increasing cloud cover.
Now it was time to follow those yellow feet down the mountain which wasn’t as easy as coming up. It was made even harder by two German blokes virtually skipping down the rocky trail past us as we carefully and slowly scrambled our way down. They were a lot younger we told ourselves. This really doesn’t help much, you know! It just confirms that even though you still feel like a 25-year-old, your body is reminding you that you’re not.
Why is it that the last few kilometres of any hard walk seem like ongoing hell? We think we instinctively know that we are nearing the end and then we torture ourselves by assuming the end is really just around the corner, knowing full well that it’s nowhere near. Finally it really was just around the corner and we trudged back to our tent, cracked open a couple of beers and flopped down exhausted after nearly 8 hours of walking.
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