I took one look at what appeared to be a camp dominated by huge, multi-coloured trash cans and the odd Coke tin lying on the ground and shuddered. I wanted Klein Aus Vista back. Clean, calm, efficient, subtle, perfect.
Check-in at Sesriem was chaotic. The staff seemed overwhelmed. Our reservation agency had messed up so we had to pay again on the spot, in cash. The camp sites were and are more expensive (as in, double) than any others, anywhere, despite the 50%-off hot-season special, and...well, maybe hormones came into it as well. It had been a long, hot, bouncy, dusty day.
While Vince stood in line to sort it out I sat in the car and tried breathing exercises. Then decided to drive around the whole camp, remembering that Go! Magazine's Toast Coetzer had recommended particular camp stands. They all have numbers. The three I could see from the car parked at reception, or what passed for it, made me want to bail on the spot.
My quick tour, during which I almost got the car stuck in some deep sand, improved my mood. There were also farflung stands with their own, lone camelthorns, far from the ugly buildings we could see and the rest of the camp. I raced back. Vince had already been assigned a number. Right by the ablution block, useful but not scenic: I did not drive this far to look at a toilet. Now filled with the zeal of the convert, I elected to go back in to plead for one of three coveted spots.
And that is how, thanks to the obliging Sheila, upon whom I unleashed my best Afrikaans, we found ourselves making a new tent home at Number 26.
And then everything else just got better.
There was a tap. You have no idea how nice it is to have a tap. It was right next to the beautiful old camelthorn, and had, as the one at Aus had, a resident lizard who came out when the water came on. You splashed the bark a little and he would put out a little forked tongue to drink.
Awwwwwwwwwwwww. Yes, it was.
GlassMetalOther dominated my impression of the place for the first 24 hours. The trash cans were just solarge. So...bright. Then there were the duct-taped bench and little table under the tree, both falling apart. The braai place had seen better days. We paid double for this? Yes, a bad mood lingered. I had not imagined buildings. Or so many people. Or a loud generator that stayed on all night.
But then there was this view from #26...as the sun set.
And then there was there kek kek kek kek KEK KEK KEK KEK kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek kek of the invisible barking geckos in surround-sound. It is delightful, a sound of enchantment and one of the best I have known and I would like to go back just to hear them again.
So that is 26, there above, just after our tent was up on our first night in camp...and below is the sun setting over Sossusvlei, far west. And to come was the jackal in the firelight, his cry at night something like a cross between a rooster crowing and a strangled cat. Not quite what I expected, either. I thought they sort of chirrupped.
There was more to come.