Saturday, February 7, 2009

Aus to Sesriem

On the C13 from Aus we drove north in a characteristically straight line between wide open plains and under a blue sky bowl. On the map it showed a town called Neislip where we would turn left and NW to take the "inside" road, bordering the Namib desert, to our camp at Sesriem, the closest port into the dunes of Sossusvlei.

We sailed through Neislip, unaware.

We turned back when mileage showed us we'd gone too far, Vince finding a man tending some cactus pears with whom to gesticulate about directions. A lone building we'd passed had been the Neislip of the map, so we went back and turned into a 125 km loop of bleached grass and the first glimpses, on the horizon, of red sand.

We saw black sheep and our first, very shy gemsbok. We put our headlights on so that cars could see us emerging through the dust clouds of other cars. But there were no cars.

We stopped for lunch under a camelthorn near our turn off to the C27 and stayed in the car after finding animal bones and various weirdnesses in the shade of the tree. Roadside camelthorns in Namibia are inauspicious. They gather a strange detritis from various visitors and have an absurdly unwholesome feel to them. Spooky.

But the road was clean and our tyres stayed intact, even as we started to find more hills to climb, dipping us into new, endless vistas that looked like nothing so much as Africa.

It put a choke in the throat to see the grasslands stretching forever, the mountains on the edges of them, the camelthorns green in relief, and finally, some game. Our first springbok, the graceful little painted gazelle whose biltong I grew up eating.

The stretch before Sesriem seemed long, was hot even with AC, was dusty, and I felt like I wanted to scratch my itching, irritated eyes out. A private conservation area did away with fences for the last 50km or so, so that was a relief, and we saw little planes landing on a strip to take guests dune-watching or to a series of hidden, private lodges.

We found tsamma melons, though I did not know that, then. Lying like bowling balls in the middle of nowhere. The fruit that made stock farming possible, back in the day before accessed- aquifers. We took one with us with us for an Experiment.

I found the grasses beautiful; dessicated but present in a way I had not anticipated.

About 400km later we were at Sesriem. A strange place with only one purpose: jumping-off point for the dunes and Sossusvlei.

We arrived hot and tired, unfresh from lovely Aus, with no vouchers for our three days' camping, as they had never materialized from the booking agency. We took all our correspondence with the utterly unreliable - in our experience - Namibia Reservations with us in the hopes that this would persuade the authorities, government employees all, so meticulous regarding matters in tryplicate, that we had paid. As it turned out they said our booking had been cancelled due to lack of payment. So I was not the happiest of campers at that point.
Also: note to contact lens wearers. Take your glasses and spare contatcs with you. I wanted to scratch my eyes out after this leg, so fine was the dust building up on the lenses. This despite AC and closed windows. It got better afterwards, but that day was pretty bad.

Next post: GlassMetalOther, aka the camp at Sesriem. Click here for Vincent's version of events...


  1. You render it so well that I feel like anything I post about this will be redundant. But it's my curse, I'm a slow blogger. So I will anyway. :-)

    Beautiful shots, such a sky, such colors we had there...

    The gesticulator

  2. Oops, that's the price to pay for having 2 Google accounts and the same computer.

    Obviously, the gesticulator above was me. :-)

  3. Marie...As I commented on Vince's blog, I am following both of your renditions of your trip, with baited breath. Thank you for sharing both story & photos...I'm very much enjoying my virtual vacation! Can't wait to hear about the melon....?


Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.