Wandering and Wondering

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Adventures in the sand

On my last blog post I left you at Luderitz. We had just visited the abandoned diamond mining town of Kolmannskuppe. When diamonds were first discovered here, you could literally pick them up of the ground. Since then, however, bigger deposits have been discovered elsewhere, so the town has been abandoned and claimed by the desert sand:

Claimed by the desert


After leaving Luderitz, we were due to spend a night at a campsite in the small town of Aus, but the weather was rather misty so we decided to continue on in the truck and try and find a place to do a bush camp. After about an hour or so of driving, we came across a campsite in the middle of nowhere run by a farming family. The temperature was freezing, and the misty rain got everything a little damp, so we all huddled around the campfire until bed time:

Campfire


The next day we had a lot of driving ahead of us to get to Sesriem, which is on the edge of the Namib/Naukluft National Park. To keep ourselves occupied in the back of the truck, we played a game called Mafia. Everyone was assigned a role by drawing a card from a normal deck of playing cards: two people who drew the Kings played the role of the Mafia, one person who drew the Ace was the angel, one who drew the Jack was the sheriff, one person who drew the Joker was the narrator and the rest of us were all just villagers. Except for the narrator, all the roles were kept secret.

To start the game, everyone closes their eyes and "goes to sleep" (not literally). The narrator then asks the two people who are playing the Mafia to wake up, and they secretly select a person to kill. The Mafia then go back to sleep and the narrator asks the sheriff to silently acuse a person who they think is the Mafia. The narrator will confirm to the sheriff whether or not that person actually is the Mafia, and the sheriff can use this information later on in the game if they wish to make a public accusation (at the risk of then exposing themselves to the Mafia). Finally, the narrator asks the angel to nominate a person who they would like to protect (ie save from being killed by the Mafia).

Everyone then wakes up, and the narrator describes who was killed by the Mafia (unless they were protected by the angel) and that person is then out of the game. Everyone then has the opportunity to accuse someone of being the Mafia. If the majority of people back the accusation, then the accused has a chance to defend themselves (ie try and convince everyone that they are not the Mafia). If they can sway enough people so that there is no longer a majority, then they are saved. Otherwise they are killed and no longer take part in the game.

The game then continues for another round: everyone goes to sleep, the Mafia nominate someone to kill, the shefiff makes an accusation, the angel nominates someone to save, and then everyone wakes up and makes accusations of who is the Mafia. The object of the game for the people playing the Mafia is to kill everyone else in the village. The object of the game for the rest of the people is to discover and kill the Mafia. It is an interesting game of deceit and trying to determine if someone is lying or telling the truth, and we whiled away several hours playing it.

When we eventually stopped for lunch, we were mobbed by a swarm of bees. The bees were in search of water, so within 10 minutes of stopping they were in all of our washing up water, on our sponges, or anything that contained a little bit of moisture:

Bees on a sponge


After a few more hours driving we arrived at our campsite in Sesriem where it was time for a shower to wash off all the dust and sand. The next morning we were up before dawn in order to arrive at Dune 45 at sunrise. This particular sand dune is over 170 metres high. It was hard work hiking to the top, but well worth it for the amazing views:

Desert landscape


Getting down was a lot more fun than climbing up:

Running down Dune 45


We then headed further into the national park to a place called Sossusvlei, which is a clay pan enclosed by the highest sand dunes in the world. The clay pan is white in colour which makes a nice contrast against the red dunes. Together with the dead trees in the middle it makes it an amazing area for photography:

Sossusvlei


In the afternoon we headed back to Sesriem and made a short visit to the nearby canyon. It is nowhere near the size of the Fish River Canyon which we visited a few days before, but is very narrow and we were able to go for a walk along the bottom:

Sesriem Canyon


The next morning we had another long day of driving ahead of us in order to reach Swakopmund. For morning tea we stopped at the Solitaire roadhouse, which is famous for their apple pie. According to the owner, they make 30-40 trays, or around 300-400 pieces per day, which is a lot of pie. Just while I was waiting in the queue there was a whole tray polished off:

Apple pie


Shortly after leaving Solitaire we crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn:

Tropic of Capricorn


It was only about 20 minutes after this that we met Ewan McGregor (see my other blog post below for the full details):

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman


We finally arrived in Swakopmund, the adventure capital of Namibia, and were happy to move into some dorm rooms for a change rather than camping out in tents. After a night out on the town, many people were feeling rather hung-over the next day when we were booked to do some sand-boarding. We drove about 20 minutes out of town to the dunes, and although they weren't as high as those near Sossusvlei, it was still quite tiring climbing to the top, only to sand-board down and have to climb up again:

Air time


I have a video of the sand-boarding, but the Internet here in Swakopmund is so slow that I won't even try to upload it at this time (they are still on dial-up-modems here - according to the guy at the Internet cafe they will be upgrading to broadband "in the next few days" - just after we've left probably). I also apologise if I am a bit slow responding to emails or facebook messages. The facebook website doesn't really work.

The adjective that best describes my last week or so is "sandy". The sand gets in everything. After each day of travel the back of the truck is covered in sand and dust. Already two people have had their cameras stop functioning, so I have to be very careful with mine.

This afternoon we are going quad-biking over the sand dunes, so I'll no doubt be covered in more sand again by the end of the day. Ciao.

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