September 23, 2005

Namibia FlagToday our wake-up was caused by the persistent calling of Cape Turtle Doves. However, even though we had a lot of driving to do, we didn’t have to leave until the fairly civilized time of 7:30 am. We drove back past the national park, where saw several flocks of ostriches. There were two males leading a group of about twenty young ones, and another group of adults. We also saw springboks and three klipspringers. Shortly after that, the roadside fences reappeared and we saw no more ostriches.

Late in the morning, our first stop was a small town called Bethanie, to do some shopping. We would be staying the next two nights at the Desert Camp. Bethanie is populated by Nama people, whose language includes click sounds although it isn’t a Bushman language. It was interesting listening to them speak. We bought some water, cookies, and candies, then wandered around the town. A lot of the inhabitants were unemployed, since Bethanie’s main business of raising sheep for wool had become uneconomic, and they were sitting along the curbs doing nothing.

There was one craft stall that had little carved wooden elephants for sale; the vendor said they were made from “brown wood from the north”. Rosemary bought four of them for N$7 each.

Back on the truck, we carried on along the dusty roads for another hour or two until we found a tree (camelthorn, a species of acacia), then we stopped in its shade for lunch. It was a quick lunch, then we continued on for another hour or so, when we stopped by a tree with a grass nest the size of a Volkswagen Beetle on it. This nest was inhabited by a few hundred Sociable Weaver birds. Actually the nest is a grass roof that is built by all the birds, and under that roof each pair of birds has their own individual nest. Sort of a condominium nest. Also along the road there were smaller nests on many of the power poles.

And then we carried on along more and more minor roads. The scenery was very lovely with sand, rocks, and mountains along the way. Some of the hills consisted of large boulders piled up in picturesque arrays. Finally we came to the gate of the Drifters Desert Camp. We had to stop there and let the truck’s tires down to half pressure, so we could get through the sand. That took nearly half an hour, and then we set off through the gate and along the sandy track. Everything was going well until we hit some really soft sand and got stuck.

Digging and pushing did nothing, so out came the heavy equipment. Two logs (the size of small railroad ties) went between the truck’s back wheels, so that the wheels would ride up and along the logs. It took several attempts with that setup, but finally the truck kept going so Leon drove on to firmer ground while we brought along the shovels and logs. We all climbed back on for the final kilometre to the camp.

The camp was in a lovely setting among large hills consisting of reddish boulders. Each campsite had its own reed roof to keep the sun off during the day, and the washroom had a flush toilet and a shower! The walls were made of flat reddish stones cemented together.

Upon arrival, we set up our tents and sleeping gear. Ours was next to the washroom building (how did we do that again?) and just down from a middle-sized Sociable Weaver nest that was actually occupied. We used the shower; the water was not very hot, but not very cold either so it was fine.

Dinner this evening was a good chicken stew with beet salad. Very tasty! After dinner we quickly washed the dishes as Peter, the resident manager, was to take us on a night game drive around the area. We collected our water bottles, cameras, and binoculars, and set out for about an hour and a half. We sat four across on bench seats on the back of an open-air truck.

There was a surprising amount of wildlife out and about. The first animal we came across was a Cape porcupine; Peter was very knowledgeable about all the species we saw. We got good looks at aardwolf (a rare sighting), springbok, steenbok, bat-eared fox, Cape fox, gemsbok, rabbit, and even a Spotted Eagle Owl. And tomorrow morning we would be going on another game drive.

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