September 24, 2005

Namibia FlagBreakfast was at 7 am, prior to the 8 am start of the game drive. But since most mammals in the desert are nocturnal, it was more of an ecology drive than a game drive. Everybody climbed onto the same Toyota Landcruiser we had ridden on last night, and off we went to learn about the various ecological zones in the area: mountain tops, gravel plains, dry riverbeds, and sand dunes. Peter knew a lot about the area and could answer all our questions. We learned about plants and how they have adapted to the area, and how the animals can survive with little or no water. The average rainfall for the area is about 40 mm per year and the last substantial rainfall was in 2001.

The trip took most of the morning and went all over the area. We did see springbok, of course, a solitary bull gemsbok, and later a whole herd of gemsbok. We also saw dassies, ostriches, ground squirrels, mongooses, Rüppell’s Korhaan, and Pale Chanting Goshawk. One of the more interesting geological features was Music Mountain. It consisted of very large roundish boulders which rang with different pitches when stones were thrown at them. The last part of the trip was down a precipitous rocky slope on a road that Peter and a few others had built last year, and some of the group were quite nervous.

When we got back it was just about lunch time. Today instead of the usual sandwiches we had beans and franks, bacon, and hard-boiled eggs, with fruit cocktail for dessert.

There was nothing scheduled for the afternoon so we rinsed out some clothes – they dried very quickly in the dry desert air—and tidied things up a bit. About 3 pm we decided to walk up to the blind that Peter had built by the little concrete waterhole. Far across the desert, maybe 5 km away, we could see a lone male ostrich crossing the sandy plains. But at the waterhole we saw nothing for two hours but a small flock of birds that stopped there briefly.

Dinner tonight was barbecued beef spare ribs, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables. Very good as usual. The plan for tomorrow was to leave at 4 am (!) so that we could get to Sossusvlei for sunrise, so we all retired early to bed.

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