Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Camping at Namtib biosphere reserve

Well so there's been many exciting adventures in my life and this must be the top of the list so far. I've learned to drive a boat, double engine rigid inflatable hull boat, driven about for a few days as well, scaled rock face, conquered a hill/mountain, seen the milky way, photographed dolphins on a rocking boat, seen wild horses, springbok, gushawk, orix, fire, camping in the cold... OKAY let me elaborate.

So on the 15th of June, we set off in the morning after some last minute grocery shopping to travel 1600m up the country side towards Aus in search of a hearsay camping site called Namtib Biosphere reserve. And after about 2 hours drive we found the first sign, indicating to turn off the main road and after another 30 mins drive we finally came to the second sign and a third 7km away. Driving off the main road along a beaten track which would be covered in savannah grass in a week if no car has passed that way in that time. It was a long drive up a smooth deceiving slope into a valley nestled in the mountains (to me, hills to them) and we finally reached the campsite. 

We had two tents, Tess and Simon in one and Sara, Shannon and me in another. It was a beautiful sight, something from the scene of lion king, where the sun peeping over the hill cast glorious rays over part of the grasslands and the shadow of the hill stretches out on the side like the "dark side" just like the movie. It was close to sundown as we finally managed to erect our tents and tent covers no matter how slipshod it was. Light was running away fast and despite torches, it was pitch black and walking to and fro the washroom 150m away could get us lost totally!

The stars were magnificent! I've always dreamed about going away to some country and seeing the sky lit up with stars and never was I able to imagine a sight like this. I was standing there mouth agape realizing why would people get into Astronomy and oh I finally see the light. Unless you have been in a place like this and witnessed it with your entire being, it is very different from watching a documentary of stars on television or even in a dark cinema. I was swept away. Walking in the darkness from the washroom I felt as if I was taking step by step into the galaxy itself. I was walking among the stars along the milky way. Oh yes I could see the shimmer of the milky way. I could not get enough of them. 

We often sat around the campfire to keep warm and with all the chatter about me I just snuggled into my extra blanket satisfied to listen to the conversation and gaze at the stars. On the first night I think I suffered from smoke inhalation and felt very uncomfortable the whole time until we doused the fire and got up. At that point I puked and brought back the delicious steak dinner we had. Oh well, I did feel much better after that.

On Saturday, a family of the neighbouring camp suggested to us a quaint waterfall nestled in a valley 15min drive away so we decided to go check it out. Taking about 2 hours of climbing up a valley of boulders and rocks before we reached the place I felt quite wary of my shoes which have been ducted taped to prevent falling apart!. There was no path so we just stumbled through the bush avoiding cacti and other various thorny bushes, Tess and Simon forged ahead, kinda ignoring us. I find the people here too independent, it would be the sort of situation in which if you were with your Sg friends you would turn around ask how are u spur each other on. But no, the scary thing was the lack of camaraderie. Picking our way across rocks and boulders each getting bigger looking as though we're traversing across the remnants of a rockslide. Avoiding nests and swarms of large wasps even I was a bit more than necessarily wary off, eyeing carcasses of rotting porcupines or something alike. When we found the rock pool, we had to find the waterfall of course, and now we travelled higher up, climbing over metre high rocks, then it crossed my mind," How are we going to get down?" ahhh.... I wished all the while I had bought trekking shoes. We set up pit stop at the waterfall. It was worth the climb. But oh they wanted to move on and I don't wanna be left behind! Moving on climbing between granite and boulders and finally I got stuck. Stuck on top a perch of boulders that I can't find a safe way off without jumping and crashing my ankles against rock. With knees trembling and in a half crouch I examined each edge and finally had no choice but choose the least steep one and sort of slid and jumped off. Then me and Sara who were separated from the group made our way back to the pitstop but completely bypassed it behind some more rocks and got lost for a bit before back tracking.

Never felt safer to meet up with the rest who were already lying in the sun dozing or reading. The scary times, sliding uncontrollably off a rockface was over and I was glad to be on solid flat ground when we reached the campsite.

But lo behold the next day they've decided to climb the hill behind the campsite! So I went up but this was harder! Because you can look behind you and see that you've climbed so high up. Inching along crevices fingers clawing into the rock for a finger hold, foothold anything. I grabbed and bushes and rockfaces hoping for something to stabilize myself as we climbed higher and higher. I had to tell Sara, I was afraid of heights! There were flat boulders, metres across and wide, flat as a floor but at an angle that you can walk up, so smooth I was afraid of sliding off but we still carried on, with me on all fours crawling up. Till I just called it quits there and waited for Sara to go to the tip and come back for me.

Waiting there, my imagination ran wild and I hollered for her but only heard my echo. Imagining the horrible slide down I thought I would be stranded and dehydrated without water or rescue and started thinking what to say in a farewell video. I'm mad. Altitude sickness HAHAHA. The way down was just as treacherous but I was overwhelmed to have overcome my fear and also be back at camp ready to end this camping experience.

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