Day 13 – Driving and driving and driving…
After another breakfast of huge yummy omelettes, we all piled back into the 4×4 trucks for the ride back to our big Kiboko truck. Misheck had gone on ahead to make sure the truck was where we left it and ready to “rock and roll” (his favourite saying) when we arrived. He took the big luggage on ahead so his truck had the luggage trailer behind it.
Because Misheck took the other truck, we all squeezed into the remaining truck. It was a full truck with all our hand luggage piled around our feet. With the chance of seeing game, I was ready with my telephoto lens on and my camera wrapped in a buff against dust. Off we went, blankets tucked in around us against the chill, with every expectation of a repeat of the super fun ride on the way in. Not so much.
Without the luggage trailer, and under orders from our guide to get us out of there ASAP, the driver was a bloody maniac. We drove out way faster than we came in. The super fun bumps and corners turned into a nightmare amusement park ride that went on for half an hour or so! Of course, we were sitting in the back row; stomachs full of greasy omelettes we were now beginning to deeply regret. Grant’s back was taking an absolute beating and Jess was almost puking. I was holding a heavy camera in one hand and digging through my bag with the other trying to find the airsickness bag I carry for just such an occasion. Just after I managed to hand the bag to Jess and hang on again, we hit a massive pothole on the top of a dune at full speed. No seatbelts on.
My seat came completely detached from the frame and launched me headfirst into the steel roll bar overhead. Grant’s head grazed the side roll bar, and Jess turned an even more interesting shade of green. I said a VERY unladylike word. Loudly. We tried again to get the seatbelts on, but they were hopelessly jammed beneath the seats.
I spent the rest of the crazy ride with my legs braced trying to hold my seat onto the frame – holding a sick kid with one arm and my heavy camera with the other. Also trying to hold onto the sides of the bouncing truck and the driver had yet to slow down. We were a very miserable bunch when we arrived at our destination; knowing we still had a LONG way to go on gravel roads in a bouncy truck. My lens cap had come off during the drive and Misheck (bless him) ordered the driver to tear apart the back of the truck looking for it. It was finally located inside the spare tire.
We took a moment to get Jess settled a bit and waited a couple minutes until she was more or less normal colour again. The rest of the group was back on the truck and had very kindly left the front seats free for us as they were the least bouncy. Most appreciated! Especially as we were going to drive through the park for the next 60km or so to try to see some game on our way out.
Boy did we ever see game on the way out – amazing!! Three cheetahs up on a ridge, giraffe (only 30 in the whole park so lucky for us to see the 3-4 we did see!), secretary bird, lilac breasted roller, jackal, hartebeest, wildebeest, oryx, springbok, etc. Very very cool and somewhat unexpected for such a sparsely populated game park!
I’m finally learning how to use my camera properly. But, I’m still missing a lot of shots and cursing myself for not learning to use it properly before I left!
At the far edge of the park, we exited South Africa formally and entered Namibia. I had to show Jess’s birth certificate again upon exit. Good job I had it in my handbag and not buried in the luggage.
As we drove on into Namibia, it became obvious that we were moving from “semi-desert” to “desert”. The scenery was pretty flat and monotonous for a long time and I crashed for 1.5 hours. The early mornings and insufficient caffeine is starting to catch up on me!
We stopped for lunch in a tiny dusty middle of nowhere town. The lady ran from a nearby house when she saw us coming to open her Cafe. We filled the place entirely! Grant ordered the bobotie – not realizing it was made from springbok and not beef. It was tasty but he’s starting to feel bad about eating those sweet little guys! I know how he feels – for some reason I refuse to eat a zebra but will try nearly anything else.
After we piled back into the truck, we discover we will be driving the rest of the way on gravel roads. Misheck says: “If I scream and wave my hands it means I’ve misjudged my braking and we are going into the ditch…. Hold on!” I asked “Does that happen often?” He shrugs and says: “sometimes!”
We rocketed along the gravel road at 100 plus km/hr and it was a wee bit bumpy. Dust is also starting to become more of an issue. I’m starting to wrap my camera in my buff against the dust pretty much all the time. We’ve already had one issue with Jess’s camera jamming – I certainly don’t want mine to stop working!
The scenery remained dull and monotonous for a long time until suddenly out of nowhere we see “Giants playground.” This is massive piles of rocks and boulders that go on for miles with funky quiver trees sticking up everywhere. Misheck told us a long story about this geological oddity but I confess I’ve completely forgotten now how this came to be! We jumped out to stretch out legs and take some pictures.
The boring scenery resumed shortly afterward and we struggled to stay awake in the heat. It’s a bit of a catch 22: if you open the windows at all for a breeze, the super fine dust blows in and chokes you. We have one guy on our tour who has only 30% lung function left due to emphysema. He is struggling with the dust, especially if there is any physical exertion involved. No complaints at all from him though – he just takes things all at his own speed and so far he is managing.
Our final break of the day was at a petrol station that was out of petrol that had an ATM that was out of cash. We paid the 2 Rand each to use the toilets that were out of toilet paper and soap! We crossed the street to the grocery store to use that ATM and stock up on drinks and snacks. Their ATM was also out of cash. TIA indeed! Good thing we have lots of cash still.
On the final leg of our long long day of driving, I rode up front with Misheck. I figured he had been driving all alone for days and might appreciate some company. I also selfishly thought there might be slightly less dust up there. Less dust but more sun – can’t win them all!
We rolled into Canyon Village just as the sun was setting. The lodge was set into a bit of a canyon made of giant boulders. It was a quaint building with a lovely thatched roof that had been built around some of the boulders so they became part of the interior design. Very cool!
Each of the rooms was half of a small cabin set off across a field crisscrossed with cobblestone paths that were lit with lanterns at intervals. Very pretty at night especially!
We had mosquito nets for the first time – which we dutifully used – but I haven’t seen many mosquitoes yet. The lodge had very reasonable rates for laundry so I gleefully gathered everything up that could be machine washed and turned it into the front desk before dinner. I washed the rest by hand – VERY determined to leave here with everything clean!
Dinner was included with the tour (the majority are not) and was a big buffet. Jess has decided that she likes springbok!
Tired from a long day of driving and unable to do much with the wifi in the lodge, we headed back to our room.