Tuesday, October 4, 2011

driving to sossusvlei - a preface

some day, girl, i don't know when
we're gonna get to that place
where we really want to go
and we'll walk in the sun
but till then, tramps like us,
baby, we were born to run

-Bruce Springsteen

Dean comes into the office and tells us he can’t come with us to Sossusvlei this weekend because he’s out of cash. Suddenly it looks like a girls’ night in Sossusvlei. On one hand, this is exciting because it means we’ll probably listen to a lot of Lauryn Hill on the road. On the other hand, it reminds us that we really need to start making friends with boys other than just Dean.

at 6:30AM, Allison and I load up the Sloop John B (I’ve unilaterally decided that every car we drive here is going to be called the Sloop John B). We pick up Eliza from her house on Anton Lubowski Street, which is the actually the house where Anton Lubowski used to live. It’s also the house where Anton Lubowski was shot. We drive out on the highway B1. Allison is still adjusting to the idea of driving on the left side of the road – I prompt her with “To the left, to the left” so many times, I’m starting to sound like a Beyonce song.

the Sloop John B

We make a pit stop in Reheboth, the home of the Reheboth Basters, who as unique looking mixed descendents of Dutch Boers and black tribes, kind of remind me of Canada’s Metis, with the secessionist spirit of Quebec. I am quite curious to look at them, but find that they are just as curious to look at me. We drive on.

We suddenly find ourselves on a gravel road. I seem to recall my coworkers warning me about gravel roads in Namibia, but I had been drinking when they were telling me about it and so I don’t remember exactly what they had said about them. We drop our speed in half and drive slow. We start discussing this theory that I have. I am convinced that despite its reliance on the tourism industry, Namibia doesn’t actually want tourists to reach its tourist destinations. That can be the only explanation for why the roads to the most popular tourist attractions are almost completely inaccessible at points, and why they build these roads that go right through river beds (rather than over on a bridge, or around). I mean, I’ve heard another explanation that rather than cater to mass commercial tourism, Namibia likes to concentrate on small specialized tours catering to fewer tourists for a richer experience. But I think maybe they just hate tourists as much as I do, even if I am a tourist.

So…much…gravel road…

a random zebra, running alongside the road, by his lonesome.

seeing a zebra on the road was really cool. Zebras freak Dean out, because they look like horses...but not. Eliza wonders what evolutionary trick would require a horse to put on black and white pajamas. Me, until this very moment, i've kind of believed deep down inside that zebras were actually mythical animals. like unicorns.

Huge weaver bird nests, resting on powerlines


Another pit stop, a few hours later. No bathrooms in sight; time to go at the side of the road, which is a pretty interesting bonding experience for a girls’ road trip. For the record, I am a Canadian girl, and Canadians are practically born knowing how to do their business in the woods…but peeing in a thorn bush is a completely different experience, one that is mostly painful and uncomfortable, and I have the scratches on my body to prove it.

Finally we arrive in Solitaire, which is more or less a curious group of buildings, a gas station, and a bakery, run by an odd but friendly guy named Moose MacGregor. There are random pictures of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt posted up every around here – apparently she likes the Cheetah conservation here. Maybe she took a leak under the same bush that I did while she was on her way to giving birth in Walvis Bay. When Bradgelina isn’t visiting these days though, Solitaire is quiet. We’ve arrived during the hottest part of the day, and we decide to spend it lounging by the swimming pool. It’s a hard life.


lounging by the pool – best place to take a siesta

In the evening, we are taken on a sundowner by Bernice, who was born in Windhoek to a Damara mother and an Oshiwambo father, but high-tailed it out of the city to Solitaire as soon as he could. He loves it out here in the wilderness.

B explains the plants to us

“Sometimes my brother takes me out to the clubs in Windhoek,” he explains as he drives us into a field in his truck. “But then you get to feeling like a dog. There are people everywhere, bumping into you. No, I like it here, where there is so much space.”

“It’s so nice that there still is land without people,” Eliza sighs. Allison starts humming “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King.

B’s truck

Going for a ride

almost reminds me of the prairies....

We stop suddenly on a hill in the middle of the fields where springboks run, and Bernice spreads out a picnic blanket and snacks consisting of biltong and fruit. We watch the sun go down. I think this is the most romantic that a girls’ trip has ever gotten.


For dinner we are served kudu meat at the lodge. I’ve eaten a lot of game these days, and I’m really having a hard time distinguishing it from beef. Either way though, it’s all delicious. After dinner, at the lodge bar, we meet a young Namibian named Roger, whom all his friends assure us is The Man. Roger denies this, but he does give us detailed instructions on how to catch Sossusvlei at sun rise tomorrow morning. His directions involve turning right twice and finding a wooden deck under a camelthorn tree. I don’t know what a camelthorn tree looks like, so I stop listening, hoping that Allison is paying closer attention. We’ll find our way out to the desert dunes tomorrow.