One of the first impressions you get on entering South Africa from anywhere on the continent, is how organised our wonderful commercial farmers are…
Gone are the unhealthy, straggly, weed choked subsistence farms of our neighbours…
Now, appearing never to end… Stretching over the horizon in every direction, are big, strong, robust crops…
Mielies shining dark green in the sun…
Soya…hundreds of kilometres of soya…
Sunflowers… Oh Yesss, all bowing in the same direction, following the sun…
Like millions of monks at prayer.
I imagined they were welcoming us home…
Indicating the way forward…
The heading back to our beloved Natal.
Roads lined with mile after mile of purple, blue & white cosmos… Hey hey hey… We’re BACK.
It even rained… A lot… It poured down.
Nyati’d never driven through rain.
I wished we could’ve experienced these conditions, just for a few hours, in the Kalahari… The karoo… Imagine the Namib.
Nyati simply bowled along, rev-counter fixed on 2200, up hill & down dale…
We’d left Nyati’s natural environment, the backroads, far behind…
No desire for sightseeing now…
Bring on the N roads…
National tarred highways…
Even the despised toll route…
The quick end will justify the means.
It did… Nyati drove back through the gates of home.
Home we’d left so long ago.
It now felt as if we’d never been gone, but thanks to my son, Adam, who managed this blog, which enabled me to record Nyati’s epic roadtrip, I can relive it… all of it.
I’ve been privileged, no BLESSED, to have met SO MANY amazing people, on this trip…
Seen sights of such incredible beauty, they took my breath away, & lived through experiences that’ll remain in my memory to savour for the rest of my life.
I’ve laughed & I’ve cried…
WOW Nyati… What a ride.
May God bless ALL the people of Africa, & show mercy to the animals that live among them.
Once the decision had been taken, it all became easy… Water flowing downhill.
Excitement levels reached an all-time high.
I suspect Nyati's silhouette became subtly sleeker… Longer… Lower.
I woke earlier, showered the evening before, got away quickly. Botswana's still a big territory & we had a long way to go.
Along the way… On the hoof, emails & WhatsApps were probing ahead. Hard decisions had to be made… Arrangements put in place… There could be no compromise. Nyati's coming home.
Campsites came & went… Good, bad & indifferent… Sad to say, Nyati was now on a mission.
Finally… Today Nyati would roll back onto South African soil. After much deliberation, I decided to use the little border post at Stockport, "Parr's Halt" because it was way off the busy truckers route to the main roads of SA & should be quick. The last thing I wanted was to be held up all day behind a line of lorries.
As we approached the checkpoint another reason for this roads unpopularity amongst heavies showed itself…
The big board said…
Narrow bridge. Weight limit of 9 tons strictly enforced.
Oh SHIT… Nyati's running at 10.5 tons.
It's a hellofa long way back, but there's no point in aggravating these guys ?
"Fuck that… Move over… Go & get a pack of Styvesants… I'll get this slinky bitch through".
I looked into the mirror… YES… she was BACK… Very tanned, a little unkempt, in need of a haircut… My clear eyed Gypsy… ready for anything. I spruced up…changed my shirt… Brushed my hair.
Passport formalities WERE quick.
Now for the bridge… I could see it ahead. Mmmm… Kinda narrow… Spindly looking too… I thought I felt a sharp nudge in the ribs.
The kid in a Botswana defence force uniform sidled over… I reckon he'd never seen a White with such a BIG wide smile… Or a truck with horns… Oh yeah.
"I want your weighbridge cert…"
He started, but didn't finish, saw the Styvesants & almost lifted his cap.
"Thanks Man, I'll bring more back with me"… Waving… Smiling… Hey hey hey.
Lying basterd, but he heard me & waved in happy, youthful anticipation.
"Sorry for lying God, but PLEASE hold this bridge steady".
Barbara had proven to be an excellent choice of name… Cleverest bitch I ever knew… Named after "sailing Barbara" who knew everything… could tell you anything. Gods parents names… Anything. She's never been proven wrong either.
They say, "Give a dog a name & it'll live up to it".
If I'm able to get another puppy I'll have to come up with something bloody good to match Barbara.
No puppy would last a day here though, deep in the Okavango delta… Crocs, hyaena…
But oh, I DO miss a dog.
Thoughts of going on to Zambia alone, or returning to Kloof with all the comforts of civilisation… And a new puppy.
It's been a long, lonely year… But oh wow… what a ride Nyati's given.
What a truck. What an experience… Epic.
What does Zambia have to offer that's different from Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya ? I've travelled through them all before. There's no difference… Apart from all the different permits to be bought… Different currency &, of course, the "officials". It's the same shambles everywhere. When I look around me here, I could be anywhere… Kwamashu, Gweta, Mombasa or Maputo… It's Africa.
Shambolic seems to be the African way.
It makes me think of that old story about the guy who returned to the former colony he'd spent so many years working in. He commented to a local that he found everything to be in such a bloody mess now. To which the local proudly replied, "Yes it IS in a bloody mess, but it's OUR bloody mess".
When Nyati left the Republic, we were leaving the best of Africa.
You want Animals, Mountains, Desert, Forests, Jungles, Rivers, Hot or cold, Big or small, Thousands of miles of coastline with warm or cold oceans, High-tech ?
South Africa's got it… & MORE.
Thank God Nyati's exploration started in SA… We found a delicious surprise around almost every corner…
Low ratio box growling, tyres deflated to 3.5 bars, Nyati rolled North over a track through the marshes… Momentum all important now… We were on our own, no support vehicle if we stuck.
"Oh God, more fucking Elephants… Hoot, move the basterds off the track".
There it was… Just like that… I knew… The Gypsy was "Gatfol" with this African adventure… She looked back at me from the mirror… Eyes brimming with tears… Gone was the wonderful cavalier, combative attitude toward ANY challenge… "BRING IT ON"… Tired now… Worn down by the grinding reality of continuously taking on todays Africa alone.
Even the omnipresence of these magnificent giants wasn't enough to rekindle the adventurous flame that had been flickering for some time now.
I imagined her slowly, sadly, dejectedly, walking away down the track… Even took a pic. This was a momentous occasion, she'd been with me through the maelstrom of Indian Ocean storms, faced exhaustion on a bicycle, in berg caves, dodged lightning strikes, marauding sharks, two divorces… Everwhere… Everything.
This changes things for Nyati & me… I pulled off the track, under some trees. I needed a couple of days to think.
Helens long anticipated visit had started a couple of days early, & run for a couple of weeks longer than expected, leaving little room for an extroverted alter-ego.
From Windhoek international, Nyati cruised down to Swakopmunt on the Atlantic… Very cool, but the drive up the skeleton coast, apart from Henties Bay, quickly became tedious.
We turned inland to visit Spitzkoppen… Terrific… What a place… A "must see".
Etosha's a world renowned, very big, nature destination… Yup, it's all there to be seen… lion, ellie, rhino, all sorts… Some of the game viewing from the camp "hide" facilities is truly spectacular… Especially under lights.
Lion & Elephant drinking not more than 4 meters away… If you're lucky… & quiet.
Visitors from all around the world are blown away by Etosha … Ah, but I think that's because they haven't been to Kruger or even Umfolosi yet… There's really no comparison.
We had a great time in Etosha… We made it great.
There's a bloody great big lump of iron laying in the veld between Tsumeb & Grootfontain… The Hobas meteorite.
A fascinating thing to see & feel… It intimidates your senses in it's own silent way… Cool. I couldn't help imagining the utter chaos, the heat, noise & light, the explosion it's firey arrival must have caused. What a grand entrance THAT must have been.
The Caprivi strip proved to be heavily forested, & the campsites along the Okavango river are run by some of the most amazingly hospitable people it's been my privilege to meet…
Salt of the Earth living in Rundu. Why ? Why ? Why ? Maybe it's the boat trips…
On the Okavango river, we shared the February full moon rise from dining table chairs balanced on the deck of a rickety boat, with eager eyed crocs, in Angola.
Crossing into Botswana was easy… African efficiency of course, but all pleasant, with not a hint of corruption on either side… Lekker.
Drotskies campsite, on the banks of the Okavango's another "Must visit"… As was "Ngepi" before it, in the Caprivi… Hippy… Very hippy… Carved out of the jungle.
It's a long, straightforward drive to Maun, down the Western flank of the delta. Bugger all to see except for donkeys, lots of donkeys.
From Maun international, we took a fantastic helicopter flight over the delta… Such a great experience… Big game everywhere… Unseen, except from the air, & the little chopper got in quite close. Barry, a very skilled pilot, was fully aware of the disturbing effect our presence could have, & got the most out of every encounter.
The highlight of this trip so far… Terrific.
Just as quickly as it started, February's visit was over, & tomorrow we're back to "solo" with the remote backroads of Botswana beckoning.
Nyati used to be ze only overland mobile home drawing attention. Plenty of "overland busses", rooftop specials…trailers… stuff like zat… but now…
A monster, double axled, 6 wheel drive Unimog came rolling in from Switzerland… 350 high tech horse power wrapped in a mean looking aluminium body. I zought I could hear ze computers arguing…humming over ze rumbling of ze engine…
A very cool machine.
Nyati hadn't even settled down after a fit of envy before, bugger me, in growled an ex Dakar rally support vehicle… A seriously sick TRUCK Man, oh yeah.
Zis MAN truck was obviously on steroids, used in the 2013 rally und, except for ze new (tiny) accommodation module, was in original condition straight from ze Volkswagen factory… Detlief, told me he had 8 more overlander trucks like zis, at home, in Deutschland…
"It's my hobby", he said. "Really ?… Don't let Nyati know". "Ja, und my sons have some too"… Loudly.
A nice guy, Detlief, but zis wasn't going well…
Nyati wanted to move to anozer site…
I wanted to use ze on-board toilet, have a nice long hot shower und cook a roast in ze oven while watching a DSTV replay of "Ze last days of ze reich" on ze HD, flat screen TV. while laying on my big, "Saint Claire" double bed from home. I casually walked back und forz from ze back into ze cab a few times… Sat und swivelled in ze chair a bit… You know… "lookit me, I don't even have to get out, to get ein beer".
One zing we DID learn is zat ze Swiss have less, if it's possible, of a sense of humour zan ze Germans.
Ze Gypsy sidled over to ze big Moggie und casually ran ze fingers over one of ze fuel tanks, und while rubbing ze fine dust between ze zum und ze forefinger, asked Herr Swiss, "How do ze komputers manage in ze desert dust" ?
Zere wasn't time to reply before Frau Swiss was washing ze whole damn tank mit great vigour und determination.
Zat was zat… No more polite small talk. Hee Hee.
I swear I heard Nyati's exhaust brake… Burp, burp burp.
But ze day wasn't over yet…
Just as Frau Swiss finished straightening ze carpet under ze stairs, und started washing ze Moggie's high lift exhaust stain off ze cab, into camp comes ze ultimate mobile home…
Ein houseboat… Eish… Now zis is getting ridiculouz.
Anozer nice guy on his way to ze Chobe… He lives in Luderitz, so we were virtually related. Oh ja… He had a beautiful watch dog travelling mit too… Guess what it was… A bloody big GERMAN Shepherd… What else… Hey hey… Nice doggie.
Ze Deutsch DO view Namibia as ein home from home… But zey certainly make ze most of everyzing zey do here… Zey are meticulous… Zo "Un-African".
I'm a little conzerned zat eich bein influenced by zis cloze azoziation mit zem. Achtung, Achtung… Anozer grosse beir bitte… Hee hee.
Ah, yes, at last… I'm feeling happier about things mechanical. Since arriving in Windhoek, I hadn't been able to find anyone open & welcoming to sort out the various niggling problems we've developed driving here on those raggedy old back roads… The roads less travelled… Hell, they were lucky to get Nyati roll over them.
The brakes weren't niggling… They were serious… a potential disaster every time we came around a corner & any mountain pass became a downhill nightmare. For me, that is… Nyati didn't flinch. Provided we were using one gear lower than usual, Nyati simply growled slowly downhill, the vacuum brake holding us like a new Mother grips her pram.
I smiled when an old, former Namibian farmer in Port Nolloth told me he uses his 911 daily… He said they call them, "bring me home" trucks… Nice.
After waiting an extra week for Emo to open his garage, it became obvious he was doing us a hellofa big favour just by laying hands on Nyati at all. Trucks really aren't his thing.
Yes, the brakes are now working, well too… "So they should be, they're new, they've hardly been used" !!! (You should have seen the German faces when I told them that… Teutonic humour doesn't stretch that far.)
For the work on the brakes, I AM grateful to him but there's other stuff needing specialised attention.
The idling/cutout switch's in pieces, air filter bracket & radiator overflow've broken off, inverter on/off switch's choked itself to death in the heat & dust… Stuff like that. Not to mention the camelthorn that must have bent down lower to look at us when the Gypsy drove under & ripped the top awning off… The broken window… You know, those unmentionables. When we get back from Etosha, Nyati's going to need another thorough lubrication service too…
Oh what I'd give to be in Hermanus… I'd ask Mrs. Kearney. I'm not though… "This's Windhoek… Dig deeper Man".
Ziggy Neuman built most of Urbancamp for Bernard… "Aha… A builder… A kindred spirit… He'll speak the right language, albeit overlayed with a heavy German accent".
He did, he understood the need for less talk, more do, & introduced me to Dieter… Dieter's in the business of servicing & repairing… Trucks.
One look at Nyati's NU number plate & Dieter dropped the Afro-German for the language of his Natal school days… Hallelujah… He speaks "Can do".
Since being at Urbancamp Nyati's been surrounded by other "overland" trucks… Check out the big red bugger… The"Rotel" unit… That's only half of the thing… There's still an accommodation module almost the same size, that everyone sleeps in tagged on behind… A behemoth… Truly a monster… Hee Hee…Imagine digging THAT out.
Urbancamp's been another stroke of good fortune for us. Situated more or less slap bang in central Windhoek, Nyati's always halfway to wherever we want to go…
As in Cape Town, where whatever you want's always on the otherside of the mountain. Windhoek has a Northern & Southern industrial area… If the aluminium canopy framing's done in one, be SURE, the guy to resew the zip's in the other.
We've had rain here too… Beautiful, heavy, rain… Sunshine, rain & splendid evenings… Splendid, because also staying at Urbancamp for a short while were Jac. & Vince… An English overlanding couple first met at "Amanzi River camp", on the Orange River. How great to see familiar faces… English speaking too… That's not all… Jac. seems to be addicted to G & T's… Oh yeah… She pours a serious one… Ice… Slices of lime…Everything… Mmmmmm… Lots of gin… Mothers ruin. I felt it my duty to help her, to keep her company…
It's not nice to drink alone you know.
Vince's posting a really cool blog of their extensive travels… Well worth reading…check it out.
City life’s more or less the same worldwide…
Windhoek’s going to be “home” for a while, so not having any genuine “wild animals” to view, I’ve turned my attention to all these good people wandering around here, projecting their own image of entitlement & self importance.
How do they do it ?
How do they manage their demons, their secret fears…?
Some of them’ve got nothing…
When it rains, they get wet, they burn under the sun everyday… Sleep where they lay…
King of the pavement…”Me…my spot, go away”… Like that.
Others drive past, intently… “Don’t let this traffic slow me down…Oh hell”… Onto the horn, flashers… “Get outta my way”.
I watched as a Woman drove into oncoming traffic, around an ambulance stopped at some arbitrary (to her) pavement tragedy, hooting, gesticulating wildly… Phone at the ear… Was it the traffic, or secret demons driving her ?
They pour into “Joe’s”…
How do any businesses survive ? Listening to this lot, almost without exception, their bosses’re arseholes, incompetent wankers.
Most sentences I eavesdropped on, began with, “Ja, boet, I fucking told him”… & ended with, “Ja, so he can fucking take it or fucking leave it”…
No respect, no love… Demons, fear ?
Down go the drinks… Beers, spirits, shooters…
Up go the voices… Everyone’s talking, no-one’s listening.
Jesus, Man, it’s only half past four… What’re these young guys doing ? Drowning their demons ? Masking fears ? What ?
What am I doing here ?
“I’m exploring Windhoek of course”.
Yesterday it was the Namibian Art Gallery…but this’s much better.
“Walking puts you close to the ground”…
“Keeps you in your groove”.
“Mmmm…. Sure” ?
Joe’s beerhouse’s one of the more colourful “local watering holes” around here…
Feels like a very lekker “tourist trap” to me…
The usual crop of almond eyed hookers hovering in the corner.
Tall, attentive Herero barmen patrolling, quick with a fill up.
Old “Africana” hanging from, propped up against, nailed onto & balanced on, everything, everywhere.
Dingy… But oh so very cool.
The kind of joint that makes you wish you could retire & “have one of these on the beach at home”.
Be careful what you wish for !!
So, Ja, the personal demons…
Watching this slice of Windhoek’s population… Same as London, Sydney, Durban… Anywhere.
“Sometimes you’ve gotta bleed to know”.
I was lucky… I had love.
A deep, unconditional, all consuming, God given LOVE.
Oh yeah… An almost violent emotional condition…
Nothing else mattered…
I was a spinning dynamo…She was the switch…
Anything…everything was easy…natural.
I became “WE”.
No demon could show itself then…
“We” would run it down, like a juggernaut, flatten it, not even feel the bump.
I miss that now…long gone… but as a consequence, my view of the world is from a different angle…
I KNOW now….
I may be “knocking on heavens door”, but when I see life happening… I KNOW.
Maybe some of the demons’re still around, but I can recognise them.
They’re bruised… Impotent now…
“We” did that.
Have any of these people got it ?
I’m not well versed in religious writings…
So I’ll just have to make a presumption…
When Jesus said, “turn the other cheek”.
I think He meant, “Drop the ego”.
It’s so easy… Our demons feed off fear.
Fear feeds off our egotistical desire not to be seen to fail, even to come off second best.
John Lennon, among so many others, sang, “All you need is LOVE”.
The scriptures, religious writings from around the world’re full of the same message.
For what it’s worth… I believe it too.
Nyati’d climbed up the Gamsberg pass, over the Hakosberg range, on the road to Windhoek…
Cresting the final rise, puffing & panting with exertion, there it was…
The most unattractive, uninviting signboard you’ve ever seen… On a tree…
Hakos guest farm…
Perfect for astronomy…
On top of a mountain… Nothing within miles…Isolated.
Certainly no “light pollution” here… Ideal.
The underskin tingling started then…
On the road…7km before…
Nyati’s wheels standing in a lekker little rainwater puddle. Nice to see, but that uneasy feeling persisted… Niggling.
“Mmmm… I don’t like this place”.
Rolling down the rutted farm road I wondered at the hair standing up on my arms…
“Ja, such a crap road”…
“10 moving tons”…
But it wasn’t that.
Nyati parked on the only piece of paving in front of a huge iron gate…
Acute angle… The wheel chock was essential.
I could hear the bell inside.
Eventually… As I was turning to leave “mein host” shambled into view through the half opened door… Big… Heavy… Unkempt… A nasty, open gash on his right leg.
No charm whatsoever.
“I need to camp for the night”.
“N$130… No telescopes to hire… It’s raining”
Eish… I stepped back, looked up & held my hand out, palm up…You know, the way you do any time an estate agent tells you, “It’s raining”.
“Do you have Wi-Fi” ?
“N$50 extra… My wife’s away in Windhoek”.
Oh, shit… I didn’t ask… Why tell ?
I looked around carefully, listening, full of
There’s gotta be something…
You know… A bat out of hell… A hunchback… Transvestites…
Yes…& all these telescopes staring out into space ?
Weird Man… Very weird… Maybe it’s me.
Found the campsite, without any help or directions, to hell & gone, over the hill…deserted & rundown…
No sign of recent use.
Where IS everybody ? Anybody ?
Nyati parked facing out, & I slept fitfully, ill at ease, a lump under my pillow, hoping I wouldn’t need to use it, & wondering what the hell we were doing here.
“Why not just leave…find somewhere else” ?
“No… Fuck it… We’re stronger than that”.
We left very early…
No ritual walk around…
Pressures up… Numbers good… Go.
Didn’t even remove the big thorn bush branches I’d jammed against the doors…
Just bloody drove out.
So after all this angst…
Bad gut feel…
Imagination running wild…
Nothing happened, nothing at all.
What IS it about that place ?
Maybe sometimes what we perceive to be an unpleasant experience, is simply a manifestation of our personal insecurities at the time.
On another day Hakos might be full of fun & light… Not THIS day though.
Perhaps a party of genuine astronomers would enjoy the facilities here, but I just couldn’t shake off the weird vibe & anti-social reception.
After a few kilometres, I started to relax, laughed & stretched my muscles.
Nyati flew along, giggling too, I thought.
What a stupid night…
I didn’t like that place, not one bit.
So… What the hell ?… We’ve got all day, no plans… Let’s get into Windhoek… Establish a base & focus on checking out Nyati’s brakes.
The grapevine was in full flow…
Hennie, of BLV fame, put me in touch with Emo Steiner, who has a service centre here.
Urbancamp’s designed around & caters for overlanders…
It reminded me of arriving at Matwapa Creek in Kenya…
Nothing’s too much trouble… Everything’s possible… Swimming pool… Bar & restaurant…
Hey hey hey… Open Wi-Fi too.
A perfect base of operations, 15 minutes stroll from Windhoek centre…
“Be sensible”, I thought.
“Walk into town early tomorrow… Before it gets too hot & you make a fool of yourself”.
“Remember what the ‘Old Lady’ used to say”.
That’s why I was lolling around the pool, in the shade, sipping on an ice cold lager.
Passing another difficult day in Africa…
Hot though… “I wonder HOW hot. Maybe this bloody smart phone will show me”.
On with the Wi-Fi, on with the Data roaming & into “Google”
Up it comes & tells me to SPEAK…
To say “O.K. Google”.
Hell Man, I don’t want to be SEEN talking to my phone…
Anyway, casually, out of the side of my mouth, leaning over, not to be spotted, I obey, & say it…”OK Google”.
“Plink”… Up comes the word, “Listening”.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT ???
So, trying to remember why I was doing this, & not be noticed, I said, “temperature”
HAIBO !!!! SOME SEXY CHICK CLEARLY SAYS…
“It’s 36 degrees in Windhoek”.
I FELL OUT OF THE HAMMOCK MAN !!!
I looked into the lens, front & back…
“Was she watching” ?
“Quickly, quickly… Ask her something else… You know… Get her to talk dirty”.
Ah, yes, we're back to spectacular beauty. Desolate & barren, but here we go again… WOW.
After climbing up from the desert onto the plateau, Nyati rolled across hundreds of kilometres of flat country, wedged between mountain ranges & massive sand dunes, some red, some not so… A wonderful sight. This's such a tough place… Everything survives on the absolute minimum here, maybe less. The animals, plants, & to some extent, the people too. At the first drop of rain there's a shift, from survival, to growth by miniscule increments… Nothing flashy. The water doesn't lay around in dams or lakes evaporating. It's swallowed, held in secret… Underground, kept for the future… Hell, there might not be any more for 10 or 20 years. What an amazing place… SO completely different from sub-tropical Natal.
Soussus vlei's got a hellofalot of red sand dunes & some very old dead trees… Us tourist types love it… Of course we do… It's NATURE Man…Bloody hot too.
Driving North, up & over the mountains, this awesome Namibia changes from hostile, utterly intimidating desert, to green bushveld… Still empty, but more like planet Earth.
There's no "cut & fill" here, no REAL civil engineering, the roads're simply a hardened strip up & over the hills, down & through the valleys… Like a roller coaster Man… Exciting driving… Yee haa !!
Nyati's still mostly following the roads less travelled… C & D roads. I think they're designated C = Corrugated. & D = Destructive.
The Gypsy's got other ideas… Unprintable of course. Got a bit carried away with himself… Mmmm… Call it over enthusiastic, if you will… Oh Yeah.
"Fuck Kilroy, we're out of the desert".
Buck jumped Nyati over a hidden ditch. Utterly destroying any semblance of order in the back… Utterly. Broke a window too… Stuff flying everywhere… Bloody naughty.
Some "roads" need a sign… "If you can find it, you can drive on it".
Then the tropic of Capricorn took me by surprise… Lousy pic… I hope it "zooms".
Nyati overnighted at the Soussus oasis desert campsite. Check out the ablution buildings, especially the roofs… Eish.
Nyati's never had good brakes… Thank God for the gearbox, vacuum brake & a sense of anticipation. Perhaps it's my imagination, I don't think so, they're getting worse.
I've decided to make a slow run for Windhoek & get them sorted out. Hennie of BLV fame's recommended a mechanic there, so it won't be a "hit 'n miss" affair… Thanks Hennie.
Windhoek's up & over a couple of steep mountain passes.
So, leaving day dawned… of course it did. Irritated ? Agitated ? Yup.
Lucas'd washed Nyati down…
I hadn't noticed the slow accumulation of dust & salt. Nyati was covered in a thick coating, built up over the month we'd been happily parked in our prime spot… Camouflaged… Part of the island… Blending in…
Gleaming now though.
Leaving Luderitz, I started to wonder what the hell I was doing out here again. Still alone. That bitch Cindy had only been in it for the turkey… No fool like an old fool… Oh yeah.
I should'nt allow myself to settle. It was like this, lump in the throat stuff, leaving De Rust, I'd settled there too.
Luderitz had everything I needed… Well… nearly everything… You know ?
The 14kgs of gas from Upington finally ran out…Haircut too…Not bad…3 months. I switched over to the second bottle & Matthew fetched a refill… Life's easy here. I won't try the "black brothers" hair salon though… No no… Windhoek's close enough.
I've used some of the time to make a belt each for Zoe & Aidan… They're complete now except for staining, & I'm happy to have produced something tangible, something real, other than just a string of words.
After topping up with fuel & carrying full water tanks, Nyati rolled out of town… Heavy.
Oh how quickly we forget… I'd badly underestimated both the incredible heat & the long, long climb, through the Namib Desert, away from the coast, up to the Huib-Hoch Plateau.
After about 120 overloaded kms, Nyati's temperature gauge had gradually climbed to over 100c. The wind was behind us… Helping, but not cooling at all, so I stopped for a while.
"If you're flying or sailing, always err on the side of conservatism". So said Kilroy in the Maldives… I can now add, "Driving in the desert".
The last thing we want are engine problems.
Climbing down to stand under the midday sun, in this ancient desert, I realised just how vunerable we are without our technology. The wind burned my skin… I couldn't touch Nyati… I wished I had an egg.
What a hellofa place… This's raw nature… A hard place, with lots of rocks… One mistake & you're between them… We all claim to love it… I'm wondering why.
It only took a couple of minutes, & I was pulling another ice cold waterbottle out of the fridge… Thank you Nyati.
Feeling despondent, missing the daily passing of dolphin & the cool Atlantic breeze, I decided to cut the day short &, once Nyati'd reached working temperature, ducked into Klein Vista's campsite… I feel like a local. It's familiar, & they've got Wi-Fi at the reception, maybe there'll be cheerful news.
Oh God, I wish I hadn't… One of my tenants hasn't paid his rent, & another got mugged, high-jacked or something… All very sketchy… No details… I hope everyone's okay. Maybe it IS safer out here, deep in the burning Namib.
Rain !! We had rain last night… Not enough to dampen the sand… But it was rain, a good sign.
Giulio's a young Spaniad cycling around the world… Around the WORLD Man ! He's been doing it for over 5 years ! Today was a rest day & he took a fancy to Nyati… It must've looked like a hotel to him. A terrific Guy, I wish him luck… Of course, Guys like him make their own good fortune… His glass's always half FULL.
Nyati's had enough moping, so we got out onto the road early, headed towards Soussus vlei. There's a D road, D707 that skirts between the mountains & the desert… Reputed to be the most scenic in Namibia… We found & followed it… Very lekker, everywhere's dusted with green… Almost subliminal, but it's there. This's a big deal out here, it's life & death stuff. The Gemsbok are EVERYWHERE more than I've ever seen… Many of them're trapped on the wrong side, between the fence designed to keep them off the road, & the road.
Hey hey, they can't outrun Nyati, not downhill anyway. It's spectacular the way they kick their front legs into the sand & switch direction at full speed… Big animals… Amazing evasive tactics… Obviously instinctive, because they ALL do it… Young & old.
Wild horses too. This area's renowned for its desert horses… Wild… Feral. They're obviously happy here, because there're more wild horses than you could poke a stick at in a long day.
Nyati'd just pulled into the shade under a huge camelthorn tree to overnight, when I noticed a lovely rain squall approaching from the West…
If this was the S.Y.Enigma, we'd eagerly change course to intercept that wonderful gift of fresh water. Wash down the decks, close the scuppers, fill the tanks & then all dance around taking unlimited fresh water showers in the flow off the sun awnings. Great days… Simple pleasures.
I always thought THAT water would be what Angels pee tasted like, but couldn't say so… You know why.
Have you ever run around in the rain, mouth open, trying to catch a drop on your tongue ?
This squall passed by though…bugger… It's okay… There'll be others… We're starting the rainy season.
The South African holiday influx is over… Reversed. You could feel it yesterday, they started eying the road home… Loose stuff got packed away. The maps came out. Routes back towards the different border crossings became the most common topic of conversation… Which's the closest, most direct, the quickest ?
"We've gotta get back to Josie boet, back to work".
"Really… Ag, shame Man… Why" ?
Now, it's only the second day, & they've ALL gone… Nyati's completely alone on the island… It's weird.
The Gypsy doesn't like it, not one bit.
New Year's Eve was great… Very festive. There were groups of people spread around the island…braais everywhere.
Strolling around, I met some serious, what we call "Dutchmen". Huge, humorous creatures, happy in their natural environment… Outdoors, hovering over a cooking fire. Overgenerous, to a fault, with their "before you go, try one of this"… Insistent actually.
Have you ever eaten a "Skilpodjie" straight off the braai ? I'm told the direct interpretation is "tortoise". Mmmmm…They're delicious but… Jesus, Man… Call me old fashioned, I still braai steak, boerewors & chops… If you have to have veggies, it's a potato… Mielie at a push… Skilpodjies ? ?
I'd been invited to have dinner with Marie & Delio, a couple of very experienced travellers from Italy… Great guys… Wonderful fillet steak too.
Amazingly, the wind had stopped blowing for the last two days of the year, resulting in magnificent sunsets, bringing the year to a spectacular end.
Shark Island's been the perfect "bolt-hole" for Nyati. Cool in so many senses of the word…
Just 20 minutes walk from Luderitz central where everything's available, with the Atlantic Ocean keeping temperatures very pleasant.
Then there's Johnny, Matthew, Lucus & Wilson, four friendly guys working here, who drop in most days to chat & check that everything's okay on board Nyati.
I've been very happy here, but the Gypsy's starting to play up.
Now that everyone's left, I find myself pondering the route to Windhoek… Nyati only needs to be there in February, so there's plenty of time & I'm reluctant to leave… Sad even. The Island's so cool, comfortable, & safe.
"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened".
It's time… 2016…Wild side…Here we come…
Oh sure… There'll be highs & lows… There'll be tears & there'll be joy…