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Monday, May 24, 2010

Been Through the Desert on a Horse with No Name

We love Opuwo. It is a small town in Northwest Namibia. It isn't in the guidebooks. We just happened upon it due to circumstances. We had emerged from a week or so journey through the Palmwag Conservancy driving north through dry riverbeds, gorgeous arid mountains and sandy dunes; we were desperately in need of a shower and fresh food.

We started at Swakopmund on the west coast of Namibia a week or so earlier. One night at dinner we met Wayne, aka "Horse with no Name", and his beautiful anthropologist wife, Jenn, who rattled off a route north up dry river beds and over remote desert stretches. Wayne knows every mile of Namibia. We wrote the place names as fast as we could because we didn't have a map with us. The next morning we drove south up the coast, past Henties Bay, to the dry Messum River where we turned east heading away from the coast. This desert looks like Nevada or Arizona with no roads or people. We stopped at Messum Crater and drove up the river for 2 days towards to a circle of small mountains. We eventually broke through the mountains onto a dirt road to the Ugab River where we had to go in 4 low and air down through deep sand. Amazing camp sites on the Ugab and some scary noises in the night. At that point we were far from lions or elephants but didn't know that yet. The Ugab is like the Snake River with (almost) no water and driving the car up river is like a kayak trip. Spent 2 days on the Ugab and came out on a secondary dirt road; we checked out some bush paintings on the rocks and went to a town called Khorixas for a shower and food restock.

The next day we drove up to the confluence of the Ugab and the Sout River, continuing up the Sout. We found bushman art at the first wet spot in the river bed and took pics. We got more worried about lions as we progress north so we stayed near the car. Peeing has never been so exciting. We drove down the Sout River for a couple days then up the Haub River. The sand was deep and the camping was world class. We saw small animals like jackles and some springbok…the trees and vegetation started getting greener.

The upper Haub was swampy and Corrin rode the front bumper for a mile or so saving 12 small stinky turtles from sudden death by Land Cruiser. This stretch of the river had slowed to a trickle no wider than the ruts left in the road and the small little guys didn't stand a chance against our big fat Bridgestones.

We got back on the main gravel road toward Palmwag and the Aub Canyon. We went to the park office, got a day pass and refilled our fuel and water. The first day we only drove for a couple hours on slow rocky 4x4 roads and camped at the head of Aub Canyon.

The next day we hit the western trail and drove rolling desert hills over terrain that looked like Mars. We camped on Mars dropping into the Haonib River canyon the next day. The animals were getting bigger and bigger; we saw zebra, tons of springbok and oryx. In the Haonib we saw several giraffe families and were hot on the trail of some dessert elephants as we started seeing elephant poops and tracks.

We camped one night on the Haonib and went upriver toward the Elephant Song Rest Camp which was listed on our map and our GPS as deserted due to lions. Just before the end of the Haonib River we found our first desert elephant basking in the sun, drinking water and ripping up reeds. We met a family at Elephant Song that had reopened the camp. The lion problem was just one gate guard that had been eaten a few years back. The guy gave us a clipboard showing a car that got clubbed by an elephant, using a Mopane Tree limb, back in '99 to help sell his guiding services. We told him that we camped in the river fine, with no elephants clubbing our car. So far we have learned basic elephant tracking: elephants don't like flash cameras or flashlights, car alarms and you shouldn't camp under a Mopane Tree because it is their favorite food. We camped in the bush because Corrin thought the Elephant Song Camp was too getto and drove 20k to the small villiage of Sesfontain the next day. We were told that we could get everything we needed in Sesfontain, except fresh produce, which is all we needed, so we decided to drive to the nearest town to restock.

The town of Opuwo happens to be where some of the Himba Tribes settled after Namibias struggle for Independences in the 80's. Himbas still dress in skins, cover their bodies in red clay and adorn their hair in red clay dreads. We went to the Himba Village next to our camp site to buy wood last night and it was like going back a thousand years. The women were singing and dancing. All the young girls had babies on their backs. Today we will go downtown, post our pics and blog before going deeper into the desert to a larger Himba Village. We have been told to bring presents if we want to take pics so Corrin stocked up on honey, tea and other goods. I thought she should bring tobacco and alcohol, what they really want, but she disagreed.

We'll post our paparazzi shots later.

Glenn (and Corrin)

1 comment:

  1. We have enjoyed yet another fabulous blog entry. You both look happy and healthy. Of course Dave wants to know if there have been any near death experiences.....yet. Home is good, garden is wonderful as are the "chickie girls". Big, Big, BIG love to you both, DP