Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Namibia Means Nobody

Getting into Sesriem was nice. It meant getting to see some of the
world's largest dunes, and it also meant that I would be riding after
the rest day. Sesriem is the gateway to Sossusvlei. It is a tourist
set-up with overpriced campsites and lodges. Carola and Nick talked
the lodge into a cheaper price, so I shed my camping life for a day of
privacy. I didn't go back to camp once. The arguing about the road
conditions is pretty intense, with some going as far as to say that
"If you can't hack it, you shouldn't be here". I'm also just tired of
everyone. You burn out after a while. Nothing like a cozy bed with
meals included to help that.
I even signed on for a tour of the dunes through the hotel (from the
sounds of it, better than the one through TDA - it included lunch).
I've worked hard this whole way, and I feel without a little bit of
privacy I might crack. Dinner included wild game. I sampled zebra
and kudu, springbok and ostrich. I had enough little morsels of
formerly cute herbivores to make a vegetarian want to throw red paint
at me.
The sleek line snakes its way down the dune, ochre on one side, pitch
black on the other. A pilgrimage of tourists slog their way up to the
top. I followed. After dune 54, we went to big mama, across from big
papa. We were allowed to run down the side (any trace would be gone
by morning), and so I did. It was the best experience, bounding
through the pillow-like snow.
We went to Death Valley, which looks like a Gothic film-set.
Blackened trees spindle upwards looking like Lavinia, post-revenge.
The trees died thousands of years ago, but the hardened and cracked
clay formed a cement-like adhesion to the roots, not allowing bugs to
enter and start the process of decay.
We got stuck a few times on the way back. We played leap-frog with
other cars, all getting out and helping to push when someone else got
stuck. The only way in to Sossusvlei is along the sandy riverbed. We
did get out though, and i spent the afternoon swimming and eating.
On the following morning I rode. I can now personally attest to
having mixed feelings about Henry's decision to make us ride this
route. It is incredibly beautiful here. It is so beautiful that,
even though I had to walk much of the way since the sand got too deep
and the patches were too long, I still loved it. Occasionally I saw
an antelope. Zebra crossing signs were everywhere. There was an
absence of humans which made the scenery all the more impressive, but
at the same time it makes the country feel very empty. I looked out
at the antelope in the golden fields, once again realizing that
somewhere out there lurks a lion or two.
When I woke I took advantage of the hotel breakfast. I didn't race to
a start like everyone else. I'm tired of having to get up at the
crack of dawn and to hurry from point a to point b. My rash hasn't
entirely healed, and so I will take it easy, going at the pace I want,
focusing on not sweating. I took countless photos and played leapfrog
with Xiao, the Chinese Lonely Planet guy who suffered from flats all
day. He came in to lunch with Erin, who was on sweep. That surprised
me as I thought I had ditched sweep.
We got on the truck at lunch. It was packed. It was quite wonderful.
All the positive people were on the truck - the ones who had given in
to the fact that they can't keep pace with the hard cores, and are
quite happy with riding until they feel like they no longer can. We
chatted and laughed and told jokes. We kept tracking the ever
changing scenery with our shutters. Camp was another little roadside
lodge, similar to the one in Solitaire. I slept in my tent, though
the rooms were 10$ (compared to the non-reduced rate of 200$ in
Sesriem). The restaurant served amazing apple cake, and we sat on
lookouts watching the sunset eating Spaghetti Bolognaise. We seem to
be having this a lot more often. James hates cooking it, but
apparently it's good for the soul. Everyone is much happier after a
hearty Spag Bol.
I've seen almost every sunrise and sunset for four months. I think
that is one of my greater accomplishments in life.

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