Windhoek to Sesriem @ 47Celsius
Dec 25, 2018
|Today's itinerary Christmas day
Enjoy the dramatic Namibian landscapes as we drive to the desert area of Sesriem, gateway to Namib-Naukluft National Park. Settle in to our desert lodge, relax at the pool, or enjoy a cool drink watching the stunning sunset over the deserts cape. Enjoy postcard perfect desert scenery around Sesriem and Sossusvlei - vast desertscapes of reds and orange, stark camel thorn trees and towering dunes with dramatic curved ridges. Also keep an eye out for the surprising amount of wildlife that call this area home such as oryx, springbok, jackal, ground squirrel and hyena.
Christmas Day, a 65th birthday and a desert 55 to 80 million years old
Today is another big travel day. We were up at 530 a.m., showered, had breakfast at 630 a.m., luggage was out at 715 and we were off at 730 a.m. Our bus was a great coach with electronic chargers under the seats. Great idea! We each got our own two seats to ensure we were comfortable. Dion passed the mic over to me to announce Chris's birthday today. I almost shared how old she is today but managed to stop the words before they came out ... Our bus was weighed and we then headed off on road B1 for our 8 hour bus ride to Sesriem. We learned signs warning of warthogs crossing are very common. The sign is much like our deer or moose crossing. It is a lovely red triangle with white interior and a black warthog in the center of the sign. Hilarious. I imagine if you hit a warthog it would do damage though - they look pretty bulky.
Namibian history, Population, Industry, Schools, Health care
South West Africa gained independence from Germany in 1990 and was named Namibia. It is the youngest country in Africa. The first president of Namibia was Sam Nujoma. We drove by Heroes' Acre monument where he is buried which is just outside of Windhoek. The population of Namibia is 2.63 million. Land of the Brave is the national anthem. Windhoek, the capital, has a population of 200,000. There are 13 main ethnic groups - the main ethnic groups are Ovambo, Kavango, Herero, Himba, Damara, Nama, Caprivian, San and Tswana. School is free and the mother tongue and English are spoken in the schools. Namibia is known for it's game hunting and mining industries - uranium, diamonds, marble, granite (4 different colors). Exports include diamonds, copper, gold, zinc, lead, uranium, cattle, white fish, mollusks, and granite which is imported to Italy. Dion informed us granite is found where you see Acacia trees. Acacia trees have a long pin like root system that can extend 300-400 meters. It is the only root system that can go through granite. Interesting! I thought nothing goes through granite! Coal is a major source of energy and India is a major importer of this coal. Dion shared a very interesting tidbit - South Africa currently has 1 nuclear reactor and is planning on building 6-8 new reactors by 2030. China and Russia have bid to supply these reactors. Dion explained that Namibia has welfare. In fact at one point we passed a town called Rehoboth which has an unemployment rate of 70%! Most people have Health Care (either private or government sponsored) and neonatal mortality is 30%. The highest incidence of mortality is in females due to child birth. Docs without borders practice in Namibia.
Weather and Geology
The average rainfall is 370 mm, mostly from January to May. Dion mentioned Namibia can get 1 hour of rainfall and then be done for the year. Insects, being black, have managed to survive by collecting mere water condensation in a matter of only 20 minutes each day. I was surprised to learn on Google that overnight frost can occur in the winter. No Way! Frost? We passed mountain ranges which Dion called the Extrusion mountains. We stopped at some rock formations where Dion explained the earth was formed 3.8 to 4 billion years ago and the rocks we were viewing were 45 to 50 million years old. Namibia was once covered by a glacier (Gaya glacier?) and eventually a super lake from Namibia to Ethiopia. Stromatolite rock like structures formed. These are formed from cyanobacteria and expel oxygen as a by-product. This was very important for the origin of life. Extrusion rock is essentially lava from the earth's core that breaks into bolders and lands up as sand. Rocks become flat due to the weight of the glaciers. Granite is very plentiful in Namibia, most is imported to Italy. Dion told us if you rub two pieces of quartz together you can start a fire. We saw an interesting calcium deposit replacing where an abundant waterfall once flowed. Dion informed us there are only 2 of these in the world - the other one is in Peru. Rather than cutting rock out of the mountain the calcium actually buildups up the mountain. In 2 million years the mountain will be built up to the road we are on. Insane!
Flora and fawna
We drove by Weaver nests galore. These birds weave huge nests on the NE side of trees. This keeps the eggs warm. Yes North, not South LOL. We are after all in the very far Southern Hemisphere. We saw a communal weavers nest which was insane. Dion told us these nests can get as big as the tree and in fact the tree will fall over. 4000 to 5000 birds can live in one of these nests and it is an excellent attraction for snakes and monitors. GREEEEATTT!! We saw skinks, rock monitors (who live on bird eggs and can grow 2 meters), wild ostriches (running aross the road), sable antelopes, Sicamore fig trees and Quiver trees. The bushmen would hide their quivers in these Quiver trees. So why did the Ostrich run across the road? Because it was 47 degrees that's why! We stopped to check out an aloe plant. Dion picked me as his victim and had me taste this aloe. It was the most bitter taste ever! Dion mentioned the tribe women would use the aloe on their breasts to wean babies. Well I can certainly understand how effective that would be! I think it took days to get that taste out of my mouth. We saw a man with a donkey and cart and realized this may be the Namibian version of a sleigh ride. After all it is Christmas day! We learned about Karakul (?spelling) goat skins fetching $800 per skin. I'm not sure what kind of goat skin this is and can only assume it is the skin of a newborn goat which is bloody awful. We saw horses along the ditches. Dion explained in Namibia (Etosha) we would see black rhinos with horns (versus the Rhinos in Kruger and Karnongwe without horns). It is a serious crime to poach in Namibia. We saw lots of sheep and passed by a hamlet of 20 people. Dion told us zebras keep wildebeests close by. Wildebeest are not smart and will get picked off by predators before the zebra. The zebras use this to their advantage and survival of their species.
Nauklift National Park and Sossusvlei Lodge
We arrived at Nauklift National Park, the largest game park in the world. Nauklift means "no cliff". We stopped to learn about the insane sand dunes of this country, particularly the fossilized sand dunes. The world's oldest dunes. The Namib desert has endured arid and semi-arid conditions for up to 80 million years. Ask me if it was overwhelming to stand here as just a small speck in time. The black dunes are the oldest and contain iron ore which can totally mess up a compass. The red dunes are created from ocean winds. The white dunes are the youngest. These fossilized dunes do not move. Dion showed us how to determine which side of the dune is towards the ocean and told us the wind switches for about 2 hours every day. We would later come to enjoy that wind very much in the evenings. We finally arrived at Sossusvlei Lodge at 2 pm. We checked in and I finalized arrangements for Chris' birthday cake. I ordered this cake on June 28. It was pretty easy to do this since I reviewed where we would be that day and emailed the Lodge. It was roasting hot - apparently 47 degrees Celsius. We had a beer and then a cool shower and a power nap. To be honest I think we were all very dehydrated. Rick and I discovered we had a small gecko squatter in our bathroom. We also discovered a family of cats living on our deck, checked out the curio shop, then had our little White Elephant gift exchange. The exchange was great. A little bit of Christmas gift giving that was not serious and quite fun. Dinner was over the top amazing. This lodge puts on quite a buffet including various brai stations with various meats grilling over the BBQ. Incredible food!!! And what scenery. There is even a watering hole close by to view animals partaking of water. Finally our group was winding up their meals and I requested the cake and sing along for Chris. This ended up being a bit of a disaster because being Christmas day there was actually singers and entertainment which needed to be completed before Chris's cake came out. Many of our group left. It was pretty challenging to not wreck the surprise but I think Chris was pretty oblivious as many times the waiter and maitre D came to chat with me. Anyway, those that stayed enjoyed a great sing along and an amazing chocolate cake. It was the most decadent chocolate cake I have ever had. There was vey little flour in that cake and I am sure it was 90% chocolate. We only got through half of this cake. I am still in shock about how ridiculously cheap that cake was. 300 Namibian dollars for a beautifully decorated cake that served 20-30 servings. That is roughly 30 Canadian bucks. The cake was bundled up and taken to the kitchen for us to enjoy tomorrow. Speaking of which we retired pretty quickly after the cake since we had to be up at 430 to head out to Dune 45 and Deadvleit. 430!!!