Once upon a time make
that twice upon a time we started off on a Safari for Africa. We travelled via London England and spent four days there, came
down to Cape Town South Africa and spend four days there, flew up to Windhoek Namibia and spend two days there and this morning
flew south with our party of 8 consisting of 6 adventurers plus 2 pilots on two aircrafts. We flew in Cessna aircrafts four
to each plane.
To board our aircraft
for our journey we had to go through security. There isn't another airport save and except 100's of dirt strips on our journey
south and why they were running us through security was a mystery to me. Of course I was spotted with something dangerous
in my duffle bag. I had bought a Benin Brass warrior about 6 inches tall and weighting half a ton which I had to fish out
of my bag by removing over a 100 personal pieces of clothing. I exaggerate. I got the okay and repacked my bags with several
t-shirts left over.
Now we boarded the aircraft.
Both Elizabeth and her girl friend Bev were nervous about flying on single engine Cessnas and took Ativan to calm their nerves.
In Elizabeth case she sat there like a zombie with a frozen body posture and
hands clasped between her legs and staring straight ahead. In the case of Bev she went directly back to the 60's an chattered
away and entertained us with her lively wit and dancing around she even got the munchies and wanted peanut butter.
What we flew over was
Arizona like landscape with limited vegetation, no habitation, flat sandy plains and mountains plunk down in the middle of
these areas. The colours were spectacular ranging from gradations of gray to red and yellow. Once in a while you would see
a dirt road leading from nowhere to nowhere. There is nary a gas station, MacDonalds, Inn
or anyone seemingly living here. However having said that let me say that all over the mountains were trails which I thought
were motorbike trails. Goats or other animals would not have made as many wide ranging trails as we saw. It takes about 6
hours by car while we did it in one hour by plane. We circled the field to scare off any animals and landed on a gravel strip
with a thump and loud noises from the gravel on our tires. A viewing jeep came out to meet us and take us to the Sossusvlei
Lodge which is located right on the edge of the Kalahari desert. You pronounce the Lodge Susieville. I will describe the desert
tomorrow. Right now we are suffering in this posh 5 star oasis camp consisting of accommodations that are tents. Some tents.
They have walls half way up on the sides and at one end a back patio with canvas awning, and on the other end is a permanent
building and serves as the entrance and washroom. Our patio has an unobstructed view of the velt or countryside and is spectacular.
The buildings, the sculptures, the tenting, the pathways and the scenery are picture perfect for some travel magazine to feature.
It was around noon and
after we were settled in our rooms our gang met for lunch. Elizabeth had grilled steak and cheese sandwich with a salad. I
had kufu game meat from an animal that is part of the antelope family. We all then either retired to have an afternoon nap
or ended up at the bar because it was where the wifi was available. Elizabeth slept and read while I tried to figure out how
to communicate with the rest of the world. If you are reading this you know I was successful. We had an opportunity to have
a sundowner drive but opted out since it is simply driving around the countryside until the sun begins to set then stopping
and drinking a toast of champagne to the setting sun. I figured we could do that just as well from the patio at the bar.
At six o'clock we gathered
for dinner on the main patio. There were about 40 tables set in different groupings with
the finest silverware, glasses and napkins awaiting the evening dinners. The sun sets quickly and dramatically and by 5 p.m.
it was dark. I took some lovely shots of blood red skies, shaded mountains and highlighted grasses.
When our gang had gathered we had a buffet meal. This was no Holiday Inn spread. You had your choice of
4 different salads, 4 different cold fish like salmon, creamed spinach and fat juicy escargot some of the best I have ever
tasted. If you wanted soup it was butternut squash for you to enjoy. This was only the beginning. The main course was a choice
of game meat done on a BBQ. There for the tasting was zebra, springbok, kufu, Oryx and more. Another area did greens and noodles
on a hot plate to complement the meat. Then there was dessert. Crème brule, lemon cake, chocolate brownies, fruit salad, tarts
and more cake. Coffee or tea, there were 15 different teas. Of course for the meal a bottle of wine was required to wash it
all down and of course I had some Cuban cigars which I have rationed myself to one every two days and I lit up one with
a glass of cognac. All this is quite different from the diminishing number of places I am allowed to light up Yorkville.
The sky overhead was
clear and dark velvety black with sparkling stars. There dead centre just like the big dipper that is known by most northern
peoples was the southern cross the main feature of the southern evening sky. Off in the distance a cluster of trees had been
lit to give a contrast to the dark countryside. No others lights could be seen. The candles on each of the tables and the
huddle guest in the cool of the evening completed the charming picture.
We dined for 2 hours
and then it was time to go to bed. As I write this I realize it is only 8:45 pm and I may go to sleep now instead of my usual
3 am in the morning. Mind you we have to be up at 5:45 am to drive to the great red sand dunes of the Namib desert. Roughing
it on a safari is hard but somebody has got to do it now that Stanley is gone. Night night!
This sandy beach is 300 miles long and 50 miles wide.
I came to Africa as anyone
who travels with preconceived notions of what it would be like. It was the dark continent where blacks had their lives stolen
and sent to slavery. A land explored by Europeans and exploited by them. Rich in resources of diamonds and minerals, and exotic
woods. Today what I have seen on the electronic media is wonderful nature films of the wildlife and terrain. I have also seen
the terrible poverty of some its people. The savage wars that kill thousands. The starvation of 1000's more. Africa is all
that but it is also. A land coming of age.
When you see the animals
of Africa in pictures it is often around a water hole or at a kill. The videos require action. However the pace on the savannah
of the animals is slow slow. It is hot out there. There is an interplay between all the animal actors. They all have to go
to a water hole for water. When you see herds of zebra, springbok and wildebeest stopped and heading towards water they know
lions are about. Only after the lions have taken a small, old or weak animal down do they get the green light to proceed to
the water hole.
Namibia is a land that
is pure, unadulterated space. And silence. And peace. And a chance to exhale. One morning I got up at 6 a.m. and sat in silence
an photographed the sun lighting a boulder hill across the valley for over an hour. This land the size of Ontario has been
luring adventurers and travelers and prospectors for centuries. Because of the Arizona desert landscape they call it the Beautiful
Its population is 1.8
million and English is the official language but Afrikaans, German and a number of indigenous languages are also widely spoken.
Hot days, cold nights, low rainfall generally; further northeast, there is more rain and the vegetation is greener. Windhoek
is its capital. The major generators of GDP are mining (mainly for diamonds and uranium), agriculture and tourism. Surprisingly
they produce as much fish as Newfoundland because of the cold current coming up the coast from the south. The main roads converging on Windhoek are tarred and secondary roads with gravel surfaces are graded regularly.
Something like rural Ontario roads. Interestingly Namibians are proud of the fact their country was the first to include protection
of the environment in its constitution. Nearly 16 per cent of the land is protected by National Park legislation. In Canada
it is 9 per cent. Mind you Namibia would fit into Ontario so the land mass is greater in Canada.
We are staying at Sossusvlei
at a most magnificent hotel just outside the gates to the park. We will be living in tents. Tents that are fit for the Queen
of England. The body of the tent is canvas with a patio and chairs for you sit and look out on the scenery. The back part
of the tent is a solid masonry building with an entrance and bathroom. The sides of the main tent are masonry as well. The main lodge is a sprawling complex of dining rooms, patios, bars and a swimming pool.
Artwork and sculpture abound set in low profile buildings.
At supper our first meal
we are offered what we really came for. Game meat. Oryx, wildebeest, zebra, ostrich, kufu and hart beast. Delicious not gamey
and more tasty then beef but not that different. The rest of the buffet is salads, soups, vegetables, and dessert that rivals
Paris. A glass of wine coffee a cigar and we are off to bed for our early start the next morning.
The dawn breaks and we
are off to see the great sand dunes of Sossusvlei. We drive into the park. It has been referred to as the winds Zen garden.
A plume of ostrich grass on a wind-combed red dune. A sinuous, sensuous curve of a star dune, the slip face lit red, the other
side in shadow. The crests are invariable red, but the lower parts are often a fine cream colour, sometimes with dark lines
that stress the dunes - signs of heavy minerals like ilmenite. Our guide took a small magnet and wrapped it in Kleenex and
spun it on the sand surface. Little grains of iron clung to it. That is what makes the dunes red.
Along the road, people
pull over to take pictures. I joined them unable to resist the contrasts of trees, grass and dunes. Each dune seems to have
its own character and personality. At dune 45 I am surprised that they haven't given them names but rather numbers since there
are so many. The colour of the sand, with its rusting (oxidizing) ferric-oxide incrustations in the sand grains, is a source
of amazement to our gang. It is at this point that I need a washroom. We come across an outhouse which we christen Outhouse
One and I do my duty.
We finally arrive at
one dune that has a name. It is called Big Daddy and it is some 388 meters high. Everyone save I decide to climb to its top.
I started out but my hip caused me to turn back because of the soft sand under footing. So off goes our gang. Don and his
wife Pam, plus Bev take on the top and Elizabeth and Colleen settle to visit and area to the right called the Dead Vlei. For
the latter group it is a 1.1 kilometer walk, following poles for markers across the rising and falling soft sand. The cream
floor of the pan, the stylized dead trees, and the brown-red sand that surrounds it on three sides are astounding. I assigned
Elizabeth to take photos with my small second camera.
In the meantime I find
a shady spot and low bough that serves as a seat on a camel-thorn tree. I follow their progress and watch people climb the
dune like a line of ants, moving steadily towards the top. I start taking pictures
of the two groups as they progress on their journey. They turn out not badly considering 1/8th of a mile distance I am taking
them at. I am enjoying my new camera. However on the scene other photographers appear. They carry the most astounding equipment,
heavy long lenses, and huge bodies. I get envious. Maybe I need "photographic Viagra".
One hour later all returned
thrilled with their adventure. Our guide now drives to a drying lake and under the sheltering camel-thorn tree we have a prepared
breakfast. The sparrows start chirruping beguilingly at us begging for crumbs that we are happy to feed to them. Breakfast
finished we start back to the lodge.