20.05.2008 - 26.05.2008 23 °C
My tour group for my trip up to Nairobi are a curious bunch.
Two Russians, one the editor of Fulham football club's website, a couple of Americans, one a keen birder; the other a gay Californian, a few British gappies, some Norwegians and the customary smattering of Canadian travellers.
The trip nearly ended for me before it had begun as the tour bus left without me - forcing me to run down the street to catch up. Belatedly, I boarded the bus and, with everyone else already seated, found myself at the back of a bus with suspension so hard that the slightest bump caused you to jump on top of the person beside you.
After a long bus journey, we set up the tents in the rain. The highlight of the day was watching the much anticipated Champions League final. Having watched a jubilant Manchester United celebrate - and an inconsolable John Terry - I went back to the tent for an early start.
Although the trip involves a lot of travelling on bumpy roads, the journeys have been better than I expected. We play games to keep ourselves amused and watch the varied landscapes, and the wildlife that occupy them, pass by.
With the weather improving, we travelled from north west South Africa, across the Namibian border, and into more arid landscapes. We finally arrived at the Orange River and, with the tent facing the water below, I joined Giselle, one of the members of my group, for a refreshing swim.
We looked forward to a more relaxing day ahead which involved more swimming in the morning, followed by a long drive to watch the sunset at Fish River Canyon - one of the largest canyons in the world. Frustratingly, we all failed our stated mission for the day though - to cross the natural border of the Orange River and travel from Namibia, back into South Africa - without the need for passports. However, try as we might, the current proved too strong, and, after wading half way across, we would float hopelessly downstream - being dragged along sharp rocks in the process.
After spending the night near the canyon, we began another lengthy journey to get to the edge of the Namib Desert. Desperate to spread our cramped legs, Giselle and I went for a walk to Sesriem canyon. Here we met another tour group, with whom I had connections, having shared a hostel in Cape Town with one of their group. As the light faded, we were glad to hitch a lift back with them and prepared for yet another early start the next day.
Waking long before dawn, we travelled to some of the largest sand dunes in the Namib Desert and watched the sunrise. Slowly warming up, we travelled deeper into the dunes to have a guided tour explaining how desert creatures survive, how to recognise their tracks and how the bushman of 30,000 years ago coped in such harsh conditions.
We visited a dried up lake which had left behind strikingly weathered (dead) trees. The highlight though was uncovering a spider's nest just under the sand, which had a doorway made from material similar to velcro. When opened, the spider would promptly stick out his leg and close the door again. Another joy was the simple pleasure of rolling down a dune. The only problem is that I am still trying to get the sand out of my hair!