Friday, June 13, 2008

African Adventure: Incredible 300 feet high sand dunes (Jan 1-6)

Current Location: Sossusvlei, Namibia.
Highlights: The big red dunes of Sossusvlei..
Upcoming: Cheetah conservation reserve.
Current GPS Coordinates: LAT: S 24.484 LONG: E 15.798 (from the campsite at Sesriem)

I am writing this diary entry while sitting under a tree in the sand parking lot at the end of the 4x4 only road to the dunes at Sossusvlei. This is in the heart of Namibia’s very hot and very dry coastal dune system. In short, it’s an awesome and breathtaking place with some of the world’s highest (300 meters) most perfectly formed sand dunes. We arrived just after sunrise and witnessed the incredible shapes of the sand carved by the wind and decorated with shadows cast by the warm early morning sun. If you have ever seen a TV advert, magazine picture, or anything at the movies involving huge red sand dunes, it was probably filmed here. We arrived at the park yesterday afternoon after spending the past 5 nights in Windhoek at Chameleon Backpackers. We ended up spending last night outside the park gates, as the campsite inside the park was full. This was actually fun, we could make a fire and cooked up a traditional South African poijke, had full use of all the facilities and it was free! Tonight we have a reservation at a camp site inside the park which costs N$130 (about US$21), although we managed to reduce the cost as we are sharing the site with two other groups. Tomorrow we will drive back to this area for sunrise at just before 5am where the shadows and light on the dunes are at their best. We will also film an educational section on sand dunes, how they made, and something about the unique wildlife, insect and mammalian, found in this inhospitable area. I will include more pics from this area when we can send from a land line as its really spectacular.

We will arrive back in Windhoek on Friday (tomorrow) after visiting a rather bizarre old German castle with a cool history. By the way, tomorrow is my birthday; I’ll be 34! Just send me an e-mail if you want to know my address where you can send my presents. I will leave the satphone on all evening if you want to give me a call and wish me happy birthday:
International access code from the country in which you live + 871 76 234 2296

On Saturday we head north to Otjiwarongo where we will stay a few days with my friend Sanj at a Cheetah conservation area. Sanj wrote the section of the web site on conservation biology, specifically on cheetah conservation at the reserve we will visit.

Now for the mandatory report on the status of the Land Rover. We found a new rim to replace the rim we broke in the Kalahari for the bargain price of US$15 and an additional US$2.50 to have the tire moved form the old rim and balancing. I also noticed a fluid leak form the clutch slave so wanted to replace the slave and wanted to try and fix the excess play in the front swivel housing bushes. I also wanted to get a front brake hose to replace the one that burst also in the Kalahari. I tracked down a place that did Land Rover parts and picked up a brake hose, new clutch slave (US$30), some new ralco bushes (as the play in the front swivel housing most probably results from worn bushes), and some other spares. Before we left for Sossusvlei, I only managed to fix the oil leak (from the oil filter) and take a look at the play in the swivel housings. I didn’t replace the ralco bushes in the end, but removed a shim on each side which appeared to reduce the play but still allow free wheel turn. I’ll keep you posted on that one. While driving around Windhoek the Landy appeared to have even less power than normal. When we left to come here we were driving over a series of passes and the Landy hardly managed to get up some of the hills. So we stopped and I took a look at some of the basic things. It turned out that the points gap was down to almost nothing. How new, correctly set points can wear down (the plastic arm that runs on the cam) or close up that much in just 4000 km I don’t know, but they did. So I reset the gap and it runs better now. Although it runs fine, the exhaust tone has changed from a nice even purr at idle to a lumpy almost poppy sound even after resetting the points. Not sure what the problem is there. It has also started to diesel (run on) when turned off after long runs, despite running cool plugs (NGK BP7ES). I guess this is a hot spot in the combustion chamber? It’s possible that the mixture is too weak now as the mixture was set in Jo’berg at about 7000 feet and we are now at about 1000 fee.

PS Dad thanks so much for my b'day present of the replacement GPS and the cash, its a really welcome surprise.

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