Saturday, June 14, 2008

African Adventure: My birthday on the big red sand dunes in Namibia (Jan 7)

Current Location: Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia.
Highlights: My birthday celebration with champagne on the sand dunes, spending an hour helping dig out a Toyota stuck in the sand.
Upcoming: Seeing the cheetah running and chasing prey and tracking radio collared cheetah from a plane.
Current GPS Coordinates: LAT: S 20.34.26 LONG: E 16.53.29

Today was my birthday and this is how I spent it. We woke up early, about 4.30 am after a restless nights sleep as jackals kept raiding the camp and making a noise. But we got going at about 5 am and made our way to the Sossusvlei dunes about 55 km along the dirt road into the dune system to watch the spectacular sun rise. We were rewarded with an incredible show of shadows and deep red colors of the dunes as the sun rose. We spend most of the morning taking pictures of the dunes, a lone gemsbok, and some of the insects that live on the dunes. At about 8.30 am we heard the loud revving of an engine just over a dune. I went to take a look and saw two people trying to dig out their stuck Toyota 4x4 which was embedded in the soft sand. I volunteered our help and walked back to the Landy to get a shovel and sand ladders. After many attempts it was clear that this strategy was of little help and they managed to move just a few feet before becoming stuck again. But after about an hour we finally freed the car and we drove back to where the Landy was parked. We brushed off the sand from our hot sweaty bodies, took the bottle of champagne from the freezer, some bread, cheese, a tarp, and headed out to a nice cool tree at the foot of the Sossusvlei dunes for a well deserved champagne breakfast. We headed back out of the park to the campsite, packed up, and made our way back to Windhoek. This was a long drive and I was very tired, hot and dusty. We had not eaten very much all day and water we had was very warm. I decided to call Gena on the Thrane and Thrane satphone. She was in top spirits and despite being so hot, dirty, and tired I felt on top of the world again after our 3-min conversation. For several reasons, not least of which is a diminishing budget, we decided to just camp on the side of a very untraveled dirt road as we were going to set off very early the next day to get to the Cheetah View Farm in Otjiwarongo. So there you go, that was my 34th birthday!

No real Landy problems, although the gearbox oil leak really needs to be looked at I think. While on the subject of vehicles, I can’t count the number of times people have criticized the choice of doing this journey in an old Landy. Most people suggest a Toyota 4x4, either a Hilux pickup or a Land Cruiser. I wanted to do this trip in an old vehicle so this ruled out a Hilux pickup. An old Land Cruiser would have been fun, but getting spares would have been almost impossible. So the Landy was really the only vehicle. I should also add that we have now helped out 3 Toyotas and one Nissan. In Lesotho, we lent tools to some people in a newer Toyota 4x4 Hilux who had a wheel bearing disintegrate and we towed out a stuck Nissan 2x4 pickup. A few days ago in the soft sand at Sossusvlei we towed out a stuck Toyota pickup 4x4, and then today, we helped dig out another stuck Toyota. Maybe our Landy is not so bad after all?

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