We wake up early to a pastel painted sunrise over the Orange River
We break down Belinda and pack her up to start our drive to Sossusvlei
Narcopiggy gets one last look at the river before we leave. Beautiful spot we stumbled on here.
We pile ourselves into the truck and hit the road out of Richtersveld. There are a few more ostriches on the way out hanging about. We come up on a long open stretch of dirt road that constitutes a highway here in Namibia and are careening across the Namib, oldest desert on the planet. Flat and open landscape with some rock formations in the distance. The wind whisked clouds look like high fantasy.
We spot ostriches by the road here and there along the way.
“Thanks for the delicious stew, you whacky dinosaur!”
An hour and a half into the drive we come to a town called Aus and decide to check it out for gas and supplies. We find a Puma station and stop to fill up.
There’s a friendly guy nearby that is whittling at some wood or something with a tiny knife. He smiles as he sees us get out of the truck and comes over to introduce himself. His name is Charles. He says he’s from some small town North of Etosha, I miss the name of it. He asks us where we’re from and what we’re doing. Personable fella.
Charles has been working on a wooden bracelet this whole time but now switches to a small nut. He points to a nearby palm tree and says the nut is from there. He works quickly with the knife to chip away little pieces bit by bit. He turns it to show us and there are two tiny giraffes on it now. That’s pretty cool.
“Charles, aren’t you hot in all those clothes, dude?”, “Hot? It’s winter, man!”
Charles asks Jamie his name and within a minute he’s carved ‘Jamie’ onto the blank side opposite the giraffes. I’m up next and he does another one with an elephant and ‘Jonathan’ carved in the back. He’s pretty good at this. Of course, he’ll want some money for these but we don’t have any. Actually we should get some NAD out anyways. Charles points to the ATM sign at the gas station.
Some artsy cartographer has left a map mural on the side of the station.
We get some Namibucks and talk Charles down to a ‘reasonable’ price for his whittled trinkets. He thanks us and tells us to have a good trip.
Around the corner is a grocery and liquor store. We stop in to get some road snacks and restock the fridge and freezer
While I’m paying for our booze re-up, the girl working the liquor store fixes me with a stern stare. “What you do with all this hair?”, “Well. It’s just there I guess”, “Why do you cut it?”, why do I cut my hair.. I’m confused, “Why don’t I cut it?”, “No, why do you cut it?”, “Oh, just to keep it manageable, I suppose”, “Don’t cut it. Let it grow down to there”, She draws a line on her upper thigh with the edge of her hand. I point to the ice and hold up two fingers, “Haha, yeah I could do that. Then I could use it as a blanket <wrap myself in a blanket pantomime>”, this comment cracks her stern facade and she breaks into a smile. She was just playing. I sign the card receipt and she hands me 2 bags of ice, “Don’t cut your hair. You’ll have the strength of Samson one day”, “I’ll give it a shot. Thanks a lot.”
The desert-scape of this little town is amazing. Slightly shoddy, sun weathered wooden houses in the rocks and dust. A resilient looking tree sits nicely against the sky and casts a spiky shadow into the dirt lot just outside the shop.
Stopping at this place reminds me of the tiny markets and gas stations we’d found along our Mongol Rally route years ago. Just running in for water, or a Snickers and a Coke cuz it’s all they’d have.
I love these moments on a trip. Stopping in small towns along the way with barely any people and absolutely zero tourists. Day-to-day-type interactions with locals. Seeing how people live, going about their routine. In this way, driving across a country allows you to see what a place is really like. Away from the touristy strip, vendors and exaggerated ‘culture’. Honest and humble out here. And interacting with most people you just happen across, with genuine good natures and playfulness, it’s a golden reminder that happiness isn’t so tightly tethered to status, wealth or your material shit.
We blaze North from Aus and the scenery continues to shift and astound. The vastness and remoteness are mesmerizing. A whole lot of stunning nothing and there’s something incredibly beautiful about it. There’s barely anyone on the road, only a few cars have passed in the other direction. We’re getting a great first impression of Namibia. “Maaaaaaan, look at this!” Helps that it’s a beauty day to drive.
The group’s getting collectively hungry so we decide that we’ll stop under the next tree by the road to catch some shade and hook up a lunch. Another tree doesn’t happen for another half hour haha. It does make for a sweet picnic spot though
We break out some sandwiches we’d made last night and the Windhoek draught we just picked up. It’s glorious. The beer flavored chips we nabbed taste like dog food. Well, actually they’re growing on me. Ok, I like them. Pro move: I crumble some into my sandwich.
It’s super quiet. Only the sounds of the wind across the flat earth. Some dung beetles down there doing their thing. What is that over there, wild watermelon?
Jamie and Peter give the mystery melons a shot. Nope. Not ripe yet.
We found some of that coffee liqueur the local cats were drinking back in Hondeklipbaii. This stuff is tasty, you can just kill it right from the bottle. Num. We’ll save that for coffees tomorrow.
Alright, good stop. Back to the drive.
We speed down the road. Spot some zebras in the distance. We pass a warning sign with giraffes on it. That’s the first time I’ve seen a giraffe crossing sign. There are springbok and kudu everywhere now, this is awesome. Hopefully we’re getting closer to animal mecca.
Probably another 3 hours to Sesrium from here, the staging area for Sossuvlei. Hopefully we can grab a camping spot there and get to the dunes before sunset. Chasing the day as usual.