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Namibia - Desert Oasis


  A group of us at the hostel banded together and rented a car
to go down to see an Oasis in the middle of the Namibian desert.

There has been an uncommon amount of rain in Namibia this year -
so much so that the usual sandy color of the landscape has been
replaced by green.

Rain in the desert is an event that is waited for by an entire
ecosystem - eggs that lie dormant in the hot, dry sand for decades
before exploding in a frenzy of growth, reproduction, and
quiescence again.

Rain in the desert is also a very destructive force - torrents
of water washing tons of sand and trees towards the sea.

We were fortunate that the car hire man decided to save the
wear and tear on his car by giving us a four wheel drive for
the same price .. and we were very lucky!

All of the roads we were on were on were dirt roads - fine in
the dry desert, but no match for quarter mile wide rivers of
floodwater that rise in 10 minutes and are gone in 6 hours.

We had to cross these holes in the road, ford the streams
that remained, with much use of four wheel drive. We got to the
campground, where there was a sandstorm in progress - we elected
to stay in the car until it was over. One poor guy was lying in
his flattened tent - his profile visible - also waiting.

We were then greeted with a river of mud flowing through the
camp - from a small storm on a local hillside, that got our
4x4 stuck, and also the campground truck trying to pull us
out .. mud everywhere.

We spent a rather wet night in tents, and headed out the next
morning at 5:30 AM for 67 Km across the desert to Sossesflei,
the end of a river from the mountains, that is a huge lake
among the dunes. there has been no water here for 10 years,
and not a comparable amount for 17 years.

Beetles are the insect of Namibia - they were out in force.
The muddy lake was teeming with life - some swept down the river,
but much of it the specially adapted dormant desert flora and

Isolated pools dry up at the rate of 2 inches a day - and despite
the floods we encountered on our way there the river feeding the
lake had long since dried up. Mats of algae and associated pond
life was again being turned into flat biscuits of clay. Bird life
was abundant - flowers and thorny bushes were everywhere.

We made our way back to the camp at the end of the day, and then
attempted to get back to Windhoek, but were cut off by fierce
rivers that had appeared from nowhere. We waited at one river
crossing for 4 hours, were then towed through half a dozen by
an earth-mover on patrol fixing the roads (Fiat - the
Caterpillars lay broken down in the fields, short, no doubt,
of the needed spare parts after a prestigious foreign aid

We were halted by an even larger river - we made the driver
tea and conversed in sign language (he used Africance - a
legacy of South African involvement here).

We had to give up, and found a friendly Guest Farm that allowed
us to camp on their property until the AM.

I ran across a tour guide that told me that an ecological
research station nearby had sifted sand from an area
10m x 20m x 2m and was now involved in classifying the
huge number of larvae in the sand. Among them was the
Bombadier beetle, which when alarmed rears up and shoots
two chemical jets that combine at the target to produce
a temperature of 3,000 degrees centigade. I allow a measure
of exaggeration here - it is africa ..

Having nearly run out of petrol we got back this PM -
most welcome was that first world luxury we will never
give up - hot showers.

Cheers,       Andy!