What I Really Expected of Africa

Now this, this is what I expected of Africa. Through our panoramic windows on the truck all you could see was desert. It looked like a still from The Lion King and felt like the inside of a jackhammer with the same sound effects. For hours at a time we were subjected to a road – I use that word for context rather than a realistic account of what it was – made of pure rocks and we bounced around within the back of the truck, learning the real downsides to having no suspension. I may be naive but the vast areas of greenery that I’ve seen on my travels so far were not what I expected, and I don’t think I’m the only Australian to have expected majority desert and temperatures not allowing for any warm clothes. It’s Africa, it doesn’t get cold there, right? Wrong.

The desert was more enticing than I expected, an endless stretch of orange nothing that I somehow couldn’t take my eyes off in case I missed something. My camera unfortunately couldn’t do it justice so I mainly sat in the truck and looked out the window and took it in for myself. We made our way to Namib Naukluft National Park and got out to see the Sessriem Canyon, not quite as good as Fish River Canyon but an amazing natural wonder all the same.

The following morning we made our way to Dune 45 to climb up and watch the sunrise from the top. The dune was deceiving, from a distance it didn’t look very big nor did it look very steep. Walking up we realised quite the opposite and stops along the way were definitely necessary, masked by the idea of a photo stop rather than a stop to catch our breath. As we neared the top so did the sun as it popped out from behind the mountains in the distance, casting a beautiful colour on the desert environment around us. After sufficient time at the top we made the brave run/roll down the face of the dune, getting to the bottom with sand absolutely everywhere but smiles you couldn’t wipe off our faces. It was such a good start to our day.

Following from that we headed to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei to take a walk around, seeing the affects that the moving sand dunes have on the river and the plant life around. Deadvlei is named as such because over time, the dunes moved to the other side of it, blocking their water and causing all the plant life to die but still stay standing. It was another science-lover activity to do but I enjoyed the walk and the 4×4 adventure that we took to get there.

After a successful Sunday we headed to our new campsite to pitch our tents, sharing the place with tortoises, a dog and an oryx that we spotted in the first 5 minutes of arriving. Later on, after an evening of traditional South African food, a sky full of stars including a few shooting stars and another campfire, we discovered we were sharing the place with a pack of zebras too. There were four of us left awake and we looked over to see them drinking from the lit up fountain. Braving the walk in the dark so as not to get spotted we slowly crept closer, stopping about 10 metres away to admire the two courageous ones who stayed despite the rest of the pack hearing the sounds of us and running away. It was such an incredible experience and I fell asleep listening to them.

Sunrise the next morning brought them back and as we sat finishing off our breakfast enjoying the view surrounding us we saw them run just ahead of us, providing a perfect foreground to the sunrise backdrop and a chance to see them during the daylight. Experiences like these ones still shock me with the reminder that I’m in Africa, and even after 3 months I still question how I came to be so lucky.

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