"There go the Irish."
- Paul, and Mark
So, after that foul slander, we should probably say a few nice things to compensate, about the paired-off half of our Irish delegation. But, otherwise, back to our previously-scheduled safari:
We had a lovely couple of days on either side of our respite in Swakopmund: We passed the first of rather a lot of ostriches we were to see; I cavorted around shirtless in the desert; Mark got just a few meters off from the group, in his bugs-eye-view explorations of the desert but made sure and smiled for the camera. We stopped to view the large seal colony at Walvis Bay. Finally, getting under full steam, we headed off toward the long shadow of the mountain peaks of Spitzkoppe. Paul's assurances that this place was "totally spectacular, yeah?" (he once climbed every peak with a couple of mates) started having their effect, as we grew near.
When we did roll on into the camp site nestled between two tremendous, towering piles of rocks (with others nearby) jaws were on the ground; and there seemed to be a general consensus that this was the best setting for a camp site anyone's ever seen. Mark and I picked a private spot round the corner from the main group backs to the rock wall. Here's what our view out the front door looked like,
The bulk of the group wasted no time in girding up for a hike I for one, after another long day in the truck, was extremely keen to be using the old corpus. Swinging in behind our fearless leaders, we headed for the big peak. Climbing was in order. And climb we did. Before the better part of valor (and fading light) won out, we were towering over the two peaks that towered over our tent city. After our vanguard, a second group brought up the rear, going nearly as high as we did. Our terminal point was a tremendous boulder glued to the mountain at just a couple of sharp points. We stood under it, before I demanded a shot of me with the estimable man my family will one day either thank for keeping me alive, or sue for getting me killed. Again, with the light darkening, and our self-imposed back-to-camp deadline nearing (people have been lost around these parts for days), we descended. Back on the ground I was able to pick out our boulder of highest ascent, and thus determine that we'd only been halfway up that bad boy. Also, walking back, I began to appreciate the terrain from Mark's-eye level: I spotted a number of lizards, a whole neighborhood of burrow-holes, hoof prints and two different varieties of frighteningly large, and fresh, dung pile.
Moreover, we all got back just in time to head out again to catch the sunset. As I followed several folks up the big boulder that bordered camp to the west, I spotted Mark below, in a dry riverbed. He shouted up a hundred feet or so, to the effect that he had found the remains of a springbok, or some such. "How 'remains'-y? Skeleton, or a carcass?" "Well . . . I found a drumstick." I raced right down. And he wasn't kidding. After checking out the tooth marks, and conspicuous lack of meat, on the bone, we moved a few meters over where we found the rest of the drumstick's owner. Ducking into a cave at the end of the creekbed, I noted, "I'm pretty sure I don't want to be here when whatever lunched here comes back . . . trapped in this dead-end gully . . . like the last prey . . ." We turned tail, passed a group of us lingering at lower elevations, and made a beeline for the top and the big show.
Up top, we found Doug, who
shot us on arrival; as well as Jorg, and Pillar and Sebastion. These last two are two of the now five Spaniards on the trip and probably runners up in the nicest couple competition. They're from the Canary Islands, and have lived there for 23 years which I'm afraid is about all I know about them (other than yes, the stars are beautiful, yes dinner was very good, etc.), due to my execrable Spanish. Even with the language barrier, they're great fun to hang out with. Anyway. We got busy waiting, chattering about how unbelievable this scene was. "Joe's going to eat his heart out," was one comment. (Not saying who made it.) Another theme for me, re: the complete greatness of this day, was all the hiking, climbing, and scrabbling. Using the body is such a perfect joy, I think. Mark was clear that this was far and away the best day of the trip so far; I concurred. I also found this the best sunset of my life so far. Which, finally, here's what you get, sunset-wise:
We descended back to camp. After dinner around a blazing dry-wood fire, we finished with a moonlit hike through the brush, over the boulders, and around the mountain we'd just climbed. I slept like that carcass back in the riverbed except when I woke up at 3:30AM, went out, and stood alone in the cold, deathly silent, black-stone-and-moonlight-colored night, wobbling in the chill sand, checking out the disk of the Milky Way and scanning the black dunes for anything that might be looking for a late-night snack.
Tomorrow: Etosha National Game Preserve.