Friday, June 13, 2008

colonel's hat

so, where to start. turns out my colleague robin is getting shmoozed by the namibia office to come do a stint here. so, they were more than generous in lending us a truck, camping equipment, pretty much everything we need for a swell week in the bush.
we loaded up on food at the supermarket downtown. we're all giddy for our trip, planning our meals. inside the store we are arguing over how many packages of marie cookies. these are little sugary biscuits like the petit beurre, or petit exquis you get in france. robin loves them. he cleans out the shelf and puts 10 packages in the cart. 10 packages? he says, you're right! we need more! and finds another.
so we parked on the main avenue on the main strip of downtown windhoek. there are people everywhere, it's saturday morning. we come out with our full bags of groceries and are loading them into the back of the truck when this guy starts moaning like a zombie and going through the bags. i try to shoo him away like a fly but he won't leave. out of the corner of my eye i notice another guy opening the other side passenger door. mutherf$%*# it's a scam! i grab the guy nanoseconds before he makes off with my passport, money, camera, cell phone, pretty much anything he wants. he shrugs and walks away. i look at everyone on the street, wondering why no one cares that this guy was blatantly robbing us? are they probably thinking, eh, another rich white person getting what they deserve? who knows. i was pissed.
it took me a while to relax, but the beautiful mountains, springbok and abundant wildlife soon settled in. in one town with a crazy name like otjiwarongo we stopped to gas up and for some insane reason i was lured to these meat pies in a display case. wiener-shnitzel. from a namibian shell station. robin bought one too. i was happy, my stomach was not.
along the way i notice we are running over these huuuuuuge insects. like tarantula size. but they're not spiders, they're some sort of cricket. crunch...crunch...cru-crunch...for miles and miles and miles. what are these things? they're everywhere! crunch! this is what they look like:we make our way to the spitzkoppe - a.k.a the colonel's hat. looks like it, a big hat shaped boulder thing. totally huge. i had read in the lonely planet about this community campsitewhose proceeds go this poor village and stuff. we turn down this dusty street and drive straight into a steven king novel. or maybe the hills have eyes, or the hills have eyes 2. there are shanty mud, zinc, or entirely-made-entirely-out-of-soup-can huts, with kids running around selling big hunks of quartz, amethist, fluorite, malakyte. everywhere we went, hunks and hunks of rock. unless you're my brother when he was 8 or my uncle geologist, why would anyone buy these rocks? i'm thinking, someone needs to bring a rock tumbler and a dremel kit into this joint and teach these people to make some beads! (hellooo aurelgrooves africa) seriously. we roll up to this campsite and it's majorly creepy. the reception is made out of old driftwood or something. i can tell robin wants to u-turn right on out of here. i insist we stay. look at the cool rock mountain! we pay our $5 and wander around to find a site to pitch our tents. the place is huge, sprawling. each site is at least 1 km from the next. some are nestled in rocks, others are under these big trees. they're actually all pretty neat and unique, we can't decide which we like best.
we drive around and see some rock paintings, robin is so over rock paintings. even if they're 5000 years old, he's all, whatever, doesn't do it for me. i don't like to see how they have been vandalized. it's like some idiot comes all the way out here to write "yer mom" on a 5,000 year old work of art wtf??
we go a little further around the mountain and see klipspringers, cute little rock hiraxes and more and more of those huge friggin' crickets. i do not want these things near my tent. we come to this chain rope in the mountain that leads up a steep slope of rock. we go up it and it's just a totally cool mountain of crunchy quartzy rock with huge boulders teetering on top. we're climbing all over, my sandals are gripping this rock i can defy gravity, and i end up in one valley and robin is in another, 100s of feet away. because of the echo we are talking as if we were in the car. "this is pretty sweet."
"pretty sweet indeed."
"look at that white guy down there with no shirt."
"he's totally sunburnt"
"pretty sweet."
we lounge a bit then go back to the reception with a goal of getting matches. we bought everything for our trip, stopped to refuel, re-fill our water jug and kept forgetting the darn matches. we find eddie, from the reception and he's all, oh, you have to go to the village for matches. we are not going to the creepy village eddie, someone here has to have matches. look, that guy is smoking a cigarette. and so he finds us a box of matches, we are happy.
we search some more for a campsite and found one nestled in the rock, like in a crevasse. there's a fire pit area and a counter top carved into the stone. and a little toilet around the corner, with tp, and a seat and everything. we can creep over the rock ledge and watch the sunset. perfect.
the sun sets quickly and we are soon in the dark, with a million stars overhead. i want to start cookin' and we look at the box of matches. i'll be damned! there are only 7 in there, and they're all used, except for 3. the first one goes out. we hold our breath, concentrate...come on...we need one match for tomorrow's breakfast. the second one breaks in half. dangit! this is it, or we don't eat...finally it lights and our gas is lit. i keep the stove going for a while to hard boil some eggs, which i plan on eating all week. i'm all about the hard boiled eggs.
some sort of rat thing tries to run off with the lid to our pot. he drops it halfway to his lair and it makes a loud clanging noise, scaring the crap out of us. what's up with all the thieves??
we are in our tents by 7pm - campin' style. throughout the night i have nightmares of leopards and elephants coming, but nothing but those darn crickets. i have to pee but i'm scared of the crickets. they are surrounding my tent the next day like they are avenging the death of their cousins on the highway.
in the morning, i wake up and run to the rock ledge and see zebra tracks everywhere, more hiraxes (sooo cute!) and a wonderful sun rise over the savanna. we had an elaborate plan to light our half match to get some tea and oatmeal going. it will take me 5 days to realize that roibos tea doesn't have any caffeine in it. mutherf%$$^.
i go back out to my ledge, and see this splendid view. but i still get blackberry reception. we are not far enough out of town!

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