It’s eight o’clock and both Philippa and Tom have climbed the ladders into their tents while I do a bit of this outside in the pitch dark. The embers of the fire are glowing and cracking, a cool breeze is wandering through the camp so softly that its barely stirring the foliage but I can feel it on my face. Its almost completely silent; the stillness broken only by a distant cricket somewhere in the bush and some murmuring from another site. The sky is the deepest black but the stars are extraordinary. The milky way is a speckled streak of pearl across the sky and the stars are a dense mass of brilliant pinpricks. Its extraordinary to be here and we are feeling smug about getting the tents up and cooking over the fire and doing all the stuff we were supposed to do just like actual proper bush campers.
The day began a little earlier this morning as we got the impression that our 8.30 breakfast yesterday was considered almost lunchtime in these here parts. The sun rose just after six and we rose not long after. After another delicious Full Namibian breakfast on the terrace we said goodbye to the ever enthusiastic owner Johan, who gave us some good advice about where to stock up with food. A driver from Advantage cars took us to their base on the outskirts of town to find our Hilux. He showed us where everything was and how to jack it up and work the fridge and where to put the axe and use the compressor. Its a very nice vehicle – a new Toyota Hilux fitted out with two tents on the roof and an extra fuel tank. The satphone we were going to rent couldn’t find a satellite so we left it behind on the understanding that the local cell company covers about 99% of the country anyway… Those may be famous last words but we shall see. Soon we were pulling out of the lot and starting our journey with the big diesel engine purring along and the three of us grinning like loons.
First stop was a big modern shopping mall with a big modern Spar. It could have been anywhere in America, particularly with all the 4x4s parked outside. We spent more than an hour stocking up with all the basics we will need for the next month. There will be other shops on the way, but we were advised to get as much as we could in Windhoek.
Soon we were heading north, away from Windhoek in light traffic. The road was good, and brush either side of it was fenced to keep the animals out. As we headed further north we saw increasing numbers of warthogs rootling about by the road and signs warning of leaping Oryx. There were hornbills and weaver bird nests and giant termite nests like alien skyscrapers. It was all undeniably African.
We only made about three turnings in the three hour drive to the Waterberg Plateau which looms like a low, wide table above the plain.
Now we are properly in the bush with rhino and leopard out there somewhere. Tomorrow we will walk up to the plateau and see what we can see.