Just before dawn I heard a distant lion roaring and felt pleased that we had at least HEARD one of the elusive desert lions.
The room was fairly chilly – it is winter here after all and we were at around five thousand feet in the old money so it took a while for the sun to heat the clear air. It did though and T and P played monopoly on the terrace for a bit after breakfast (South African version where “Vine Street’ in the London edition becomes “Nelson Mandela Park” etc).
Soon we were creeping down the steep 4×4 track and heading towards Twyfelfontein. There was one more foot-and-mouth roadblock to pass through where the guy in charge sold Philippa a pretty wooden necklace made (we assumed) by the family camped behind the road-block. He noticed that we had a soft rear tyre and it struck me that I hadn’t checked them this morning so couldn’t be sure how bad the situation was.
We have two spare wheels with tyres and another spare tyre so we fished one out, jacked up the truck and popped the new wheel on. We were off again without too much of a problem. We were fairly sure we would get a puncture at some stage given the roads we’ve been driving for the past couple of weeks and I was glad it was on a flat gravel road rather than one of the tight, steep, rocky/sandy tracks we’d been driving on in Kaokoland.
We stopped for big unusual rocks, and a flock of goats which appeared to be herded by three dogs. There was no sign of a person.
We looked about for a shop to buy some bits and pieces but our travel guides were unanimous: there ain’t one. Not for miles and miles and miles. Well actually there is one, a breeze-block and chicken-wire hut at a t-junction. We went in and found a big friendly lady with a small boy who pointed out a chuntering fridge in the almost completely dark recesses of her earthen-floored shop. There were rickety shelves too with tinned vegetables, baked beans, crisps, toothpaste and deodorant. We had hoped for bread and maybe eggs but that was pushing it. We got some bits and pieces and said goodbye. I gave the one-armed man standing outside in the dust a few coins, ostensibly for watching the car but actually because I felt bad for him in that desolate place.
I have to say that all of this strikes me as guesswork given that no-one even knows exactly which people were living in the area before about 1940. Even when the Damara who’d moved in were cleared so that the land could be given to white settlers there was no-one around who understood what the engravings really meant (according to the guide anyway). They were lovely though. A beautifully rounded elephant and spiky nosed rhino and – extraordinarily – a couple of seals. That suggested that the Bushmen were used to going to the coast to trade. It was well worth the trip despite the annoying staff.