Lying in our sleeping bags this morning we noticed a thin layer of ice glittering inside the roof of our tent. It really was very cold overnight and while our sleeping bags, and Philippa’s many, many layers of clothing kept our bodies warm, our faces were pretty chilly.
Olives and chains
Philippa, to her credit, got straight up and made us hot drinks while I burrowed further down into the sleeping bag and waited for the sun to reach us. Eventually though I bowed to the inevitable and got up to light a fire for breakfast. Today was going to be a Big Hike day and we fueled up on bacon and eggs (again) while birds peeped at us and pecked about hoping we were messy eaters.
The Olive Trail is a 10k hike in the Namib Naukluft park a half hour back down the road from the campsite. Johan the jovial, ruddy faced guy who runs the campsite had recommended it to us as an alternative to the more famous “Waterkloof” trail, which he said was pretty tough and would require an earlier start than we were really prepared to make. So Olive it was, and it started with a slow climb into the mountains with the occasional olive tree along the way and P and I wondering if we had actually taken the soft and slightly dull option. But as we climbed the view opened out and soon we were looking across the plain to another line of hills, with our truck a little white dot in the trees below.
After about a thousand feet we came to a plateau which looked into a series of canyons, one of which we had to climb down into.
It started gradually enough; the canyon walls were low and wide apart with a smooth path between them.
But gradually the walls grew either side of us and narrowed in, with rocks growing to the size of small cars obscuring the trail altogether.
We were jumping from boulder to boulder with rock walls towering over us. We stopped for lunch on one of these huge rocks, watching dassies sunbathing around us. It was hard work picking a trail through, over and around these boulders and eventually we came to a narrow canyon with a pool of dark water in the bottom of it. The walls either side were pretty sheer and the only way to get through was to use the chains secured into the canyon walls about twenty feet above the water.
Tom, who is part mountain goat, went first. Initially even he had problems in a couple of places where there didn’t seem to be any foot holds. But almost as soon as he got to the other side he started coming back again using the chains on the other side of the canyon. “Its really fun”.
That wasn’t the word Philippa used but she was v. brave and inched her way across with her dignity intact and only the occasional plea to the Almighty. Tom by now was going back and forth like a small ape and would quite possibly still be there if we hadn’t dragged him along the rest of the trail back to the truck.
We celebrated with Rock Shandies at the little bar by the permit office, served by the sweetest young woman who thanked us very much for coming, and wrote out our bill for the drinks. Namibia is very keen on comprehensive written receipts for pretty much everything.
The sun was heading downwards – as it tends to do at about this time of day we’ve found – so we drove back to the campsite and flipped out the tents again. I make that sound so easy don’t I? It is actually quite hard work but we all know what to do now and get into the rhythm of it. Philippa loosens the ladders and Tom pulls the tents open. While he puts in the support struts Philippa gets the sleeping bags and torches and blankets from the back of the truck. Meanwhile I have been starting a fire and come to fit the struts which P and T can’t reach and hey presto its all done. Beers, supper, bed.
The sun vanished, leaving the sky a brilliant apricot. The full moon rose over the hill behind us, casting its ghostly glow and we all climbed into our sleeping bags somewhat wearily.