Thursday, September 11, 2014

Naukluft Hiking Trail #7... Halfway!

Day four, and we're on our way  to having done half of the legendary Naukluft Hiking Trail. I say 'on our way', because ahead of us still lay a full 17km, eight hour day of imitating the agile dassies we keep having glimpses of as they perch camouflaged and motionless, high up on white streaked, crusty boulders and tiny rockface ledges, or scurried between their family homes in cracks and crevices.

Spot the furry animal.

Today's walking menu was mercifully mostly downhill except for two not-too-streneous inclines. By now the unbroken, majestic landscapes of Naukluft had convinced me that this was the most beautiful desert hike I've walked. The canyons were getting deeper and narrower as we progressed, and the air of silent desolation became almost tangible. On more than one occasion in the morning I held back, falling behind everyone else by twenty minutes in order to walk in total silence. The only sound I heard from time to time was the sudden crackle of stones tumbling down as a pair of surefooted klipspringers bounded away on the opposite wall of the canyon.

Mid-afternoon there was a steep, very steep scramble down in a treacherous gully filled with loose gravel, into a narrow valley. By lunchtime the group had split up and four of us walking together downed our packs not far from an impressive dry waterfall where a side canyon joined the one we were walking in. Lunch, for us, was two John West tuna standards complemented by the obligatory raisins and energy bars. Someone else sat peeling two boiled eggs, something the owner swore was heaven's gift to the long-distance hiker.   After this pleasant break we followed the dry river bed until the valley opened up rapidly into a mountain-ringed floodplain, and finally it was an easy  two kilometer walk along a well-kept dirt road walk to Tsams Ost, our fourth overnight.

It's common knowledge that hikers have the option to drive to Tsams Ost beforehand and stash half their rations there, thus making the load to carry during eight days of hiking considerably lighter. Tsams-Ost however is a very bumpy two-hour, 250km drive from the starting point, not a pleasant prospect for me, having driven 1 700km in the previous two days. Fortunately, after a little negotiation with the Guy Behind The Counter we got all eight ration packs transported to Tsams Ost by the camp management for the bargain price of R600. I'd never heard or read about this welcome  little feature of the hike before, so perhaps it's new, or maybe it's someone's little entrepreneural side business.

But right now someone was fidgeting with the lock of the Army-sized, green steel cupboard standing next to the Tsams Ost shelter. It held several bottles of wine, tinned puddings, and a bakkie load of boxes containing assorted treats that would provide a nice break from the culinary  tedium that has developed in the past four days. The mood at dinner time was considerably lighter and the chatter around the supper 'table' - the tiny stone top tables on the trail are designed more for a cosy dinner-for-two than eight hungry hikers - went on a little later into the evening than normal.

About toilets on Naukluft. They're of the typical long-drop variation throughout, except tick the 'none' box for Ubisis kloof hut. And make all of them SMELLY and SHORT-drop. Which made a few of the more delicate hikers in the ranks opt for spades and squatting.

Shortly after we arrived at Tsams Ost a Ford Fortuner towing a trailer pulled up and a not-so-young-looking woman and two male companions started packing their half-way supplies into the green cupboards.  Turns out they were starting their Naukluft adventure the following day but has decided, contrary to us, to drop off their replenishments themselves.

 They left no more than a few minutes later, and we never saw them again. Turns out they never completed the route. Someone in their group started suffering from bad knees and they fell out on the second day. The account of their rescue, as told to us by The Man Behind The Counter upon our return sounded harrowing.

 The red wine we'd brought along had put us all into a jolly mood and we all went to bed with smiles on our faces. So far the gods have been with us and their were no serious aches and pains, and equally important, everyone's head was in the right space. There was no turning back, despite the alluring shortcut sign pointing in the direction of the trail starting point we saw earlier in the day. Aluta continua!

No comments:

Post a Comment