Today we are on a quad trip of a very special kind. We drive for 3.5 hours over 80 km along a dry river valley (Rivier) along very small tracks. This is nothing special in itself, but we are in Africa, in Namibia, and we see the footsteps of many animals, also dangerous and big ones. Here I have an inner conflict that constantly wrestles with me throughout the trip and is the subject of intense inner debate. Back and forth. Here and there. We will call the fear “she” and the adventure “he”.
We start early in the morning so it is not that hot. With Shujaa we stand in a small, higher and secluded side valley with a beautiful view of the Damaraland and the distant Brandberg massif. Oliver had read in various blogs and iOverlander that from our pitch about 40 km away the Desolation Valley should be beautiful and very lonely. Finally, we are here (the particular hurdles we had to overcome Oliver will tell in his soon upcoming blog) and so we go there by quad (the mini-tracks are too small for Shujaa). Armed with water, SAT-phone, camera and jerry cans, we make ourselves with our dust-proof outfit (hair well covered, wearing anyway dirty clothes) into the middle of the Huab valley, which in the succession turns into the magical Desolation-Valley.
First, it leads us a little lower from our location, over some football-sized boulders down into the river valley. All hills and larger mountains are in a gentle reddish tone. At first everything is beautiful. A fantastic view over the vastness of the mountains down into the valley in the soft gentle morning light that shimmers golden through the delicate dry grass.
He: “There … a very big ostrich herd. How cool … I have not seen such a large collection yet. That’s 50 animals for sure.”
She: “Yes, beautiful, but that reminds me, maybe we also see other animals? I hope it will not be dangerous “.
He: “Nonsense, what should be dangerous because we are on our fast and loud quad on the way, that noise scares away all animals. Look how they run away.”
She: “And look there, you can even see elephant tracks on the way. My god, the footprints are huge – like place plates. Elephant dung is also here in bulk, but you can see clearly that it is a bit older. Puhhh, luckily.”
He: “Well, I would like to see the elephants, hopefully we will meet some. Maybe babies too. A large herd would also be great.”
She: “Hm, maybe it’s better we do not meet any elephant. Maybe we’ll see them too late because we turn a curve and they attack us with shock. We are peanuts for those on our little quad. They are also damn fast. And then we cannot quickly disappear, because the track is in very poor condition.”
He: “No matter, we’ll do it. Somehow there is always a way and finally the locals are not impaled by elephants every day either.”
She: “Which locals? Do you see anybody here? No human where ever you look…. We are completely on our own. We should have taken at least the tear spray and the defense stick. At least something. And a spare tire! What if we drive here with all those sharp stones … all the spare parts and tools are with Shujaa!”
He: “Man, do not be so pessimistic. We’ve done it so often. Nothing will happen.”
Meanwhile, we have arrived in the valley and follow the valley on very sandy slopes to the west. It’s dusting like crazy and we’re breaded in seconds and completely dirty. To the right and left are man-sized, opaque bushes and the path leads through the Rivier in serpentine lines. The sand has been washed out by the rain and has formed a small canyon, which can be seen about 2 m high on the right and left of us.
She: “I just had a very good overview, because we came down from the slope, but now in the valley I see nothing more. Not even two meters behind the curve or behind the bushes. Everything can hide here. If the saber-toothed tiger survived … but I do not need it, a leopard would be enough.”
He: “Do not exaggerate so much. We travel peacefully along a river valley here and maybe there were no animals here for weeks.”
She: “So, no animals … and what is that? Absolutely fresh lion traces. You can clearly see it on the sharp edge of the footprint in the sand. Super News. With the wind and the light sand this would look different in 1 hour. And now? What do we do now? We cannot continue here. And they are still going in our direction, so they are becoming more and more “fresher”.”
He: “Indeed, these are new tracks. Interesting. Exciting, maybe we will actually see a lion again. That would be great. Lion photo shoot with the quad would be unique. There is something. That is only one trace. It’s a pity, more would be better. But this one is pretty big. We’ll see …”
She: “Thank goodness. The tracks are gone. I hope he has moved in a different direction. I absolutely have to screen everything exactly. Every bush, every trail, horizon, just around us, over and over again, and from the front. Shit, now we have to turn around, here it does not go on, just do not stop. Always keep going, that’s safer.”
He: “I’ll see the lion in time. If there is anything, then we have to respond wisely. If too close, stop and strongly look into the lion’s eyes. And if further away, just drive away. That should not be that hard.”
She: “Are you completely crazy? Playing dead?! What’s that about. Then I can immediately accuse them of feeding. Speaking of … what do you like most about me? My butt? My breasts? But overall, I’m certainly not very nourishing. Oliver even less. Remember that? No, I do not think they take everything they can get.”
He: “Come on, come on. After all, we’re like a car on the quad – after all, we’ve learned that lions see badly and something like a quad does not interest them.”
She: “That’s eye candy, we’re not a dice, but two moving meatballs. … That’s just missing, now the tracks are a bit smaller, but several, now in both directions. Ok, just a whole pack …”
He: “We have everything under control. After all, Oliver is not scared and look, there are even human footprints. So, one of them went through here. No problem then.”
After we had to turn around because we could not get through the valley, we are almost there. It’s all green in the middle of the river valley. Reed stands quite close to Halm and prevents a view.
She: “It always can get worse. Oliver please drive very fast, because here I cannot scan anything, it is the best that I shut my eyes.”
He: “Look how beautiful green it is here. And how interesting, the soil is quite humid despite the desert area. Great Rivier. The mountains around it, how impressive. And it is getting tighter. Just fantastic.”
She: “Finally, it’s time to go up a slope again. Here I feel safe because there are no obstacles and I have a clear view.”
He: “That I do not laugh. The overview? You mean the control. You have nothing at all. There is no control here. Let go. It’s a terrific exercise.”
Finally arrived on the mountain, a phenomenal view over the Desolation Valley awaits us. Wonderful red mountains around a river valley with sand dunes and a green reed grass in the middle, which rustles gently in the wind. A nice play of colors and a calm. It is really lonely here. We stay a while and enjoy the view. Then it goes back and everything starts from the beginning …
She: “Oh no, and now again through the close connection. I do not survive that. But if it does, I write a blog. Stop thinking about something and concentrate on the bushes …”
He: “Oh the second time it’s not that bad. Already used to it and the animals have certainly fled from the noise the first time.”
She: “Maybe. Maybe not. In the meantime, they had time to come back.”
He: “How cool is that, look over there, it’s dusting and it is certainly not a car. And no wind pants. Maybe a lion is hunting or maybe they are fighting. Let’s go there, that’s certainly not more than 1 km away.”
She: “Are you tired of life?! We do not do anything. Soon we have done it, because I do not provoke a slaughter party. I see the exit from the valley coming up ahead.”
Finally, I have no idea how others feel in such a situation. In reality we have only seen the ostrich herd and a few monkeys. Maybe I am a coward, maybe I am also brave. Either way, it has been a great experience for me to listen to these two sides in me, and I’m still alive.
It’s fascinating how the mind and imagination play tricks when you think you’re losing control. We do a hike just a day later, along a similar canyon, with good visibility and more car tracks and none of it comes back. It’s just a “walk”. And Oliver even goes jogging …