Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dunes, Skeletons and desert

November 9th 2016, a day of mourning. Same place as last night

Dinner last evening was at 7pm, and with German efficiency to dining room doors were opened with a flourish. The service was, what is a word that means slightly less than abysmal? None of the dishes went to the correct person unless the dish was announced and if it was understood, then it was set before the recipient. The food was good, but nothing worth remembering past the next morning.

Since the dining room didn’t open until 7am for the breakfast service we had a late start of 7:45am. I got up at 5:30am and had some instant coffee in the room, took a long shower and read the election news, which put me in a less that grand mood. Breakfast was your typical large hotel buffet, except there wasn’t anything I saw that that any heat under it. I found out later that you could order from the waitress an egg or two, but they weren’t freely and openly offered.

We met at the appointed time and drove maybe thirty minutes south. There wasn’t much in the way of conversation or description by Jeremiah. It was just a drive on a paved road past seaside condos. We pulled off the highway into a huge parking lot full of huge buses, cars and 4X4’s. We were all going on a boat tour of the bay. Our boat was a 45 foot Catamaran and perhaps thirty of us boarded the boat, along with five or six Pelicans and one Sea Lion. The boat wrangler told us to not touch the animals and if we drop our camera overboard that he wasn’t going to fish it out of the drink for us. He and some of the crew fed the Sea Lion and the Pelicans and we set sail. I had brought my purple Helly Hansen winter parka because I would need it when I got home at Thanksgiving, but had bundled it up in the bottom of my luggage, because I was going to southern Africa in their summer. Boy am I happy that I brought it. It was flipping cold on the bay.
We launched and headed out onto the bay. We six north Americans, a cadre of French, Platoon of Germans and some Chinese. Past the regular working harbor flotsam, fishing boats, pleasure craft. Some almost derelict and some well maintained. The Pelican show was going on at the bow of the boat. The sea lion was requested to depart earlier. I guess they found she didn’t have a ticket. Then the fish for the pelican ran out so they were ejected, but they didn’t like to stay away. They actually seemed to enjoy flying back to the boat, gliding in over the passengers and landing on a crew man’s head. I think they had a bit of a crush n some of them.

Past the oyster farms, that produce humpity hump gazillion pounds of oysters for the China market. Then approached the sea lion reserve on the end of one of the arms guarding the harbor. Big seals, medium seals, little seals, seals everywhere. Some happy, some spatting. Most lounging and several playing tad and running into the surf.

We left the safety of the harbor and entered the actual ocean with those long swells. It was really smooth and not much swell. We were looking fr Dolphins and Whales, but before we could find them some of our passengers were getting Mal Du Mer and we had to turn around before the decks were awash in vomit, not to mention the pelican poop.

We had a nice lunch of fresh oysters on the half shell and veggie bites - basically a full meal, Wilderness Safari style. The boat landed, we got off. Had time to go potty and then we were escorted to a very nice Range Rover and were driven up and down sand dunes while the driver cracked jokes and expounded on how good of a driver he is. Before we hit the dunes we passed a huge flock of Flamingos. The driver had us leave the vehicle to take pictures of the birds and was going to meet us further down the road. We took our share of photos and most of us met at the car. All except for Jake who was still machine gunning his camera at the poor birds. The Land Rover driver said he usually only stopped here for like 10 minutes, instead of half and hour and we would miss driving o the beach because the tide was coming in. I went down and verbally grabbed Jake by the ear and told him there were other people on the trip too. Sure as shootin’ we missed the beach drive.

Another dozen fresh oysters and ups and downs and we were back at the he parking lot with Jeremiah in the Toyota.

Back at the hotel, at and Mike decided to go to Indian food and invited me along. A nice change fro the usual hotel food. Nine pm bed time an asleep until five am.

The next morning, after breakfast we went to enter the vehicle and Pat and Mike announced we were going to play musical chairs and switch seats after each stop. Mike figured out the seating arrangement, which had us snaking our way around the cab of the truck. I thought it worked rather well. This wasn’t their first time on a trip like this. The had one where half the group wasn’t speaking to the other half of the group and one member of the group was kicked out by the tour guide.

The wind was howling the entire day. Every time we stopped I had to bundle up in my parka, before getting out. We stopped at two ship wrecks and took pictures, but not a quadrillion pictures. Hopefully enough, but not all day. Then while driving Jeremiah saw a Meerkat we stopped the vehicle and told us to wait in the car while he made like one of the lost tribes and seemed to wander in the desert. Then he waved for us to follow him and he had us sit is a semi circle around a Meerkat den and sit patiently and wait. Soon a head popped up and then another. Followed by sitting on their butt looking for trouble and the mirrors on the cameras clicked and clicked. The Kardassian's couldn’t have been honored with any more camera clicks.

(it is now 2 days later and so not at detailed as I had hoped)

We stopped for lunch on the beach. More sand to slough through and the wind was howling out of the south. I came on a Dune to Desert vacation not a vacation that needed a damn parka. The only seats for lunch were on your butt in the sand. The lunch was good though. In the German tradition a sausage sandwich and a full breaded Schnitzel. Granola bar and piece of fruit and a juice box. I guess adults drink juice boxes, but all I can picture when I get one is school lunches.

Back on the road, not nearly soon enough for me and a seat rotation. Since the seat rotation was implemented Jake is back on the island. Doug, aka Captain Obvious, or Captain Repetition, or The One Man Orchestra was proud that he now had two rolls of toilet paper, because he stole them from the hotel.

We stopped for a visit to the Lichen Field. It was slightly informative and as unexciting as it sounds. One wooden ship wreck the was a few ribs only left, but mostly driving and driving. We hit Terrace bay just at dusk and it was about as inviting as Barrow Alaska. Barren, with a few buildings scattered without and seeming plan.

My room was as inviting as the exterior. It was barren, it was plain, it’s only saving grace was the it wasn’t outside. Advertised as Rustic, except for having electricity all the time, hotels in Ethiopia would be considered Five Star when put side by side to this place. We trudged to dinner uphill and fortunately with the wind. I ate in my parka and kept my hands tucked into the opposite sleeve Kimono style when not actively eating. The walls and ceiling were covered in graffiti by former travelers. Almost every language on the planet seemed to be represented. Then back down the hill, into the wind and a door slam and lock turn – safe and secure for the night.

I slept well as the wind howled outside and rattled the door and windows. Woke about five thirty only to find that the instant coffee in the room was all Decaf and Hell if I could find the Starbucks packets I’d brought. I was watching the surf and the crows and noticed something smoothly moving behind a low ridge, it turned out o be a Jackal with a floppy baby seal in it’s mouth and the crows were chasing and pestering him. He did drop it and head to higher ground at one point,, but eventually went back and carried it further from the beach.

I stepped outside and was surprised what a calm day it was. The wind was only blowing at about twenty five miles an hour. The ocean current runs north up the coast, bringing cold Antarctic water (same as ours in the 52 to 55 degree range) the wind also is straight from Antarctica and no hills or trees to dissipate it in any way. At least inland it blows off a desert.

I was walking to take a walk and one of the locals stopped and asked if I was in trouble. I told them I was walking and taking a picture every now and then. They said the view was great from the airstrip. The airstrip is half a mile from town, I think they were trying to get rid of me.

I met up with the truck and we were on the road again. A smelly stop at the seal colony where we watched fat mammals fight other fat mammals, some snuggle and some swim and occasionally one get a ride in the mouth of a Jackal. It was a nice stop.

Then bumping over the dirt roads unit we came to a control checkpoint that had porcelain and a small museum. Everyone except Captain No Class used it, he used the side of the building. We carried on over some dunes and down a cliff to our third and last ship wreck. Nearly forty years old it was now just big chunks of rusted metal. About the only thing that I could recognize it as once being a ship was a crane arm laying in the sand. This is where we had out lunch. A grilled Salami and cheese sandwich (they must get their supplies from that German town we left the previous day) and a huge hunk of steak.

I wish I could tell you ore about the rest of the drive yesterday, but all I remember is dirt, sand, dust, birds, bushes and more of the same. We did make one stop at the Booming Sands. All the able bodied climbed to the top of a dune and slid down at one point the sand mixed with the air in the dune and it sounded exactly like a four engined air plane overhead. It was the weirdest thing. I am disappointed in myself for not going. I thought it was another dune climb, but it was just a walk, because up the back was hard pan and not sand. Oh, well another missed opportunity.

As the sun was starting to lower to get that nice long light, Mike said “Lions!”. Sure enough there were three younger lions on a rock over the dirt track looking into the distance. They must have been keeping a watch for their lioness to return and take them hunting this evening. Magnificent animals, great lighting I think the Meerkats might have last their first place for number of shutters pressed now.

We pulled into camp just at seven pm. Ten hours on the road to go 50km from the ocean. We passed three cars all day.

Camp is fantastic. What I have come t expect from Wideness Safaris, and then some. Huge almost suite sized room and if there is a bed larger than King Sized it is is in my room. Safe and shampoo, soft towels French Press coffee maker and makings. The entire north side is glass overlooking the watering hole. A covered veranda area with a large sectional, metal Papasan chair and picnic table. Plus a fully stocked mini fridge.

We hit the rooms, washed and toileted and then met back at the dining area for dinner. I don’t remember what we had for dinner. I’m sure it was good, because if it wasn’t I would have remembered. I was a tuckered cowgirl after ten hours of rough off roading and all I really wanted was to find out how firm the bed was. I slid my chair back and stood up and must have made a sound, because Captain Never let a Thought Go Unsaid, asked me how my his were. I gave a not reply of some sort and he turned away and I flipped him off behind his back. I think and hope Jake was the only person who saw that.

The bed was indeed soft and hugged me tightly until my five thirty alarm sounded. I got up, opened the curtains, made coffee and just enjoyed sitting in a chair, all alone, no one else around and enjoy the peace and quiet as I watched the day slowly break. Ahhh paradise.

Breakfast at eight and drive at eight thirty. Today was the great pachyderm hunt. More dry river beds and more bumps and jostles. We passed a self drive 4X4 and asked if they had seen any elephants today and they pointed us in the right direction. Mike found us some Giraffe and they gt immortalized digitally. A little dustier and a little muted from the others from previous tips to Africa and the zoo.

We drove on passing Oryx and Kudu and Springbok like they were trees. We’d seen more of them than we could count, we were hunting bigger game. Then u ahead there they were. Five of them. One young near adult male, three females and a baby. We probably spent an hour there watching them elephant around. Dozing, pulling branches, munching, and sucking on mom’s teat. I still think the lions are ahead on photos taken.

Back to camp with a stop to look at a troop of baboons before getting into camp and lunch.

Now free time until five thirty when we meet for a six pm departure for Sun-downers.

Whew I am now up to date. I know I missed some things as they come back to me I’ll jot them down and add them to an errata later.

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