I was not without some hesitation to take off with two men I just met and go who knows where for who knows how long.I do have to thank WV/Ben for encouraging me to do this.He said it would be a trip of a lifetime and he was right.We both hung out at Mark’s parents’ house for an afternoon before leaving, which put my mind at ease.They made us lunch and we sat by their pool, watched movies and drank beers until Mark came home from working with his clients.His folks are this old German couple.The dad just fell off his horse and was hurt, so Mark gave him a massage to ease the pain.He was adorable. I went with the mom to walk their three dogs at this dam nearby.By nightfall Mark was back and off we went!
We drove about four hours, until about , and just parked at this shelter and threw our sleeping bags down and camped.
Hanging out enjoying a sunset
The entire week would be like that.We did not go to any campgrounds.It was all wild camping.Part of this was due to having a dog along, but it also made for some really fun camping spots.The basic plan was to head to and hike up BrandbergMountain (aka FireMountain).Now many locals we encountered wondered why we were going there as it is at the peak of heat here, so no one goes there right now.Made me nervous for sure.Mark insisted we could go there and climb it.As it was a mere 2500 meters (less than half of Kili) I thought sure, I can do this.
So we made our way to the Mountain.After our first night, we stopped to drop off some groceries for a family that helped Mark out once when he got stranded by giving him water. They had very little, lived in a tin shack with a lot of kids, but they were genuine and grateful.While Mark chatted with the dad, I gave all the kids some gum and the water bottle we had in the truck to play with.We ended up giving it to them because they found so much joy in spraying each other.
Off we went to a cave nearby to set up camp.Now the days get ridiculously hot, so we would get up early, head out to find our next camp and then laze away the afternoon during the worst heat, reading books and chilling.
Break to check out the truck
Mark ran a tight ship.He would say he was “Germanizing” the camp, in other words getting it tidy and organized.He was not by any means a general.I really did nothing.He had all the equipment and the system down, so I just got out of the way.After a night in the cave ��" well, Ben and I slept outside on bush beds ��" we pushed toward Brandberg.
We got to the Mountain, which stood out in the desert landscape.We chatted about a good route and then found our way there to set up a camp, using a tree for shade.Our plan was to set out about , giving us many hours to climb before we needed to hide for shade again.
We did a brief walk into the valley that would be our route.I was starting to have second thoughts about this time.First of all, we were in the middle of nowhere. I had just started to get to know my companions, so being out there, not near a road ��" we were doing some serious off-roading ��" and I had not seen other people anywhere near us, well, it just made me nervous.Mark also voiced what I had been thinking, the fact no one knew where we were.His point was we had to be smart about this.Now his parents knew we were going to the mountain, but not the route we’d take and they didn’t expect us back for almost a week.Anyway, all this ran through my head as we went into that valley.We also saw leopard tracks, which in my mind looked more like lion tracks save for there are no lions here.The point is, this cat was huge and we were going into his area.
I still thought I can do this and we packed and went to bed.
Family's home in the desert
About 3 Ben got up to wake Mark but it was windy and cold.The nights do get cold here and none of us were really prepared clothes-wise, so we stayed in bed.We ended up just chilling that day and trying to set out in the evening to see how far we could get, camping on the way.As we headed out, I thought, why am I doing this, I have nothing to prove.I was carrying my pack with water and sleeping bag and clothes.It was way lighter than their packs, but I had not carried this much up Kili.Plus it was still very hot at that time.After about an hour and a half, Mark checked in with me and I had to be honest with him and said I could go no further.I was nervous about being somewhere where no one knew to find us, and physically it was a challenge.We were climbing over huge boulders and I struggled at times with my pack, and he said it was going to get worse.If we weren’t climbing boulders, it was over sand, not the most stable ground.
Playing with the water bottle
After I confessed I could not do this, the guys were completely supportive of my decision, respecting my limits.We just found a spot to camp the night and slept out there.Well, I tried to sleep. I thought about the leopard, the fact I was in the belly of this mountain so far away from civilization so to speak, and had been reading a book about the Big Bang and the start of the universe, so was gazing at the incredible stars with awe ��" the desert is amazing for star gazing.Anyway, I did finally slumber.
We got up and packed out of there back to the truck.We decided to make our way to Swakopmund on the coast.We set out and the drive to the ocean was spectacular.I’ve never been a fan of the desert, but I’ve enjoyed it here immensely.
We got to the coast near CapeCross and just pulled off the road and camped there.I love a place where you can just do that.When I was younger my aunt and uncle would take us camping by just pulling over somewhere, and we’d hike in and find a spot to camp.Much better than campgrounds.So we had our beach party that night.I had a little too much wine actually and finally made it known that I did not like Ben all that much.It had been building up to that point with me dealing with him being basically inconsiderate toward me and irritating in that frat boy way.Anyway, the next morning I felt bad, but Mark just thanked me for my honesty.That’s just how he is. Ben just said he wanted us to be civil for Mark’s sake, which we agreed to and moved forward.
I actually was able to deal with him better after that since I got some of that frustration out.
We left and went to a place called Seal Cove, home to hundreds upon hundreds of seals.I cannot describe the stench that permeated in this area.I wanted to hurl immediately but Mark insisted after about 10 minutes it would not be so bad.Oh it was awful. There was so much going on there, though.The entire cycle of life unfolded.All the calves had been born last month, so there were little ones everywhere, but they would lose their mothers and die or drown.Further down where we had camped there were dead baby seals all over, after having been carried down by the current.So dead seals lay about and other seals fought each other, talked to each other, lazed sunning themselves.
Ben admiring the sunset
We watched all this for about an hour.
Next up was HentiesBay for a lunch of seafood and to refuel, stock up on more food.On the way we passed this “town” of houses with mini water towers to each house out in the desert on the coast.Apparently this is their version of having a house up north as people would come up to fish for the weekend, but as there is no electricity and water, they had these weird houses.Very odd.We found another spot on the beach to camp before hitting Swakop.
The next day we hit the town of Swakopmund, stopping to check out some flamingos on the way.
Truck door at sunset
It is very pretty and clean ��" more of that German influence.The downtown reminds me of a place called Litchfield back home.Mark dropped me at a public pool where I could grab a shower and then we met up for beers.I decided to walk about town myself while they checked out the local museum.It was a holiday when we arrived, so many places were closed. From there we grabbed lunch at a seaside restaurant and then headed to the Reef bar on the beach.It was perfect there.We decided to grab our sundowner (drinks while watching the sunset) at a nearby dune.We drove and walked up this dune, which was a lot of work actually.We sat there and had wine and watched as the sun went down over the Atlantic.After that we headed back to the Reef bar, and the night really got crazy.We were celebrating my birthday a night earlier as we had to part ways the next day.
Planning our route at Brandberg
We met some Afrikaaners at the bar who bought us drinks, but Mark disappeared and started talking to staff.Apparently he got fed up with the Afrikaaners making jokes at our expense (WV and I could not speak Afrikaans).We decided to say good bye to that group and bar hopped with the staffers who were getting off of work.We hit a couple of bars and I drank a few too many shots, and somehow we made our way to a river bed outside of town to sleep for the night.
The next day was a sad one for me. I had lunch with the boys and then we said goodbye on the street. Ben and I really just walked away from each other.I am glad I met him because if not for us meeting and being out together that one night, we would not have had this experience.So I walked to my hotel to sleep off the night before and do what I felt like I needed to do badly, which was cry.
Taking a break roadside
I was so sad.Mark was a joy to be around, someone you just want to be around, and I didn’t want to say goodbye.I went to lay down and tried to sleep.Then there was a knock at the door.It was Mark saying he didn’t feel right about our goodbye earlier so he stopped before leaving town.I gave him a bigger hug and thanked him for his generosity, his tolerance of the awkward situation between Ben and I, and gushed over the week.He apologized for maybe making me feel left out as he and WV bonded.We just smiled and really couldn’t put into to words what we wanted to say to each other.Then he was off.
I chatted with family and friends from home online, all weepy about being alone on my birthday and sad about having to say one of the worst goodbyes of my trip so far, but my sister reminded me how lucky I was to have had the experience.
Camping below the mountain
I knew that and felt ashamed for being upset.I bought myself a candy bar since there weren’t any good cupcakes at the grocery store, went back to my dorm room (which I had all to myself) and read and slept, always thinking about the adventure I had in Namibia.