May 072015

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

Today we drove from the bottom of Fish River Canyon at Ai-Ais to the top at Hobas.

Kudu female, Namibia

Mama kudu.

Shortly after we left the Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort, we happened upon a female kudu. Normally, kudu dash away, but this one lingered, albeit anxiously.

Kudu baby behind fence, Namibia

Kudu baby stranded behind a fence.

She was on one side of the road having cleared or gotten through two fences, while her young’un was stranded and trapped on the other side of the road. It paced along the fence, calling to Mom.

I wondered how Mom had gotten past the fences and if/how the baby would, but I hate stressing out wildlife. We didn’t stick around to satisfy my curiosity.

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Fish River Canyon. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

It didn’t take long to get to the northern park entrance and the campground at Hobas. We spent most of the day driving to viewpoints along the canyon rim. The first few are accessed by a decent 2WD gravel road, but then there’s just a 4WD track over the natural, rocky terrain.

Fish River Canyon, dry riverbed, Namibia

Dry riverbed in Fish River Canyon. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Fish River Canyon vies for the title of the World’s Second-Largest Canyon after the Grand Canyon. A canyon on the Nile is the competition, and the winner depends on how one measures, whether by length, width, height, or volume.

It makes no difference to me whether Fish River Canyon is second- or third-largest. That it is up there with the largest is impressive.

Fish River Canyon, waterholes, Namibia

Puddles in Fish River Canyon. Clickable pic.

Does it matter to anyone that Fish River Canyon got to this size with intermittently running water rather than constantly flowing water like the Nile has? Hmmm . . . does anyone consider that?

Although, for all I know, water might have run constantly here for thousands or millions of years. Now, however, it does not. Currently, there are a few puddles in the canyon.

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Fish River Canyon. Clickable pic.

It is a 4-day hike through the canyon, starting here and ending in Ai-Ais. However, the canyon is closed to all hiking during the summer—which is right now—because officials have deemed it’s too hot. Signs along the rim indicate it’s against the rules to wander down into the canyon even for a short day hike.

I don’t understand that. There are several places where it’s possible to walk safely down into the canyon, and it’s not terribly hot before noon. I imagine the rule simply means “If you want to do it, you’re on your own.” However, the park has built overlooks, and I think it would be nice if they’d build a couple of short trails—or at least not forbid use of existing ones.

Fish River Canyon Rim, Namibia

Driving along the rim. Okay, the track wasn’t actually this close to the rim; we just parked here to freak Mom out. Clickable pic.

The map didn’t indicate the 4WD track went all that far, but it took us all day nonetheless. I’m not sure if the track now goes farther than it once did or if it was just super slow going. Or, perhaps, we dawdled. We had nothing else on our agenda.

Quiver Tree at Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Quiver tree, an aloe.

We finally got up close to a quiver tree, close enough to touch and inspect it. It looks rather Seussian to me. It’s an aloe, indigenous to southern Africa, and all three subspecies are on the red list of threatened species.

Euphorbia, Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Euphorbia at Fish River Canyon.

I also inspected bushes that look like catci but I now believe are another Euphorbia, like the slate-pencil bushes we noted in Palmwag. As these plants die, the ribs with spines outlast everything else. I got several in my flip-flop. Clearly, the plant doesn’t like being scrutinized or admired; I was punished for getting too close. I can respect that.

Ostriches and Springbok at Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Ostriches and at least five springbok. See them? Clickable pic.

We saw some wildlife here: zebras, springbok, and ostriches. See the ostriches? How about the springbok? There are no zebras that I can find, but I do see at least five springbok in this photo. Click it for a larger version and see how many you can find.

Sunset at Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Sunset at Fish River Canyon. Clickable pic.

Sunset at the canyon overlook is a big daily event, the hyped thing to do. Tour buses offer a sunset dinner at the overlook. Ooooooo.

Sunsets in general are over-rated and anticlimactic, if you ask me. Here, the sun goes down across the canyon, so there’s little interesting light play on the canyon walls that we can see from this side. Sunset is just the sun going down below the horizon as it does everywhere else, too.

The sun rising behind us should be more interesting, but then visitors would have to get out of bed early, and that’s something many people cannot bear. Silly people.

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Fish River Canyon. Clickable pic.

The canyon is much prettier at any other time of day. But that’s just my (often contrary) opinion.

May 062015

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

It was a fairly long day of driving, back through the wide-open desert, snaking between crumbly gray hills, along the Orange River, and to the end of Fish River Canyon.

 Desert roadside rest area, Namibia

Roadside rest area. We use the pullouts, but we never eat at these tables.

It’s the last we’ll see of the extensive and wildly interesting Namib Desert, said to be the oldest desert in the world. We feel the end of the trip upon us. Fish River Canyon is our last destination before returning to Maun, where we’ll have some quiet time with (domestic) cats before the trip home.

Near Rosh Pinah, Namibia

Suburbs of Rosh Pinah. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

We passed through Rosh Pinah, a mining town, around lunchtime, as hundreds of school kids were walking to or from school. The quantity of kids suggested the town was substantial, but the roads and buildings indicated otherwise.

We were unsure if we needed to purchase park and camping permits here in the town or if we could get them on site, so when I saw a sign for the Minestry of Environment and Tourism, we decided to visit the office.

Except we couldn’t find the office.

The sign with an arrow pointing to the right was posted after a roundabout rather than before it, but there is no right turn immediately or even soon after the sign. The right turn is before the sign.

We took the right turn and never saw another sign, not a road sign, not a building sign. We drove all the roads in the vicinity and saw nothing but houses, small buildings, and school children in uniforms.

We gave up and decided we’d get gas and trust we could buy the necessary permits on site.

Every time we’ve gotten gas in Namibia, workers have rushed to serve us. Sometimes four or five workers will pump gas and wash windows. Here, in this strange town, no one approached the car. Another car beside us at the pump had finished filling up, and a couple of workers seemed to be standing around chatting, but no one moved toward us. No one spoke to us. We sat there.

Was this a self-serve station—the only one in Namibia? Was there something we were to do? Had Mike inadvertently pushed the Invisibility Cloak button?

We waited for a couple of minutes and then left. We would be passing through other towns before our tank was empty. If this unhelpful town didn’t want our business, so be it.

Weird. A little unfriendly and standoffish.

That seemed to set the tone for the rest of the day, at least until we arrived at Ai-Ais.

Our road snaked through a rocky, gray, mountainous area. It was a rough road, but not 4WD. Mines in the area have left behind tailings piles, dead (or at least unused-for-some-time) equipment, and oodles of retired tires. The landscape looked dumpy and gray. It appears mostly abandoned, though there was heavy machinery working at one place, which I guess was a mine.

Truth be told, the place was kind of scary. Dismal. Ugly. It would be easy to hide not only bodies out here but cars, too. It was the human element that made the place scary: the ugly tailings piles that hide who-knows-what, the abandoned machinery corpses, the twisty-turning roads that lead who-knows-where, all set against stories of violence and crime in some mining industries. The place shows signs of humans who don’t seem to care, and that’s not pleasant.

It wasn’t just me and my wild imagination, either. Mike felt it, too.

And then, around a corner, we came to this:

Orange River, Namibia

Surprise! Orange River.

The Orange River. We haven’t seen an actual flowing river since the Kunene on the northern edge of Namibia. Here, we’re on the southern edge of the country. In fact, across the river, you’re looking at South Africa.

Orange River, Namibia

Orange River.

Through the crumbly, gray mountains winds this lovely green river. An oasis in a dreary place. The greenery doesn’t extend beyond the banks of the river, and if we turn around the terrain quicky gets ugly again.

Klipspringers, Namibia

Klipspringers. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Klipspringers spruce up the place, though. These guys are little—a bit taller than steenbok—but they are bulkier and shaggier.

Orange River, Namibia

Orange River. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

I think of the Himba up around dry Puros and the town we just came through today, and I wonder why people don’t come live here instead. What a difference water makes. I never want to live without water.

Orange River, Namibia

Orange River. Clickable pic.

A little bit of green in an expansive gray landscape makes a big difference.

Chacma Baboon, Namibia

Chacma baboon.

Baboons and klipspringers bound up the rocky mountainsides, making good use of both the rocks and the river.

Farms irrigated by Orange River, Namibia

Farms irrigated by the Orange River. Clickable pic.

Just as we were turning away from the beautiful, green Orange River, we could see upriver to where farms were making use of the river to irrigate.

Toward Ai-Ais, Namibia

Turning away from the Orange River to Ai-Ais. Clickable pic.

And then we turned north, away from the river. Gah! Were all our water containers full? Can we stop and get a drink? I feel parched.

Have I ever told you how much I like water?

Camping at Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort, Namibia

Ai-Ais campsite.

We camped at the Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort. “Ai-Ais” means “burning water” in one of the local languages. We were not the only campers here. There was one other party in the 50+-site area.

Apparently, the hot springs were discovered in 1850 by a Nama herder searching for his lost sheep. Given how long people have been on this continent, I have a hard time believing the hot springs weren’t discovered until 1850.

Pool at Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort, Namibia

A dip in the Ai-Ais Hot Springs pool.

In the morning, we started the day with a dip in the hot springs pool. I confess it didn’t sound appealing, and we didn’t intend to do it. Who wants to start what will undoubtedly be a too-hot day with a dip in too-hot water? But we stuck our toes in and then sat down with our feet in the pool because, you know, we were here, and the water quickly went from really hot to really comfortable. So we got the whole way in, and it was refreshing and delightful.

May 052015

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

We left the mountains and desert and headed toward the coast again, to Luderitz.

 Rocks and hills, Namibia

Rocks and hills.

Rocks and hills for miles and miles.

Rest area, Namibia

The shade roof is essential. The fence, not so much.

As we neared the coast, the terrain flattened out.

Onto Pavement, Namibia

Where the sand meets the road.

And then there was pavement. Geez, when was the last time we were on a paved road?

Road to Luderitz, Namibia

Civilization, at last. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

So . . . this is civilization.

See those power poles on the left? They’re between the road and a train track. Those poles cast skinny little shadows. Sometimes we saw skinny little springbok standing in those skinny little shadows. Sometimes more than one springbok stood in a single shadow, lined up, one behind the other. Desperate? Brilliant? Both.

The coast at Luderitz, Namibia

Luderitz coast. Clickable pic.

As in Walvis Bay, the temperature dropped suddenly when we arrived on the coast, and the wind picked up. Significantly. In fact, the wind raged, which seems to be the norm. A local campground advertises sheltered sites. It turned out they hadn’t found some protected place out of the wind but rather had built wind blocks.

Luderitz coast, Namibia

I don’t find the coast here beautiful, but there’s beauty here nonetheless.

Also as in Walvis Bay, we didn’t camp. We stayed at the Kratzplatz B&B. We were ready for another break to clean up, rest up, and catch up. Kratzplatz offered Internet access right in our room. We planned to stay just one night, but wound up staying two.

You might recall the Tiras Guest Farm owner saying that on weekends in Luderitz the people sleep.

Sunday in Luderitz, Namibia

Sunday in Luderitz. Clickable pic.

She wasn’t kidding. Saturday and Sunday in Luderitz look like this. Granted it’s the off season, but still.

Just outside Luderitz is Kolmanskop, a once-bustling diamond-mining town (between 1909 and WWI) that is now promoted as a ghost town. Surely Luderitz could be promoted similarly—at least on weekends . . . at least during the off season . . . at least while we were there.

Might we have wandered into Stepford instead?

Luderitz, Namibia

Luderitz is a small town. Clickable pic.

The funny thing is that we had initially contacted a different B&B—one recommended in our guidebook—but were told they were full and then were kindly referred to Kratzplatz. So where were all these people who were filling the rooms at the first B&B?

By the way, I love it when local businesses recommend other local businesses. I took the advice without hesitation or reservation—and promptly made a reservation.

These town photos were taken Sunday afternoon during a walk about town. The only other beings we saw were two other tourists and a couple of dogs. The guidebooks and the Tiras Farm owner consider this sleepiness a bad thing, but we quite enjoyed it.

Calm water in Luderitz, Namibia

Calm water. Take the picture. Quick! Clickable pic.

Sunday morning we got up early because that is our habit and because it was the only time we were likely to be able to walk on the beach without blasting wind.

Sure enough, it was calm. Wind is a late sleeper.

We walked on a short stretch of beach called “Agate Beach,” along with a handful of other beach combers. We did, indeed, find some small, stripey agates. By the time we left, however, the wind was up and already being rather obnoxious.

Flamingos in Luderitz

Flamingos, gull, and wave. Clickable pic.

We drove around to the recommended viewpoints, which, frankly, I didn’t find especially scenic. If it’s a beautiful coastline and pretty beaches you’re after, Namibia isn’t your place. But the flamingos are beautiful.

Flamingos sleep in Luderitz, Namibia

Even the flamingos are sleeping in Luderitz on the weekend.

See? Nice water. Adorable flamingoes. Pretty sea greenery. But the backdrop? Meh. Not very pretty if you ask me.

 African Penguins in Luderitz

African penguins. Clickable pic.

There were penguins on an island just off the coast and playful dolphins in the bay between us and the penguins.

During our stay in Luderitz, I read a little about the diamond history. When diamonds were first discovered in1908, people simply crawled around on the ground picking up handfuls in minutes. Can you imagine? Sometimes people would hunt for diamonds at night because they were easy to spot shining in the moonlight. What a way to make one’s fortune!

As a lifelong pretty-rock hunter, I’d love to go out and hunt for diamonds. But knowing of the manipulation, corruption, violence, and cruelty in the diamond trade, I’m inclined to steer clear. When you get right down to it, as rocks go, I find colorful jasper, patterned agates, and faceted crystals to be far prettier than diamonds anyway.

Well, that figures. I also like Luderitz when its residents and visitors are sleeping.

May 042015

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

After a day of gemsbok spotting, we camped at the Tiras Guest Farm. We’ve heard and read good things about guest farms, and I wanted to try one.

Guest farms are what the name suggests: Farms that accommodate guests. Ranch owners tap into Namibia’s tourism efforts to supplement farm income. Tiras Farm is owned by German-Africans—not surprising, since Namibia was colonized by Germans—and it is a working farm.

Tiras Guest Farm Campsite, Namibia

There, in the middle of that rocky hill, is our campsite. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Rooms and B&B service are available near the farmhouse, but across the road behind a rocky hill are some more isolated, self-catering campsites.

Tiras Guest Farm Campsite, Namibia

The site. The covered patio, doors to shower and toilet, picnic area and braai. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Very nice ones, in fact, complete with private toilets and showers, picnic area, kitchen counter and sink, braai, and, for us, the only campers on site, an elevated patio overlooking a large plain where cows and gemsbok graze.

Camped out on the deck, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Who needs a tent?

Fairly certain that it wasn’t going to rain, we set up our pads and blankets on the patio and slept out under the stars and a not-waterproof, stick, shade roof. I thought briefly about a snake slithering down from the rocks to sleep with warm us, but having seen all of two snakes during past three months, I decided the risk was minimal and acceptable.

When I checked in with the farm owner at the house, the kind woman asked hopefully, “Do you still speak German?” Both Weber and Funk are German names, I know, but “I never spoke German.” She didn’t turn me away.

She gave me a homemade book with maps, photos, and descriptions—in German—of natural history features on the farm. She apologized for my not being able to read the book, but I assured her I was pretty good at reading pictures. We were encouraged to make ourselves at home and drive around the farm roads, and we were directed to a particular loop with interesting rock formations.

We returned to the C road the led us here, crossed it, and opened the first of many farm gates. I did a good bit of getting in and out of the truck that night and the next morning.

Klipspringer, male, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Male klipspringer.

As we approached the beautiful campsite-on-a-hill, we were greeted by three klipspringers. Unlike the klipspringers (we think—Mike’s more certain than I am) we saw in Etosha, these stood still long enough to get a good look and confident ID.

Klipspringers on rocks, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Klipspringers after springing onto the rocks.

We even got a video of one springing up into the rocks above the campsite.

It was such a lovely place, we considered staying another day, but in the end we decided to continue on.

After setting up camp, we headed out to the cool rock formation loop. We were not disappointed.

Pretty rocks, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Cool rocks.

For whatever reason, we both find piles of rocks to be beautiful and interesting. I want to scramble around the rocks and see what’s living in the nooks and crannies.

These appear to have been piled up by a giant tidying the landscape rather than worn away by rain and wind.

Rock formation, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Buns of rock. You’re familiar with buns of steel, right?

And what a nice, smooth cut the giant made here, while slicing rocks. It’s a rock bun awaiting its black-bean burger.

Hyrax, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Hyrax. Can you see the fangs?

Hyrax, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Hyrax. See the white eyebrows?

In addition to cool rocks, we saw a couple more klipspringers and several hyraxes or what’s known locally as rock dassies.

They look like guinea pigs and call to mind Alaska’s marmots and pikas, which are cute, short-legged, furballs that live in rocks at home. However, despite living in a similar rocky environment and looking something like marmots and pikas, these animals are not even closely related. Knowing that much, go ahead and guess what the hyraxes nearest relative is.

Really. Take a stab at it. Look at the things, and guess.

I’ll wait.

Did you guess tortoise? Well, you’d be wrong. (A tortoise isn’t even a mammal, dude.)

Did you guess giraffe? Wrong again.

Did you guess elephant? Too bad, because you’d be right.

Did you guess manatee? You’d be right with this one, too.

Crazy, no? Not only does it share an ancestor with the elephant, but it has similar teeth, toes, and skull structures. If you look closely at the first not-very-good image, you might be able to see something like fangs protruding from the animal’s mouth. These are large incisor teeth that grow out to be tiny tusks, just like an elephant’s.

I’m calling these rock hyraxes, but there’s also a yellow-spotted hyrax, and one of our pictures shows a yellow spot on the back of the animal, so I’m not entirely sure which hyrax this is. I’m still dassled (no, that’s not a typo or spelling error) by the the elephant relatives, though, and am not too worried about this detail.

Quiver tree, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Quiver tree.

Driving around the farm roads was so much fun, we kept going until the sun had set and it got dark. We saw cows, gemsbok, and a jackal, along with pretty rocks, this quiver tree, and a lovely landscape. Apparently, natives used branches from this tree as quivers because they are easy to hollow out. Some quiver-tree trunks look baobab-ish to me, but if you ask me the stronger resemblance is to coral polyps.

I got up a few times during the night to take a look around with the night-vision binoculars. As far as I could tell, it was just the klipspringers and I up and about.

The View, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

A view from the Rock Formation Loop. Evening. Clickable pic.

The View, Tiras Guest Farm, Namibia

Same view from the Rock Formation Loop. Morning. Clickable pic.

In the morning we made another trip around the rock formation loop to see the rocks and hyraxes in different light, and then we were on our way to Luderitz, where the farm owner said the people would all be sleeping because it was the weekend.

May 012015

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

Today we zigged and zagged through the desert, taking recommended C and D roads, as opposed to “better” A and B roads. By “better” I mean paved. C and D roads are sand and gravel; C roads are smooth and good, while D roads are more bumpy. The 4WD tracks we’ve been on are something else entirely.

We’ve traveled mostly C and D roads in Namibia, and they’ve been great. Generally better than gravel roads in Alaska, I’d say, maybe because they’re more sand than gravel. We’ve had just one flat tire so far, which surprises the heck out of me. We deemed the tires the weak link on our rental truck, as they seemed quite worn. But Africa makes sturdy tires. Way to go, Africa! The two spare tires in the back are better than the four on the truck.

Gemsbok, oryx gazella, Namib Desert, Namibia

A gemsbok under every tree. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

In addition to springbok, ostriches, and four giraffes, we saw gemsbok, gemsbok, and more gemsbok. In fact, there’s pretty much a gemsbok under every tree.

Nope, I’m still not tired of seeing gemsbok. They’re beautiful.

Baby gemsbok, Namib Desert, Namibia

Young gemsbok.

Best of all, we saw a young one. Given the size of the horns, this one isn’t all that young, but it’s the smallest one we’ve seen, and one of only two relatively young ones.

Youngish Gemsbok, Namib Desert, Namibia


Normally, the youngest we see are this size. All three of these have fairly short horns.

Based on our observations, one might conclude that gemsbok are born as adults, but we know this isn’t true. As I mentioned before, one of our books says that gemsbok keep their young hidden from the herd for the first month. It seems they keep them well hidden and perhaps for longer than a month.

Mom and baby gemsbok, Namibia

Mom and baby gemsbok. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

What a treat to spy this young one! I wonder how old it is.

Gemsbok with a broken leg, Namiba

This gemsbok’s left front leg is broken.

We also saw this lame one. Nature is not kind to lame animals, and it breaks my heart to see one. I want to stuff it in the backseat and either take it home and fix it or give it a safe place to live out its life comfortably. I think it’s amazing that it was walking as well as it was, but it’s still an easy target for a predator.

Gemsbok with a curled horn, Namibia

Curly-horn gemsbok.

What about an affliction like this, I wonder. What are the consequences when a horn that is supposed to be straight comes out curled? Does this impact the animal’s ability to defend itself or its territory? Do the other animals notice? Do they care?

Gemsbok with a broken horn, Namibia

Broken-horn gemsbok on the desert plain. Clickable pic.

Not all deformed horns are birth defects; sometimes horns break. Whoops. There’s a mistake that stays with you the rest of your life.

One of the reasons I’m so enamored with gemsbok is because they are so hardy. They are the antelope braving the harsh, dry conditions way out yonder in the desert Bush, away from the comforts of waterholes and the safety of great herds. They are antelope after my own heart.

Our guidebook says they are not dependent on surface water. Apparently, they can get all the moisture they need from . . . melons.


What melons?

No Melons in this Desert, Namibia

No melons here. Clickable pic.

Do you see any melons here? “Honey, where’d you put the melons? I’m thirsty.”

We’ve seen precisely zero melons in all of our Namibian travels. These mythical melons have become a joke with us.

Need something we don’t have? Oh, we’ll just grab a melon and use it instead.

Feeling parched? Grab a melon.

What’s that gemsbook doing just standing there? Enjoying a melon, of course.

And then, as we’re cruising blissfully along our desolate C road, a spot of green outrageously out of place screams for my attention.

“Mike! Stop! Melons!”

Melons, for real, Namibia

Melons! Get out! Clickable pic.

Wonder of wonders, they’re real. There really are melons in this endless desert. Could they look more out of place? I don’t think so!

But not a gemsbok in sight, and we can see for miles and miles.

Tsama melons, Namibia

Check ’em out!

They look a bit like honeydews.

Tsama melon, cut open, Namib Desert, Namibia

Tsama melon guts.

Inside, they look like white watermelons, but the flesh is firmer, even firmer than honeydew. Is it fully ripe? Beats me.

Do you suppose they’re safe for humans to eat? Would you really eat something so rare and precious to gemsbok? I mean, this is it for miles around. These are all the melons for the dozens or hundreds of gemsbok we’ve seen. Are you really going to take one from them?

Well, I did already cut one open.

But, then, no way was I going to actually try one without knowing they’re safe to eat. I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere in the desert in Namibia. We’re not taking any chances. That would be foolish. I’ve even been treating water we’ve been told is safe to drink.

Taking no chances.

“Forget it,” Mike said. “They’re really bitter.”


I can’t believe melons really grow out here in the desert with no water and rocks for soil. They’re not a myth after all. In fact, they’re tsama melons. Or Tsamma melons. As with so many words here, I see two different spellings. They are commonly thought to be the ancestor of watermelon, and there are several varieties, including a sweet one and a bitter one. All are safe to eat, if not exactly yummy. Apparently, these grow in the US, too, and are called “citron melons.” Are you familiar with them?

Castle, Namibia Desert

It’s a lodge and spa. Click for a larger view. Use your back button to return here.

And then there’s this. Why on earth is there a castle out here, and what does it have to do with anything? It makes no sense.

Precisely my point.

Apr 302015

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

Our full day in Sesriem and the Namib-Naukluft National Park here included a long dune hike, a short canyon hike, and loads of photography.

After the long, hot Big Daddy dune hike, we took a brief break, soaked ourselves and our clothes in the shower, and headed out again to explore Sesriem Canyon. This canyon was carved by the Tsauchab River, the same river that pools in Sossusvlei during exceptionally wet years. It’s on the opposite end of the park from Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, near the park entrance and our campsite.

Sesriem Canyon, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Sesriem canyon. And me.

Compared to canyons in the southwestern US—Bryce, Canyonlands, Zion, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, etc.—Sesriem is tiny, but it’s a canyon and canyons are cool. Knowing that flowing water created this is fantastic. We walked the narrow passageway through towering rock walls.

Sesriem Canyon, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Narrow canyon passageway.

We explored the nooks and crannies of the worn and weathered rock: caves, ledges, and holes. Birds nest in these walls.

Sesriem Canyon, Namib-Naukluft National Park

The narrow canyon widens. Clickable pic.

The canyon opens up fairly quickly to a wider riverbed with lovely, rounded river rocks and greenery taking advantage of underground water.

Sesriem Canyon, Namib-Naukluft National Park

A hole in the wall. Clickable pic.

Canyons, like dunes, are playgrounds for photographers. The light contrasts can be tough to deal with, but the twists, turns, and rock formations offer endless views, perspectives, and creative opportunities.

My goal for this post is to share some of the results of Mike’s photographic playing in this playground of a park. While Mike does his thing with a camera, I sometimes shoot along beside him to see the differences in what we single out or how we frame an image. It’s a game for me, too, to try to see what Mike is seeing.

Sand dune, Sesriem, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Stripes. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

This image is a small area isolated from a wide landscape. (Duh, I know.) In seeing the landscape, I knew immediately that Mike was focused on the stripes of light, shadow, and color. Mike likes stripes. I’ve learned that. So do I, but I never noticed them in this way until Mike pointed them out.

Sand dune, Sesriem, Namib-Naukluft National Park

The landscape from which a squiggle was isolated. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

As I mentioned previously, I like to point out details that I like and have Mike shoot them, infusing his perspective on the detail. Here, I asked Mike to shoot the squiggly line of the dune ridge.

Sand dune, Sesriem, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Squiggle line.

He knew exactly what I meant; in fact, I’m sure he’d already noted it. There were so many options, I wanted to make sure he included that one.

Sand dune, Sesriem, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Early morning light.

Sand dune, Sesriem, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Late afternoon light.

Morning light vs. late afternoon light. The subtleties of light elude me, but I can grasp the difference here. Isn’t it cool?

Now get this: Look at the trees. The trees in the morning shot are clear, in focus, while the trees in the late afternoon light are blurry. In fact, there’s a whole ribbon of blurry in the late afternoon shot due to heat waves. It was blessed hot when the second photo was taken around 5 p.m., which I consider the end of the oppressive period. The earth is radiating heat; it doesn’t want it any more than I do.

Sand dune, Sesriem, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Texture. And gemsbok!

While Mike likes stripes and light and all sorts of other things, I’m big into texture—or what I call texture. I don’t know if this is a photography thing or not; I’m just putting words to what I think and like.

In a big, wide landscape, I often zoom in on bits like the dunes here because I see texture. That’s a little bit weird, what with photos flattening everything into two dimensions, but I still see texture here.

As an embroiderer, I want to recreate images like this with needle and thread, adding that third dimension.

That there are gemsbok in this picture too is a bonus.

Sand dune, Sesriem, Namib-Naukluft National Park

A line or wrinkles? Is there a difference?

I consider this a texture picture, too. Mike, I imagine, sees two-dimensional light and lines while I see three-dimensional wrinkles in the sand. The same, but different.

Sand dune, Sesriem, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Blocks of color. Clickable pic.

Dune 45, another one that visitors climb. Three bold, sharply delineated blocks of beautiful, saturated color.