The Daily Dozen: Orange River and Ai-Ais

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.

Categories: Africa, Africa, Travel