July 28, 2013

Day 12 (hidden from view)

From my journal today:
"I sniffed my bra this morning, and found it smelling poignantly of rye bread toast.  The only bread of which I am not fond.  Ditto for my shirt.  My jeans, on the other hand, smelled (delightfully) like jeans.  Which sounds about as absurd but just as enthusiastic as saying "the snozberries taste like snozberries!"

And with that, we left Swakopmund and drove to Spitzkoppe to set camp in the wide open, on rocks, under the stars.  

The road to Spitzkoppe

Spitzkoppe isn't a town or a campsite; it's a landmark geological formation in the Namib Desert.  A beautiful mound of rocks, as if dropped from the sky onto a flat and barren landscape.  The highest peak (the actual Spitzkoppe) rises approximately 1,784 meters from the ground and is referred to as "the Matterhorn of Namibia."  

With no showers or running water, the plan was to camp up on a flat surface on the rocks, without tents, to sleep beneath the stars.  But we were to set up our tent anyway, in case the desert winds became too cold and we needed to descend during the night.

Room with a view

Playing in the rocks

Hanging out between a rock and a hard place

These rock formations are examples of inselbergs, which is German for "island mountain."  Volcanic activity creates underground pockets of hardened lava or extremely dense, firm rock.  The surrounding, softer rock slowly erodes, unveiling these isolated mountains.  Like an iceberg, the majority of an inselberg remains underground, hidden from view, so what we see as mountains are really only peaks.  

The sun sets through inselbergs

Flat rock bed where we slept

First star and moon

By night, after a dinner cooked over glowing orange coals, we dragged our mats and sleeping bags up one of the bergs to a flat surface of rock to sleep under the Milky Way.  Lying on my back, watching shooting stars trail their pixie dust above me, I started composing the summary in my head.  How I would expound upon the beauty of nature.  How I would emphasize that the 10(!) shooting stars that lulled me to sleep were no exageration.  How I would convey the snugness of sleeping in a bag atop the Namibian rocks, with a warm gentle breeze on my face.  And as I wrote mental poetry, the setting lulled me into a peaceful sleep.   

Looking up

For about four hours.  Until the desert temperatures plummetted, and the winds whipped so strongly that I had to tuck the extra blanket around me like a mummy to prevent it from flying away.  When I woke up with uncontrollable shivering, even when I curled into a ball inside the sleeping bag, no skin exposed to the harsh air, and spent the next few hours until wake-up at 5am debating whether I should return to the tent, but too cold to stand and gather my things.

And good thing, because our tent had collapsed in the winds.

So in the most beautiful of evenings and the most heinous of dawns, nature reveals its extreme power in the span of a singe night.

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