Waterberg Plateau hike
on Marika VSO-ing in Namibia (Namibia), 01/Nov/2010 21:04, 34 days ago
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After the relatively hefty hours I had been doing recently I justified myself in taking a few days leave during term time, synchronised with the half term in the UK I would normally be having this time of year. Even though justified in my conscious, I still felt very guilty when I had to confront my Principal with my request for 4 days leave but went ahead anyway. The main feelings of guilt seemed to stem from the bad example I might be giving that might possibly encourage other teachers to leave even more than they currently do. Nevertheless, I weighed up the pros and cons and took up the offer to join 4 friends to do the 4-day Waterberg Plateau hike knowing it would be closing in November and that this would be the last opportunity to see the top of the Plateau in more depth than my brief sunset visit in May.Wooed by the superb company of Julia and Ant (VSO UK Physiotherapists), Lindsay (PCV) and Matt, I felt motivated to overcome the sinking feeling I get when I know I have to take the risks of hiking somewhere. Feeling positive it was worth the trouble, I luckily started the hike off well by coincidentally leaving at the same time as a colleague from the Advisory team, allowing me to stay the night in Rundu with Saskia (VSO Netherlands) before continuing with the multiple hikes needed to get down to Okakarara where Julia and Ant are based, the only highlight of that day of hiking being the pleasure of hearing a bit of Tracy Chapman put on by a friendly lady who just happened to stop where I was in order to adjust here radio that wasn’t working. A lovely evening with Julia and Ant in the hospital grounds where they are based before the short drive to Waterberg the next morning to meet with Matt and Lindsay ready to start our hike.Unusually, the only allow one group per week starting at a late 9am every Wednesday. We ended up setting off by around 10am as the renowned NWR campsite muddles through the typical Namibian paperwork that seems to be required for everything. The heat at the that time set the theme for the hike, feeling as hot and dry as the North making us most appreciative of any shade of a tree that we pass where the drop in temperature , although marginal, feels drastic. A relatively easy and leisurely 50km began with a short ascent to the top of the Plateau setting off from the campsite and roughly half the route was set between some colourful rock formations and between vegetation aplenty. We didn’t have many animal sightings bar a few harems of baboons that seem to be becoming regularity in Namibia’s National Parks and especially around campsites. The park is known to have rhino and leopard so I can’t say it concerned us too much that we didn’t meet either of these. Other highlights included the beautiful landscape views from the edge of the Plateau into the valley and flatlands below and the brilliant orange sand and rocks contrasting against the verdant background. Accommodation consisted of simple open shelters with a nearby tap for water of which one seemed to attract an annoyingly large amount of bees and wasps especially around the late afternoon as we wanted to cook. So we were prepared and packed for a 4-day hike, and despite 2 bee stings, 2 wasp stings (I can claim ownership of one of these), an unfortunate sprain of Julia’s ankle, we managed to complete the 50km in just 3 days, made easier by the loop route that intends for the same shelter to be used for 2 nights. After our earlier than planned finish we were able to enjoy a meaty meal of Oryx from the campsite together with some leisurely relaxing time by the swimming pool, although the chemicalsseemed not to be in the right balance meaning we didn’t really spend much time in the pool, and more just near the pool enjoying drinks and the scene created when 2 school buses arrived with learners, one of which Ant spent the majority of the afternoon monitoring as she was in some kind of medical shock until the ‘ambulance’ (a bakkie with mattress in the back) came from Okakarara over an hour after calling, earning all a free stay with his heroic care (Cheers Ant!). I did feel a sense of security knowing we had 2 physiotherapists hiking with us.In sum, a leisurely hike with good company and evenings highlighted with card games– those valuable extra grams of weight all the worthwhile. For our first time sleeping outside of a tent in Africa, it felt a bit precarious, but we felt protected in the warm arms of the peaceful night, under the bright moonlight and enjoying the feeling of knowing that we were the only people on that Plateau.