Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Minor Details

I like details, organization and cleaning out closets.  I also like adventures and trying new things. I am not so focused on having everything a certain way that I can't go with the flow but I am not so wild and free as to have a messy junk drawer in my kitchen. 

We stayed at a unique hotel in the middle of the Namibian desert called Le Mirage.  We enjoyed Le Mirage but Le Mirage could use a bit more focus on details. Even as I write this post you might notice if you click the link to the Le Mirage website that there is a typo in their headline. In fairness, Le Mirage is located in the middle of nowhere and that's got to be difficult, not that being located in the middle of nowhere explains the typo but if you've been reading my blog you know I also have typos sometimes. I'm not perfect. 

Back to Le Mirage. The staff stay on site in staff quarters because there are no towns nearby. The food has to be flown or trucked in and the chef has to work with what he gets. There is no way to run out to the store for a few things. Le Mirage provides all daily meals for guests and also offers activities, otherwise there would be nothing to do. While the phrase daily activities might conjure up images of shuffleboard on the Lido Deck, I can assure you that the activities offered at Le Mirage are a little more exciting. 

The first activity we signed up for was quad biking in the desert. You might know quad biking better as four wheeling. At our scheduled quad biking time we all met up and waited near the bikes for our guide to arrive. He finally arrived seeming kind of annoyed. He said he had been waiting for us inside. Not a big deal but we were never told where we should meet him (detail) so to us meeting by the bikes seemed appropriate. 

I'm not sure if he was mad at us or if he just didn't feel like sharing the details of how to pilot a quad bike but regardless our quad bike orientation was very brief and not too informative. It went something like this "this is your gas, this is your front brake but don't use it or you will flip over, this is your back brake, this is your clutch, o.k. let's go." We then spent five minutes asking questions such as "which one is is the gas, which one is the front brake, which one is the back brake and which one is the clutch?" In true Africa form we signed no paperwork. We did however wear helmets. 

Riding a quad bike isn't that difficult but there were a few details that were omitted from our not so in depth overview. First, part of the quad bike, the part right by your right calf gets very hot as you ride and if your leg touches it, it hurts. I did know this from a time I rode go-karts but a reminder from our guide couldn't have hurt whereas brushing your leg against hot metal does. Second, we were told we had a clutch but we weren't really told how to use it. I did what I would do if I were driving a car, when the engine revved to a certain point, I switched gears. I was pretty proud of myself cruising around, flying through the sand, shifting gears like a pro, until I was in too high a gear, hit deep sand and then couldn't move. Mr. Deep had to get off his bike and bail me out. For some reason I didn't know how to downshift. Mr. Deep used a different approach and didn't shift at all. He spent the entire two hour session cruising around in first gear. Not sure if his quad bike is still functioning properly.

I told you Namibia looks like a another planet. 

The second activity involved an early morning drive to Sossusvlei to see the sand dunes including the largest dune in the area, known as Big Daddy.  We left Le Mirage at 5:30 a.m. when it was still dark. Our guide (different guy than quad bike guy) drive drove us into Namib-Naukluft National Park. What a beautiful place. 

Sand dunes look just as you would imagine. Just like in the movies. I expected to see guys riding camels coming over the ridge at any time. When we arrived at Big Daddy our guide told us we could climb up it and pointed to an area where he said we should make a turn and come back down. He said he would meet us on the back side of the dune. There were four of us and as we looked at where he was pointing from from the ground it wasn't really obvious where we would descend and meet him. I guess we all assumed these details would become clear as we walked up. 

While it was warm, it wasn't scorching hot as you might imagine the desert to be. There were some groups of other tourists climbing the dunes (lots of Europeans they seem to love Namibia) and some older people. I was impressed with the older people as climbing the dunes wasn't easy. As we walked our feet sunk into the sand. The sand was soft and velvety and gorgeous to look at. 

When we reached the point where we thought we should head back down none of us were sure which side to go down. The backside wasn't clear because as you know if you face one side the backside is behind you and if you face the opposite way the backside is again behind you. By now we were so high up that if our guide was standing down below somewhere waiting for us we couldn't see him, we could see people below but no distinguishing features. We discussed and unanimously agreed to go down the left hand side. I was tempted to just try to ski, run or roll down the side of the dune but I didn't want to get sand in my clothes and hair so I walked. 

At the bottom (on both sides of the dune) were salt pans. Salt pans are flat white areas of hard ground where over millions of years water has evaporated leaving salt and minerals behind. We explored the salt pans for a while still seeing no sign of our guide. We then determined that our guide must have meant that he would meet us back at the vehicle so we walked across the salt pans and over more smaller dunes back to the parking area. He had said "I will meet you" but as English wasn't his first language meeting he could have meant I will wait for you. When we arrived at the truck our guide was not there. 

Salt pans and close ups below. 

Another guide from Le Mirage was in the parking lot meeting another group and he seemed confused to see us alone. He asked us where our guide was. We explained that we couldn't find him. The other guide told us that our guide was waiting for us on the other side of the dune (the side that we didn't choose) a side that in my detail oriented mind would be called the right side not the backside or if I wanted to be more abstract I might have described it as the side with more trees vs. less trees, but who needs these details when backside provides for a much more interesting story.

The men went out to find him and when they returned with our guide, everyone was fine. I think in America we would have been angry at the guide and the guide at us but this was Namibia where details matter less.  

As we were leaving the park we stopped to see the Sesrium Canyon and walked down into it to explore a bit. 

Deep in the canyon.

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.