April 3rd – 12th, 2017
Killian and I started the week by slowly traveling from Kamanjab to Camp Aussicht. I had visited Camp Aussicht on a previous trip and was eager to see it again. We drove through Palmwag with stops along the way since rains were good and the area was fairly green. As we approached Sesfontein we began to realize just how much rain had fallen in the area since the road to the town was closed. The turn north towards Camp Aussicht was also an adventure since depressions in the landscape had recently been flooded and had moved large boulders into the road. It made for slow driving but we were not in rush so it was quite alright. We eventually arrived at the road leading to the camp and we were not too surprised when we saw the deep cuts in the road from driving in the area during heavy rains. Apparently, it had been raining a lot in the area which destroyed the road to the camp and it was obvious that getting there was difficult for a while. Killian was thrilled to finally get to do some 4x4 off-roading and it made for bumpy ride. I let him have his fun though. Upon our arrival at the camp, we met with the host (her name escapes me) and were treated to a complementary drink while we browsed their handmade jewelry collection. The area has deposits of a fairly rare mineral called dioptase, which is a lovely blue-green color and they make jewelry from this and other mineral found in the area. We then set up camp, explored the flooded mines with resident bats and slightly froze to death during the night. The higher elevations make for cold sleeping.
The following day, Killian was once again treated to a rough 4x4 road as we were leaving camp. As we came to the main road we had to try several times to make it over the steep sand bank that runs next to the road. Once over, we then had to zigzag on what used to be a road until we reach the section that the new river did not destroy. I managed to get a very blurry picture of the chaos. After that adventure, we drove north toward Opuwo making stops in Baobab bend where I wanted to collect more specimens of a new species of Ledebouria. Luckily, they were still growing and we were able to make several collections despite all of them being wedged between sharp, hot rocks. Back in Opuwo we stopped for water and some food, and I purchased some souvenirs from the locals. Back on the tarmac we quickly drove back to Kamanjab since we needed to return to Windhoek the next day in order to process and inspect my collections.
On Wednesday we made the long, boring drive back to Windhoek.
Thursday was filled with getting my plants inspected for export and filling out the material transfer agreements with the National Botanical Research Institute. The upcoming weekend was to be filled with a trip to Namibfontein in the west with my good friend Inge. That evening, she graciously let us camp in her driveway so that we could get an early start on Friday.
We woke up the next day, had breakfast, I picked up my phytosanitary certificate and sent off my last shipment of specimens from this field season. I could finally relax and not worry about plants! What a relief! We then picked up Inge and headed towards Usakos en route to Namibfontein farm. The road to the farm house had hundreds of speed bumps since it was also the road to the power substation for the area. Once we arrived we met the owners and they directed us to a lovely spot to camp for the night. An amazing sunset, great dinner, good conversations and yummy drinks filled the night.
Saturday and Sunday were spent exploring the large farm. We found Ledebouria, Crinum, Aloe dichotoma, Adenia pechuelii, and more! We drove from the farm house to the Khan River where we decided to not enter. It was a bit wet and we had no interest in getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. We did explore the area though but the dryness proved too much for the bulbs since they were all dormant for the season. Saturday night was absolutely amazing! We set up camp, made a fire, had an awesome dinner and enjoyed the rain storm that soon found us. We escaped the rain by taking cover under a rock were we sipped our drinks and watched the fire. I realized too that it was my last night of camping which was weird to me because it had become so normal by now. Anyways, I could not have asked for a better last night of camping.
We returned to Windhoek on Sunday. However, before doing so we stopped at a neighboring farm to visit a real, live cheetah! Its parents were killed when it was a baby and these people raised it. The owner was eager to show him to us and he quickly jumped into the cage and invited us in. Inge had no reservations and quickly walked in so Killian and I did the same. Things quickly turned for the worst though. Upon entry, the cheetah took a leap towards Killian. Did you know that cheetahs cannot retract their claws? Killian found that out when one of the cheetah’s front claws punctured his forearm as it came down. Luckily, the owner had the cheetah by the collar and Killian quickly punched the cheetah’s arm off of him. In the process of coming back to the ground, the cheetah’s claws caught Killian’s shirt right where his intestines are located but only grabbed the shirt and not his bowels. We quickly left the cage and cleaned Killian’s wound which was pretty deep and had got some of the muscle below. He’s still alive to this day so he didn’t get some nasty infection. Instead, he got an awesome scar that came from a cheetah attack. His swag level is ridiculous now. Reflecting back on the incident, we’re not sure if the cat was being aggressive or if it was simply stressed by all of the damn dogs barking around us. Either way, it was awesome to see and touch a live cheetah. Seeing one in person really shows you just how efficient they really are for running fast.
That night, we enjoyed a fancy dinner in town with Inge and said our goodbyes for the time being. I had to wake up at 3am the next day for my flight back to Tanzania.
My last days of fieldwork were spent in Dar es Salaam. Long story but my flight back to the USA was from Dar and not Namibia. Bad planning on my part but live and learn. I filled the time by reading, repacking and spending way too much money on colorful fabric. Luckily, I got two free checked bags and you bet I put them both to use.
On the day of my departure, I had one last adventure in downtown Dar. I hired a motorcycle to take me to two special hotels in the area. If you ever want to get your adrenaline pumping just hire a motorcycle in downtown Dar. Despite crapping my pants, it was the quickest way to get around and it was very cheap. I had my driver take me to the Golden Tulip and Iris hotels because since I study geophytes, I had to get a picture with them. Just a silly thing I wanted to do as a last hoorah to almost 3.5 months in Africa looking for a geophyte. I survived, obviously, and soon was off to the airport.
Looking back, I could not believe that 3.5 months went by so quickly. In the beginning, I thought it would never end and by the time to leave I was wishing I had had more time. It’s funny how that happens sometimes. Now, I can’t wait to go back.