Sendlingsdrift

Kuboes was not, as the guidebook suggested, full of singing and dancing children and wise storytellers. It was windy. It was hot. And if I’m honest I can completely understand why the inhabitants gave up dealing with tourists in favour of sitting around looking broken. It was a Sunday so it is possible on Mondays you get a show. But given the heat and wind perhaps not. It had a shop that sold drinks and crisps. Nothing else.

Do you have eggs?

No but the woman down the road has chickens perhaps ask her?

I couldn’t be bothered. I wanted to get back to the Orange River as quickly as possible so I cold put my boiling brain in some cold water. Richard was in surprisingly good spirits.

You really struggle with the heat, hey?

 Now for those of you who don’t know me, making casual conversation about my lack of resistance to heat is at best courageous and at worst very dangerous. I stared out the window praying for it all to end. I’m pretty sure at some point I started hallucinating a gate with the sign Richtersveld National Park (at this point we were in a World Heritage site, but not a park). A man came over to take out details. Still dreaming we headed for Sendelingsdrift. I hallucinated a few shrubs on the side of the road. Then some more. Could it be we were finally close to the river again? After a few kilometres the shrubs had dried up…

Sendelingsdrift is little more than a border post. The permanent residents include a few passport officers, a few policemen and the receptionist for the national park. Even the shop keeper makes the treacherous journey from the vibrant metropolis that is Kuboes each day rather than live here. I chatted about this to a courteous but cold policeman. 

 Why are you here?

I work here.

 Yes. No, I mean, you’re not from here. 

No one is from here. 

 Yes, so why did you move here.

To work. 

Yes, but … 

I didn’t know what to say so I decided to head to the reception desk to sort out the paperwork and get out of the drift as quickly as possible.

You can’t go to the campsite tonight. It’s after four. We don’t allow you to drive the pass after four.

 Now this was entirely reasonable but the heat and the lack of river meant that this was the least likely to be well received news ever. I tried not to throttle the receptionist.

But, we’ve driven from Oewerbos, on the other side of Nababeeb. We can’t go back.

My voice was unnaturally high pitched. 

No, no, you have to stay here tonight, there’s a campsite just 100m down the road.

Ah, I was a bit worried.

 Ja, ek het dit geseen.

So, after handing over yet more money we trudged over to the campsite to have a look round and I, incredibly stupidly, left my handbag as we went back to collect the car. By the time we got back, all of about three minutes, a large male vervet monkey was going through my receipts and make up, flinging unwanted goods about with a gleeful brashness whilst biting into my lipbalms to test if they tasted as good as they smelt. They never do… Our arrival unsettled him so he decided to grab my bag and make a break for it. Fortunately my bag has an almost biblical ability to multiply the contents and he dropped his loot after a few metres. We did what you’re supposed to in the situation, opened the car doors to grab a camera and followed him a short distance. He was not alone. Behind our backs his mates were having the kind of celebration reserved for stag and hen dos in the north of England. One pee’d on my seat, another stole some drinks and one chewed through an arm of my sunglasses. As you do – if you’re on crack. Too tired to keep an eye on the throng that was now approaching a hundred (where did they come from? We hadn’t seen one up until this point, now we were faced with a significant percentage of the global species population.) we had no option but to wait until sunset. We sat, car doors closed with our cameras in hand watching them. The youngsters played, the big males postured, the females carefully tended to their babies. It was quite lovely. Suddenly they were off, leaving us to wait for the sun to go down and contemplate the campsite. Sendelingsdrift camp site is perfunctory. You can camp there. If it were a meat cut it would be stamped with edible or fit for human consumption. There’s not much more you can say. A lovely couple arrived shortly before sunset. Johan and Pieter didn’t camp much. After seeing the campsite – oh, we arrived late, we’re booked into a boutique hotel in Namibia tonight, it’s gorgeous there, but now we’re stuck – they attempted to erect their tent (thank god we bought it just in case). The entire process was soundtracked with fits of laughter. I looked at Richard. We never had so much fun putting up our tent. After a few attempts they came over and asked for help. We obliged and, feeling sorry for them we asked if they wanted to join us for dinner. They declined and we, after lending them some essentials including a lamp, started on our cheesy tuna pasta; which is canned tuna, long life cheese sauce and pasta. (Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.) Feeling a little smug I wandered over to collect our lamp before turning in. Now Johan and Pieter might not have figured out the architectural nuances of tent construction but they sat, shiraz in hand eating delicate lamb kebabs with sundried tomatoes and a variety of other gourmet sides. I felt decidedly less smug and walked back to the tent with a feeling that can only be described as shame. We’d been away a week and had cheesy tuna pasta five times. I could only admire Johan and Pieter’s life choices. But I didn’t feel bad for long. A jackal suddenly appeared no more than 15 metres in front of me and ran towards me with determination that seemed rather rabid – a very real concern in South Africa. My voice disappeared at the same time that I lost the ability to wave my arms or move my legs. By the time I found my voice it was less than three metres away. I told it to go away in a manner that would get you a detention in school and it stopped, sniffed the air and ran off at the speed of light. Apparently jackals understand English! It was the most singularly terrifying and exhilarating moment of the trip. I was shouting at Richard to come see even though I know he’s deaf. It was amazing and I was buzzing! Not a minute after I retold the story to Richard, I fell fast asleep.

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