5am and a 30 ton ore truck rumbles past, less than 20m away. 15 minutes later a second one. And so on until, by 6am, we are all awake and stumbling around our campsite with rumble-shock.
As I mentioned before, the Richtersveld Park is also home to a diamond mining operation which uses the main road through the camp to transport the uncrushed ore from the mine to the plant. Unfortunately, and unbeknown to us the night before when we set up in the Sendlingsdrift campsite, the trucks start up bloody early in the morning! So there we sat, firing up the fire a for coffee while we decided the strategy for the day.
Flash back to the previous evening:
When we were told that there were no available campsites at Potjiespram (the nearest one to Sendlingsdrift) some of us had driven down to the campsite to see what the real situation was.
The Potjiespram campsite is 9km from Sendlingsdrift and nestles amongst low trees and bushes on the banks of the Orange river. When we arrived we found that it was indeed fairly full with no decent campsite available. However, when we drove through the camp to a turning point, we found an remote and unused spot that no-one had yet claimed. Since it was evening and we had already setup at Sendlingsdrift, we strategically placed a few small rocks at the partially hidden entrance of the site and went back to our camp. Once there we informed the mob of our find and planned to race through first thing in the morning where we would execute a land grab worthy of any former Zimbabwean war veterans!
Fast forward back to early in the morning :
After breakfast, the three nominated Camp Site Squatters (KVet, The Young Kid and myself) packed up our stuff, leapt into KVet’s bakkie and charged off into the sunrise. Barely out of camp, TYK (The Young Kid) discovered three bottles of Old Brown sherry in the backseat from the previous days stop in Eksteenfontein.
As corporal for the day, he decided we should each have a drink, and then maybe another one, followed by a third one to make sure the second one found its way to the stomach and before we knew it we were at our campsite and two bottles of OB’s had evaporated into the morning air…
Honest, the desert is very dry!
On arrival, we leapt out of the bakkie, fell over, rearranged our rocks, jumped into the bakkie, missed, tried again – success! Parked the vehicle, jumped out again, fell over again, claimed the campsite with a show of vigour that would have been more appropriately displayed by Tenzing and Hillary on the peak of Mt Everest, or Livingstone at the source of the Nile!
We then set up a camp table, put the two OB dead soldiers on the table to inform our fellow explorers that they were in the right place, grabbed some camp chairs, followed the short path down to the river where we retired – with the third OB – into the river itself. The water was invigorating (read “not quite freezing but bloody close”), the sun warm on our shoulders and the sherry hot in our bellies.
It was here that the rest of the crew discovered us, somewhat inebriated but in awfully good spirits (if you will excuse the pun).
The next few hours are a vague blur and I am putting this down to old age and memory loss as opposed to any chemical reaction I may have had to the Old Brown. Needless to say, some of us really enjoyed our afternoon nap that day.
While some settled down to some quite time next to the river as we allowed the day to flow past us, others did a bit of canoeing until the sun slipped below the horizon and the smell of dinner gently drifted through the trees.
OB, we love you, but that’s it for the rest of this trip!