Sleeping furthest from civilization in the desert

Basically we could sleep in today but due to the francolins scolding we wake up quite early nonetheless. While having breakfast more and more birds of all sorts seek our company – or the company of the other birds. We get a little angry at Stefan because he feeds some left-over chilis to the poor birds.

Shortly after 9am we leave the camp for the tiny Purros settlement, which consists of a few huts, a kiosk-style convenient store, and a school. The school appears to be the only “solid” building (by western standards) in the village. After we asked nicely we’re allowed to enter the class room and chat with the kids. The class room has a good spirit, we feel that.

School in Purros, the kids dance for us

It makes us happy to see these kids are given a chance to profit from education. We learn that this school was built and primarily sponsored by Wilderness Safaris a major operator for ecotourism and conservation in southern Africa. Apparently the Purros school doesn’t get a single buck from the Namibian state as the attitude seems to be that it’s a waste of precious resources to finance a school in the middle of nowhere. For us westerners this is utterly incomprehensible for we consider schooling and access to clean water to two most important improvements for people in Africa.

We’re also thoroughly impressed by the kid’s uniform and the teacher’s bleach white ironed shirt (left in the photo). Despite its size Purros has so many kids that the school offers a morning- and afternoon-shift. Many of the kids speak at least a little English. Some of the (too) few text books are in English and the teacher is speaks it well. I try to explain to girl what the meaning of the large statement on the wall is: “In education lies your future!” How true.

However, we also see that school supplies are scarce. There are not enough pens and not enough note books. Although we don’t generally donate money to organizations which claim to invest it wisely in Africa (we loath the huge administrative overhead and corruption in Africa) Akiko and I decide on the spot that we can do something locally here for this school. When Marga and Stefan will return to Purros in September with another group they will bring boxes of school supplies bought in Windhoek at our expense.

Afterwards I play soccer in front of the school with the kids from the afternoon shift. Fortunately, they have at least a soccer ball. I realize that here a simple ball can mean so much. I make a mental note to load a few balls into our Land Rover next time we set out on a trip to remote areas in Africa.

We leave Purros in south-west direction to follow the Hoarusib river through its partly narrow canyon towards the ocean. The impressions are overwhelming! The river is not dry, there’s green, and when there’s water there are animals. Just as we enter the canyon a group of desert elephants crosses our path.

Desert elephants in the Hoarusib canyon near Purros

The canyon twists and turns and we have to drive very slowly and carefully as to not startle elephants or other animals behind the next corner. We’re glad to have a radio in each vehicle.

Lion family in Hoarusib canyon: daughter, mom, son.

When the canyon opens up unexpectedly to a wide plain after several kilometers we see a number of huts on a rock high above nicely overlooking the area. We let our Land Rovers climb up the steep, narrow and rugged path to the huts. The view is breath-taking! We learn from the workmen we meet that they’re working on a new luxury camp – the Schoeman’s camp (after its owner). Judging from the attitude they display it might take a while until it’s ready to open.

Update 2011-01-02: seems the camp did open, indeed. It’s now officially called Leylandsdrift camp operated by Skeleton Coast Safaris. There’s no special website for the camp but I found a blog entry here:

After the lunch break at the camp we continue slowly south-east through the deserted coastal region. There is a track that follows more or less the (invisible) border to the Skeleton Coast National Park. On the plateau we face a stiff breeze from the atlantic. Since we’re running late we decide to camp right here next to the track surrounded by nothing but rock desert.

It’s an interesting experience but also a bit difficult. The landscape is stunningly beautiful but I miss the toilet. Dinner is rather scarce and quick. Cooking on this windy plain is no joy if the only lights you have are a few gas lamps and your headlamps. However, the starry sky is compensation enough! The stars are bright and clear and seem so close. Laying on the back in our roof-tent and staring at the sky is…well, I can’t describe.

Southern hemisphere stars, focussing on the center with an exposure of roughly 30min

I guess I never slept further from any signs of civilization than here.

Namibia 2009 photos

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