My feet were starting to feel it after the day on Doros Crater. The tactic of taping up my toes worked to prevent blisters in the areas I get them most, but as I was walking some of it moved around and caused a painful blister in an exposed area. It’s the usual – when the pinching starts, it’s hard to stop thinking about it and it feels worse than it actually is. I performed a bit of minor surgery to remedy the situation.
Compared to others I was doing well. Some were on painkillers, others had numerous blisters to deal with or aching joints. We had taken to doing morning stretches to try and prevent any further injuries, so after the usual daily routine, it was out for the morning warm up as the sun was rising.
The scenery at the start of day five wasn’t anywhere near as spectacular as the previous day around the crater. However, there is something about the barrenness of the desert landscape that I love. Walking into nothing feels exciting, even if it isn’t mountains or hills all the way.
The light this morning made for an awesome scene not long after the sun had come up. I only caught it from a glance backwards and ended up with one of my favourite photos from the trip.
Things got better soon after when we saw three springbok hanging around fairly close by. They seem to be really timid, and since they spot us before we spot them, it can mean that they’re off before we even see them. However, these three seemed braver and hung around for a while. Behind us, some distance away, were two ostriches running away at speed.
Around the same time, there was a zebra on a hill in the distance. It was barely visible, only just, by following the contour of the horizon along until a small, hardly moving dot showed up. Even with a decent camera lens and heavy cropping, it unfortunately wasn’t visible in a photo. The heat distortion makes it look like a crappy oil painting.
I thoroughly enjoyed the walking on this day. While the scenery wasn’t as good as some other days, the group was well settled in, the chat was great and it was interesting landscape. There was an area with a decent hill; a long and fairly steep climb which provided a bit of challenge. And from the top, two zebras in the distance. Again, the heat distortion didn’t lend itself to long-distance photos.
With no obvious landmarks, for the less well navigated such as me, it felt like we could be walking in any direction quite aimlessly. There wasn’t a route or road of any kind, no marking from vehicles. It felt like an unexplored area which, to me, is quite exciting. It adds to the “middle of nowhere” feeling.
The scenery on the afternoon trek was entirely different again. We passed by some mountains, through a river bed (I should mention that every river I drove over or walked through in Namibia from Windhoek to the Namib was bone dry and just sand), and onwards to a dune. On the way there was an oryx in the distance. I caught a brief glimpse before it ran away out of sight.
From the top of the dune we could see camp. It was Hyena’s Den – a small and absolutely awesome rocky area with flat ground around for miles and mountains in the distance. There’s a huge overhanging rock to provide a bit of shelter. The final couple of miles along the flat plain towards camp felt fantastic – aiming for home.
Dinner was eaten, a couple of drinks were enjoyed, the sun set. Then there was a little bit of commotion…
I only recall a couple of films ever terrifying me as a kid. One was Arachnophobia (I found out years later that it’s meant to be a comedy horror), and the other was Aliens. Large spiders and the face huggers are things from nightmares. What looked to combine the two was a horrible photo I stumbled across of two camel spiders from Afghanistan.
And there, just a few feet away from the camp fire, was a camel spider.
Luckily it had been caught, and it was marching around in a box that it couldn’t quite get out of, but not for the lack of trying. It was a small-ish one, but still awful. The inevitable “can it kill a person?” was met with “it won’t kill you but the pain will make you wish you were dead.” Seemingly they only attack if they’re threatened and otherwise seek out the warmth of the campfire at night, or some shade during the day. And that’s how the second name (the “sun spot spider”) came about. If you’re nearby in the heat of the desert sun, the camel spider will run into your shadow to get some shade. If you move, it will follow your shadow. If you run, it will chase you…
There’s a school of thought in psychology about conquering fears through being exposed to them. In my case, I was keen to get a photo of the camel spider and realised at one point that the top of my camera lens was only a couple of feet away from it, and I wasn’t as paralyzed by fear as I expected to be. Have I conquered that fear? Not a chance.
That’s a lot written about a spider. I’ll finish with an interesting point that was made by one of the guys on the trek. Camel spiders are scorpions rather than spiders, which means they glow under UV light. With head torches off, the site of this camel spider marching around its box in near darkness while it glowed purple in the UV light was horrifying.
It was released a few hundred yards from the camp.
Incidentally, a few brave folks slept outside that night. I didn’t.