Packing up and leaving Hyena’s Den in the morning, I was feeling a bit down. It was beautiful scenery, a lovely sunrise, but I was also conscious of the trek starting to draw to a close. It had been an incredible few days already and something I didn’t want to be coming to an end. Ahead of us was our last full day of trekking, and it would be a tough one.
A few of the group were suffering by this point with sore joints and blisters. It meant we dropped the pace slightly, with the faster walkers encouraged to drop back so the gap between the front and back of our group wasn’t too great. It was a good idea in terms of keeping everyone together.
We set off fairly slowly over a flat area aiming towards a hill a few miles away. The blazing sun of the first couple of days was masked by a bit of a haze. A welcome one, and it meant we were somewhere in the mid-20s rather than into the uncomfortable heat.
We were aiming for Dragon’s Back Ridge. It’s a rock formation which goes on for miles with ridges and valleys as far as we could see in any direction. The “Dragon’s Back” comes from the wavy nature of the ridge, looking like scales as it continues into the distance.
It was a tougher walk than expected. The terrain was a bit like the descent from Doros Crater, with loose rocks making it a bit harder, and that meant the pace dropped as we continued on the up-and-down of the ridge. While the other group ahead of us dropped off the ridge and continued along the valley, we pushed on along the ridge for a while longer. It meant we were late for lunch, and what a lunch it was…
Burgers. Made right here in the middle of the desert. That included the burger buns, baked from scratch in Hyena’s Den the night before. We were properly spoiled with the food.
The afternoon section of the journey had us walking along a river bed where we saw the first spring. I had visions of a pristine pool of fresh water in the middle of a sandy area, surrounded by greenery, with herds of animals there for a drink. It turned out to be a trickle down some rocks into a few small rock pools, looking stagnant. It does seem to attract wildlife with it being one of the few springs around, but not while we were passing by.
The riverbed wound its way past some hills. At times it was a bit tougher at this point with the sun beating down and a lack of cool breeze to disguise the heat. But it was a pleasant part of the walk even if the scenery wasn’t up there with the past few days.
We stopped a few miles along the riverbed for around an hour. Our group leader suggested we split up, find a comfortable spot and take a few moments to contemplate the past few days, what we had achieved and what we had seen. Usually I’d find something like this a bit daft but this was actually pretty awesome.
I had a comfy rock to lie down on, closed my eyes, put my hat over my face and lay there for about 15 minutes, in near silence, in the desert. The main thoughts going through my mind were of the best of the scenrey from the trek (in particular an image of the group walking ahead into absolutely nothing, which shows how isolated we were, and the sunrise from the day before), and how wonderful it is to be switched off from so many of the unnecessary distractions of day-to-day life. The faint sound of snoring from not too far away suggested a couple of folks were enjoying the relaxation time.
The remainder of the journey didn’t take us too long, and we arrived at camp around 30 minutes before sunset. The camp routine seemed to be well entrenched by now. Some people went to get changed, some carried out the necessary “surgery” to fix blisters, others went for some quiet time, plenty grabbed a seat around the campfire area to catch up. My evening routine started with one of the much-loved cold beers, a seat by the fire and a chat.
The chat throughout the trek was surreal at times. Within the group we all work at the same company but we do very different jobs, work across different parts of the country and most of the group hadn’t met each other before. The conversation drifted from the inevitable work chat at times, into long discussions about aching feet, about toilet habits in the desert, into anything else you can imagine. But a theme, certainly by this point, was how much people enjoyed being completely switched off from the rest of the world. Most of us had someone or people they were missing, myself included (I still didn’t know at this point whether my other half had landed safely in Canada). But, that feeling aside, I think everyone realised that it is possible to not care about the news, work emails, phone calls – to genuinely switch off from all of that – and it seemed to provide a bit of a lightbulb moment for a few people.
Camp was in a sheltered spot where the riverbed we had followed met the Ugab River (also dried up and sandy). It was an area where elephants pass by, we’re told, which meant a bit of advice given on what to do if a herd walk by during a night-time toilet break. It was a more contemplative camp than previous nights given this was our last night in the desert. As usual, the food was superb.
The next day we had a few things to look forward to. The last few miles of the trek would be followed by a connection to Swakopmund, a hotel bed, dinner, and a hot shower. But there was some late drama still to come.