The excitement of seeing the elephants kept Lumley and me going as we trundled down the river bed towards the coast and the ‘Kop. A day later and I could see the bridge crossing the river, it was time to say good bye to the river and head into town. I stopped to breath in the last of the dust, at least for a day or two, and feel the river. Beyond the bridge I could see some wading flamingo and a few pelicans skimming over the waves. Did I want to head into town? Not really, don’t think that Lumley was too keen either, but the road north would take a few days and we needed a good scrub and some supplies. Reluctantly we drove down the tarmac road towards a campsite, stopping off at a supermarket for some food and treats.
Me and Lumley had a good wash, set up the braai for later and headed towards the beach. In the distance I could see the dunes, so we headed that way. The sun was starting to creep towards the horizon and I could see the fog coming in. This coastline has a fascinating ecology, many of the plants and animals quench their thirst with the near-daily fog. A few anglers were on the rocks, quiet silhouettes against the setting sun. It gets dark soon after sunset, so we headed back to get the fire going, enjoy some dinner and settle down to some stargazing.
The next morning we woke early, packed up and headed out of town on the salt road north along the Skeleton Coast. Dead-straight for about 200 km, cold sea on one side, desert on the other. We passed the salt mines and a few shipwrecks, some I had not seen before. At the Cape I turned off to head north east, into rhino territory. The landscape slowly transformed from sandy dunes into rocky outcrops, not quite as picturesque and yet alluring, asking to be discovered. It was slow going, what was the rush? The road rose and fell with the hills, I stopped often to look down into the valleys. This was barren country and yet it sparkled with an indescribable beauty. Klipspringer antelope scrambled amongst the rocks, vultures floated high in the sky; a few oryx kicked up dust meandering through the sandy valleys, majestic as always.
After a dusty and hot day, the temperature had climbed beyond 40C, we eventually stopped for the night in an old, abandoned quarry. I took a stroll amongst the stony remains of long-abandoned buildings and rusting equipment left behind. Lumley was running around chasing birds, yapping in excitement. I made a quick dinner and we settled down for the night. It was eerily quiet, unusually so, I settled down with Lumley curled up next to me. Sleep came quickly as the stars blinked good night.
The next day we trundled along, it was hot and dusty, we had not seen anyone since leaving the salt road, even animals had been scarce. The landscape changed back to flat, plateau covered with small bushes. I was daydreaming when, suddenly, an apparition appeared from the left, heading towards the road. A rhino! I think it was as surprised as we were, it stopped in the middle of the track and turned to look at us. I wanted to give the rhino some space, yet I was so surprised it took me a while to find reverse gear and move away. The rhino pounded its front feet a few times but fortunately did not seem too bothered, probably as surprised as we were. Lumley and me, we just stared, where did that come from? The rhino curled its lips, as if in a smile, turned and headed down the road. I got out and watched as it trundled away from us, not a care in the world.
After a while the rhino headed off the road and slowly disappeared from sight. Beautiful!
[This story is based on a real encounter. Rhino are being poached at an alarming rate – will I have a similar encounter again? Probably not, I treasure these memories]