Sunday, January 3, 2010

Desert Elephants and Ultimate Frisbee

Today is December 20th. Only five more shopping days until Christmas.

Somewhere along the line Mia the Cook had been upgraded to Chef Mia. This took place for two reasons: One – her cooking was fantastic. Aside from hot dogs, which I learned to dread (and we only had two or three times) her food was the best food. And two – one night when Hamish and I were preparing food for her, we began to fear and respect her. All veggies had to be cut just so, everyone else in the kitchen team must follow Chef's orders to the T – if they don't chef will get angry, chef will get mad! Miati taraha gihila. Karane! / Chef ist Sauer. Mach was! This occurred many days back on December 15th. And since then the legend of Chef Mia has been growing and growing. Taking over, so that all fear and respect and love her cooking. Chef is wise! Chef is good!

This morning, however, not all agreed with Chef. Chef, you see, played some very loud – very powerful – music very early on the truck. She played it by holding the mic up to her laptops speakers. Korn, Jurassic 5, all the best morning music. It was met with shouts of turn it up, and turn it down, by those in the back of the truck trying oh so hard to read, or sleep. Us at the front were quite enthralled.

Divides, divides, divides.

We made our way to the seal colony which was a wonderful, terrible, cute, tragic, and everything else rolled into one place. More than anything it was smelly. There are thousands – thousands – of seals here. They just do their thing. The pups ranged from a month, to a few days old. Now here's where it becomes tragic. Only 25% of the pups make it to adulthood. And why is that, you might ask? Is it predators? No. It is because the adults roll over them, and crush them to death. Or they get lost from their mother, and can't find her, or they get squished trying to find their mother.

Never before have I seen so many dead baby seals – and people think the Canadian seal hunt is bad.

One seal was lost on the boardwalk that we could view the colony from. It was an adorable baby seal who we took many pictures with. The sad truth? Separated like this – odds are it would be dead before Christmas. Cute, sad, tragic, wonderful, awful.

But most of all – smelly.

Back on the truck we played more guess the song, humdingers, and headed off towards our next camp site. Just as we neared it, there just off the road, stood the most amazing thing I'd yet seen – a wild desert elephant. Raymond has been driving this route for seven years now, and this was only the fourth he'd ever seen. We got a lucky viewing. Apparently they are the most dangerous type of elephant, as they are always hungry and always thirsty. Why they keep to the desert is a mystery to me, with their being able to walk such long distances, you'd think they could make their way to better ground. Still, while some people were settling beside lakes, oceans, and rivers – other people chose to live as nomads in the desert.

Near our camp were 5000 year old engravings depicting the various animals native to the region. Of course a resort hotel popped up around this site.

At camp Hamish and I tossed around the Frisbee, growing our numbers from two, eventually to eight, where we had enough members to play a game of ultimate. After an hour and a half playing in the dried up river bed, the game ended nil-nil. Playing on rocks, in bare feet? Not the best idea.

The shower was a patch of earth, surrounded by bamboo with a faucet in it. Never before have I felt like I was showering outdoors, with such a touch of class. It was the most unique, and best shower I'd had to this point.

At camp, while Chef cooked up a Kudo kabob (another foreign animal out here) and Springbok sausages, some of us decorated the truck – taping up Christmas lights we'd grabbed in town, and tinsel. The Christmas lights would last only a day or two, before a bulb burned out – at which point we gave up on trying to find which one it was – but the idea still carried across. Christmas was fast approaching, though it was the furthest thing from anyones mind.

Dinner was fantastic – though the sausages were better than the kabob, in my opinion. Still, the true star of the show was Chef's veggie bake – mostly Butternut Squash (or butternut squizzer as Anne called it, unable to remember the English word for the gourd.) Butternut pumpkin to the Aussies. I helped to peel and cut these – and having done that more than I'd ever wanted to, I now feel I can cook with these on my own. Time, as they say, will tell.

The veggie bake, would become one of my favourite meals on the whole trip. Chef is good; chef is wise.

After dinner some locals came to our site, and sang for us, traditional and gospel music. They were rewarded with a hat full of tips. We were rewarded with a song that starts with people making car noises, goes into the word “Toyota” and has a chorus of backwards circle moving “beep, beep, beep.” Look – it's hard to get across, but it was wonderfully addictive, and it was the type of song that would get under you skin, and stay there for years to come.

Pictures were taken of them. Human tourism is always something I struggle with. Is it ok? Is it not? People took pictures of the children we gave food to a few days ago. I found that awkward. Today pictures were taken of the people selling wares along the road. Some were traditionally orange, with bare breasts, trying to make ends meat. Their handler came to greet us when our truck pulled up. It's awkward, but still important – I don't know. Best to not think too hard about it. Otherwise you'll end up in a quandary, the type I had over an image of a sixteen year old, topless photo, in a National Geographic magazine from a decade past. I emailed the photographer over it to get his impression. He remembered the photo, and said he wasn't sure if he thought it exploitation or documentation either. If after a decade, the pros don't know – then no one will.

I went to sleep tonight with just one thing on my mind – tomorrow? I would be in Etosha.


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