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Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sossusvlei

Paul 1 Mosy's 0 - no need to release enough chemicals to wipe out Maidstone, there where none around.

05:00 wakeup call by Teek - the guide for the day. Sunrise drive to Sossusvlei to look at the dunes. This lodge is part of a group that has a private gate to the reserve - the main reason for us staying here. The hoy-poloy can either stay at the government run lodge or get to the public gates for 6/7 o'clock and then purchase park tickets.

Due to leave at 06:00. 06:20 finally board the Land Rover, 06:30 still waiting to leave. The lodge had booked 9 people for an excursion with 7 seats. Fortunately (or so we thought) for us but unfortunately for another couple we where 2 of 7 that had inadvertently sat down before anyone realised there weren’t enough seats. The other couple decide to drive themselves. They have a 4x4 hire car so can go all the way to the end of the dunes. Our little Hyundai was only 2x4 - something we'll change next time.

Because we left late we probably didn’t get as far into the park as we should have but the guide stopped at a couple of places for some nice photos while the light was good.
Stopped at Dune 45 with the option of walking up. We declined and stopped at the bottom taking pictures. Some of the guests braved the climb, 20-30 mins .. pah, screw that this is a holiday not a step class.

Carried on to the last 5km which is strictly 4x4 only and visited Deadvlei followed by lunch.
So, to the journey home, supposedly via . The vehicle for this excursion was a Land Rover Defender. Bearing in mind Land Rovers are shit at handling on tarmac even before you screw with them (I know I've owned one) this one had had a lump welded onto the chassis making it maybe a 130?, then a hi top roof conversion, closed sides and seating for 7 in the back, add to this tires with low pressure in order to deal with the sand (which it did admirably) and you have a pretty fucking scary thing to drive at and speed on tarmac. Add to the inherit instability issues and a bunch of modifications an increasingly tired/sick or maybe hung-over driver who's been up since around 04:00 (it’s now 13:00) and some gusty wind on the main road and speeds of 100-120km/h then it equates a drive home worthy of any ride at a theme park. Needless to say after the 5th or 6th time he nearly ran off the road one of the Toblerone twins asked him to slow down. By which time we were all white knuckled on the seat in front. He did slow down but the driving was still completely erratic, veering off course, missing lines on corners, really shit and pretty scary to be honest. When we hit the gravel road back to camp I thought the worry was over, how wrong I can be. As before, missing bends, slamming on the breaks when the same springbok we drove past on the way out, in the same place, jumped out. Bumps in the road taken way too fast. This guy supposedly drives this route every day, these shouldn’t be surprises.
Needless to say he didn’t get a tip and I sit here contemplating a conversation with the manager. The trip wasn’t cheap, 1000 N$ per person and for that I was expecting some real value add over what we could have done self drive. The guide even without his crazy, actually no, dangerous driving didn’t seem particularly happy in the service industry or really make much of an effort - maybe more evidence of him being sick. But even if he was sick he made mistakes, if he was sick then he should have called in and we drove slowly back not faster! Maybe he gets punished for being late back, so then the lodge is in the wrong. Or, if that’s his normal driving then he is going to kill someone.

So complain and maybe he will lose his job or not and maybe something worse.
Next time we'll hire a 4x4 and self drive, get to the gate at 05:00 and be first in line, save ourselves £200.