Some days are about the journey, others about the destination. Today it was both.
After a brutal day yesterday, where the desert threw its worst weather conditions at us, we still managed to set off at 6am today. The plan was to climb the Brandberg, the tallest mountain in Namibia, at 2600m.
We were carrying almost everything we needed for the next two days: food, clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping-mat, and definitely don’t forget the two essentials: toilet paper, and sunscreen! This collection, pre-packed in a big rucksack, was supplemented with 7.5L of water, which was to last us 1.5 days.
We didn’t know what to expect, we knew it wasn’t going to be a Tarmac path, and indeed it was anything but a flat trail. We scrambled over massive boulders and thorny aggressive plants. The presents of quite so many plants and flowers was a surprise to everyone and indeed unusual, due to the particularly wet summer that they had this year (3x their normal annual rain fall). We saw cactuses (including toxic ones) and Aloe Vera, and many different flowers.
The first two hours of the day were in the shade because the sun was hiding behind the mountain. Later in the day the sun really kicked in and we covered ourselves in sun caps and large quantities of suncream!
There are so many stories to tell about what happened today, it is hard to know where to start.
We were in three groups up to lunch time. We worked as a really good teams, supporting each other as we climbed over the challenging terrain. Sometimes we were pushing each other up rocks and other times we were pulling each other up. Everyone exceeded their expectations in what they were able to achieve on the climb up.
We stopped at the Long Pools for lunch, which were filled with drinking water due to the recent rains. We refilled out water bags and our bellies. We were forced to cluster together and hid in a small cave to hide from the sun – this was not a picnic.
Two groups then set off for the summit with a few making camp for the day at the pools. Unfortunately one of our guides, Justice, had badly hurt his knee and was unable to proceed. So Gregg valiantly led the second group on, with John, the other guide leading the first.
The first group shot up and made the summit just before sunset. The second group took a slight less … direct… path!
Gregg followed the guides directions and took us up. We don’t know if it was the guides directions or Gregg’s memory, but we got lost! Two hours after lunch we found ourselves back at almost the same spot! A few more people decided to camp at the pools and Justice came to our rescue, despite his knee, and set us back in the correct path.
Now it was a race against time to make base camp before sundown. From this point onwards there were no more long rest breaks, we had 3 hours to complete a route that was previously estimated to take 4. Everybody put their best foot forward and we made good progress. After 1.5hours John, the local guide appeared – he had come to look for us with an empty rucksac and relieved us of some of the weight from our bags. The sun was starting to set and head torches were necessary to complete the final ascent.
Both groups one and two were really happy to see each other (though for slightly different reasons!). Gregg and Phill had planned a surprise BBQ for us at the tip of the mountain. While group 1 had collected the wood it was Gregg from group 2 who had the means to light the fire!
We are well, and we are now going to sleep well!
Day 3 written by- Hannah and Bart