We arrived at the amazing red rock monoliths in the early afternoon. They were huge rock formations, many of them like smooth balls piled on top of each other. It reminded me of Uluru and the Olgas in Australia. Some had smooth, sheer faces of red rock while other parts were just a huge pile of medium to small-sized boulders.
We set up camp at the foot of a large smooth rock mountain with smaller boulders piled on the top like marbles. It was a stunning location. The sky was a bright blue, the ground was white sand and surrounding us were giant red rocks reaching to the sky. It looked like we were on Mars. There were a few acacia trees here and there so I set up my tent under one of them to get some relief from the intense heat of the sun.
Along with a few others, I decided to climb some rocks. Some of them were really challenging, requiring you to jump across deep ravines and watch your step very carefully. It was fantastic and after crossing over one rock formation, we moved onto another. There were snakes in the area so we had to be careful, not to mention scorpions, lots of thorny bushes, and piles of small feces in the form of pellets. The feces pellets belonged to rock dassies, a small mammal which looked like a guinea pig that lived among the rocks in large groups.
The views were stunning from the rock formations, of endless desert that was so flat that there was just a single straight line on the horizon. Shrub brush dotted the landscape and I wondered how anything could grow in such a dry and intense heat. But there were obviously species who thrived here.
Down by the truck, a fire was started and dinner was beginning to be cooked. We sat around chatting about Christmas and then ate our dinner and roasted marshmallows. A blanket of stars was laid above us and they seemed so brilliant that I could touch them with my hand. Needless to say, I didn’t even need to use a flashlight. The stars provided enough light.
The next morning I woke up and it was Christmas! It didn't really feel like Christmas since I wasn't from the Southern Hemisphere, where it was hot on Christmas Day. I wondered what all the people I loved who weren't with me were doing. I was handling Christmas in the desert better than I thought. I had expected to be homesick throughout the day but somehow, Africa had fooled me into believing that there was no Christmas. I am the ultimate Christmas lover. I start putting up decorations after Thanksgiving and listening to Christmas songs a month before Christmas. I love the traditions, the food, the presents, the parties. But I had survived so far by simply being in denial. It worked a treat.
Our tour leaders were preparing a big breakfast for us, in addition to Christmas lunch/dinner. Breakfast was really good, with sausages, bacon, beans, eggs, toast, and juice.
After breakfast we decided to go rock climbing. An American couple in our group had rock-climbing gear as they were avid rock climbers and had found bolts on the side of a rock face about five minutes from camp. About nine people had a try at rock climbing. The rock face was actually really hard to climb and I only made about 60 percent of the climb before calling it quits. It was really much harder than it looked.
After rock climbing we had some snacks and sat around for a while until it was time for dinner. To pull off a Christmas dinner on a gas cooker is a pretty big feat but our tour leaders pulled it off. On offer were chicken, rosemary lamb, gravy, potatoes, carrots, cranberry sauce, and all the condiments that came with Christmas dinners. We went on another rock scramble after dinner, up the formations, and then watched the most amazing purple and pink sunset over the desert. That was probably the best present I could have received on Christmas. I had to really remember that sometimes, the best presents cost no money at all.