16-Dec-2004 -- After the 30 km walk to 19S 16E on Etosha Pan on July 03, 2004, I thought there could be no other confluence visit as tough. But we were going to be in for a surprise and a little lesson...
Following a previous attempt some months ago from the opposite direction and subsequent research, it didn't take long to locate the sand track heading towards 18S 17E, off the B1 tarred main road, approximately 20 km north of the Veterinary Control Post at Oshivelo. The GPS showed 62 km to the Confluence and the track headed straight ahead.
We had a day to spare and enough time and determination to find this Confluence. The rented Mitsubishi Pajero we had picked up at Ondangwa Airport two hours earlier was fuelled, air-conditioned and the big V6 3,5 litre petrol engine went effortless through the thick sand, initially...
Little preparation went into this visit, as we were simply "going to have a look" at how close we could get by following the sand track. I became very worried when the fuel gauge went below half, after having done only 200 km, of which 40 km was thick sand. A quick calculation brought me to the conclusion that the tank couldn't have been entirely filled when we started, but that without extra fuel we wouldn't make it back to Ondangwa in any case. The fuel station at Oshivelo would have to be visited after we've reached the Confluence.
In order to save fuel, we switched off the air-conditioning and were immediately hit by the outside temperature, which had by now, 11:00, soared to 40ºC. The thick deep sand became hotter and required a lot of torque at slow speed, adding to astronomical fuel consumption. I longed for my Diesel Land Rover...
After three hours of gruelling thick sand, we came as close as 6 km within range of the Confluence. There was no turning back now, after this effort; the last bit seemed so close. We parked the car and started walking; taking 1,5 litre water along, another litre of water was left inside the vehicle.
This particular day went down as one of the hottest in this region, as is normally the case with the pressure build-up shortly before thundershowers. As it turned out we walked at the hottest time of day, between 12:00 and 16:00, insane. The relatively thick bush prevented us to walk in a straight line and the temperature soared to an unbelievable 47ºC. Coming from the coast we were not acclimatized to the high altitude of 1136 m, the heat and conditions.
The visit to the Confluence was successful, but ended in dehydration and no more water, 600 metres from the vehicle. Somehow we made it back to the vehicle, exhausted. The last litre of water we had left behind in the car was close to boiling point, but still drinkable.
Another three hours of driving back through the soft sand followed, a journey only remembered vaguely. We reached fuel and water at Oshivelo only after 18:00.
What would have saved us from total dehydration as a result of lack of water, were the fruits of a plant we encountered occasionally on the walk to the Confluence. The Ximenia caffra, or "Sour plum" as it is commonly known, is a sparsely branched shrub with leaves in tufts, elliptic, leathery and dark green. This time of the year it bears bright red fruit, oval, up to 40 mm long. The fruit is edible, tasty but very sour near the seed.