Day 4, during which I licked a heavenly body and slept in a train

We were happy to leave the guesthouse in boring Rundu and hit the B8 towards Grootfontein on the morning of our fourth day. Planning to top up with fuel at the Mururani disease control checkpoint, where various maps indicated the presence of fuel pumps. In reality, however, there was no fuel there and apparently there haven’t been any pumps for some time…! So we faced the real risk of running out of diesel before reaching Grootfontein.

The checkpoint serves to prevent the spread of diseases between areas of mostly cattle farms and areas with game. It also serves as a point where the police officer on duty can ask you to provide a lift for his friends. So we helped a veterinary chap who needed to visit Grootfontein for a doctor’s appointment. Concerned with our low and depleting fuel levels, we drove excruciatingly slowly, reaching a filling station on the outskirts of Grootfontein with a couple of litres remaining in the tank. But we resolved to fill up earlier in future!

Grootfontein was an important town in the days when the South African Defence Force was based in the area, but on this day we just passed through towards the Hoba meteorite, some 20km away. This 66 tonne piece of nickel-iron literally hit the dust around 80,000 years ago, apparently at more than 1000 km/h, though how anybody could know that, is beyond me. It left no preserved crater and was found in 1920 when a farmer’s plough hit something metallic in the soil. The farmer excavated it and the government declared it a national monument in 1955. Various pieces have been chiselled or ground off for study elsewhere, but its remaining 60 tonnes still make it the largest single piece of meteorite on earth. Being a geologist, I just had to visit it, and to lick it (as we do) though I had to take care not to burn my tongue! It was a hot day and the massive piece of metal had just been soaking up heat for thousands of years.

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Tasting the Hoba Meteorite

Having taken the obligatory photographs, we bought a welcome cool drink from the little giftshop and proceeded towards Tsumeb, where we had booked accommodation at the Conductor’s Inn. I’m not sure how the conductor managed it, but two converted train coaches are parked behind the OK Deli on the way out of Tsumeb. Special and cozy accommodation, highly recommended!

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Towing this wagon would have provided great accommodation, but would have damaged the roads and the Prado’s gearbox.
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Our suite in the Conductors’ Inn…
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… all the comforts of home in a small package

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