I have not had a day off since January, and in September, I'm desperate! None of my usual travel companions have the time, but I talk my selves into a trip to Namibia. It have been on my short wishing list for quite some time, and now, as part of my education, I realize I just have to go! My final project (which only should be max 12 pages about how to grow tomatoes, tulips or alike, using the pre-made manuals) have involved into something like a PhD on the culture of Welwitschia mirabilis from seeds and tissue culture (I received the highest grade for it). I just need some data from the wild, which I don't seem to be able to find anywhere else.
Quite fast, I find a flight ticket and a friend who is into the same plants as I. For once, in a long time, this tour is planned! After having read a lot, and written with friends who have been in Namibia, we come up with a simplified version of my first rough plan, and after I have made eight tour detailed suggestions, I leave it to my co-traveller to make the final plan. If I had been alone, I could have made the full tour around, but we focus on those of our favourite plants, which can be found in the dry, western region. To save time, giving us more time to explore the remote regions, we plan to camp in the wild. That causes for a lot of shopping: A new PC with 12V supply and solid state memory, a gadget that transform 12V to 230V for the camera batteries, tent and other camping gear (almost complete list). That again causes for a big bag, and I eventually have to have a checked in bag, and not only the usual two or three kilos carry-on bag. My friend find a 4x4 rental car, and we are ready to explore!
As a result of the most in hostile and uninviting coastline, Europeans came as late as 1486, in the form of Portuguese mariners. In the 17th century, Dutch sailors from the Cape started exploring the deserts. The first real settlement was made in the early 19th century. In 1883, Adolf Lüderitz bought some land around Angra Pequene, and - with some difficulties - got it under German protection. Later, he got the whole country "protected". They did not put much effort into keeping the internal peace, but after some fights between Nama and Herero people, the Schutztruppe was formed, and the country became German South-West Africa. Settlers started to arrive, and the first major incidence occur in 1904, where Herero joined with Mama, Baster and Owambo tribes. After killing a better part of the original people, Germans came out as winner, only to loose the whole area to South African in WW1 a few years later. Until it's independence in 1990, Namibia was part of South Africa.
Catch at train at 10 in the morning, only to take off at 13.20. Check-in the huge, 19 kilo bag, and hang onto the two kilo essentials: PC, cameras, chargers, memory sticks, Visa and passport. Two hours flight, and then I have three and a half hour in Heathrow before the eleven hour flight down to Johannesburg in South Africa. It is a night flight, and I only wakes up for the food. Five and a half hour more waiting. Luckily, I meet up with my travel companion after a couple of hours, and we get acquainted. Two more hours in the air, and we arrival at Windhoek International Airport. Total travel time was 29 hours!
21/11. Short brake in the airport to withdraw some cash. Strangely enough, I get a bunch of South African Rands, but the Namibian Dollar is tied up completely with is, and both coins and notes are frequently used. The Namibian Dollar is close to 1/10 of an Euro. Short stop at an internet cafe and a cellar phone shop to buy airtime.
Meanwhile, the car guy have collected the car, and we drive down to Kalahari Car Rental. Turns out it doesn't have the cassette player my co-driver wanted, and we get it swapped with an slightly older car. 100 meters down the road we find out the seatbelt doesn't work. After a lot of tinkering, we get a new seat installed, and we are off.
Next stop is a gasoline station. 120 litters of petrol for 986 N$. Then we head for the mall. Plenty of water and food and other essentials. Spends 1375 N$. We end up too late at Safari Den shop, but two young girls guides us around the huge mall, and we find Checkers. The manager helps us, and we find the most expensive item: A big gas canister and burner: 885N$, but we are going to cook all our food. People are truly helpful around here!
It is getting late, but luckily, it turns out is stays light until seven. I have made a reservation at Düesternbrook Guest Farm and claimed we would be there around eight, in the evening. We drive through the centre of the cosy, clean and friendly Windhoek, and 30 kilometres north, and turns into a small dusty gravel road. On the way, we see some wild animals, gazelles, giant millipedes, horn billed birds, grouses, starlings and small rodents.
It is now completely dark, but plenty of wildlife passes our lights. I stop a single time to shoot a millipede. Besides from that, we see impalas, warthogs, gemsbok, jackal, soulifou and some other illusive animals. One looks, and moves, exactly like a small kangaroo, but I guess it must be a hare?. End up at the reception three minutes pass eight. Lovely place. It is the oldest guest farm in Namibia; 100 years old, and real cosy.
We are pointed somewhere out in the dark, and after some off-road driving, we find what must be the camping ground. I have a hellish time trying to find my stuff - head lamp mainly. My gear are packed for the flight handling, not for use. Finally, I get it sorted out, and we put up the two small tents. Fast supper, an even shorter shower and into the sleeping bag. Even though there are a massive concert of cicadas, bullfrogs and night birds like owls, I pass out immediately.
22. Evenings concert was nothing compared with the mornings. Hundreds of birds competes, and I just have to get out and have a peek half pass five. The sun is starting to raise, and I find my selves in a astonishing area. Across the dried out river, some small mountains are raising.
A fast breakfast, without coffee. I simply can't make the gas burner work. I thought the canisters was a bit too light, but it hisses fine, but I just can't light the burner. We discuss it, and agrees on driving back to Windhoek to get it sorted. We pay 300 N$ for the camp site. I don't feel bad about the two short showers!
We find the manager, and after he has tried several burners, one of the employees tell him they don't sell gas - just the empty canister. Well, he had only worked there for fourteen days. He draws a weird map to the place to buy gas. We fails to find it, and ask on a gasoline station.
One of the customers knows the place, and drive ahead. Quite a ride, but although it should be open, it isn't. He know an other place that might replace the empty container with a filled, and once again, he shows us. These are really the nicest people I ever have meet!
We get a re-fill, and heads back up north. A de-tour on 120 kilometres and four hours, which we didn't need, but we are back on the road. Along the central highway B1, which is a two lined well paved road, game parks lines up. We see a wide variety of antelopes, gazelles and even baboons along the road. Marabou storks and large eagles crosses the road while it is flanked by termite mounts.
We makes a few stops and enter the dry, 37C hot but nice landscape. It is bush savannah. The bushes are mainly green, but the grass brown and yellow. Twice, I notes some bulbs in flower. They can only be found within a kilometre, and that causes for two short stops.
In front of us, the twin mountains of Omatako towers up. They are actually 22000 meters high, but because of we drive on the high plateau, they looks like two big hills. Behind them, we can see the Wattenberg, which should be a stronghold for succulents.
While we see rain and thunder in the distance, the Wattenbergs tend to avoid us. Once we walk cross the bushy fields, only to discover no succulents at all, except a Aloe littoralis. Due to the lost time in the morning, we decides to head back towards Etosha National Park.
It is a long drive, but among others, we see some giraffes right next to the road, just behind the fences. Etosha lodges are not for us, but I have found a much cheaper on the road. We arrivals at six, while the horizon are cowered with dark clouds, enlighten by lightning. We are alone, and only have to pay 200N€. It is real nice with thick, green grass for the tents.
Bit of tinkering with the different chargers and 12-230V gadgets, put up the tents and makes a fast supper. Coffee and then photo tampering and diary writing. All in heavy bombardment of beetles. Biggest ones are seven centimetres long!
23. Five and a half hour of sleep, and we are ready for another day in the wild. A light shower during the night have nicely sealed the dust, and when the sun emerges, we are already on the road for the famous Etosha National Park. It is still partly cloudy, and the first activity among the wilds animals can be seen along the road. The usual gravel is mixed with areas of limestone, but the plantation remains relatively unchanged.
We reaches the park entrance at seven, and quite soon we see guinea fouls, wildebeest, springbok, mice, zebras, earth squeals and some other gazelles. We are hoping for something bigger, and head out for the watering holes. A few ostriches, more zebras and gazelles, but there are long in-between. The grass might be yellow, but the plentifully bushes have nice lush leaves.
We head back city within the park, Okaukuejo and out to the west. Significantly drier, but to my surprise also more animals. Her we can add gemsboks to the list. Finally we reaches The Haunted Forest, a group of widely spread Moringa ovalifolia. The grow some distance from the road, ´which we are not aloud to leave. On top of that, we are strictly bitten to remain inside our car.
The Moringas are our main purpose to come here, and we surely want nice photos. What do you do? Drive into the ground, scalp for lions and the walk around. Great shoots we get, and not a single lion in sight. The park continues, but we have seen the most - except elephants, lions and giraffes, and we still have a long drive. And we have seen some unexpected, like a monitor, real close on.
Where the road have been dug down in a small hill, a few Aloe pictifolia-like have found a home. On a open stretch, along the road we recently drown on, a huge elephant bull slowly walks along the road. Get some nice close-ups, and continue out. Right before the exit, a group of five giraffes stands along the road.
We are not sure how much gasoline we have left. The meter only works on one of the tanks, but which? I hope it is on the first, but with a quarter of a tank, we better be sure. The park have a gasoline station, and it is even standard prices; 8,28 N$ litre. We starts to tank, and even though I know it is a slow pump, I start to look underneath and inside the car. We have actually burned 108 litres on 887 kilometres! Might consider to drive a bit slower from now...
A bit back by the tarred road, and then right of D2695, a brilliant gravel road. Along the road, we spot some Commiphora trees, Here are at least two species, one with green stem, one with yellow/red stem. We get to the granite rock mountains, and on one hillside, we spot two mighty Pachypodium lealii. Massive stems with little branches. They are around seven meters high, but we don't spot a single little plant in the area.
A bit further out of this arid, deserted road, we find huge Sesamothamnus guerichii which seem a pperfect ending on a great day. After 130 kilometres on this gravel road, meeting only three other cars, we reaches Kamanjab. Right outside the town, I spot some Euphorbias, and while I climb the fence, I learn Namibian farmers also uses electric fences. Heavy electric!
Hurts like hell, but at lest I end up on the right side: Inside along with the Euphorbias. The sun have gone down and we hurry to a campsite and get the tent up before it is completely dark. This camp is only 80 N$ each, but should be 30! On top of that, I get a heat stroke, and spend the most of the night feeling sorry for my selves. Not much help the owner of the camp is having a party - loud party. The temperature drops from 40C to 20C, but I feel sick and either sweat or shivers in cold.
24. There passes four small showers during the night, but only enough to get the tents wet and bind the dust. A slow start on the day, but I still don't feel that fresh. On top of that; the guy heating the shower water with wood only opens the water when it is warm - around eight thirty.
Today, we head even more north, taking the C35 towards Ruscana. The area contains of real old granite, mixed with gravel and little limestone. Some places, steep hills of what looks like basalt raises from the plains. After 120 kilometres, we turn left on D3709, a well maintained gravel road leading towards Opuwo.
First, we see a single huge Sesamothamnus guerichii later they become as common as the acacias. One of the illusive lizards turns out to be a agama, which poses on a pole. Other places, we have seen really colourful, large lizards.
I spot, what looks like a Madagascan Cyphostemma, but it turns out to be a huge Fockea multiflora. It seems like it is alone in this area, and as with so many of the other interesting plants we find, there are no younger plants to find. The road partly turns in to the typical red dust road, just like the surrounding almost barren plains we are on.
We reaches the main town of the north-west, Opuwo, which truly is an experience. All the cultural tribes meets here, many dressed in traditional suits. Most special is the Himba, which is cowered in grease with ochre and a small, raw hide around their waist. We almost only see women, with their hair set up with ochre as well. The somehow seems a bit out f place in he modern supermarket.
The women of an other tribe are huge, proud ladies, in giant ropes of multicolour dresses and some vied hats, looking like horns. It is really nice to see, who the tribes remain their culture, but on the other hand seems to blend and live in harmony in this area.
We do some shopping, empty the ATM and fill up the tank. Then we leave town, going south on C43 heading for Sesfontain. The landscape turns more hilly, but there are not much variation in the vegetation at first. The it becomes a bit more moist, and the bushes turns into almost trees, standing in a nice, dense wall along the road.
Finally, we reach Baobab country. I have been in five countries which have this magnificent trees, but the only Adansonia digitata I have seen, it the one in Kirstenbosh Botanical Garden, and some seedlings in other botanical gardens.
The first we spot is a real nice looking specimen with a short trunk around three and a half meter in diameter, and its leaves just starting to emerge. A few old fruits and a few new flowers can be found in the low, but huge crown. Underneath, I find what seems to be a tiny palm. Not more then eight centimetres high.
More and more baobabs grows on the rocky hillsides ,and it must be the Namibian equivalent to Madagascar's baobab Alley. Unfortunately, the real big trees can only be found further up north, and I can't talk my co-traveller into that 1000-200 kilometre de-tour.
It starts to rain, and we still have a long drive ahead. Never the less, we have to stop from time to time: Her are too many motives, and we even find a huge Fockea multiflora.
Almost on the top of Joubert's Pass, we spot two giant Cyphostemma currori. Although the light is fainting, we simply need to photo them. The last stretch on this, sometimes real wining road, is in the dark. We reaches Sesfontain around nine, but the only open campsite is a bit to rough and dark for our taste.
We follows the south to Warmquelle which should have a nice camp. It is located six kilometres out in a mace of really rough roads, and we have to take up a guide. No chance to see the surroundings, but we pass a river, engaging four wheel drive and diff. lock.
End up along a huge wall of straws, which are literally covered in sparrows. The water, which apparently covers the area is teaming with frogs and toads, sinning their stereotype serenade against the numerous stars. A fast meal, and I starts on photos and diary.
The camps shower if basic: Straw walls, cold water, nothing else. Well, we only pay 60 N$ each. At one o'clock, I have to give in.
25. My neighbour's clock summons to activity at six thirty, and I continuous the writing. A bit anxious about our camp, I wakes up in some astonishing surroundings. We are in a narrow gorge, in which a narrow creak falls and runs through. I walk up on the top, where I find an amassing view over a waste valley. Compared with the landscape we have been through the last couple of days, this is surely something else! The rocks are old coral reef, a bit strange to find on the top of an arid country, I think.
I skip the cold shower, and we leaves the camp at eight. Bit late, but we are only heading the 50 kilometres back to Joubert's Pass to check out what looked like baobab, which not are supposed to grow here. It was too dark to make any qualified guesses and especially photos last knight.
The extremely rough and wining road we took last knight, in pitch dark, is a back-breaker even at daytime. Even the river we crossed is still a challenge; Huge boulders kind of blocks the way n the middle of the stream. It is only six kilometres, but it takes more than half an hour. Guess it were faster in the dark, where the photo stops didn't exist.
Back pass the Sesfontein road and into the mountains on C43. It is a lovely morning, and we have it all for our selves. Well, except for the road worker we give a lift to his machine. And the car we meet at the top of the pass, which engine have boiled over. We gives him a five litre can of water, shoot some photos of the astonishing surroundings, and head back.
The light are perfect, and it turns out it was Moringa oleifera we spotted last knight. Not much leaves, but nice looking stems never the less. Almost out of the mountain range, we spot some Cyphostemmas. It turns out to be giant Cyphostemma uter, standing on almost barren fields. They are just started to get leaves, and their fruits are fare from ripen. Never the less, it is a great finding for us.
I check out the surrounding area, and discovers what looks like a Hoodia gordonii and a Staphelia. Both seems to be barley alive, but here, this is the ending of the dry season. The temperature shortly raises to 43C, and I am sure glad for my huge hat. At high noon, I leave no other shadow than the hat!
Here, we find again the weird rocks, looking like someone have been cutting in them. It is flint, but I have never seen anything like it. Some places volcanic rocks can be found, some it is volcanic gravel, and limestone is also common.
Once in a while, we passes small settlements containing of three to fifteen small huts. It is a lovely mix of Hinba, Herero and other cultures which seems to not only remain their culture, but also coexist in pure harmony. There are no crop fields at all, but small groups of cattle crosses the vast country side. Few goats, which surely benefits the rural landscape.
Their huts are small, basic, and from square clay walled huts over the Hinba's small cone shaped cow manure constructions to even tinier branch shelters. There are no trash to be found any where, except from some empty beer bottles along the roads, and they surely don't originates from the inhabitants of these settlements!
Several places, we pass a valley of what could look like a apple farm. Nice, green and round trees, bit apart and yellow grass underneath. Not sure of the species, but I doubt is is crop in any form. Besides from that we are still driving through bush savannah, more or less bushed.
There are only few animals to be seen. Few springboks and a impressing Big Buzzard. Heaviest fling bird in the world, they claims. A single oestrus, which to my surprise seems to be safe between two settlements.
We still drives south, and after some time, groups of table mountains show them selves along the horizon. The bushes get sparse, and the grass takes over, and we find some of "our" plants on the small rocky hills along the road. Once I find a real nice looking Cucurbitaceae of the "melon-group".
Real fat Pachypodium lamerei and a "new" Commiphoras with a dark purple stem. First I spot one single six ridged Euphorbias on a hilltop. Astonishing view from here, wide yellow grass valleys, table mountains, groups of lush bushes and a beautiful sky with few white clouds.
The settlements vanish, and more wildlife occurs. Springboks, gemsbok opens the party. We still concentrate on the plants, and find one "new" Commiphora, which seems to be a dwarf. Two new Euphorbias of the "stick-type", Sansevierias, Othonnas, a Euphorbia bush and looking a lot like a Commiphora.
More and more wildlife can be seen, some close o the road, others kilometres our on the yellow grass plains. Jackals, gemsbok, gazelles, eland antelopes, zebras and fowls. While botanising, I spot, what I think might be track of elephants. First some chewed branches, then dung. Back on the road, I see the tracks of what I assumes must be a large, lone bull elephant.
We follows the tacks, and finally we catch up with a old, lone desert elephant bull. He is standing rather close to the road, but when he walks away, we passes a dip and follows by foot We have the wind in our back and chatters while we closes in on him. When he confronts us, we stop. Amassing experience: This is not a zoo or a national park, this is truly a wild animal!
Passes a few ridges, and along with a dried out river, a small family group of giraffes stand along the road. Later a group of élan antelopes crosses the road, and a new, larger group of giraffes stands next to the road. Out on the waste plains, I can spot up to 5 or even a hundred grazing animals. Zebras, gemsboks, springboks and other gazelles. A few jackals, but to our release; no lions. Here are still plants to be photoed.
The sun gets low, and it creates a magician view through the yellow grass, leaving the animals as black silhouettes. It is getting late, and thought by last night, we speed up to reach a camp in Palmwag before dark. But we just have to stop for one more breathtaking view or a even fatter Pachypodium or Cyphostemma. The fifth car of the day passes.
The first lodge we see is Palmwag Lodge. It is seven o'clock, and high time. The lodge is perfect with large undisturbed, clean sites. Electricity on each, nice baths and only 80N$ each. There are even a sheltered, platform for the tents. I have gotten way too much sun and have to be more careful the next days. Even though the sun is vertical at high noon, I still get burned in neck and on the arms while I photos - ant that is a lot. Until now, I have shot 1200, and I am restraining my selves!
After supper, we work on photos and diary. The power fails, and we are under heavy attack from the numerous insects, attracted by our computer screens. Lots of black beetles, big light brown ones, flies, mouths, and a giant insect, looking like a dragon fly, but with a less intimidating head. Finish around midnight, and enjoy the silence - for several minutes, before I pass out.
26. After six hours of death-like sleep, new adventures calls. While we eat breakfast, a couple of horned billed birds pops bye. They sit on the front of our car, which I find a bit strange, until I find out they are trying to steel the rubber from it's vipers. Rubber robber?
First, we head a bit back to get some nice shoots of the short and very fat Pachypodium lamerei, we saw last evening. Here are also an new form of Sesamothamnus guerichii The plains, which seem to be covered with wildlife last evening are almost bare. Only a few springboks can be seen. Find a few other nice, fat bushes, a Cucurbitaceae and returns pass the lodge to Palmwag.
As the name indicates, it is a road, not a town. A gasoline station, a animal disease checkpoint and ten small huts spread over a vast area. The area is famous for it's oasis and the huge amount of wild animals, especially the stronghold of the dessert elephants.
We head east on the C40 to have a look around Grootberg Pass. It is situated in 1540 meters height, next to the 1645 meters tall Grootberg. Here are a bit fertile for our plants, but on a tall, almost vertical cliff wall, we spot a group of Cyphostemma currori on the Palmwag side.
The climb is hard; steep but loos gravel, but it is worth it! A huge, and real nice looking plant, around one and half meter in diameter at the base, around four meters tall, with two main stems. It have a single develop pair of leaves and a lot new coming. As the other we have seen, the seeds are fare from ripen, and there are still a few flowers.
After some time, I figure I got photos enough, and climb down to a cup of coffee. While I am half way down, the sun emerges, but I let my travel companion do the great shoots. Takes him an other hour, while I relaxes and write a bit. While the sun come, the temperature goes from 30C to 35C, and real hot in the sun! A single old truck have fought it's way up the hills, else it is only bird- and insect song I hear.
We head further out of the road, which twines between huge hills (actually mountains, but we are on a high plateau), and crosses waste plains. The vegetation might look the same: Green bushes and yellow grass or gravel, but the plants we are after have really specific terms.
We passes a single donkey carriage, which seem to be a fairly common transport the places we have been so fare. Although the wagons are small, there are three or more common, four donkeys side by side.
We head back to Palmwag to fill up gasoline, and passes the Animal Disease Check Point a couple times more. We only need 60 litres, but it seems like I simply can't get the car to do more than seven, and there are fare in-between the gasoline stations, This is situated in the middle of nowhere on a bare hilltop.
Back to C43 and further down south towards Khorixas on C39. For the trained eye, the landscape changes slightly, but we have4 to drive quite a while before we see something new. In a ravine, a single "new" Commiphora catches our eyes, and while we explorer the area, one more turns up. The are real flat but fat. One have thick branches, the other plentiful thin branches. There are almost ripen fruits on both and new flowers are just started. After having checked out a lot, I manages to find a few leaves on each.
On one I find some leaves on a single branch, which doesn't look as I would have supposed. They turns out to have a completely different sent, and it is a parasite. A third little tree looks like a cross between the two others, but even though the dark purple flowers looks almost alike, it have a significantly different sent. The Commiphoras are like perfume this is more like canned sardines. Takes me a while to figure it is a Euphorbia.
The rocks we walk on are a story by them selves. Dark red sandstone-like lava with crystals, some even on the size of a finger. Some looks like flint in layers, other have formed clusters of crystals in holes in the rocks. Time flyers, but we must go on. A car stops to ask, if we are all right. Then he asks for water. I am prepared, and hand over a five litters bottle. He seems to be a bit surprised.
At one point, we passes a huge, natural column of a yellow rock. While I run back to the car, I apparently looses my camera pocket. Discover it later, but it is getting late, and I would hate to be in the same situation as the night before the last, fumbling for a camp. "Only" paid 50€ for it anyway.
Next stop gives a new Euphorbia with nine ridges, and we see huge plants of these in following valleys. In the horizon walls of huge table mountains raises, and the plains in-between seem more and more arid. First, the bushes disappears, then even the yellow grass. We are descending from the high plateau, and getting closer to the costal dunes and the desert. There are even a few but huge dunes on the back side of some of the small mountains.
We are in a deserted area, and camping in the wild would be an option. I have been warned bout it due to robbery, and would like to hide the car somehow. We passes some overgrown small hills, but when we try to drive around them, we discover it is loos sand. Get stuck, but with four-wheel drive, low gear and differential lock, we actually succeed to "swim" out on solid ground. Then it must be a new campsite.
We are in the Twyfelfontain area, which don't have a village, but never the less a few lodges. The first we found looks like something from a Mad Max film. A dark painted castle surrounded with weird looking huts. They don' have campsites, and we drive back on their long, miserable gravel road.
More luck the next place, Xaragu Lodge. Quiet, but as most other places, we are among only a few cars in rather big camps. Due to the dry surroundings, here are almost no noise from birds or insects - but they have a peacock! Nice, clean camp, only charging 60 N€ for each.
Toilets and bath made by stone and straw, but in a real cool way, and lightened by oil-lamps. Rustic but efficient and clean. The water is firewood heated, and it comes in handy. It might not be cool in the evenings - around 20-27C, but due to the serious drop in temperature, and the never failing evening wind, it feels a bit nippy. Fast supper, and for once, I finish writing in dissent time.
27. After eight hours of splendid sleep, I feel ready for some serious exploring. We are rather close to The Petrified Forest, which have been recommended to me by a colleague. The rock impressions of the huge trees is not as impressing as a large group of the long wanted Welwitschia!
A sixteen year boy receives the payment: 20+20+10 N$, and follows me around. He have a good knowledge around the rocks and plants, and is nice relaxed. As on so many tiny stands - one in front of every small hut we passes - there are minerals and funny stones, which have been found around the region.
I turn my attention towards the plants, which sits around the hill with the petrified wood. The are just starting to flower, and while their centre sits real deep, and is very large, their living leaves are not long. I would love to start my measuring on their soil conditions, but is seems like the place is tight looked after.
We drive a bit back, and heads down D2626. Ten kilometres from C39, we find the first "wild" Welwitschias. The grow on the side of a small ravine, quite close to the road. I start taking tests, while my travel companion check out some new Commiphoras. I get numbers on humidity, temperature, pH and volume of different sizes of air pockets. A sample will be tested for mineral composition when I get home.
With only a small detour, we passes The Organ Pipes. #Skiffer# in a river forms these amassing formations, which also offers some great views and plants. At the end of the road, a few hills are made of completely black gravel. On one of them sits a Welwitschia male, which must be the hottest place ever!
Although the surroundings changes all the time, the general components until now have been; yellow grass, gravel hills and green bushes. New, we get anew, dominating item, the giant granite boulders. Just like the Ayres Rock area in Australia, they form steep hills of almost round boulders. Some small, other larger than houses!
The area is dry, huge and astonishing. Wide fields with yellow grass waving for the wind surrounded with dark red mountains, and in the distance; Brandberg Mountain, which towers 2575 meters above the sea, 110 kilometres to the west. We cruses in only 300-600 meters height to day.
It is an other nice, warm day in Namibia. The temperature passes 40C, and even though our water stands in the shadow, it is almost coffee warm. The fake leather on the sides of the seat are way too hot for comfort to my bare legs! We have given up the air condition, which were on a comfy 30C, and have started to drive with the windows open. This causes for a lot of dust, but we should save some gasoline and the planet in general.
We cross - with quite some difficulties - Aba-Huab river. The bed of the dried river contains of loose rough sand, which even with four-wheel drive and differential lock needs a helping hand from the co-driver - in the back. Well over, we are being met with a gorgeous area with almost rose coloured sand, huge Euphorbias and small clusters of huge boulders. The Euphorbia are of a "new" species with frequent narrow areas and nine ridges.
Although the road is in fine condition, we only see a very few huts. A small group of gouts or cow are the only man-creation besides from the road. Even birds seems to be scars, the smaller buzzers which else seems to be common are missing. Strangely enough are here still the same "camel foot tree"¨, with not only large and thin leaven, but plentiful of them.
We meet up with C35 again, and heads towards Uis. On a huge, almost flat hillside, we find a "new" Commiphora. On some of the plants grow parasitic plant, of which I can't even guess the family. We have to quit the botanising, if we want to reach Uis before closing time.
Nice little town, reminding me of the tiny towns of western Australia or New Zealand. Dirt road all the way, and a mix of fancy, colonial and local style. Here are a few birds, one of them is the fantastic bee-eater. Grabs some necessary food items - only 270 N$ - , and head out to Brandberg to find The White Lady Lodge. I find a JungleBar and sausage roll, and that bring me back to the eastern South Africa tour with Maddy.
Now, we drive through yellow grass and dark, brown rocks with few other ingredients. It is evening, and large harems of springboks can be seen on the nearby plains. Guess we only have seen the bachelors until now. The camp is situated in a waste riverbed. The main house are in a great design, but we drive down to a campsite, with only one other car. We have our own site, several football fields wide, and the only other car is parked so fare away, I can't even tell it's brand.
Each campsite have it's own toilet and bath, and to my big surprise have the water heater on ours been fired this afternoon. We even decided on the side our selves. Traditional design of toilet and bath for southern Africa, except there are no roof at all! Guess it is seldom raining, although I can see some distance lightning. After dark, I discover the "door" is a chain, and there are a sealing: Millions of stars!
The first week have gone, and we have had some amassing days with much more sights than we could have dreamed off. Driven little over 2000 kilometres, and seen less than ten percent of this huge and astonishing country.
28. After an other perfect nights sleep, I discover to my pleasant surprise; some angle have been earlier up, and lit the water heater with some firewood. The area is teaming with wildlife, and a big domesticated bull. Here are fouls, starlings, finches, horned billed (which I now pay especially attention) and a single springbok.
We are staying on the brink of a huge riverbed, flanked with huge trees. Wines are covering their bases, and every thing is green and lush. After breakfast, we head for The White Lady, of which this camp is named. It is some distance away, in the centre of the round, ancient mega volcano Brandberg.
The area is a reservation due to the wonderful nature and the thousands of rock in carvings and paintings which can be found here. The oldest is believed to be 16.000 years old. We pay 25 N$ for the entrance and another 20 for the guide which we must have. Nice fellow, which walks with a book of Namibia's plants and animals. Guess he had have it for some time, he got a good grasp of what we see.
We follows a gorge which have been invalidated by bushmen until recently. This was there stronghold while black people from the north invaded their land with cattle. Here are a indigenous big Acacia, only known from the Brandberg, Commiphoras, Riconius, Dahlias, tall #SIV#, and other water loving plants.
We hear and see a lot of birds, even rosyfaced lovebirds Agapornis roseicollis. Here are geckos, orange faced agamas, small sand lizards and some of the adorable daisies. As usual, they are a bit too scarred to get a good shot of. Same goes for a few bush tailed rats, running around the rocks. Be sides from the annoying flies - which apparently don't like me - here are tuck-tucks, a medium sized black beetle.
In the distance, the peak of Brandberg appears. It can only be seen from inside the area. It seems like there always is a small cloud over it.
After an hour walk, we reach the most famous of the in carvings and paintings. Under a rack shelf, many hand size figures can be seen. Some are real old, some more recently. The White Lady i actually a shaman, with his half ostrich egg on a stick. Other figures are hunters and their pray.
After two hours, we are back at the car. We drive back to Uis to fill the tank, and then round the Brandberg's to Messum Crater of D2342. The whole area is dominated by fine or rough gravel wit few of many rocks on, and some huge piles of huge, dark brown granite boulders. One huge, almost flat hillside are covered with a 30 centimetre high Aloe, and the gravel in between the plants are almost barren. Here is just one little, but incredible fat "Euphorbia sardinii". Guess it is a Commiphora dinteri, but it smells like sardines!
Further down the road, we meet a rather large number of Welwitschias. I do some tests, and a lot of photos. They have short leaves, and sit almost in level with the soil. One of the bigger have a leave which is 56 centimetres across. Some grow in fine gravel, others in between head sized, dark brown rocks. They are in the middle of their flowering season, but few seed cones from last season can be found with all their seeds on.
The rocks are a story by them selves. The hard granite stones have been polished by sand throughout thousands of years. I pickup a small stone, and discover it is a manmade tool. Looking for it, I can find a lot. Looks like the ones which are 4-5000 years old in Denmark. Guess it could be the same here, although they have been unchanged a lot longer here, than in Denmark.
We continues on the D2342 to an even better Welwitschia site. The plants sit higher, and their living leaves are longer. The biggest are around 180 centimetre from living leaf tip to tip, and the stem are 80 centimetre in diameter. Guess it is 500-1500 years old.
To my great pleasure, I find the ticks that feeds on them, and most likely pollinates the plants, Probergrothius sexpunctatus. Many are mating, but I also find some red young. One large plant have been the shelter of an hare, which frighten takes off.
We heads on, following the coordinates my travel companion have found via Google Earth. It takes us a bit back, and then in on the plains on a two-wheel-track path. It leads through almost barren landscape, which seem to change all the time.
The size and colour of the stones or gravel changes, and we cross several dried out riverbeds. I'm a bit afraid of being stuck in the loose sand, and maintain a good speed in the loos areas It is a bumpy ride, and our eggs, bananas and oil lamp does not survive.
Almost no vegetation, but more and more Welwitschias. The even get bigger and bigger, and the biggest are fare lager than any I have seen photo of. I can't help my selves; gota have one more photo. Guess I end up with more than anybody else, but the plants just getting better and better.
We reaches the centre of Messum Crater, having ten kilometres to the surrounding walls of this collapsed volcano. It is a vast plain, surrounded with low mountains. Here are only yellow, low and scares grass and Welwitschias. We are not aloud to be here without guide, we are told, or camp in the crater. On the other hand have we only seen signs telling us it is a fragile area, and the roads have to be followed. And it is, accordantly to my travel guide: One of the most remote attractions in Namibia.
Ergo, we set up camp in the smack centre. The wind raises as usual, and the temperature drops fast. at 20.30 it is gone from 40C to 17C, which feels almost freezing! The dark rocks are a nice warmer for my cold feeds. Quick supper and then I try to sort out eggs, butter and milk in the frizz. The rest of the trunk is a mess as well. Bananas, oil and glass from the lamp and food in general have been thrown around.
It is still windy, and I hide in the car with coffee to write. Outside, it is pitch black, except from the millions of bright stars. In the distance I can head a constant rumble of thunder. Sure hopes it stay distant. Would spoil my nights sleep, and make the already difficult ride back to common gravel road almost impossible at best.
Some may ask; "Don't you think it is dangerous to camping the wild, when there are lions, elephants and rhinos running around?". I might think so, but the last five camps we have stayed in have had signs; "Be aware of the elephants in the camp. They are wild animals and dangerous". So I just say: "What is the difference?". Actually, I thing we will meet significantly fewer large animals here, in the barren landscape, than in the riverbeds we have sleeps lately.
29. I wake up at six, as normal, but is is colder than it use to be. Only twelve degrees, and a humidity on 90%. I would have expected dew on the Welwitschias, but apparently not this morning. Most places, they should receive drew 300 days a year. There are just some wet areas on the ground, dew on the car, but none at the plants, and that is not because they have absorbed it yet. We can almost see the ocean, and we are not higher than 550 metres.
We head out through the barren country. Not much but gravel and Welwitschias. In some areas, they are especially huge. One we see are defiantly way larger than any I have seen photos of. No time to measure, but of those I have, one have a leaf which are 83 centimetres wide without splitting up. One have a stem witch end in a 130 centimetre bowl, and the leaves are 240 and 220 centimetres on each side of the stem. Some are higher than others, one have a stem of 60 centimetres height. The older ones tend to be somehow coruscated.
We are leaving the main area for this magnificent plant, and I guess I have seen (and photoed) the better part of the worlds population. Just for one place, I can cont 281 plants! On the 50 kilometre unmarked and probably completely unofficial road, we see a few springboks - which sounds like frogs, and a small succulent, something like Crassula minima?
Even though the area is as dry, here are surprisingly many insects. The tick on the Welwitschia, flies, butterflies, crickets, wasps and beetles. That give living for some larches, small buzzards, and small fouls. I even spot a single ostrich.
We are heading back to Uis - which by the way means "bad water" in the local thong, to replace the mash eggs and bananas. Bit easier to drive out, now the sun is higher. It is first while I sit waiting out of Uis Supermarket I remember there are these things on the front wheels that have to be turned, to engage the front wheels. We have actually driven 100 kilometres through rough, sandy and hilly terrain with 2x4 drive!
On our way out of time, we ass a small group of Moringas. Unfortunately, they have been scarified, but at least there are a number of young trees on their way. A pair of sunbirds and some lovebirds fly fast bye, while the black-blue metallic starlings keep observing us. We head out of C36, and turns of on D2306. The area is a bit too moist for our favourites, although most people probably would call it highly arid.
It looks like the savannah of Kenya: Vast grass plains with some acacias and other small trees and bushes. It have received some rain within the last days, but it have not given any effect yet, except on seeds. The 2319 meter Hohenstein is in front of us, and at it's foot, we find two new Commiphoras.
After a short coffee brake in the roadside we head on through Spitzkop. We pass few huts, either made with recycled iron plates r cow manure. In the small village of Uigaran (more like 25 huts and a brick building), a wedding have taken place, and we follows the parade of cars heading for Usakos.
We passes two termite mounts, strangely enough; the first since Upuwo, and the last for a long time too. To dry?. Might be too hot or dry for them? In a large valley, a green stripe of huge trees cuts through. Even though the area seems to be slightly fertile, only a few groups of goats can be seen in the open bush land.
We passes the huge Erongo mountain range, and turn down on D1927, up D1930 and down D3716 to reach Spitzkop. I spot a Aloe dichotoma on a remote hill side, while my Cyphostemma freak of a travel companion spot the huge Cyphostemma currori right next to it. While we stomp up to them, we passes - and shoots - one or two "new" Commiphoras.
It is getting late and while we can't pass the cone shaped neighbours to Grossspitzkop without taking a few shots, we have to find a camp for the night soon. I the settlement of Spitzkop, we turn in on a small road, leading right in under the giant cones. Here, we find a cosy camp in a dried out riverbed on some giant, rough granite rocks.
30. I have to wait a couple of hours before we are ready. Pass the giant Spitzkop and the cone shaped neighbours. A giant Cyphostemma currori on the cones lures us op the steep granite. Here are also Ficus, Pelargoniums, Obetia tenax and other nice plants beside from an breathtaking view over the huge plain.
Here are quite few birds; White crow, sunbirds, larks starlings and weavers.
My co-driver lures me out on an endless desert road from the backdoor of Spitzkop. We end up at D1925 on en apparently endless, flat plain of almost barren rough sand. Only some few tough bushes manages to hang on, lead by the amassing Acacia.
Finally we reaches the sealed B2. Haven't have asphalt under the wheels since Opuwo, a week ago. We enjoy this treat the next hundred kilometres, until we meet D1991; the legendary Welwitschia Drive. The surroundings have gone more and more barren, reminding us of the Mettle East. Endless soft, almost flat hills of fine gravel, telephone poles and a pipeline. Barley any plants or animals.
We pass through an area, which to no surprise is called The Moon.
Huge piles of an ancient volcano's gravel and rocks are the only thing for kilometres. Well, in one little lowering, we find three different succulents: One that might be an extreme succulent grass, a Mesemembranthium (Ice-plant) and a Crassulaceae (Dollar Plant).
I have a bit difficulties with north and south. If I'm not mistaken, the sun were in north when we got here, but now is it in south, although it appears to be straight above our heads most of the time.
The first Welwitschias finally appears, and in what seems to be a good ground, I perform another test of the soil test. We are running very late, and the road is the worst we have experienced: Pure washing board! The sand next to the road seems to be much more smooth, and my co-driver lures me out on the already beaten alternative road.
Unfortunately are I a bit too keen to spot Welwitschias, and I misses a crossing, dry river. We end up flying - which doesn't causes problems, and a rather clumsy landing which does. My co-driver hurts his back, and learns to buckle-up from now on.
The road end by a huge, old plant, which is toughed away within a fence. I can live with that; I have seen bigger, and I prefer this 1500 years old plant are protected. On the way back, we stop to shoot a few photos of the green-, black- and orange lichens. These plants grow even slower than the mighty Welwitschias.
We passes outside Swakopmund and find a nice camp on D1901. Besides from supper, diary and daily photo back-up, I try to find a few photos for the diary. There are around 2800 to chose from, which does not exactly help. An owl sing his lonely song while cicadas and a crickets accompanies. It is a new moon, millions of stars and rather cold due to the closeness of the see.
1/12. We head into the big city, second largest in Namibia, to get some cloths washed, and check the internet. We find a laundry which charge us 40N$ each, and promises we can pick-up the dry cloths two hours later. Next stop for me is an internet store. I'm finish uploading in half an hour, by my co-driver needs five hours to do his things. I spend the time walking around the small city. Most buildings in the centre- which seems to more or less it all - have been build shortly after 1900. All is kept in perfect conditions. Many of the chains are familiar from South Africa.
It is said to be, and probably are, the most German town in Namibia. The street names have been changed into local known people and localities from the colonial names. The people on the streets are a fair mix of local black from many cultural tribes and white, even some red (himba) and tourists. The city are surrounded by the sea, sand dunes and moon landscape. The air is rather cold, due to the cold sea, but the sun is real hot.
At the seaside, some real cosy cottages challenges the grey sand, behind is a road flanked by large palm trees. A colony of Australian lovebirds seem to thrive in the water pines, and in front of the city hall, a lot of tradesmen sell nice handicraft from the rest of Africa. Here, as in other places, they are friendly, and take "No thanks" for an answer.
The road out of town leads directly to the enormous dunes. On the other side of town, a township can be found. After having walked all streets in centre of town, I head for the car and tingle with the diary and it's photos. On the way of of town, we gas, buy a little food surplices. With a bit of messing around, we finally find our cloths, and we head out through the dunes. While we passes the enormous dunes, sand flies across the road, reminding me of the snow I "misses" at home.
We drive south, towards Walvis Bay. On the way, dunes builds up inland while the sea shows it's teethes. We pass one of the artificial islands, build on poles. The make a great platform for the seabirds which the actually have been build for. Not because someone was especially nice to birds, but to collect their dune: Guano.
Less bird friendly are the satellite cities along the way. Not only are the a decrease to the eye, they are build on the Damara Tern nesting grounds, ant it is a very rare bird. Right outside Walvis Bay, there are a large township and an even big Mandela town. Most interesting thing to tell about this town is probably it remained under South African control until 1994.
A relatively new wreck have stranded on The Skeleton Coast, and workers are trying to salvage some goods or parts.
It turns up the campsite we had set our selves up for in the city have closed. Can't find others, we must admit this is no tourist town. We are not more than 50 kilometres from yesterday's nice Sophia Loren's Lodge, and we might as well head back. Haven't really achieved much to day, except uploaded diary and got some, not need, cloths washed.
In the evening, I look through those of my photos who have made it though the first elimination. Delete some more, and end up with half of the 3000 I have taken. Still way too many, but what can I do? While I work, huge cockroaches crosses our campsite. They are not like the usual flat ones, but they appears to run on their tiptoes. Might be a way to avoid the hot sand.
Once again, we experiences a chilly night. Even before the sun have set, it is down to 20C, and during the evening, if falls to shivering 15C with a light wind. Luckily, there is a good, hot shower, and after having recharged with heat, I crawl into my igloo.
2/12. An other cold night, it is time to move on. We pass Swakopmund to check mails again, and little to noon, we head out onB2 towards Walvis Bay again. The wind is not as strong as yesterday, and we do some of the photos again.
Once again, we passes the satellite cities, some call it development, I'm sure the rare Damara Tern will call it destruction. On the other side of the road, the large dunes are used for cite flying and skiing.
Just outside Walvis Bay city, a drilling rig is anchored, and a bit further out, an other. The town are dominated by a teaming mass of blue dressed workers and general activity. This is a workers town, unlike Swakopmund with it's tourists and nice shops.
We hit inland on C14, which leads us through a almost white and barren landscape, dominated by real flat hills. There are evidence of test drilling all over, and some mines can be seen between the hills. Then we reaches Namib Naukluft National Park, which follows the cost around 50 kilometres inland.
Here, it turns even more flat! Endless plains of yellow grass and a high temperature, around 43C. A few bushes and in a drench, some Cucurbitaceae, which have an interesting stem - to some, that is. We pass several rivers, but all without water. One is flanked with surprisingly large trees, and in one of these, a couple of white crows sits.
We make a stop in a larger river, with large trees. One have a huge nest of grey faced weavers. A short coffee brake, and I test the temperature of the soil. It is 40C from surface to 65 centimetres debt, and the air is only 37C.
In the northern horizon, black skies is building up. The increases, while we approach the foothills. A sandstorm is coming in fast, but the new hill sides are too interesting to skip. On one, some huge Aloes can bee seen, on a other, the Commiphora have leaves, and a tall Sarcocaulon are in flower. One of the "old" Euphorbias and some other Commiphoras grow among the #SKIFFER# plates.
The sandstorm arrivals, and I flies to the car. Dark, brown skies have covered the dark, blue thunder clouds, and sand is being whipped over the hills. The light is fantastic, and a moment of Light Light Delight with Lightning occurs. Around Kriess Se Rus, we frightens a gemsbok, and have more luck sneaking in on a Moringa.
The rain hit us hard, and huge piles of water are found along the road. When we hit Naukluft, it is truly heavy rain, although we are in a dessert. The surroundings are fantastic, and it doesn't harm they are lighten with severe lightning. It is truly a narrow gorge, build of #SKIFFER#.
Then Gaub Pass brings us up on a high plain, and in soaking rain, we passes the Topic of Capricorn. There are now rivers across the road, and on some stretches, we are more or less driving in a river. At one point, it is more a river with to pieces of road on each side. In the middle of this well over half a meter deep river, a South African Jaris is parked in the fast running water.
I walk out to them, and ask, if I can be at any assistance. The water are over the doors, but I figure it can be pushed free. I try, but the girl driving can't keep the engine alive. The guy jumps out, and get his pans wet. When we all three pushed, they get free. We drive through with four-wheel drive, and have no problems. The young couple ask, if we would like to join the for the rest of the tour.
Beside from the wild weather, we are also driving through some of Namibia's more beautiful mountains. The light is not with us for photoing, but it is a rare and astonishing experience to be in this kind of weather in a dessert. We see some animals, like ostriches and a big harem of springboks. The stand bend down with the tail facing the wind.
We crosses one small river after an other, and the newly road is shredded to pieces by the fast running water. Huge pools are on and beside the road, and the only dry spot we see, is the huge river. It is running late, but at the time we reaches Solitare, it is still pouring down, and we continues on C19 to Sesriem.
Here is Sesriem Sossusvlie Camp, which is big and new. It is within Namib Naukluft National Park, which stretches from Swakopmund all the way down to South Africa, more than 500 kilometres.
It has closed at eight, but a nice guard show us a campsite, and we can pay to morrow.. We are in tourist country, and the nearby restaurant lures me. All we have eaten until now have been homemade, and a huge steak and a fish later, we feel real fine. The price is ridiculous; 84N$ for both.
The weather is fine, although we still can hear and see the thunder and lightning over the mountains. The temperature is a fine 25C, and although t have rained today, I believe - and hope - it will be it for now. My tent is not made for heavy rain, if any!
3/12. We have a nice campsite underneath a flowering Acacia erioloba which attracts a lot of birds. There are several beetles, lizards and skinks as well. I feel like I am appreciating an adventure by Kipling. Unfortunately, the birds drops on us and the tents, which kind of spoil the pleasure.
I walk to the office to pay for the camp and the now, while we have a park permit - as we should have had for Welwitschia Drive and yesterday, we head into the park. Our first stop reveals some really interesting stones. They have been sand blasted and their different components are more visible.
Here we find the 30 meter deep Sesriem Canyon, cut into a concrete, flat area by Tsauchab River. Due to last knights rain, there are a scorching, brown stream in the button. The shelves on the side of the canyon, which is only four to ten meters vide, are a nesting ground for pigeons.
We drive back the lodge, and out towards the pink dunes. 45 kilometres out, after numerous photo stops, we reaches Dune 45. This 150 meter high dune is probably not the biggest, but it is the most accessible. I find plants and beetles around it's steep sides, but have to give in, when I try to climb it. We crosses Tsauchab river several times, but although this it further down stream, it is completely dry. The sand drains the river, and it is only with years in-between the water reaches the end on the surface.
The sand is steaming! Burns like fire on my feet. We head further out on this weird, sealed road in the Namib Naukluft National ark. We have driven hundreds of kilometres to reach it, by gravel roads. We reaches the last park for two-wheeled driven vehicles, and a bit further out, it turns tricky.
We drive among patches of hard, white clay and 30 centimetre deep, very loos sand. A low four-wheeled driven car is stocked. I don't dear to stop besides him, although I have engaged all our car can do off road. Walk back, and try to push. Then I dig his car free while my co-adventurer gets our sand letters.
He have driven out here in the early morning, while the sand wad hard due to the due. Now, we get him two meters ahead, and he is stock again. Not more we can do, but get a big truck to fetch him. We continues to the end of the road, next to Death Vlei. It is one o'clock, and my co-adventurer wants to wait the worst heat out.
I spend the time walking the nearby dunes, photo some plants and animals and do some measuring. The sand is 67C on the surface, and ten centimetres down, it is 50C. No wonder I had to put my heavy boots on! The humidity is down on 42% while the temperature in the shadow get to 45C.
At three, we start walking out to Death Vlei. We take a significantly de-tour across, and on top of the mighty dunes. Between them, some plants are clinging on to life. Many of the flat areas between the dunes are white, dry and hard clay.
It is rather windy, and on the top of the dunes, sand is in the air. We walks on the ridge of a huge dune, and after some time, we spot the - from photos - so familiar sight of the dead trees on the flat, white clay pan. The temperature have dropped to 43C, and if it haven't been for the wind, this might be a bit hot. A gemsbok stands in the shadow of one of the dead trees, and it does not seem to be bothered by us.
The valley is surrounded with huge dunes, which seem to be pink or orange. Along with the blue sky and the white clay and the black, dead trees, it makes a fantastic site. In one tree, a couple of white crows have made their nest. Seems to be a perfect spot - if you don't wants neighbours. My co-photographer wants to wait for an other hour to get the lights right, I am content, and heads back.
On the way, I meet a huge group of large, black beetles, and a few green. The black ones seems to like my boots, and at one point, I have around ten sitting, chewing on them. They are either sitting in the shadow of me or some of the small plants, or making fast raids out on the scotching sand.
We are the only ones out this fare, and while I accidentally drops some of my breakfast, I make a group of sparrows very happy. If I didn't know better, I would have thought someone else have broken the parks law about feeding animals...
I am covered in fine sand, and I'm afraid my camera have it the same way. My co-driver turns up at six, and we heads for the exit, 65 kilometres back. The sun is setting, and it causes for even more photos. Numerous gemsboks, ostriches and springboks can be seen along the road. I also seen a light brown mongoose cross then road.
We leave the camp and park, and head down C19 (and NOT C27). We are looking for a camp about 30 kilometres south, but ends up 100 kilometres south. We have taken the wrong road, and there are no camps near by. It is black night, and I'm really not that keen on driving on unfamiliar gravel roads in the dark. I spot several animals on the road like black mongoose and rabbits. Swallows are resting on the road, and bats are passing our lights.
We take a shortcut by D827 and meets with C27. 30 kilometres back, we find the sigh for the Wolvendance Camp. They have their own, private nature reserve, and their driveway is literary 20 kilometres of bad gravel road. When we finally gets there, it turns out they don't have campsites, but we are in luck; there are a vacant room - at 3750 N$.
That might include some of their activities like nightly game drive and maybe hot air balloon flight, but it is defiantly not what we are looking for. We head back the long drive way, and turns south. After we have left the private game park, we turn into the shoulder of the road. We have not seen huts for several days, and the white farmers live with great distances. We have not seen an other car for hours, and beside from the wildlife, we feel quite safe here.
There are a thunderstorm over the nearby Losberg mountains, but the sky above us seems clear. We have been driving 180 kilometres in the dark, on gravel roads, and I start to feel it. The headlights are way too low, and the roads are still marked by the rain. It is half pass ten, and I still have photos and diary to write. Makes an error, and some of my Death Vlei photos get blown to electrons in cyberspace.
While I sit outside, all kind of animals passes bye. The insects are attracted by the light, and they attracts bats and a rather large bird. On the ground, something rat-sized are puzzling, but I hope that's all. It will be interesting to see where we are in the morning! Once again, it is pass midnight before I give in, and I'm not even finish!
4/12. Quiet night until half past five when a car rushed bye. I wake up again at six, just to discover we have a flat tire. Try to pump it, and head on. We have decided to skip breakfast here, and use one of the official picnic places. Unfortunately, there are none at this particular road. Instead, we use a farmers road for one of his giant fields.
Seems like the tire still leaks, so we swap it with one of the spare tiers. Good tool onboard makes is easy, and after breakfast, we head down C27 towards Aus. We are in a cattle-sheep land. The farms are huge, and there are little or none cattle on the fields in the heights, and the farms are huge. Further down, the grass have a slight greenish nuance, and the farms tend to be smaller.
We makes a few stops, and each time, I find a new Cucurbitaceae. One with egg sized, really spiny fruits, one is a melon and one have egg sized fruit with a few, real small spines. There are a huge amount of butterflies, and I discover they are coming out of their cocoons along the road.
I spot a meter and a half meter long snake on the road. When we passes it, it raises it front third and widens out it's neck. Here are three different spitting cobras, and this might be one of them. That means I don't get the close-ups I would like to have, but I get it chased up in a tree, and shoot a few shots.
In Bette we use the gas station, which makes up half of the "town". A pair of small woodpeckers are living in a large Aloe next to the station, and different, large beetles from around can be found n the concrete. we continues, and the landscape remains the same, until we reaches Tirasberge.
A small group of, what I would call black gipsies are camping with their colourful wagons and horsed along the road. We make a stop a bit further in the mountains. I spot a Hoodia curorrii, which is in full flower. Screams from above turns out to be a group of baboons on the mountain ridge. I can hardly see them, but their screams are loud.
We makes a small de-tour to reach Helmeringhausen. It is only five houses, but one turns out to be the shop we need. Real primitive with enormous home made shelves behind the counter, but the large room encounters all the white farmers in a huge area can dream of - except rain.
We buy water for the co-driver and milk for me. An ice cream and a JungleBar, and we push on towards the south and succulent land. It have been raining in some areas, and there are a light greenish shine to be seen. We drive among large, steep gravel hills or maintains, which fits have been buried in fine gravel. That makes vide, completely flat walleyes with a dense cover of grass. A few , low termite mounts are found, but not in the amount I would have thought on these waste plains.
We can still find a few interesting plants on the slopes, but they are hard to access. On one, we find a large Aloe dichotoma, which ells seems to thrive on the ridges. A few column Euphorbias can be found, and one have a Viscum sp. A few skinny Sarcocaulon stands without any leaves nor flowers.
We descent even more, and enter the Lüderitz plain. This is massive cattle land, and among the few interesting things we see, is a giant windmill in a different design. Same farmer have fields with Opuntias. Could be for the fruits?
We drive on a straight road, which seems to last forever. Finally, around three, we reach the big town Aus (which means snake well). The town have a police station, a big church, a hospital, a tourist information, a gasoline station - and around twenty houses.
After having tested their lack of internet, we head out to a camp, three kilometres out of town. Kleine Aus Vista have internet, fancy bungalows and tent site fare away, in a awesome walleye. After a fast cup of coffee, I head for the hills. Here are some walking trails, which seems to be rarely used. I chose the Sunsettrail, which seems to be appropriate, now around four.
It leads me up the rocky hill sides, and I discover three or four Pelargoniums, three Sarcocaulon, several Euphorbias, a Tylecodon with "dollar-leaves" and probably a Tylecodon wallichii, some nice Hoodia carreii and some other succulents and other plants I never have seen before. I walk for a couple of hours, and on the last part, I seen some quite striped mice.
There are a crises in the camp when I returns: One tent is missing. Could be taken out this morning, to search for tools? That is 250 kilometres back of a road with few great entertainments.
5/12. Christmas seems a bit fare away. It is 30C when I wake up to a quire of finks, around six. After breakfast, I give my co-traveller a fast crash-course in left side driving, and send him off to find his tent 250 kilometres gravel road back. I would have used the petrol money to buy a new in Lüderitz, 100 kilometre sealed road away, and use the day to explore the surroundings.
I jump off at the reception, and walk a kilometre back to the camp. Put on boots and hat, and head out on the long Schutstroppe Trail. It leads over the mountain, and follows its foot around some ancient fortresses, build in the occurring rocks. The granite is in different states, some are fine gravel, other as hard as it gets.
The temperature increases to 40C and there are no wind at all. I see few animals, like a bush tailed rat, some striped mice, some weavers, larks, starlings, black crows, falcons, flycatchers and singers. The flies are a bit annoying, but my big hat help.
I find two small Cucurbitaceae and many of the plants from yesterday. Just before I head up over the mountain, I pass a small road with a vintage care left beside. The temperature drops to comfy 35C when I head up hill. The view from the top are breathtaking. The giant Lüderitz plain and remote mountain.
On the other side, temperature raises again, and the sun gain momentum. It is a long but interesting walk back the gorge. I hit the base-camp after four hours, and swap the boots thongs. An other kilometre to the restaurant, and I deserve a cupertino!
Start to sort photos and write text to the photos on this diary (should work, if you hover over each photo). Feel I ought to buy something, while I sit in the restaurant, and order a Oryx-pie with fries. And an other cupertino... Even though the weather is nice, I feel I have done enough walking for one day.
After several cupertinos and some Fantas, I got my photos back-upped, uploaded this diary and watched the striped mice, mousebirds, sunbirds and all the other wildlife that lives in the garden underneath the porch I am sitting on. For 45 minutes of internet, four cupertinos, two Fantas and a oryx pie with fries, I pay 150N$. Might be expensive here, but it is so much cheaper than Denmark.
There are an fantastic view from the porch I'm sitting on. The whole building are a rustic, but real nice design. Huge timber makes up the main constructions while the rest is nature materials, but spotless.
The designated driver for the day comes back after a ten hours road trip - empty handed. I use a long time talking him into driving to Lüderitz tomorrow to buy a new tent. Accordantly to the waiter, it can be purchased for as little as 200-250 N$ - less than half the amount he have spend on gas today. He complained about sleeping without a tent, and we are eventually going to Lüderitz anyway.
Next part is on Part two.