From Diary 2
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 (to 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 is mandatory. 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 an indigenous big Acacia, only known from the Brandberg, Commiphoras, Riconius, Dahlias, tall rush, 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 photo 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's 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 is 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 with a few or many rocks on, and some huge piles of huge, dark brown granite boulders. One huge, almost flat hillside is 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 a 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. They 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; we have only seen signs telling us this 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 drive back to the 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 it 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, I'm told, 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 photographed) the better part of the world's population. Just for one place, I can count 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 town, 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 or 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 photograph- 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 photos, 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 soil, 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 make 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: Swakopmund, 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, but 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 shops-names 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 and 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 "missing" 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. They 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 they a decrease to the eye, they are build on the Damara Tern nesting grounds, and 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 drops 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 on B2 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, one more. 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. They 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 slate 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 slate.
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 photos, 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. They 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 tent 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 it have rained today, I believe - and hope - it will be it for now. My
tent is not made for heavy rain, if any!