Well, I haven’t made a good job of finishing the story of our Southern African trip from last summer have I? Despite it now being almost a year since we set off I really do want to finish up – the whole trip was very special and Namibia was such an incredible country to visit that I really feel I should share the trip online (I would be so happy to think I might light a wee spark in someone who in due course was able to visit too). But if you’re here to read about crafting and Scotland then please do switch off!
Last time I told about our huge drive from Capetown to Windhoek. After a lovely reunion with my parents in Windhoek, which felt very big and civilised after the empty country* we had spent several days driving through (although in reality it is a tiny wee capital city) we set off the following morning for Swkopmund. Mum and dad had picked up a hire car at the airport which meant we were able to ease-up on the very careful packing we’d needed to fit everything into their Landrover until then. From then, John and I plus 2 of the children travelled in the hire car and mum and dad took whichever 2 children looked like they’d be most amenable on any given day!
There was an initial hiccup as it took quite a search and several petrol stations to track down one which had diesel for the Landrover. John and I got as far as wondering if we’d have to shuttle fuel back from Swakopmund, although we couldn’t be sure at that stage if there would be any there either. Eventually they tracked some down and we had no further problems thereafter so it seemed to be a temporary hiccup, we were however careful to keep tanks as full as possible and refuel when we could, petrol stations were few and far between at times.
We chose to drive the c28 to Swakopmund. It is the shortest route – certainly not the fastest, but definitely scenic. The 300km route is mostly gravel and passes through high altitude rolling cattle farming country before dropping very steeply down the Bosua Pass to the plains of the northen Namib Desert, the Namib-Naukluft National Park (1700m right down to almost sea level). I’ve read that it is one of the least travelled roads in the world (but I think there must be quieter roads out there) and that fewer than 10 cars use it per day, which I imagine is correct………I think we saw 2 other cars in the several hours it took us to make the journey. The farms along this road were very well scattered, each being several kilometres apart and generally the homestead was several kilometres from the road – I couldn’t help wondering about the lives of the farmers and the people who worked for them, they must have to be very self-sufficient.
We didn’t tend to travel in convoy but on all the longer journeys found that there were natural stopping points and whoever was in front would wait. This time we stopped once we hit the plains and had entered the National Park. We immediately saw our first large animals including beautiful Gemsbok, a kind of Oryx. They were quite a long way off but it was good to feel that we had reached some wild land. The Namib-Naukluft is the largest nature reserve in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. This day we just skimmed through to get to Swakopmund.
Swakopmund is a large coastal town founded in the 1890s as a port for the German Colony (the nearby deep-water port, Walvis Bay, was in British control). It’s a very strange place, sandwiched between the Namib Desert and the vast Atlantic Ocean and entirely dependent on fresh water channelled from inland. The German colonial architecture is lovely and the whole place has a laid-back holiday feel. We enjoyed it as a base for some exploring and over the next couple of days mixed and matched some tours between us all.
The boys, dad and I took a boat trip from Walvis Bay – which we found to be an even more strange town. It felt very industrial and is centred around the deep-water port, still important today as the only real port between Luderitz (southern Namibia) and Luanda (Angola) – as you’ll see from the photo of Finn and me, it wasn’t all that warm out on the water! The trip was a lot of fun and key sightings included pelicans, bottlenose dolphins (the same species that we see here on the Black Isle), heaviside’s dolphins, cape fur seals and cormorants. All are shown above apart from the heaviside’s dolphins who I hadn’t heard of before the trip. They’re a very small dolphin and somehow seemed much ‘prettier’ than the bottlenose. They have a very small range only being found off the west coast of Namibia and South Africa. The bottlenose dolphins were very playful, riding the bow-wave of the boat and flipping jellyfish with their tails – this happened more than once so I’m sure it was for fun rather than accidental! The pelicans were fascinating, strangely unattractive and attractive at the same time. I hadn’t realised quite how pretty their colours are.
Mum, dad and Angus took a trip south of Walvis Bay towards Sandwich Harbour. This requires a 4WD to travel south between the shore and massive dunes. They loved this trip but were a little disappointed not to get quite to Sandwich Harbour which is famous for it’s birdlife.
Meanwhile John and the girls enjoyed a tour of Mondesa Township, outside Swakopmund. They visited a food stall, orphanage and local house all of which was an eye opener for Islay – as was trying Mopane (Omagungu) worms which are a local delicacy! More people live in the township than in Swakopmund itself and, while there is a dark past, on the whole it was a thriving community.
I think that’s probably enough for now. The whole trip seems a lifetime away today – the wind is howling and rain has been coming down in sheets at times. We are so lucky to have such wonderful memories. Do you have any particular trips which stand out to you?
*The fact that we managed not to realise that we’d come through a time change when crossing into Namibia perhaps indicates quite how removed from technology and the ‘normal’ world we had been………we discovered when we joined mum and dad, after some confused conversations about what time we should eat that night, that we had spent the last 3 days working 1 hour ahead of actual Namibian time. That probably explained some slight surprise when we turned up for breakfast shortly before, what we now know was, 7am in Keetmans ……we’re early risers, but so are southern Africans in general, so we were puzzled that breakfast didn’t seem to be in full swing when we’d waited specially not to be too early!