Week 6: Damaraland – Africa Anticipated

This week in Namibia we head north through the Skeleton coast up to the Angolan border.

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Skeleton Coast

After leaving creepy Mile 108, we finally made it to the infamous Skeleton Coast. We didn’t have reservations to stay within the park, so the guard had to turn on the generator to turn on the phones to call the lodge there to make sure there was room for us! He also made us take a package to give someone there, it was all very mysterious.

The Skeleton Coast is ‘infamous’ because of all the shipwrecks, but it was a bit of a disappointment. We actually only saw one, but assuming we’d see hundreds we didn’t even stop to take a photo of it! *facepalm

oil rig
The only thing we really saw at the Skeleton Coast: a rusty, derelict oil rig

Damaraland

The next day we left the windy coast and quickly started peeling off the layers as we entered the Damaraland province of Namibia. All of a sudden it looked like the Africa I know from the Lion King, it was magnificent. If only we had spotted wild elephants, it would’ve been the Africa I’ve always imagined.

damaraland
Damaraland…

We visited Twyfelfontein, one of Namibia’s World Heritage Sites, and one of the biggest rock engravings sites on the continent, carved for centuries by the San bushmen (who the Damara people descended from).

giraffe rock engraving
A giraffe engraving at Twyfelfontein

And then it happened. We got to a very cheap bush camp, glad to save some money, when someone told us desert elephants were around. And we saw elephants!! In the wild! Just…doing their thing! Moreno’s writing a post on our little adventure with them, but it was amazing, and I don’t think the image I’ve had in my head all these years could’ve played out any better.

elephants
Elephants everywhere! There ended up being about 20 of them.

The next day we headed north. And look! Giraffes! Three of them, and they were so beautiful. It was a bit ironic that we managed to get closer to some of these animals in the wild than in the parks we’ve been to so far.

Opuwo

We didn’t mean to stay in Opuwo, but man, are we glad we did. It’s a little town, with not much in it, but it was the first one not overrun by tourists (which was a bit overwhelming in itself) and the town was filled with a mishmash of different African cultures: some people were in modern ‘americanized’ clothing, the Herero women were in their Victorian style dresses, and the Himba women, painted in red ochre, were bare-chested in not much more than a cow hide skirt.

house in herero viillage
Moreno takes selfies with the kids, while a Herero woman patches a wall of her house

It was extraordinary, and we decided to stay another day and visit some villages to learn more about them.

getting up on a donkey
Children in the Himba village prepare to go fetch water from a nearby hill

And, bonus! We met another long-term overlander, Brian from London, later that night and he had a saw Moreno could use to fix our “cabinet can’t open without hip-checking the fridge” problem. Yaaay!

moreno sawing cabinet
Moreno fixing our cabinet door…by sawing off one of the corners

Epupa Falls

Then it was further north, to Epupa Falls, which appeared an oasis in the desert as we came over another dusty hill.

moreno at epupa falls
Token pose in front of the falls

It was easily one of the most beautiful places we’ve been so far on this trip, and it gave us an extra kick to know that Angola was just across the river.

kat at epupa falls
Taking it all in…

Now and Next

We are currently in Kamanjab, doing nothing but hiding from the heat and catching up on some interwebs. They let overlanders stay free as long as we support them by eating at their bar/restaurant. No complaints here.

Next: We’ll be here for another few days and then instead of heading to the Etosha Game Park as we intended, we might be heading back south to Windhoek, the capital, to get that Landy snorkel looked at, and get some passport things figured out.

And AND! Since we’re all caught up on the updates now (for now anyway), we’ll be concentrating on getting posts and photos out about all these things we’ve been mentioning (when my laptop works anyway). (Sidebar: god, I miss my mac).

Till then!

Week 5: Coastal and Sandblasted

Our fifth week in Southern Africa took us from the dead heat of the Sossusvlei desert sand dunes back to the windy Atlantic on the Skeleton Coast.
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Red Dunes of Sossusvlei

We started the week off in Sossuslvei, the oldest dunes in the world. The red giants (some 300 meters high) are probably the most famous thing to see in Namibia, but even though at one point there were maybe 60 of us there, it still felt completely deserted. (Literally). We climbed up one of the dunes shortly after sunrise and then ran down (awesome fun) to the dead vlei (flat land) to take some photos there.

Red dunes of Sossusvlei
Walking the ridge of one of the dunes

Walvis Bay

Sossuslvei was HOT so the next day we hit up the coast again and went to Walvis Bay to do nothing. Walvis Bay is really just a harbour – it’s actually the biggest and most important one in Namibia as it’s close to the capital, and it’s the port used by Zambia and Zimbabwe – but there isn’t too much else there. Except flamingoes. Real ones, just walking around.

Flamingoes
An arrangement of flamingoes – just hanging out!

We desperately needed to de-dust the inside of the Landy as everything was covered in white gravel and sand dune dust, so we rented a little bachelor chalet and did nothing for a couple of days. (Well, I hunkered down in bed feeling sick, and Moreno dealt with credit card fun). We did meet an awesome Canadian couple, Vic and Deb, who have been on the road for a few years since they’ve retired. Their black and white striped rented camper (which they nicknamed ‘the wounded Zebra’) was falling apart and Moreno spotted another wound – a deflating tyre – so after joining forces to change the tyre, we bonded sharing our various travel adventures over beers. They were a hoot, so when we did eventually  leave, we followed them to a campsite in Swakopmund.

Swakopmund

Swakopmund is just 30km north up the coast and is the local holiday vacation spot in Namibia. We had a great seafood dinner the first night with our new Canuck friends before we parted ways. The next morning, we went on a catamaran cruise and it was really good – we saw pelicans, seals, dolphins – and got completely sunburned (it’s hard to tell with all the wind!).

Pelican up close
Up close with the pelicans

And then I went sand boarding in the afternoon and got completely sand blasted! Swakopmund is the adrenaline capital of the country, so I had to try something. But it gets so windy here in the afternoon that we had to call it a day after half an hour!

Skeleton Coast

To finish off the week, we started making our way further north towards the infamous shipwreck-laden Skeleton Coast. We made it as far as Cape Cross, which is home to one of the biggest colonies of Cape fur seals. They’re fast! And, not gonna lie…so smelly.

Sunning seal
A seal suns at Cape Cross

We found camp at Mile 108 and ended up being the only ones camping there (the sign actually said the campsite was closed, so we’re thinking the guy at reception just pocketed the money). The beach campsite was massive, and there were hyena and jackal tracks near the edge of the camp, and no fences. There was also a seal carcass on the beach. Yum. It actually would’ve been a great star gazing opportunity as there was no electricity anywhere in the area…if we weren’t totally creeped out.

Mile 108 campsite
The beach campsite looked like a graveyard in the fog of the early morning. So creepy.

Next: We’re heading up the Skeleton Coast to see shipwrecks, and then either back to Swakopmund for some Landy parts (turns out our snorkel is just for show), or some of the areas just off coast, including Twyfelfontein – the largest rock engraving site and one of Namibia’s two World Heritage Sites.

Stay tuned!

Week 4: New Frontiers, New Horizons

In week 4, we left the animal sightings of South Africa for the ever-changing extremes of Namibia.
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Our first border crossing!

On our last day in the Kgalagadi, we made our way north to the Mata Mata gate which is also a ‘tourist access’ point into Namibia. We had gotten stamped out of SA two days before at the entrance gate (you need to spend two days at the park in order to use the gate – ensuring there’s no commercial crossings), so they checked us out of the park, I lifted the gate, effectively letting us into Namibia, we filled in some papers and we were in. More like this please!

Lion on dune
A lion rests on top of a dune in the Kgalagadi.

New Horizons

Namibia was immediately a land of strange and different landscapes. The gravel roads dusted the dry grass and shrubs, giving them them a fluorescent yellow color. The green bushes dotting the red sand hills against a backdrop of blue sky….it was all so improbable and beautiful.

Yellow grass in Namibia
Namibia’s surreal landscape: almost fluorescent yellow grass and endless blue skies.

And lonely. Namibia has about 2 million people living in it, less than the number residing in Vancouver, so there’s almost no one filling up its great expanse. We past maybe five rental Hilux trucks (Toyota Tacomas) and one donkey cart en route to camp.

Another World in Mesosaurus

Not wanting to risk finding camp in the dark, we stopped at the Mesosaurus Fossil Camp. So bizarre! It was full of quiver trees (more on this later) and it felt completely otherworldly.

Our Land Rover at the Mesosaurus Camp
The bizarre quiver trees lined the perimeter and made for an other-worldly setting for our camp.

The only other people there were Hanas and Swenja, a German couple that had just started their holiday in Namibia, so we shared some beers, chatted and star gazed before going to sleep in the bush camp.

Fish River Canyon

Our next stop was Fish River Canyon, supposedly the second biggest canyon in the world, and we stayed for sunset. Just jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Fish River Canyon
(Possibly) the second largest canyon in the world. Breath taking.

And the next day, drove to the /Ai-/Ais hot springs (the ‘/’ is a ‘tsk’ sound) at the other end of the canyon. The signs were hilarious. They said: WARNING. EXTREMELY HOT…ABOUT 65°. About??? 65ish?

Luderitz

From /Ai-/Ais we took another crazy beautiful road to Luderitz, which is a tiny German town right on the coast, wedged between the sand dunes and the Atlantic. We stayed at Shark Island, which used to be a concentration camp, and it was wiiiiiiindy!!! We met a South African woman from Cape Town that had been travelling in the south for the past 10 months by herself (!) so the five of us (her, us, and the Germans, who we kept running into) huddled together by the braai (BBQ) pits and chatted until we were too cold to stay up.

Coast of Luderitz
View of Luderitz from Shark Island

The whole reason people go to Luderitz is to visit Kolmanskop, which is a ghost town – a deserted old diamond mining town. It’s the only place in the area which is  allowed easy access to tourists: everywhere else you are required to be part of a tour, or are simply restricted from entering. Everything to the south is the Sperrgebiet, literally translated to ‘forbidden territory,’ where there are still working diamond mines operating.

Houses in Kolmnaskop
Houses stand abandoned in dusty Kolmanskop

After a quick visit to Cape Diaz, a peninsula completely open to the Atlantic, where it was so windy that Moreno embraced being held by the wind (and I concentrated on not flying away), we went back to Shark Island to get away from the wind, really glad we didn’t leave right after the ghost town.

What a productive and amazing week! We’re still working out some kinks in the Landy, but Namibia is not disappointing one bit!

Fetching water from the Landy
Getting water in the Landy – there’s still some improvements to be done….

Next: Further northward, this time to Sesriem, the base town for the Sossusvlei dune park.