Oct 21 Swakopmund
Our visit to the NWR didn’t yield much. No camping reservation for Sossusvlei and a questionable park permit. We did enjoy our quiet visit to Swakopmund and the very nice guesthouse we are in, so that was fine. We did a drive to Walvis Bay and back (36km) with a good birding drive out in the Walvis lagoon, which is being used heavily to produce salt, using evaporation pools. We acquired a bird map as we entered the area and drove about 10 km, right at sea level, with salt pools alternating with seawater pools which shelter many kinds of water birds. We saw thousands of both lesser and greater flamingos and a number of smaller water birds. Back in Swakopmund we gased up, bought supplies, had another good meal. We are now ready to head off on our next camping venture, likely our last before returning to South Africa.
Oct 22 Namibgren Mountain Park
We drove about 300 km, mostly on gravel roads into the NamibNakluftPark. The Namib is the oldest desert in the world and runs the length of Namibia against the sea. The Naukluft is the mountain range that separates it from the central part of Namiba. We took side roads to get to our camping ground and saw some interesting desert scenery, some mountain zebra, a tiny deer and a few birds. We went over a very steep pass that got us up to 1800 m, where we camped. Each campsite is set in its own cluster of rocks and has its own enclosed kitchen area with a table, a sink, and Braai pit. We also have our own toilet and sink and a shower that is heated by a wood, which was fired up by the staff soon after we arrived. We were able to walk a bit, and when Rich came back he had a nice dog, that spent the evening with us and was still at our campsite when we left in the morning.
Oct 23 Sossusvleis
Our back road wandering continued as we headed towards Sossusvlei, the site of the largest sand dunes in the world and one of Namibia’s prime tourist attractions. We passed over another high pass and continued on very quiet roads. Then we saw what looked like two small dogs in the road. On closer look they were cats. I got a couple of shots through the window and then we saw the mother; a Cheetah, coaxing her cubs on. I took a few hurried shots out the window as they headed through the brush and over the hill. This was a real treat. We didn’t expect to see Cheetah and certainly not out here far from the nearest game reserve.
We had no trouble checking into the campground within the Sossusvlei Park Gate, in spite of being told they were full. We can now head out towards the dunes, 60 km into the park, before dawn, with the hope of getting some nice lighting as the sun rises on them. In setting up our tent we discovered that we had left behind our sheet and pillows, which we just had washed. We put things on the truck rood while packing up. Bad idea for two absent minded old fools.
Oct 24 Aus
We were in line behind about six vehicles at 5:15, and a few minutes later we were off on the 60 km to the biggest dunes. It was still quite black out, as we blasted down the 60 kph paved road at 110; I was keeping up with the tail lights ahead of me. A couple of big buses pulled off at the first viewing area and a few others stopped at the end of the pavement. We now had 5 km of 4×4 driving in deep sand and were still following a couple of vehicles with people who knew what they were doing. We parked grabbled our cameras and headed out to follow those ahead towards one of the dunes. The sun was now creating some light, but it was still below the mountains to the east. We began to realize what we were doing. We were going to climb one of the edges of the dune and be up high on it when the sun poked up. This was good fun, but I think I got better photos yesterday and later as we wandered around.
There are many dunes and we couldn’t pick out the highest. They are all lovely with their graceful arcs and severe ridges. In the early and late day sun they are a deep red in colour with sharply defines shadows. We left the line on the sharp ridge and plunged off of the dune to seek our own photos. After an hour or so we had had enough and began the drive back to the campsite. All in all it was great experience. The magnitude of these dunes is unsurpassed.
After a late breakfast we headed on down the high quality gravel road for the rest of the day, stopping periodically to appreciate the desert/mountain environment. We probably passed another vehicle every hour. Finally we popped out on a paved road which took us in a few kms to a campsite. From the campsite we had another short drive to a waterhole which attracts wild horses. They have been in these hills for close to a hundred years, and their origin is not known for sure. Horses are not native to Africa.
Oct 25 Fish River Canyon
We started out this morning heading towards another large desert park in South Africa, but soon changed our mind again. Too many kms for what we would get. So we turned south on another gravel road and by noon we were at FishRiverCanyon, exceeded in size only by Grand Canyon in the US. We had to backtrack to get gas, and had lunch in a funky Canyon Roadhouse while being gassed up. The visit to the canyon, in three different spots was interesting, but I am getting tired of rocks. We have seen very little but rocks for many days now. There is a 90 km long hike along the canyon floor that can be done in mid winter, but not now or for most of the years. It is too hot and there is the risk of flash floods at times. It does look interesting though.
Oct 26 Springbok, RSA
We continued on gravel, in the early morning light. At one point a herd of Springbok ran out on the road and with us for a while, and then minutes later, some Gemsbok did the same thing. We have passed countless of these animals, but never had the act this way. We finally hit pavement 70 km before entering South Africa. Even though there is a good pavement road the length, north/south through Namibia we had driven the whole way on side roads seeking out the attractions we were after. The border crossing was easy and an hour or so later we were in Springbok, and we stopped to get money and to check out the Namaqualand flowers. The height of the flowering wild flowers here is late Aug, early Sept, but we wanted to have a look anyway. On the road in, for the last 50 km or so we saw quite a few green and flowering clumps, and after the rocks of Namibia they looked pretty good to us. A small park was mentioned close to Springbok so we drove out, to be told by the young girl at the gate that there wasn’t a single flower on the 14 km drive through the park; we were two months late. But, she said, there was a formal succulent garden and a few things to look at. So we headed off, greatly enjoyed the formal garden, watching workers installing a new thatched roof.
We then headed off on the park drive. A one lane dirt track, through the park, wound its way through the country fields and amongst small rocky hills. We saw flowers everywhere and could only wonder if this was no flowers, what it must be like in peak times. Along the way we saw more Gemsbok and Springbok. This is a delightful small park.
We are now in a lovely guest house in Springbok washing away four nights of dusty camping and hopefully catching up a bit on internet doings. Tomorrow we will head on towards Cape Town, likely bypassing the city, heading for the Indian Ocean Side for our last days here.