Swopkomund

1 August 2012

Today we headed out of the heart of Namib Desert in southern Namibia towards the skeleton coast. It was a bright sunny day. The heat can be very testing. I wondered about the animals and people whom call this place home. There is some greenery but sporadically. Fiery mountains ranges seem to float above golden grasses of an arid landscape. Spotting wildlife is exhilarating. A small heard of wildebeest foraged on the short grasses. Some distance away, a decent herd of Springbok nervously looked at the passing vehicle. It is simply amazing to see animals live in a natural environment without fences or borders. With the vehicle bouncing rapidly on the unpaved hot desert roads, one window shattered. Chris managed to get a spare attached. However, it continually dislodged just after several kilometres. The red dust spewed into the vehicle. There was some discontent. At the last breakdown, I mentioned to Chris that I had a duct tape in my pack. This incident had already slowed us down by an hour. All the baggage was removed from the truck and managed to get my tape. This was perhaps our last hope. Thankfully it held. Never leave home without a duct tape.

 To survive in the Namib is astonishing. The human endurance is equally amazing. Small outpost like settlement dotted the desert roads providing essential lifeline to travellers – fuel, restocking food supplies and repairs and maintenance.  Solitaire was such a town. It looked desolate. Shells of cars lay rusted in the compound. However, the high point here is the best place to sample apple pie in these parts of the world. A bakery dished out some hot steaming pies and other delights. It was a real treat.

We had reached the imaginary line of the Tropic of Capricorn. Under a blazing afternoon sun, we stood at the signage like we had discovered a new country. It was satisfying just knowing. The trail continued pass dried riverbeds at Gaub and Kuiseb pass. Deep rooted trees survived. These are desolate places of rugged hill and canyons. Winding through, we finally reached a paved road. The noise of the tyres against the unpaved roads of the desert became silent. A loud bang brought the vehicle to a stop. We had a flat tyre. This is the fact about travelling in the wild. We joked; the tyres couldn’t handle the wonderful smooth paved roads after days in the bouncy desert roads. Monumental sand dunes, a railway track and a nearby airport kept us company. With the tyres fixed, we reached Walvis Bay on the Atlantic coast in the late afternoon. A decent sized town at last. The views of water, although gray, were soothing. Namib is fascinating, colourful and although arid is certainly alive in many ways. Lesser flamingos feed in the shallow waters at Pelican Point surrounded by manicured gardens, modern housing and a thriving port. On the fringes of town, the in avertable advance of the reddish desert sand lay several feet high against the barrier walls of houses.

After lunch, we headed into Central Namibia to Swopkomund. The town is surrounded by the desert on one side and the Atlantic on the other. It is Namibia’s premier beach resort and has a unique German colonial architecture. Palm lined trees, neat wide clean roads, street markets, a promenade along the beach and colourful architecture greeted us. All the trimmings of comfort awaited us at a hotel. A group of us headed off to a restaurant on the jetty dining of fresh seafood with the waves crashing against the concrete pillars and the long sandy beach. The proximity of the desert, the heat and dust had faded away for now.

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