Swopkomund 2

2 August 2012

It’s a free day today for both the travellers and more importantly the guides. News at breakfast was not a good one. Our specialized vehicle had more problems. A mechanical or engine part had burst and were awaiting spare parts to arrive. Most of my fellow travellers had planned to do skydiving. There is an assortment of things to do while in town. I choose to get intimate with the desert. A group of us end up with a guide and a FWD and headed into the desert. The trail is almost sandy all the way. It looked totally arid. I can’t imagine life surviving here. Drought resistant plants do survive here. The Dollar Bush is one. Succulent rounded leaves absorb moisture from the air. Nearby was a spindly looking plant. These plants are adapted well to this harsh environment. Rain is very little and sparse. The fog created by the Benguela Current seemed like the only source for both flora and fauna.  In a wide valley, the now dry Swokop River supported a variety of plants including shrubs and small trees. These plants survived by throwing deep roots to tap the underground water. The oasis in turn provided wildlife to thrive particularly birds.

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Along the Swokop River was a strange and bare landscape called the Moon Landscape. Soft stones had been eroded by the river leaving behind exposed layers of hard rocks.  At one spot we walked around some boulder rocks. I was surprised to find black fragments of dried lichens attached to the surfaces. When water is sprinkled onto them, like magic, the foliage moved and crackling sound emerged. From shades pale green to bright green, with black under surface. Looking more closely, there seem to be many types around. The desert is not inert at all. A black ridge of dolerite formed on the backbone of the mountains stretched far. This hard rock had remained as erosion had removed the soft rocks. We continued further on the desert sand roads to the witness a rare plant –  Welwitschia mirabilis. These plants are unique to the Namib. Only two leaves are produced in its entire life. As they grow they twist and curl and the edges eventually tear. Its survival is remarkable. Besides the harsh environment, man is assisting its unfortunate decimation. The male and female plants were in flower at this time. The plant also provided a home to a variety of beetles including the tok-tokkie and other colorful insects. In the open planes, wires from telegraph pole stretched to the horizon. Tiny spots of fungus covered vast areas of the arid surface . It is refreshing to witness that the harshest deserts managed to support life in a delicate environment.

Back in town, I wandered along the coast and came across a group of Himba people making a living selling handicraft and souvenirs under a palm tree. The women had their bodies painted ochre and butter dye. They adorned many jewelries and the hair platted in many patterns. They had chosen to live their traditional way. Namibia is made up many ethnic groups but all seemed get along.  Nearby was another local tribal market. I met our guide Chris. The truck had not been repaired yet!

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