While in Swakopmund, Colonel K our trusty Leyland Daf overland truck, was treated to a full service in a very fine modern garage/workshop, where engine oil and filter was changed, plus oil in the gearbox, transfer box, front and rear diffs, and topping up of the front tracta joints, using 15 litres of engine oil and 20 litres of gear oil. There was also a few minor jobs to do, but the total labour charged for the job was 6 hours, so with that amount of time spent plus the fact that they only use genuine Castrol oils, we were expecting a large bill. However, when we came to settle up at the end of the day, the total bill was $5,700NAD or just over £270.00, and they cleaned it inside and out. If anyone reading this is travelling through Namibia and wants a good reliable garage you could do a lot worse than Midvaal Diesel & Turbo, Einstein Street, Swakopmund.
Overall we have spent quite a bit of time during our two stints in Swakopmund, and whilst we were glad to be heading out of the town and into more rural areas we would miss the birds such as the Flamingos and Pelicans that are so numerous around the Tiger Reef area of the town.
We left Swakopmund on the tarred road down through Walvis Bay, and back onto the good old gravel roads, through the northern section of the Namib Naukluft National Park, heading for the tiny quiet area know as Solitaire. The route down there is very arid, but stunning in its own way, and on this trip it was the first time we had seen the quiver trees, with their amazing golden coloured trunks.
Just after climbing up over the Kuiseb, and Gaub mountain passes, we crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn. It seems such a long time ago that we crossed the Tropic of Cancer in the Western Sahara, but just because of that sign all of those memories came flooding back.
Solitaire is not a village as such, as there are no houses there, but there is a small hotel, a tiny fuel station (though they had no diesel when we were there), a bakery/coffee shop and a small general store selling essential items like cold beers and ice creams. There is also a campsite at the back of the hotel which is where we stayed. What started in 1948 as a farm, is now a very strange tourist spot, with most “tour buses” stopping for coffee and apple pie. We sat in the open air coffee shop and watched these tourists almost run off of their vehicles, pushing into the queue, shouting out their order of apple pie and coffee to take away, paying then rushing back to the air conditioned bus/truck! In this place the simple things make us laugh, and trust me this was highly amusing to watch.
That evening after cooking and eating our usual one pot meal, cooked in our cast iron Denby casserole dish given to us by my sister Heather (is this the most travelled Denby dish on Earth?), we were washing up at the campsite sinks when we got chatting to a Dutch couple, Jogchum and Marjan, and once again we were reminded about how small our world is. It turns out that Jogchum is brother to Annalise who owns Ko-Sa in Ghana, where we spent nearly a month waiting for the Glovis Cougar ship. So we met brother and sister thousands of miles apart on the same foreign continent, incredible.
The front of the garage area of Solitaire is littered with old vehicles (though I’m sure when we were here about 8 or 9 years ago there were a lot less), and they do make an interesting sight here, old Chevys and an old Morris Eight amongst others.
After spending a nice relaxing morning in the coffee shop with the ‘Cloggies’, we decided to go the long and what on the map looked the most scenic route to our next destination at Sesriem. So we headed up into the Nauklufberge Mountains and ended up at over 5,000 feet and in some absolutely stunning scenery.
We stopped on the tiny track up there for about an hour and had a bite of lunch, and of course there was no one about, complete silence, apart from the odd Gemsbok and Springbok and quite a large number of Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk’s (we had to look them up in our trusty birding book). It is amazing that so many tourists visit Solitaire and Sesriem, but virtually no-one seems to see this place on top of Mountains above them.
When we got to Sesriem we were in for a bit of a shock, it was so busy. Sesriem is the gateway to the very popular destination at Sossusvlei, this is the place that most desert photos that you see from Namibia are taken. The (tarred) road that now runs the 60km from Sesriem to Sossusvlei follows the route of the now dry Tsauchab River, and it really is a parting of the sea of sand that forms this area of the Namib Desert. Either side of the road are huge apricot coloured sand dunes, with gracefully flowing ridge lines, some of which you can climb and then at the end is the flat white pan where the river (if it ever flows) ends, as it never reaches the Ocean.
It is a beautiful place, but it does attract lots of tourists, especially early in the morning (the gates open at 5.15am), and in the evening to see the light on the dunes. As most people only stop here for one night, it is probably just as enjoyable to be there during the day and miss the hordes of tourists rushing up and down the road, though it gets seriously hot in the midday sun.
We spent our first evening at Sesriem with our new Dutch friends, sharing tales over a few drinks and they decided that they were going back to Windhoek the next day as they had a damaged wheel on their rental Toyota Hilux, and so were now without a spare wheel. So we agreed to buy their pre-booked campsite at Sesriem (which was much nicer than the spot that we had been given, as they were full when we arrived). So next morning we moved Colonel K round the corner and into our new spot for the next 24 hours. We had to share the camp ground with a huge Social Weaver Bird nest (yes that is the name of the bird).
Watching these busy birds flying in and out of their huge nest was great, and kept us occupied for hours, there were dozens of them seemingly taking it in turns to do various jobs from acting as look out, to bringing new grass to weave into the nest or bring twigs to lay on the top of the nest.
Then Jogchum and Marjan appeared again!
I thought ‘oh bugger, we misunderstood and perhaps they were not leaving today’, but no they just wanted to say goodbye properly and had been down to Sossusvlei .
As usual meeting interesting people is a large and important part of our travels, and we hope to stay in touch with as many as we can, during and after this little adventure of ours.
Next we will head further South in the Namib Desert and plan to chill in a quiet spot for a few days.