We’re in Swakopmond. We tumbled in late yesterday afternoon after a week of intense heat, some horrendously corrugated gravel roads, and desert scenery more breathtaking than we could ever have imagined. Oh and sand. Lots of sand. After 2 showers the Namib Desert is starting to come out of our hair. It might take a little longer to get it out of Andy’s.
After the mighty Fish River Canyon we headed southwest to the wine farming district of Aussenkehr. From there we followed the Orange River through the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park towards the lonely mining outpost of Rosh Pinah. The drive along the river is something special. The landscape is so desolate that at times it feels like you’re driving on the moon. But the river supports an incredible amount of life and for 50 odd meters on either side it’s a lush oasis. The mountains on the other side of the Orange would also be our last glimpse of South Africa until the Komatipoort border post. We felt a pang of homesickness as we veered north and they disappeared in the rearview mirror.
There aren’t many accommodation options in Rosh Pinah. Fair enough, there’s not much there. Unless you’re into tin mines. But the Tracks 4 Africa map indicated a campsite in the Namuskluft mountains, 16 kms away. So that’s where we headed. We arrived late in the afternoon to a completely empty campsite. There wasn’t even anyone in the office, so we went ahead and pitched our tent and helped ourselves to some firewood. It felt a bit creepy, but it was getting too late to go anywhere else. As the sun set, and much to our relief, a man and his dog came wandering down from the mountains and checked us in. Our night in the Namuskluft mountains was ridiculously windy and we barely slept. But it proved that our little North Face tent was worth the stupid amount of money it cost. It blew flat against our faces at times. But, amazingly, nothing gave way.
From Namuskluft it was on to Aus, and into the Namib proper. Just as we got into the real desert, Andy’s aircon packed up. Perfect. Now, many would say we’re big Jo’burg softies for even having air conditioning. But screw that, it’s 2012, and when the aircon goes, you kind of notice it. And in the searing heat of the Namib Desert, we kind of did. But there was nothing we could do about it, so on we forged.
From Aus it was on to Luderitz, then Sesriem, Soussusvlei and the Naukluft Mountains. They were all so awesome that we’ll honour them with their own posts. In short though, it’s been one flipping amazing week. We feel so privileged to have seen and experienced what we have, and we’re certainly keen to come back to this part of the world as soon as possible. Preferably with some friends and family in tow.
Arriving in Swakopmond, it feels like we’ve completed the first leg of the journey. It’s the first city since Jo’burg and we’re going to spend a few days here, stocking up on the essentials and taking stock of everything we’ve seen and done up till now. I need a haircut, and Andy needs his aircon seen to. As we write this, we’re doing a few very dirty loads at the Swakop Launderette. Around the corner is the Desert Sky Backpackers, home for the next few nights. Last night as we lay in bed, we listened to souped up Citi Golfs flying down Hendrik Witbooi Street. Quite a change from the eerie stillness of Sesriem and Sossusvlei. As we’re slowly starting to discover though, the constant and drastic change might well be the most rewarding thing about this entire trip.