From Swakopmund to the Dunes
Swakopmund is a German town stuck in Africa. Here German is spoken more than either English or Africaans, or probably even the local language! It's a tourist town but a pleasant enough town to stop for a couple of days and have a break from camping and being on the road. We stayed in a guesthouse B and B – real beds, ensuite bathroom, electricity!
Swakopmund is right on the sea and small enough to wander everywhere on foot. Peak hour sees practically no cars on the road, and Friday and Saturday nights were the quietest we have ever seen in any town. We walked along the beach where signs proclaim the rules, one of which is no swimming. And you can see why. The Atlantic throws up huge waves, there are rips aplenty and the water is freezing. We can attest to the latter – we dipped a toe in and quickly withdrew up the sand! A hundred year old jetty built into the rough sea, was closed for restoration last time we were here two years ago; you can now walk out halfway – the other half still remains to be finished. We looked through an Arts Centre, climbed its old tower to see all the town from on high and the sand dunes just beyond and ate seafood at restaurants every night. Internet was surprisingly good and we tried to change the date on our ticket home, only to have the website tell us the ticket was expired and we couldn't do so! After faxes and phone calls it was sorted, but it did make us a bit jumpy for a day.
And so on to what Namibia is most famous for: the huge dune fields of the south west.
Once we drove out of town, we were in desert country again with rolling yellow sand dunes on one side and the ocean on the other. As we turned and headed inland, the bare ground gave way to arid grasslands with ostrich and the occasional springbok. We drove into mountains with deep gorges cut by rivers – we even crossed a river that had water in it over the road, a change from the dry river beds we had crossed by the dozen up till now.
And we crossed the Tropic Of Capricorn. We tried to remember when we had crossed the Tropic of Cancer. A look at the map revealed that we had been on that awful ferry, crossing Lake Nasser at night! No wonder we hadn't realised.
Sesrium is at the entrance to the Dunes – the big ones that is – with Sossosvlei about a 65km drive away, and that is where we camped. We had visited the dunes last trip, but they are marvellous so we were keen to see them again. We rose before dawn and headed out to Sossosvlei and Deadvlei, hoping that the early sunrise would enrich the already fabulous colours. But, with all the storms around, rain followed us. The sun did peep through though, and the sharp, low-angled light did give a photo-op or two.
Sesrium Canyon on the Tsauchab River just behind the camp was a different experience altogether. The river, shallow, calm and wide on the surface, suddenly drops into a funnel about a metre wide with tremendous force and it has gouged out a narrow chasm 20 or 30 metres deep. The canyon walls are composed of layers of conglomerate with sizable caves cut into them, roosting sites for innumerable small birds flitting around. The conglomerate is extraordinary. The rocks embedded range from pebbles to pieces the size of bowling balls, from pink to green to grey, from smooth and round to angular, composed of different kinds of rocks and minerals, and all held together in a white sandstone-like matrix. When it was formed millions of years ago, what a river that must have been, and what an huge area it must have covered, depositing rocks that size and of such varied types on the ocean floor.