The coast of Namibia is a desolate place. It is desert right to the water's edge with the only moisture for living things coming from the sea mist that settles everywhere overnight and clears away each morning. That is, except for the Cape Fur Seals which live in huge colonies at various points along the Skeleton Coast. The fact that seals, better known as polar animals, are this far north inside the Tropic of Capricorn attests to the freezing temperature of the Atlantic currents which flow straight from Antarctica north. This cold sea temperature also accounts for the sea mist in this part of the country.
Cape Cross, where early Portuguese explorers erected a stone cross centuries ago, is home to one such colony, and, conveniently, a boardwalk takes people right through the heart of the colony. Seals are everywhere! They lie all around the boardwalk, they have taken over a picnic shelter for themselves and they stretch along the seashore in all directions so thickly that they appear as a single heaving mass of brown furry sea-creature! They fight amongst themselves, shove each other out of the way, bark at pups not their own, suckle their young and sleep contentedly on the sand or draped over rocks or each other. They are a photographer's dream and I could have stayed for hours.
However not everyone is so enamoured of the creatures - and most can't stand the fishy smell (I didn't smell it after a while) - and so the group moved on to Swakopmund town, the biggest place we have been to since leaving Windhoek all those weeks ago now. Swakopmund is a sizeable town settled when Germany ruled the country. Many of German stock still live here and it is a popular destination for Germans from Europe. We stayed in a guesthouse here, incredible luxury for us with real rooms, a bathroom with HOT showers and sumptuous European breakfast each morning.
This was the place to indulge in some serious eating out. The first night we all headed for the Tiger Reef Bar right on the beach for some drinks and to watch the sunset, after which we all dined at The Wharf Restaurant, right on the end of the now repaired jetty (the last two times we have been here, it has been falling down and no-one could walk out on it). Seafood of course was the order of the day, and delicious it was. The next night we forwent the group gathering at a German beer-house and took Dave, our guide for so long now, out to dinner as a thank-you for all his wonderful expertise and companionship. We dined at the magnificent old-style Hansa Hotel in the dining room replete with white tablecloths, crystal champagne glasses, fresh flowers on the table and quiet understated white-gloved service. Again the seafood was the pick and we had lobster!
Swakopmund town allowed us to do some souvenir shopping - as I did last time, I bought a beautiful crystal, this time a huge tourmaline in a smoky quartz matrix. Our second day was also filled with a drive south to Walvis Bay where we picked up a quad bike each and were taken on a guided tour through the dunes. Not only did we have fun learning to slide down the steep sides of the dunes on the bike (scary…) but we were taken to archaeological sites where there was clear evidence of life and settlements from 2000 years ago: gravesites with skeletons in situ, middens, ostrich shell beads, fragments of pottery. At the base of a huge dune, our guide dug down into the ground about a metre and to our amazement struck fresh, clear, drinkable water which we sampled from the cockle shell he used as a scoop.