Day 275: Goodbye Desert Sands

Wed. 15th May 2013

So where are we?As we leave Swakopmund there is still sand all around us and as we look at the road it does not seem to be either tarmac or dirt. The answer was it is salt and it is much smoother than the dirt roads we have been on recently. Unsurprisingly there is loads of salt around here which is mined mainly to the south of Sakopmund. It is used as industrial salt and does not land up on our tables.

Plants growing on the sandThis is the bleakest part of Namibia’s coastline and together with the sand dunes and gravel plains quite inhospitable. The only plants for miles around are just a few inches in height but look much taller as they grow on a mound of sand. These mounds are dotted all over the landscape. It leaves me pondering which came first the plant or the mound of sand??

Zeila WreckThis part of the coast is known as the Skeleton Coast due to all the ship wrecks some over 500 years old. The old Portuguese sailors called it the Sands of Hell as once the ship was caught in the sand it was impossible to get free. We stop at the Zeila wreck on this wild stretch of coast and join the other tourists taking photos. The sky is still grey and the air cold as we walk down to the rough sea to see the ship caught in the sand and surrounded by the shallow water and breaking waves.

Brandberg MountainsSoon the road turns inland and after a while the landscape returns to being similar to that on our journey to Swakopmund two days ago. The Acacia trees are back and, as we leave the coast, we also leave behind the mist and the sun comes out. The road returns to a dirt track and the next excitement is a large group of Springboks, the national animal of South Africa, but also abundant in Namibia. The road then heads towards the Brandberg Mountains which rise up out of the flat landscape.

Who are you looking at?Late morning we arrive at White Lady Lodge ready for our short hike to some ancient rock  paintings. An hour each way in the heat of the day can hardly be classified as an easy short walk but armed with plenty of water we set off. It is not too bad a walk along the dried up river bed at the base of huge granite rocks, followed by a short scramble to our destination.  A few of the local inhabitants watched us walk past.

Rock paintingsThe centrepiece of the paintings is a white Shaman or medicine man. Initially due to the white colouring it was thought to be a lady but on closer inspection the male organ is a bit of a giveaway. Some of the brown animal rock paintings are 5,000 years old but the coloured ones are more recent, only about 2,000 years old. The figures are amazingly preserved and with such detail too. The walk back is even hotter than the walk out to the paintings. Only mad dogs and Englishmen (along with half a dozen Germans, 3 Slovaks, an Aussie and a Singaporean)… We are certainly ready for the lunch Tambi has prepared when we finally return to Janis.

Olly with his new girlfriendI feel a bit underdressedOn our way to the small  town of Khorixas where we are staying tonight, we stop at a row on souvenir stalls run by some Herero ladies in full costume. They are selling model dolls wearing their traditional dress. The costumes derive from when they  were servants of the Germans and they imitated their Western style of dress. Their hat imitates the horns of an ox which reminded them of home.The price of a photo is to buy a doll for about £2. This gives Olly a friend and I hope the doll survives the trip in my backpack.

Rugged landscape iin Brandberg MountainTime is running away as our itinerary says we should be visiting a Petrified Forest this afternoon. But without this stop the sun is already setting over the African landscape as we drive into this evenings destination of Khorixas. It has been another full-on day, of which there have been to many on this tour. It seems to be a revised itinerary to fit in the paintings and the forest but the timing has not worked so Nomad need to rethink things. The walk to the paintings would have been much better earlier or later in the day avoiding the mid day sun (we are the only Englishmen after all). This is such a big country and we are covering great distances and it would be better if the trip was 50% longer.

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