After a fairly long stint up North in Etosha National Park (see part 1), we veered off towards the coast for the next part of our overland trip. Cue part 2…
The campsite at Spitzkoppe, a vast expanse surrounded by caramel-coloured mountains, was far removed from city life – bar the private long drops. But, the lack of facilities makes it the wild, sparsely habituated place that it is. This kind of environment is also ideal for stargazing, which is exactly what we did that first night, warmed by a crackling fire and the heat radiating off the mountains.
Spitzkoppe’s mountains look like soft toffee drizzled on a grassy plane, and we watched as other people climbed high up the boulders, following the rivets moulded into the rock-face. Although, when we tried it for ourselves, the climb wasn’t as simple as it looked from afar. The panoramic views from above the rock pool were my favourite, but scrambling up to the arch (a granite formation shaped like a giant eye), and getting a photo standing beneath it, was well worth the small scrapes and bruises. There were also plenty walks and hikes that we could’ve done, but after a full morning of gallivanting on the Mars-like mountains like three big-kids, we were more than ready for a shower. Thankfully, there are actually outdoor, open-air showers at the site’s entrance, and a flush toilet if the long drops are proving too daunting (which they were, admittedly, for me). But, they’re far enough away from the main campsites to make you feel like you’re still “roughing it”.
Spitzkoppe also forms part of the Erongo region of Namibia, an area mined for crystals and minerals, like aquamarine, tourmaline and amethyst. You can hustle for your favourites at the Uiba Oas Crystal Market at the Spitzkoppe turnoff on the B2, although we preferred to buy from the informal stalls further down the road towards the campsite – there was less pressure and the sellers were friendlier. Friends of ours had told us that the sellers prefer to trade in food, as supermarkets in the area are few and far between, and they were right, of course. Sugar, Fanta and chocolate were in popular demand.
Located at a point where the Namib Desert trickles into the Atlantic, Swakopmund – in stark contrast to Spitzkoppe’s heat and isolation – is a bustling sea-side city often shrouded in a cold, wet fog. In typical Namibia fashion, we had gone from one extreme to another in the space of a two-hour drive.
I’ve been to Swakopmund twice before, but explored the area further this time around and found that I’d severely underrated it. In our one full day there, we took a morning trip to Walvis Bay, climbed Dune 7, visited the crystal gallery, munched on various German pastries, hustled for carved makalani palm-nuts on the promenade and topped it all off with an evening ice-cream. With its traditional architecture, German bakeries, and seemingly foreign accents – 30 000 of about 2 million Namibians speak German – Swakopmund hints at colonial Germany.
Though we’d just spent five days amid a plethora of animals in Etosha, it was in the coastal town of Walvis Bay (a 20-minute drive out of Swakopmund) that I had my most memorable wildlife encounter, and one of my favourite photographic experiences. Walvis Bay is synonymous with flamingos, but I wasn’t prepared for the unbelievable, and intimate, experience of seeing those elegant, pink-feathered birds en masse and up close. The water in this area is extremely rich in food-producing nutrients, which is why Walvis Bay is one of the best places in the world to see flamingos in their thousands before they flit off to Etosha to breed.
Namibia’s strangeness, stillness and solitude, removes you from the humdrum of daily life. It’s rejuvenating for the soul. But, after two weeks of fine dust and dry weather, my skin was dehydrated and cracked, and feeling anything but revived. Fortunately, Ai-Ais Resort, tucked in between tall reeds and slate mountains at the bottom of the Fish River Canyon, provided the kind of luxurious relaxation my body was starting to crave. A hot spring feeds the spa, and I spent my afternoons soaking up its healing powers in the indoor warm bath, while watching other holiday-makers lazily pad around in their pristinely white bathrobes. While a camping road trip is, to me, the ideal way to experience this country, the constant schlep and movement could have you feeling rather exhausted. But, Ai-Ais helped remedy that.
Meander down the canyon if you still have the energy or need to walk off those Wimpy toasted sandwiches, or enjoy doing nothing amidst the rocky surroundings before the homeward trek begins. Some cheeky baboons pinched the Strawberry Whirls I was munching on so just remember to lock away the chill-time snacks.
You know you’ve done road tripping right when you’re ready to return to the comforts of home. But, as soon as we crossed the Namibian border, my long-forgotten phone started bleeping and almost had itself thrown out of the car window and into the rushing waters of the Orange River. I guess I wasn’t quite ready to come back down to Earth.
P.S. If these Namibia posts have got you squirming with excitement at the possibility of outdoorsy adventures and baby elephant sightings, keep in mind that the best time to visit this country is between June and August as the climate is “cooler” (relatively speaking) during these months. But, you better start making those bookings now.
Thanks for visiting my blog xx