The past ten days have been subject to so many unique experiences that it is truly challenging to write a concise summary. However, even the most dramatic encounters are still best conveyed through pictures of which I hope I have attached sufficiently. A small selection of the most memorable events.
The car arrived in Walvis Bay two days after our arrival in Swakopmund, a small city along the Namibian coast at the Atlantic Ocean that almost resembles a small village on the German Baltic Sea. With its numerous Jugendstil and Gründerzeit structures, there is almost no distinguishment possible. This feeling is only emphasised when talking to the locals in German or finding a Café called “Die Muschel”. Subsequently, we made it our home and had sufficient time to recuperate after the long flight to and tiring drive from Windhoek Airport, adjust to the new climate and plan our first leg across the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Luckily, the car arrived in good condition. After a small stop at the gas station to fill up petrol and water and a supermarket for groceries we set off into the living desert of Namibia. Our first expedition let us to Welwitschischia Drive to see some of the oldest plants alive – Welwitschia Mirabilis. This might seem terribly dull but it is truly fascinating how these plants grow up to 2,000 years old in extremely harsh living conditions. This marks just one prime example of Namibia’s surreal and alluring beauty. It is this moment of solitude that gives these plants a bizarre edge and ultimately led to our visit. These plants are truly remarkable.
Shortly after we set camp in one of the nearby camp facilities. We were its only guests. I still had to get used to the unfamiliarities and the concept of living inside a tiny box fixed to a truck for the next couple of months. I kept hitting my head, scratched my limbs against shelves, ceilings or door frames alike. Perhaps caused by my clumsiness, perhaps it’s just one prerequisite of the ticket that I booked. However, numerous sailing trips have prepared me surprisingly well, as water, electricity and other amenities are obviously not readily available at all times. Nor do they come in “infinite” quantities as one might be used to at home.
Over the next couple of days, we drove deeper into the Namib-Naukluft desert. The deeper we drove, the worse the road conditions became. Tarmac streets let into gravel roads, gravel roads into 4×4 roads whose structure and outline merely consists of road marks of those who had driven it before. Especially sand can be tricky, as I can now verify. One needs flat tires, four-wheel drive and sufficient momentum to avoid getting stuck in sand dunes. Driving a truck across sand is not a fun task, so we encountered and all to soon we got stuck. There is only one solution. Get those shovels out and start digging. Luckily, we were able to free our Unimog. However, each time we got stuck it cost us several hours of hard labour under the adamant heat of the sun. The water system, as well as electrical and mechanical components also had their share of mechanical stress. One of our water pipe connections got loose which had to be tightened in order to avoid further water loss. Some electrical wires had to be reattached and so forth. Luckily nothing major. The engine room is still going strong, so are those valuable differential gears. Knock on wood!
Not surprisingly, therefore, was the well received Gobabeb Desert Research Station at the Kuiseb Canyon at which we were permitted to set camp for a couple of nights. Gobabeb sits directly at the Kuiseb river which flows mostly underground. It separates the vast spectacular series of red sand dunes to the south with dry rocky moonscape to the north of the river. Astoundingly this border is forged by a beautiful green ribbon of trees, which thrives on the Kuiseb River.
But perhaps, what I find most striking is the vastness, the infinite peaks of red sand dunes that form the Namib desert. Home of movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or the recent apocalyptic movie Mad Max one might be able to share this feeling with me. I’ve truly fallen in love with the Namibian Desert. Drama? Spectacle? Beauty? Believe me, this desert has it all, and it will crack even the hardest of hearts. And all too soon after we had first arrived, we were exchanging emotional farewells with the staff who had looked after us so well. No-one wanted or wanted us to leave. Just as we didn’t want to leave Welwitschia Drive. Just as no-one wanted to leave the previous nights sundowner. And just as we didn’t want to leave those majestic red sand dunes we climbed at sunset from behind the silhouettes of desolate mountain peaks on the distant horizon.
But eventually there would be no staying, despite our reluctance to leave this heavenly place, our journey now continues northward to the epic Etosha Nationalpark.