Swakopmund and the front right tire is flat. We have the trip timing to a T and the car is not moving properly as Debbie tries to back out. I don’t get it. I have had maybe 3 flat tires in my life and when we get our trip briefing one of the main subjects is flat tires. “You have two spares, they say, if you get a flat phone us and we will tell you where to get the tire fixed or replaced. DON’T drive with just one spare.” 4 in 10 people have at least one flat. All the while I’m thinking how in the hell do people get flats, it’s only gravel. Well, I don’t know how it happened but the tire was as flat as can be. Twenty minutes to change the tire. Debbie phones the truck rental place and the tire shop is just down the road. An hour and a half later and we were on the road. Two hours behind schedule. That would have been OK had we just been driving to the lodge but to the Shipwreck Lodge that is not possible. We were to get picked up at the end of the road and shuttled to the lodge. Oh well. We made it about ½ hour late and are met by a guide, things are all good.
Swakopmund is OK. A real tourist city. Nambians holiday there and every international tourist stops at least one day there. It is clean and there seems to be quite a bit do, boating on the ocean, quading on the dunes, sand boarding, small plane flights along the coast, any sort of tourist activity you can think of. Only thing it is probably the only tourist ocean side town I have ever been to where swimming it not allowed.
We left and the SE Atlantic wind was howling. The wind was howling at Sossusvlei but the big difference is at Swatopmund the wind is cold. The temp here is less than 20C, not something we expected but we will survive.
Our trip north is mostly along the coast. It will be a long day so we need to gas up at Hentiesbaai. It looks like a nice place. Not a westerner’s idea of an African town. The streets are paved the sidewalks are in good shape and the house are quite modern. It looked interesting but we are late so no time to explore.
At Hentiesbaai the road changes from asphalt to ‘the salt road’. We are not sure what we are getting into but it is fantastic road. Hard and smooth, except for the occasional sand drift, and 100 kph all the way.
The landscape is constantly changing. It starts our fairly ordinary desert. (if there is such a thing.) We travel further and Debbie notes were are in the midst of a ‘moonscape’, 30 km on we are on Mars, a few more kilometres and things change to resemble Saturn. Sand, big rocks, small rocks, combinations of them, small mountains, big dunes, bushes and no bushes. The colours change as well. The prominent colour of the landscape changes and the surface does. There is blueish sand, pink sand, tan sand, teal rocks, grey rocks, white rocks and yellow everything.
At Mowe Bay we park our car under a canopy and meet up with Bodo, our guide for the next couple of days. First stop is the sea lion colony about 200M from the Skeleton Coast Park gates. Cute little fellows, there are somewhere between 18 and 20,000 of the them in residence at that particular spot. Many of the ones we see are small 10 to 12 weeks old Bodo says. Twenty or thirty of the older ones are playing in the water. Jumping, frolicking, and surfing the breakers. Looks to me like a sea lions life is not too hard. There is a sad piece to the story. As we progress north there a few baby sea lions on the shoreline stranded. They are too exhausted to continue the journey south to the colony’s home and they are most likely going to die. They are cute but the weak are not to survive.
The Skeleton Coast is named that for a reason. It is rugged, it has extraordinarily strong winds which make for very big waves and it is where the cold air meets the warm air making for very dense fog. Ships have been running aground here since ship have sailed the coast and even thought is it a known danger spot, daring captains still try to traverse these waters. The latest wreck was a Japanese fishing boat in 2016. It is not legal to fish here but they thought they might chance it and got hung up on the rocks. After a few attempts of free it, it was left to the seas.
A few of these wrecks were either run aground or washed ashore and we visit the remains. In 1976 a crab boat from South Africa ran aground and we stop to see the few pieces of rusted metal left after 45 years for being beaten by the brutal weather. In 1970 a wooden fishing boat left Walvisbaai and did not return. It has been ravaged but passers by. It is said that a group of tourists used it as a fire pit when they were camped near by. Not much is left of it. On a mission to rescue an wrecked ship near the Angolan border, in 1942, and airplane the Ventura Bomba crashed on the shore while returning to Swatopmund for more supplies. A few persistent metal pieces remain.
An hour and a half after leaving our pick-up point at Mowebaai we arrive and the very funky Shipwreck Lodge. It is the only lodge on the Shipwreck Coast. Not many get to stay here and we are lucky enough to get this far north. Tomorrow we explore the Hoarusib River.