This trip stems from a promise that El (my better half) and I had made to ourselves - when her exams were over we would take off for a while, travel the world, have a little fun. The aim was to do a wide variety of stuff – some touristy things, some mountains, see some friends and family. Most of this journal dates from notes I took in the evening - I have allowed hindsight to creep in in some places though...
Day 50 – Palmwag to the Skeleton Coast – Only one thing worse than hippos
More desert: shrubby bushes, acacia, poisonous euphorbia, bottle trees, flat topped mountains and rocks everywhere. The odd building appears from time to time, I particularly like the oasis bar, in the middle of nowhere, it could justifiably have had a sign 'last beer for 200km'. From 50km away we begin to see a mixture of the Atlantic and mirages of the Atlantic. Closer still, golden Namib sand appears, mixed in with the reddish rock of the semi-desert.
We pass an old oil rig, testimony to the folly of one man and his South African bankers. The rig never worked and there never was any oil. It's now a rusting refuge for the white breasted cormorant. Also a shipwreck – the SW Seal. Once a fishing boat that hit a rock in fog, now an atmospheric photo spot for tourists.
Move on to Cape Cross, home of 2,500 Cape Fur seals and an atrocious stink. Not the most elegant of creatures, they bleat at each other incessantly like a vast flock of fat sea sheep. They clamber around in the most ungainly fashion, climbing over one another if they get in each others way. A jackal is literally making a meal out of killing a young seal pup. It keeps shaking it, hoping to break its neck, but without success. The other seals just leave it to get on with it.
Our campsite is very windy, and for one moment it seems that our super high dome tents are going to collapse under the pressure, until the wind suddenly drops. I accompany El to the toilet block, till she spots a pair of green eyes in the torchlight. As she is pondering the next move, something the size of a dog sprints across in front of us. It is almost certainly a jackal, but El still prefers bush toilet nearer the tents.
Day 51 – Skeleton Coast to Brandberg – How can you tell when an elephant's hiding in your canyon?
A brief stop at Hentjes bay – like Swakopmund without the tourists – and we head south along the coast. As we go on two mountain ranges rise abruptly from the plain, in purple hues against the orange of the soil, Spitzkoppe to the right and Brandberg, our destination, to the left.
After our arrival at the camp we go on a search for what the tour description calls 'the elusive desert elephant'. You would think that an elephant would be an easy thing to spot, especially in the desert. None of it. Not only do they make no noise when they walk, when they sense a potential predator they stand perfectly still, hidden in the trees. (Quite a few trees in the Namib Desert considering how little rain they get).
We drive down an amazing rock canyon, perfect climbing opportunities on either side. It's very pretty and there is plenty of elephant dung and footprints – the beast cannot be far but where's he hiding? Our guide goes on ahead and then returns quickly – he's spotted one! He beckons us to scramble up an outcrop from where we can see... nothing. It has gone, hiding in someone's fridge presumably.
Defeated, we head back to the camp. El dreams that after hitching she has been kidnapped and locked in the boot of a car and wakes up yelling, twice.
The Brandberg, like Palmwag is an area that would have merited more time. The ascension itself normally takes three days and looks like it would be very beautiful. Alas with an organised tour no deviation or hesitation is possible, so we plough on regardless.
Day 52 – Brandberg to Windhoek
A long driving day awaits us and we are already tired and fed up of the truck. We start the day by celebrating the 56th birthday of Christine, an irrepressible New Zealander. Chocolate cake and candles – she seems happy that the effort was made.
We get to walk for a bit to see the 'White Lady' Bushmen paintings. Interesting stuff, even with minimalist explanation.
We eventually arrive back at Windhoek completely knackered, redo the sack for the umpteenth time, get some nasty food and fall into bed. El is reaching the point where she'll be glad to be heading home, and I would certainly appreciate spending consecutive nights in the same spot.