Spitzkoppe……… deep in the desert but close to the coast (Namibia)

Monday 18th July

Leaving Brandberg we now headed inland but parallel with the Coast of which we were around 80km inland from. The distance to cover was only about 120km but our route took us over unsealed roads that were undulating at times and reminiscent of traveling on some of NZ’s finest dirt roads…think Nevis or Skippers. It was nice to have some texture to the scenery however the one thing that did not change was the rich red color of the sands and the hills. To travel this route took us around 3 hours but was peppered with a few toilet stops………at least there were a few more bushes around but it was still girls to the left, boys to the right.

The Spitzkoppe also referred to as the “Matterhorn of Namibia” is a group of bald granite peaks  located in the Namib desert. The granite is more than 120 million years old and the highest outcrop rises to about 1800m, still shy of the highest point in Namibia of 2600m which was where we had just traveled from.

On the road to Spitzkoppe….

Our accommodation for the night was to be at the Spitzkoppe Community Tourist Camp. After checking in we then endured a short distance on a well formed track up to our campsite. With the next camping site a distance away (that had another overland group on it) it seemed we owned the mountain during our stay…..well at least that’s what the kids thought.

Once parked the usual routine started again…….kitchen out and set up, tents out and setup, campfire (a.k.a the bush telly) lit and beers opened. With the tent placement it was up to the individuals or families sleeping in them as to where they placed them. Each tent was numbered so it came to pass that whatever number tent you were in on the first night in Victoria Falls you had for the remainder of the trip. The flaw to that plan was we had three tents numbered 10 on the truck of which BB & I had one. For us we were nonplussed which #10 we had but others guarded theirs jealously. The criteria we used to choose the real estate we pitched on was a mix of distance to campfire and therefore food, trees or bushes to string a line to air clothes, proximity to toilet and most importantly what the view was like from our front door (flap). This would be the first thing we saw in the morning and we wanted it to be inspiring (it usually was after the first cup of coffee to shake off the early morning chill). The tents themselves were heavy canvas dome tents which could be put up in a matter of minutes by one person. This was considered a blue job so it was usually BB & I who got them up. (it was sometimes BB & I as he was generally too busy running around exploring) There were no pegs or guy lines as they were pretty solid and it would take winds of epic proportions to anchor them…so went the sales blurb. Taking them down was just as simple. The only downside was their weight and their inability to roll up easily.

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The campsite with an adventure playground beside it…

 

With the majestic Namibian “Matterhorn” as the view from our front door and a couple of bushes to string our clothes line across we were set for the remainder of the day. Our campsite was at the base of this huge mound of granite with almost vertical faces on some parts but the kids and their resourcefulness found a way to the top early on. In fact as soon as we arrived they were they were straight onto the near vertical faces endeavoring to climb up. They managed to get up quite far which was an achievement. This campsite was made for kids as they could roam and discover without getting into too much trouble. No twenty page risk management documents here…..in fact so far on the trip considering what we had been doing there were no injuries to speak of and at the end of it we still had a zero injury count……except for the baker who we suspect had been bitten by something causing his leg to swell……..amputation was an option but the more favorable choice was a doctors visit in Swakopmund the next day.

Our campsite was at the base of this mound

Once the camp was setup armed with only a Windhoek lager and my trusty Olympus OM-D I then went with most of the kids and we climbed again to the top to take in the sunset and fabulous views of the surrounding area. The route up they had found was reasonably easy but steep in a couple of areas. From the top we could see straight down to the campsite. Once again another Namibian sunset provided a stunning backdrop and spectacular colors as the light coming off the granite changed the visual look of it from light to dark shades of coppery red . Leaving only footprints (well in theory as the granite wouldn’t allow any foot impressions) we all safely made our way down and back to camp before darkness took hold.

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It was steeper than it looks but the kids made it look easy…

There was a sense of excitement within the camp that evening in that the next day we would be on the coast and arriving in Swakopmund for two days. According to our travel notes we would be accommodated in a “hotel”. After two weeks in tents with lots of sand, and in some cases basic camp facilities (like tonight – a longdrop but no shower) the most anticipated luxury was that of a consistently hot shower. Now to us a hotel can be different things to different people so whilst that excitement was building we tried to keep ours in check and our expectations low…….The last “hotel” we stayed in was Lux Belle Mare in Mauritius which would be hard to top. The other excitement in the camp that night was what Charles had on the menu for dinner – T-Bone Steaks and Baked Potatoes……all cooked over the campfire.

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Taken from the top above our campsite looking over towards the Spitzkoppe as the sun was setting……….

Tiredness was also starting to pervade and in particular this evening BB complained of a headache so he was duly dispatched to the tent to lie down until dinnertime. Checking on him a short time later he was fast asleep and although he eventually got up for a visit to the loo he had no interest in eating and missed dinner sleeping through until the morning by which time he was back to his usual jovial self. The steaks were thick and cooked to perfection with the accompanying potatoes and veges fulfilling everyone’s appetite.

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The colors changed by the minute at sunset

After dinner with another big Nambian sky above us Noelle played around with taking  shots of the bright moon rising. Without the tripod for a steady long exposure it proved difficult to perfect. Andy again had his guitar out and was strumming tunes. BB & BG both had learnt to play “smoke on the water” by Deep Purple which we heard continuously at times…….time for another tune perhaps. After the activity of the day and with exhaustion setting in we retired for the night in yet another unique and special part of this country if not the planet. Namibia really was showing us there was much more to her than desert and a bloody history.

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Spitzkoppe at sunset….WOW!

Given our location we had a plan to get up early and watch the sunrise. Whilst I was up early, Noelle was up a short time later whilst the kids weren’t having a bar of it. Noelle went off to capture some sunrise photos whilst I climbed the rock again to capture some pics. Going up I needed a headtorch but coming down day had broken through. After breakfast Noelle took the kids for a run (she was doing this some mornings and had most of the kids going with her. Another activity that was taking place each morning at 06.30am was  Andy our leader and his laptop place on a chair running a video called T25 which was a 25 minute gut buster of exercise to start the day with. He had those who came and went but there was a dedicated following from a minority.

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Sunrise the next morning from the top of our granite rock……

Having soaked in the sun during breakfast. the daily routine took place of  clean, pack and make it fit into the truck. Soon enough we were once again underway on more pristine Namibian country roads headed in a straight line to the coast and our next stop the Cape Cross Seal Colony which is located approx 120km north of Swakopmund on the bottom end of the Skeleton Coast.

In 1486, celebrated Portuguese explorer, Diego Cão, erected a pa-drão, a stone cross, establishing Portugal’s claim to the territory on this barren coast. Over the next 400 years many ships wrecked
on these shores. In 1884 the first sighting of Cape fur seals off the coast of Southern Africa was recorded. However, it was only when guano, the waste left by fish-eating birds that is used as fertilizer,
was discovered in 1895 that people settled at Cape Cross. Business boomed and millions of tons of guano were exported to Europe. Namibia’s first railway line and water-distilling plant were established. Nine years after the boom began, it ended. Slowly the harsh nature of the coast reclaimed the land. Today Cape Cross is a protected area owned by the government of Namibia under the name Cape Cross Seal Reserve. The reserve is the home of one of the largest colonies of Cape fur seals in the world and can be described in two words……Noisy & Smelly!
A boardwalk has been erected around part of the beach that you can walk on but also allows the seals to move underneath so they can access all parts of the beach. The sizes range from babies to large males and that you can get so close to them is pretty amazing. We’ve never been great seal fans but to see so many (at least ten thousand by my count) of them in their natural environment was special. For a few of us knowing that the coast of Africa is Shark infested and they are known to attack Seals for food we were waiting in anticipation to perhaps see a fin or two but sadly we weren’t indulged.
After an hour of this we were sealed out so it was back on the truck and we were now headed down the coastal highway which consists of a thin strip of asphalt bordered by sand and the ocean on our right hand side. In 120km and around an hour and a half we would be in Swakopmund.

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