In daylight this time, we said goodbye to Zebra River Lodge heading for Swakopmund. Zebra River Lodge is a lovely place to stay but its access roads add an hour on to the day’s travel time when arriving and when leaving, so it may not be the most convenient.
Our route took us eventually up a new (to us) dirt road. Initially we began passing countryside with subtly changing strips of colour running up to picturesque escarpments. Francine could’ve played with her tripod here for an hour or more. Unfortunately, with 400kms to cover over dirt roads with a few timetabled stops en route, there wasn’t any time to allow for such entertainment. We stared wistfully out of the trucks windows.
Our first stop was in the desert at a place called Solitaire, famous for car wrecks and for the best “apple crumble cake” in the world, according to our leader, Louis. Home bakers may wish to challenge the dessert claim [oh, how confusing: dessert in the desert] but the wrecked cars couldn’t be challenged. The place was littered with them. They’d been collected and arranged artistically around the settlement where, because the desert is so dry, they don’t rot, rather like the trees in Deadvlei.
There were also non-human heartbeats so I was happy: South African Ground Squirrels (Geosciurus inauris) were scampering about between their burrows and looking dreadfully cute. Enter: a minor frustration; not with the squirrels but with peoples’ reaction to them. It seems that any cute critter that stands up on its haunches simply must be a Meerkat. Do these look like Meerkats? No, they don’t. Despite all our excellent wildlife programmes on TV, the message doesn’t quite get through. I still hear countless people, pointing at the Chimpanzees in Whipsnade Zoo, telling their Satan’s Little Disciple to, “look at the monkeys”. I despair. [I was pleased to learn, however, that Leader Louis, a South African, was a great fan of Sir David Attenborough. Bravo! Mind you, being an Afrikaner, he’s a fan of Donald Trump, too.]
We were already eating too much so we studiously avoided the highly praised “apple crumble cake”. While others munched, I was interested watching a team of roofers re-thatching one of the buildings, African style. I asked them for a picture and they readily agreed. One chap even posed with a bunch of thatching for me. We took our leave and continued deeper into the desert.
Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, we paused for a trite tourist photo by the marker. The marker is actually in the wrong place now – the tropic has drifted slightly over the years – but who cares? Every now and then, a 4×4 would scream along the dirt road raising a plume of dust in its wake. OK, enough tourism, back on the truck.
There is a modest respite to the beautiful desolation of the desert called Kuiseb Canyon. Here was more evidence of Namibia’s very wet wet season, this year. Water was present but the trees didn’t seem to have greened up yet. We paused for another break and Francine went snapping. I, on the other hand, saw a dragonfly cruising tirelessly behind and around the other tourist bus. I waited for an opportunity to snag it in vain but was intrigued by something curious happening. I’d been watching it cruise for a good 10 minutes. When the other tourist bus drove away, the dragonfly disappeared; I never saw it again. It was the same species, I thought, that we’d seen at our first fuel station forecourt..Was there something about vehicles or vehicle fuel that it found attractive? I checked round behind our truck but no, it had gone. Odd.
Eventually, we left the majesty of the desert behind us and headed into Walvis Bay on the coast. We paused to fill up the wagon, not only with fuel but with radiator water. Hmm? It was interesting watching the cab of the truck tipped forward to access the radiator, though. This was to be our lunch stop, during which time we were entertained by a mixed group of Greater and Lesser Flamingos [this is a trio of Greater Flamingos] in Walvis Bay’s coastal lagoon. Every now and then, individuals or small groups of birds would fly in and join them. This was part of a migration route. All in all, a very pleasant place for a picnic.
Finally, it was on to Swakopmund, literally the mouth of the river Swakop. Rather like Spain, the rivers here are basically dry. This one was dry despite it being a wet wet season. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out and organizing luggage, with the help of a beer or two, of course.
In the evening, after 3 days of red meat/game, both Francine and I opted for a simple dinner of hake and chips – comfort food. And refreshingly light it was, too.