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Namibia Road Trip Part II: The Might of Mother Nature and The Folly of Man

A Photo Essay

By Jenifer NimPublished 25 days ago Updated 23 days ago 6 min read
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Photo by Jenifer Nim

Driving in Namibia is amazing – no cars on the roads, amazing landscapes that are constantly changing, and fascinating wildlife round every sand dune. I couldn’t believe that I could see so many animals roaming around from my car window. If it weren’t for the fear of sliding off the gravel roads or puncturing a tyre at any moment, it would be perfect.

Photos by Jenifer Nim

That day, I had lunch at the top of the breath-taking Fish River Canyon. Not a bad place to stop for a sandwich.

Photo by Jenifer Nim

After taking in this wonder of nature, I continued on my way to Duwisib Castle. I stopped for fuel every time I saw a petrol station as I was petrified I’d never see one again. Another one of the great things about Namibia is that they have attendants who fill up your car for you. I’d never experienced that before and thoroughly enjoyed it as a lazy person who likes to sit down for as long as possible.

On this particular stop, as I’d already eaten my two-week supply of lebkuchen in just four days, I bought a cake too. I hoped I’d be less likely to eat a whole cake in such a short amount of time. Plus, I needed something to bribe/thank the strangers I roped into putting up my tent for me.

In the early afternoon I arrived at Duwisib Castle, built in the early 1900s by a German army officer for his new wife, who then abandoned it and left all their possessions inside when she went back to America after he was killed in the First World War. Once again, it was a thoroughly interesting and bizarre experience to see this faux-medieval European mini-castle so out of place in the desert.

Photo by Jenifer Nim

I spent the afternoon looking around the castle and poking into all the rooms of the baron and his wife, admiring their family photos and learning about their history. Before sunset, I drove the short way to the campsite where I found my tent-helpers already waiting for me, a lovely Belgian couple who were once again quite bemused by me and my little car. I brought out the cake, they brought out a bottle of wine, and we had a lovely evening sitting around the campfire telling stories. I thought to myself how lucky I had been on this trip to meet such lovely people everywhere I went.

The next morning I woke early as usual and headed off to Sossusvlei, the iconic national park with its stunning red dunes contrasting with the vibrant blue sky, its brilliant white salt pans and 900 year-old dead but perfectly preserved camel thorn trees.

Photos by Jenifer Nim

Sossusvlei is famous for its huge dunes, some of the highest in the world. Many people choose to climb its most famous dune, Big Daddy. I took one look and decided I could see it perfectly fine from down here and wondered why the hell anyone would willingly submit themselves to that torture.

Photo by Jenifer Nim

That night I went to the little hamlet of Solitaire, famous for its car graveyard and apple pie.

Photos by Jenifer Nim

Unfortunately, the guy at reception told me, the campsite was closed because there was no electricity. I would have to stay in one of their fancy bungalows, £100 a night instead of £10 for camping. I asked if they could please, please, make an exception for me and let me stay in the campsite that night. I didn’t mind that there was no electricity! I could have a cold shower in the dark!

The guy reluctantly called the owner, who agreed, and then went to find the keys and open the gate for me. Feeling that I was really pushing my luck now, I put on my best smile and asked if he wouldn’t mind also helping me with my tent… We finished just in time for another beautiful sunset.

Photo by Jenifer Nim

Because I’d overestimated my love of sandwiches and because I actually did need some electricity after all to charge my phone, I decided to splash out on a hot meal in the restaurant. A group of four sitting nearby invited me to join them. One was a professional photographer and, as a huge fan of photography, I was thrilled to listen to his life story and look through his photographs for the evening.

At the end of the night, they insisted on paying for my meal. Once again, I marvelled at my good fortune. I thought to myself that most people in the world are good and kind, and that I should remember this moment the next time I felt depressed after watching the news.

The next day I drove to Walvis Bay and saw more birds in one place than I’ve ever seen in my life (after Luderitz). I drove alongside the salt works, a beautiful patchwork of pink and green squares with dazzling white mountains of salt, to reach the lagoon, one of the most important wetlands in Southern Africa. Tens of thousands of seabirds had flocked there: everything from albatrosses to pelicans to flamingos. I decided to take a long walk along the lagoon promenade and eat my sandwich with the flamingos for company.

Photo by Jenifer Nim

In the afternoon I drove just up the coast to Swakopmund. For my whole journey, I had no real plan other than driving towards tourist destinations on my printed map. Every day I drove on a wing and a prayer and hoped I’d find somewhere to stay that night.

I drove past a campsite near the beach and decided that would be my home for tonight. The owner helped me put up my tent, of course, and then I drove into town to visit the museum and walk around another German village plonked down in the middle of Southern Africa. For dinner I treated myself to a nice plate of seafood, being by the sea, and a cool, crisp glass of South African white wine while I enjoyed yet another gorgeous sunset.

Photo by Jenifer Nim

By this point in the trip, I was an absolute pro at taking the tent down by myself. I was cocky and rushing, because I wanted to get moving as quickly as possible the next morning, but one of the metal poles was stuck. I tugged and tugged with all my might until the metal rod suddenly came free, flew up and hit me full force across the bridge of my nose.

I stood still for a moment, frozen in shock, until the blood started to pour. Uh oh… I ran to the campsite bathroom, leaving a trail of blood behind me, and tried to staunch the bleeding. I looked in the mirror, worried that my face was split open, but aside from the giant wads of tissue sticking out of my nostrils, it looked normal enough. I poked it gingerly to see if it was broken, but it seemed okay.

Relieved, because I really, really, really didn’t want to go to a hospital by myself in a far-away country, I decided I was fine and should keep moving amd forget about the whole thing. In hindsight, my nose probably was broken, because it’s got quite a large bump in it now and I’ve never been able to smell or breathe the same since. Oops.

This morning’s destination: the infamous skeleton coast, a desolate place where the sand dunes reach right down to the sea and the beach is littered with the corpses of long-wrecked ships.

Photo by Jenifer Nim

A few hours drive from Swakopmund, past the most unfriendly beaches you’ve ever seen, is Cape Cross, home to the largest breeding seal colony in the world. Over 200,000 Cape fur seals live at the colony, and the noise and the stench is unbelievable. Even with my broken nose, I could smell it, which tells you just how strong it was.

At Cape Cross, seal pups are born in late November/early December so I was lucky enough to witness all the little babies flopping around on the shore as far as the eye could see. But this being the skeleton coast, there were also thousands of dead seal pups, almost as many as the live ones. I would find out from the information signs that there is a 30% mortality rate of seal pups here. Some stray too far from the coast and are preyed on by hyenas and jackals. Some stray too far in the other direction and are eaten by sharks. Others are just crushed by adult seals fighting over the best spot on the beach to rest.

Photos by Jenifer Nim

I stayed until I couldn't stand the smell any longer, then got back in my car, and off I went again.

If you didn't read Part I, it's here: Part I

The story continues here: Part III

africa
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About the Creator

Jenifer Nim

I’ve got a head full of stories and a hard drive full of photos; I thought it was time to start putting them somewhere.

I haven’t written anything for many, many years. Please be kind! 🙏

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