Giraffe carving
Giraffe carving
Mar 182012
Damaraland
Damaraland

Heading west from Etosha Park we passed through a region of Namibia known as Damaraland.  We were scheduled to make an overnight stop there to break up the long drive to the coast.  The terrain of Demaraland is beautiful but it is definitely not a place you would want to get stranded without supplies.  The land is arid and rugged but it made for some good photos.

We stopped at two places along the way.  The first was a petrified forest which was run by some of the local indigenous people.  The forest was OK, but not nearly as good as the one we saw earlier in the trip.  The main thing I remember about the forest is that it was very very hot!  The second stop was at Twyfelfontein (that has got to be one of the best place names of the trip!) which means “uncertain spring” in Afrikaans.

Twyfelfontein’s claim to fame are the ancient rock engravings that can be found in the walls of the valley.  Some of these engravings are upwards of 6,000 years old and mostly depict animals of the region: giraffes, lions, zebra, etc.  There was even a partial engraving of a penguin!  Considering we were standing in a desert, it was hard to believe that penguins live along the coast, less than a hundred miles away.

We camped near Twyfelfontein at a small campground along a dry river bed.  A fierce-looking line of thunderstorms rumbled away to our south but we didn’t see a drop of rain that night.  For some reason, and maybe it was the nearby storms, but the evening sunlight was a spectacular gold hue.

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas)
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas)

Amy and I cooked up roasted gems for dinner.  Gems are small, perfectly-round squash a little bigger than a baseball that we cut open and stuffed with onions and garlic before roasting on the open fire.  While we were preparing the meal, lots of strange looking birds were hanging around waiting for handouts.

The next morning we broke camp and loaded up the Land Cruiser and continued west across the Tsiseb Conservancy.  The  final 50 miles to the coast were across a desolate pan of loose sand although Chad did point out that some small lichen manage to survive on the sand provided nobody drives off-road.  We stopped at one point and I snapped this photo of the telephone poles along the road.

Approaching the coast you can see the wall of fog
Approaching the coast you can see the wall of fog

We hit the coast at the small town of Hentiesbaai where we ate our lunch in the visitor center parking lot.  With full stomachs we headed north up the Skeleton Coast to visit the Cape Cross Seal Reserve which is home to one of the largest colonies of cape fur seals in the world.

As we learned, visiting the seal colony in November has its ups and downs.  On the upside, it is pupping season so there are plenty of cute baby seals flopping around.  The bad news comes when you learn that one of the leading causes of seal pup mortality is being crushed to death by an adult seal.  This made the colony more smelly than usual but it was still an interesting stop.

On the final stretch down to Swakopmund we stopped to see one of the more recent shipwrecks that give the Skeleton Coast its name.  The “Zela” was a fishing trawler that lost its bearings and ended up aground a few years back.  Apparently there are more ships like this one further north but those can be very hard to access.

The fishing pier at Swakopmund
The fishing pier at Swakopmund

We spent two nights in Swakopmund and had the day in between to ourselves.  Swakopmund has a population just over 40,000 and has a distinctly German vibe.  The most noticeable (and appreciated) change from the prior few days was the cold temperatures.  The cold South Atlantic gives the place a much cooler and wetter climate.  We didn’t do much while we were there other than wander the town and the coastline.

Damaraland and Swakopmund
Damaraland
Damaraland
Termites
Termites
Giraffe carving
Giraffe carving
Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)
Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas)
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas)
Grey Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides concolor)
Grey Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides concolor)
Red-billed Spurfowl (Pternistis adspersus)
Red-billed Spurfowl (Pternistis adspersus)
Approaching the coast you can see the wall of fog
Approaching the coast you can see the wall of fog
Cape fur seals
Cape fur seals
Many, many seals
Many, many seals
One of the more recent wrecks along the Skeleton Coast
One of the more recent wrecks along the Skeleton Coast
Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
The fishing pier at Swakopmund
The fishing pier at Swakopmund
Swakopmund's main drag
Swakopmund’s main drag

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