To the coast

Sunday 23 to Tuesday 25 October

We chilled out in the afternoon at the Sossus Dunes Lodge. We did have the honeymoon suite so we thought a little relaxation was in order.

We spent the afternoon by the pool, highly entertained by the swallows circling then diving for water, just missing people who were swimming.

We enjoyed sundowner drinks on the deck then dinner and even a leisurely start to the morning. Our next drive was 350km. Once again Serena and Mary Lou couldn’t agree on the time it would take, suggesting 5.5 and 7.7 hours.

This road was rougher than others we had been on, perhaps carrying more traffic. We made a stop at Solitaire at a T-intersection with a bakery, restaurant, fuel station and accommodation.

There was also a collection of ancient cars. The legacy of the harsh climate and long rough tracks. The coffee and cake were good.

We continued rattling along the corrugation, making a quick stop on the Tropic of Capricorn (going north). The journey was slow as we drove through chasms. There were two passes, the Kuiseb Canyon Pass and the Gaub Canyon Pass. Each required navigation down to the dry river bed and back up again, twisting and turning.

The road finally straightened but the desert was barren, just a few shrubs. The sands changed from red to grey to green to a soft yellow.

We finally reached the Atlantic coast at Walvis Bay. The desert here runs right to the sea. We drove around the lagoon on The Esplanade and found the famous lesser flamingos. When you see one you see hundreds.

But the biggest surprise came when we got out of the car to take photos. The temperature was a chilly 19C, and the air was humid, such a change from the dry desert heat of 35C plus, just a few hours ago.

Like the west coast of USA there is a sea mist that rolls down the Atlantic coast, the cold sea air hitting the hot dry air of the Namib Desert. It appears the Namibians love to come to the sea to escape the heat and enjoy rugging up in coats and scarves.

It was another 40km up the coast to Swakopmund, a German style colonial town. It was late Sunday afternoon when we got settled and walked a couple of kilometres into town to check out eating options. Swakopmund was like Melbourne on a Sunday evening in the 1960s. Everything was shut, the streets were quiet and the air was chilly. Dinner at our hotel seemed like a very good option.

Our hotel, the Beach Hotel was surrounded by ‘anchor points‘.

These are the last remnants of a radio transmitter which could have been of great strategic importance to the Germans during the First World War.

These anchor points, beautifully designed and constructed, held the guy ropes for an 86 meter high radio aerial. With the transmitters in Lüderitzbucht and Windhoek, this transmitter formed a link in a radio network which included Berlin. Building commenced in 1911 and the transmitter was commissioned in January 1912.

When war broke out in 1914 and Union troops invaded South West Africa, the Germans feared that the transmitter would fall into enemy hands and used against them. The transmitter and mast were thus demolished. This did not stop the “Armadale Castle”, a British war ship, from shelling the area on the 14th September 1914, with little or no further damage being done. One of the shells went through a wooden house and in a chicken run.

Our big treat in Swakopmund was getting some laundry done.  All those ‘hot weather’ clothes needed a seriously good, professional wash.

We set off next morning to explore this little town. We found lots of eateries and coffee shops as well as souvenir shops set within the many pedestrian streets.  All evidence of a tourist town. It was quite reminiscent of a German ski town, without the snow.

The day got pleasantly warmer as the sea mist abated.

Some of the colonial buildings were truly lovely especially the Woermann Haus and tower.

We were learning more about Namibia’s history, more particularly its independence from South Africa in 1990. In the late 19th century, Germany defined the boundaries of South West Africa (SWA). Following World War I South Africa was given a mandate to govern SWA by the League of Nations. In the mid 20th century the United Nations refused to allow South Africa to annex SWA and set a target of independence for them. In the early 1990s Namibia gained independence.

There was a tiny beach next to the Mole, a breakwater with a hotel complex overlooking the sea.

Touring in southern Africa means you spend a lot of time sitting in cars, and unless you are doing a serious hike, very little opportunity to stretch your legs. So this was our opportunity to explore by foot, to stretch our legs. I was also an opportunity to enjoy some coffee and ice cream.

We walked east, to the edge of town and found the Catholic and Lutheran churches, then north to the old Bahnhof (railway station). This has been converted into an upmarket hotel and a Casino. The desert sand won its battle with the railway line.

We then wandered back through town and to the Jetty, for a view of the desert that ends at the sea. We found the dry river bed, with a small inlet which was inhabited by pelicans, ducks and flamingos and watched over by three camels, who are probably kept busy during the tourist season.

Much to Bruce’s delight there was a German style brewpub serving Bratwurst. A nice end to our short stay in Swakopmund.