This blog post is being written with very limited internet access, using different electronic devices than usual, so here’s hoping it all works.
We drove along the southern Skeleton Coast yesterday. This northern national park accounts for a third of the Namibian coastline and got its name in the 1930s, from a journalist who was covering the disappearance of a pilot and his plane which were never found. Prior to this, it was known as The Sands of Hell by the Portuguese – even if any sailors did manage to survive a shipwreck, surviving on land in this inhospitable desert would have been almost impossible. If the sailors didn’t die of thirst, they would be good tucker for the local wild animals. There are loads of shipwrecks in this area, thanks to strong Atlantic currents and swirling fogs. Like Table Mountain with its cloudy ‘tablecloth’, this part of the coast has its own cloudy microclimate, with permanent low cloud hanging over the beach and shallows. When we camped at Swakopmund, the cloud turned to wet mist with tiny droplets hanging in the air. Definitely enough for us to get wet if we stood out in it for long enough.
So … the Skeleton Coast. It is only possible to visit the lower 100kms or so, unless you have accommodation booked. There is a campgound a bit further north, but it only opens in December and January. There is also cabin-type accommodation further north again, and much further nirth is an up-market place that is fly-in-fly-out only. So we just did the 100kms, then headed inland. After reading so much about this place, it was all a bit … underwhelming. I guess I’d expected to see lots of shipwrecks and pirates and buried treasure … oh, wait, I’m thinking of Treasure Island. No, it was all very desolate and bleak with a couple of points of interest to break the monotony. For most of the drive, it’s further inland than we’d expected, so it’s not possible to see the coast. We stopped at the shipwreck of the South West Sea (1976), which was right on the beach … not much left of it now. We have maps that show the shipwrecks along the coast, and it’s surprising how many are from the 1960s and 70s. Further along the road is an abandoned oil mine and an abandoned diamond mine. Neither venture was successful. Very little grows in this area, and at the moment the 4 rivers that run through the area are all dry, although the Kiochab River has a large-ish lake near the beach with lots of birdlife on it. When the rivers flow, the whole area must come to life. Surprisingly, over 100 different species of lichen grown in the Skeleton Coast National Park – many different colours that break the monochrome landscape. They rely on the coastal fog for moisture.
Last night we stayed at the campgound at Palmwag, which also offers resort-style facilities. We have a lovely private site with kitchen area (tap and bench), braai, seating and on one side of us is a ‘do not enter’ area where I saw a large Gemsbok (antelopey-thingy) this morning. Just over the fence is the outdoor bar and swimming pool. Very nice.