Friday, 24 March 2017

Swakopmund to Sesriem: Sand and Storms

On Monday 06 March we headed for the desert proper.  It wasn't a long day driving but once we left Walvis Bay we were on dirt roads for the next few days.
Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 11.24.32
We left Swakopmund and stopped briefly in Walvis Bay so I could get my flamingo fix.
2017-03-06 Walvis Flamingoes
I spotted this cafe - nice name (my family will know why).
2017-03-06 Walvis Bay Cafe
And we're off.
2017-03-06 Leaving Walvis Bay
You'd see a line of trees where there was a seasonal water course.  This is near Kriess se rus.
2017-03-06 Swakopmund to 23_5S80
Magnificent scenery.
2017-03-06 Swakopmund to 23_5S84
A panoramic shot of sand and sand.
2017-03-06 Swakopmund to Solitaire  2
We swept down into the Kuiseb Canyon.
2017-03-06 Swakopmund to 23_5S89
2017-03-06 Swakopmund to 23_5S91
Martin had never seen the rivers with water in.
2017-03-06 Swakopmund to 23_5S92
The Kuiseb River.
2017-03-06 Swakopmund to 23_5S96
We climbed out of the Guab Pass and awaited eagerly the next geo feature.  Here we go.
2017-03-06 23_5 South3
Hey, I'm back! This time, north to south across the line.
2017-03-06 23_5 South2
And then we were off again headed for Solitaire.
2017-03-06 23_5S to Solitaire04
Solitaire is basically a fuel station, lodge and cafe.
2017-03-06 23_5S to Solitaire09
And it's another location which has creatively made old vehicles into an art form.
2017-03-06 23_5S to Solitaire11
2017-03-06 Solitaire  3
2017-03-06 23_5S to Solitaire10
Check out how much rainfall they had in 2016 - 68 mm.  And then see how much they'd already had in 2017 - 44 mm in February - no wonder the rivers were flowing.
2017-03-06 23_5S to Solitaire08
We left, stopping briefly for a panorama shoot.  I think Martin liked this not only for the clouds but that it was near a landing strip.  I play 'spot the trig pillar' whilst we motor; Martin plays 'spot the landing strip'.  He's landed on most of them around here so there's always a good story to be heard.
2017-03-06 Swakopmund to Solitaire  9
We arrived at Sesriem in the sunshine where we stayed at the campsite inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
2017-03-07 Sesriem     25
See the huge bird's nest? (Not that the birds are huge if you get what I mean).
2017-03-07 Sesriem     31
We set up camp in a hurry as we could see the dust storm approaching.
2017-03-06 Sesriem 4
And we fell into the bar area (shame) along with the other campers just as it rolled through.
2017-03-06 Sesriem 5
Whoosh.
2017_03_06 Dust Storm
Even though we were indoors, the bar area wasn't dust tight due to its canvas walls and we all required a bit of de-sanding afterwards including my Mac, rucksack and me.

I should have researched this place and Sossuvlei before I came (I was preoccupied with MSc before I left the UK and left Martin to plan our route) as I would have been stunned at how amazing my next 24 hours was going to be...

Swakopmund Refresher

After the long days of driving we parked ourselves in Swakopmund for a short while.  It was good to catch up with my MSc and business work: there is only so much you can do in a Mahindra.  We also met with clients - keep up the contacts, keep up the contacts.

This was the view from the apartment. Not too shabby hey? All I needed was a camel to walk past, oh, and an internet speed greater than 10 kbs, and I'd have been set.
2017-03-03 Swakopmund Desert
I had some time to wander around the town centre admiring its beautiful buildings from beginning of the 20th Century.
2017-03-04 Swakopmund 09
I loved this honest pub advertising.
2017-03-04 Swakopmund 08
Prevailing wind?
2017-03-04 Swakopmund 10
And, of course, I had to make time for a paddle in the Atlantic.
2017-03-05 Swakopmund5
Looks like someone has been off road.
2017-03-05 Swakopmund6
It was good to rest.  On Monday 06 March we were off again...

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Johannesburg - Bloemfontein - Upington - Windhoek - Swakopmund

From Monday 27 February to Thursday 03 March we drove from Johannesburg to Swakopmund - a bit like this ~2500 km.
Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 20.32.18
We stayed in Bloemfontein the Monday night and met a couple of clients on the Tuesday morning.  And then our road trip really got going.  First stop, Superspar, to fill up the coolbox.  This, being Africa, wasn't the size of a British cool box where a few cans of drink, bag of fruit and some rolls fill it up - this was a proper cool box which we loaded full of water, iced tea, Coke Lite, fruit, snacky vegetables and Babybels. Service stations were in short supply ahead of us so we went prepared.

Driving in this part of South Africa involves long straight roads with little traffic.  Get cruising at 120 kph and the key thing to look out for is animals on the road.  The skies are big, the scenery vast and there is little visual distraction (unlike in the UK where roads tend to have lampposts, buildings, trees, hedges etc alongside).  This meant I was able to work on my Mac most days for a couple of hours before feeling car sick: a real bonus.

Anyway, the first of many road pictures.
2017-02-28 Bloem to Upington 4.05.16
I remember these amazing bird's nests from my road trip a few years back in this area. The weaver birds start a small nest on the telephone pole fittings and build it up from there.
2017-02-28 Bloem to Upington 6.17.55
And these windmills are everywhere - pumping up ground water to the farms.
2017-02-28 Upington 4.44.19
Wonderfully stormy, square-edged clouds ahead of us.
2017-02-28 Bloem to Upington 4.19.22
The strong light reflecting off this tower was quite distracting as we neared Upington. The mirrored tower is part of the Khi Solar One farm Martin's team surveyed some years ago and which we flew over in 2014 (see here).
2017-02-28 Upington 7.37.41
We crossed the Orange River on the way to our lodge where we stayed on an island near the Orange River Cellars.
2017-02-28 Bloem to Upington 6.13.41
Blimey - I think this bedroom is the size of my flat!  Shame I was only here one night.
2017-02-28 Bloem to Upington 8.02.02
It was a prompt start on the Wednesday from Upington and we left as the sun rose.
2017-03-01 Sunrise Upington
This way to Namibia.
2017-03-01 Upington to Nambia  07.59.27
We crossed the border easily.  I was amused by the cleaner sweeping up a pile of leaves at immigration.  Actually, it was more a pile of bugs she was trying to pile up and every time she created a heap it flew off again.  Very Harry Potter-esque.

We stopped to buy sim cards and I loved this painting on the garage wall: it was the only map we had for a while. Although Martin knew where he was going, I appreciated having this to refer to (any map is better than none).
2017-03-01 Upington to Nambia  10.13.42
The Nambian side - the road at 1030.
2017-03-01 Upington to Nambia  10.33.33
These control towers are left from the days when South Africa occupied Namibia.
2017-03-01 Upington to Nambia  17.14.23
It was a long day of travelling as we had nearly 1000 km to cover.  This was our view at 1700 - still long and straight, with a few more clouds - trundle, trundle.
2017-03-01 Upington to Nambia  17.08.11
And then, major excitement, the Tropic of Capricorn.  I've never driven across this and it was kind of Nambia to point it out for me.
2017-03-01 Upington to Nambia  18.13.04
Photo op time.
2017-03-01 Upington to Nambia  18.13.51
11 hours after beginning the journey, with sunrise, the sun set whilst we were still on the road.
2017-03-01 Upington to Nambia  19.16.46
We arrived at our lodge in Windhoek in time to grab some food and drink from the bar. Facebook popped up a memory on my timeline and it turned out that more-or-less a year to the day I was staying at this same lodge.  Memories.

Thursday morning we saw a couple of clients.  Unless you eyeball folks they forget you exist so it's important to maintain these conversations to secure potential work.  And then we set off towards Swakopmund on the Trans-Kalahari Highway.
2017-03-02 Trans Kalahari Highway   3.05.13
And gradually, over the next few hours, the greenery faded and the sand took over.
2017-03-02 Trans Kalahari Highway   5.07.38
Next blog Swakopmund...