African shoestrings – Namibia Day Sixty eight – Terrace Bay

It didn’t start well. We had to cut short the tour of the rock paintings, as Sue was once again sick. What we did see (or what I saw) of it was fascinating. Some of the works are engravings that date back over 6000 years and appear to be still as clear as the day they were created. Fortunately Sue had the presence of mind not to leave a remnant of her stomach over any of them. Somehow I don’t think she enjoyed it one single bit.

We had no choice but to press on. Sue had been sick twice now and I was starting to get concerned, but civilisation was now closer at Terrace Bay. The state of the roads didn’t help either. The road back to the main ‘drag’ was full of potholes and those irritating corrugations that leave you still stammering for hours.

The road to Skeleton Coast was marginally better. There were less potholes but still plenty of corrugations and loose stones that had us slipping and sliding from time to time. It was slow going and bloody hot! Sue began to perk up the closer we got as she slowly recovered much to my relief. She had slept most of the way but really hadn’t missed much.

The Skeleton Coast is as inhospitable as it comes. A waterless terrain of grey sand dunes and gravel plains for as far as the eye can see greeted us as we entered the park at the Springbokwater gate. I was amazed to actually see someone at the gate. The smiling gatekeeper with his house surrounded by a little patch of grass, an oasis continually under pressure from the relentless marching sand. He checked our passes and waved with a big grin on his face as we passed through. Did he know something we didn’t?

The coastline of Namibia is an enigma. A desert that stops right at the waters edge. Certainly there are other examples of similar coastlines elsewhere. Our own North West of Australia is very inhospitable but at least it has some vegetation and even trees at the equivalent latitude. The difference is the temperature of the ocean. The Atlantic in this part of the world is bloody cold, consequently it just doesn’t create enough moisture to make it rain so this area averages less than 50mm (2″) per year! What the cold ocean does do however is keep the temperature down. Just as we experienced in Luderitz the temperature drops sharply at about 100 kilometres inland from the coast. Particularly when a southerly breeze is blowing (as it does most of the time) and covers the coast with a cool layer of fog. We went from a hot, dusty environment to a cool, almost cold, misty but still dusty environment in almost seconds. It was like walking into an air-conditioned shopping centre after having spent time walking in 35-degree heat. The change was that dramatic!

 

There are many places that we have visited over the years that have not been what we expected and we have sometimes asked ourselves briefly “what are we doing here?” Terrace Bay is one of those places that begged the question continuously.

It’s a small basic resort sandwiched between the ocean and the desert 3 million miles from anywhere and full of white South African and Namibian leisure fisherman all jabbering away in Afrikaans. We got chatting to a group from Paarl in South Africa and they even asked us what we were doing there. “Therre’s nothing ‘ere but fish” one of them said. It did have a restaurant where you have to eat, as full board is obligatory, a bar and a small shop with very little. The accommodation was reasonably comfortable. A few fibro semi detached huts with rather sparse self-contained rooms were dotted around the place.

Fortunately we only had two nights here. We spent the rest of the day and the next day, relaxing, reading, sleeping and for a brief time, exploring.

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Playing with a female Lion at Okinjima in Namibia.

Playing with a female Lion at Okinjima in Namibia.

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African shoestrings – Namibia Day Sixty seven – Twyfelfontein

We got back to the resort in enough time to have another shower (our third) before dinner. Dinner brought us kudu steaks again and again it was the texture that put me off confirming after this second ‘chew’ that the kudu is safe from me in the future. Unfortunately there were no other choices so it was that or go hungry! Nonetheless the remainder of the food was good and really became secondary to the conversation we were having with a South African couple and a couple of journalists from Zambia who now live in New York. We were enjoying the conversation so much that it was almost an inconvenient interruption to be called to the night hide to see a porcupine munch on another slab of meat left there to attract him.

It was all go the next morning. Up at 6 and into the huge long grassed paddock that was the lion’s enclosure, on the back of an open safari truck. These three lions (one female, Tess and two males, Matata and Tyson) were rescued from brainless people who kept and mistreated them in captivity. Even though they were now part of the family, it was intended that they would be relocated back out into the wild. Watching Donna and Roselea Hanssen play with them, I wondered whether how that could ever be. These animals were domesticated and appeared to me to be just big playful pussycats and then I remembered Guy’s story yesterday and made sure that I stayed well within the safety of the truck.

Our final ‘activity’ was a guided bushmen walk trail. Chris our guide (who I noticed showed a healthy respect for the lions in the way he held on tightly to his rifle) took us on a track littered with bushmen artifacts, ‘home comforts’ and tools.

It was interesting without being riveting. The bushmen like many other traditional peoples had no concept of ‘waste’. Everything had a use. A small animal would provide not only food but also pelts for warmth, fat for cooking and skin for shelter. It’s a principle that appears to be have lost over the centuries by Europeans.

Back to the lodge and we only had a few minutes to vacate our room before Brunch (they like you out of the rooms by 9 am) which we enjoyed under the watchful gaze of the resident warthog.

On the drive out Sue was feeling pretty crook and we hadn’t got far when I had to stop whilst Sue got rid of the contents of her stomach. From then on she slept whilst I drove onwards to Terrace Bay in the Skeleton Coast Park, some 380 kilometres away, in the blazing heat of the desert.

As half of the road was gravel, there was no way we were going to make it in a day so our overnight stay was near Twyfelfontein where some of the finest rock art in Africa is found.

Not so fine was the Abu-Huab Camp. Another dust hole masquerading as a ‘rustic and natural desert camp” in the middle of nowhere. Once again we had to put up with dust and sand blowing into every crevice and orifice. Sue was still crook and lay most of the time in the tent and I still had the remnants (in the form of catarrh and dry throat) of the cold I had caught nearly 3 weeks ago at Fish River Canyon.

We were back down to the realities of independent budget travelling with a bump. No comfy bed in a dustless air-conditioned room for us that night. As darkness descended Sue gradually regained some strength to sit outside whilst I eat and we actually began to enjoy relaxing under the gaze of the millions of stars that lit the night sky with their pinpricks of light scattered in and around the milky way. That was until Sue almost put her foot on a scorpion, which could have put us right in the ‘shit’. Somehow this wasn’t the sort of place where emergency medical treatment would have been easy to find. That was enough for us, our beds were calling. Hopefully tomorrow would bring a better day.

Playing with a female Lion at Okinjima in Namibia.

Playing with a female Lion at Okinjima in Namibia.