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Published: November 20th 2008
Today’s drive turned out to be the longest we have so far done in one day - over 330 miles with one fuel point en route.
This was at Palmwag
, a rather smart tourist lodge setup where there was also the fuel pumps and a cold drinks shop to water the tourist minibuses that pass frequently.
Full tanks again was a blessing as we turned westwards towards the Atlantic and the Skeleton Coast National Park
We entered the park at about noon , where the road continued westwards with the desert getting more and more bleak with increasing views of mirages until we could see the Atlantic in the far distance. I have only once seen a shore line so hostile, and that was in Peru where the Pacific laps the coastline desert. Here the Atlantic waves crashed onto the shore, huge great waves and nobody about. The roads today have been getting better and better, but this coastal road southwards was superb - the smoothest dirt road I have ever driven on, and we could maintain speeds of 60 and 70 mph with ease, but had to be wary for the very occasional unexpected yump.
The well named Skeleton Coast
immediately there was a road off to the right towards the beach which we drove down, to be stopped at a line of low dunes some 200 yards or so before the sea shore. We clambered up these to see a pickup down by the shore line - we supposed some local fishermen. Ian and I stood there for a few minutes and the pickup drove towards us. The local driver asked what we were doing, and we told him, and we asked who he was. He said he was the Minister for the Environment and we should not be there. We professed our (genuine) innocence and after about ten minutes of friendly conversation and much forelock pulling on our part, we departed as “good friends”.
From then on it was a continual road bashing for nearly 200 miles to Swakopmund
punctuated by more car trouble - my car - where the plastic lining of the front left wheel arch was flapping in the slipstream and rubbing on the wheel and making a ghastly noise. I eventually attacked the trim with a knife to stop it, but it did make me wonder whether or not the front suspension had
been damaged in any way - what with hitting rocks in the road, bursting tyres, and Van Zyl’s Pass - so decided that at the next Toyota garage I would have the front end of the car’s underneath given a good check out.
This 200 mile flurry didn’t mask the utter bleakness of the Skeleton Coast. It must be one of the most inhospitable places and we did see evidence of shipwrecks along the shore - which of course gives the place its name. About 20 miles short of Swakopmund there was a huge great big ocean going trawler aground on the shore, and from its state it looked as though it was quite a recent event. All rather dramaic.
Finally Swakopmund, a town with undeniably strong German influence, came into sight. Many one and two story buildings, good roads, traffic lights, excellent shops, a Toyota garage, and most of the streets apparently deserted at 6 pm when we finally arrived. We booked into a modest hotel which, 100 years ago, was the German hospital and we relished long, hot showers, nice clean clothes and a delicious fishy supper with a bottle of cold white wine in a
local restaurant. A long, long day!
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