|Arches at the Woermannhaus|
There is something about this place that just makes you take life easy. Every day we have got up early, thrown clothes on and headed down to breakfast but its then taken us a couple of hours to actually get ourselves showered and out and about. Today was no exception. We had decided to do a local scenic drive so stopped in town at the NWR office to pick up our park permits (which nobody checked at all) before heading out.
Our route took us along the Trans Kalahari Highway for a few kilometres before we turned off back onto a dirt track and through sandy desert. We were on a quest to find the Welwitschia plant, a strange plant that lives for many years but only has two leaves. The leaves seem to separate and in effect I suppose, fray, as the plant gets older. They survive by soaking up ground water around their roots so they are very fragile and susceptible to damage from people tramping about too close to them.
The drive is a pretty well defined route and the NWR have identified points of interest along the way which they have marked with signposts. We didn’t really stop at the sign posted places along the way, opting instead to just pull up when we saw something that caught our eye. The drive is called the Welwitschia and Moon Landscape drive and you soon understand why the latter part is relevant. The scenery is really other worldly. We stopped at a small plateau and looked out across the “valley” below. This was full of small hills interlocking with each other as if a hug river had flowed down and carved out lumps and bumps along the valley floor.
We’ve already driven through vast swathes of bare and barren land here in Namibia but this place looked even more so. You picture NASA filming here and pretending that they had sent astronauts to some strange planet light years away. The road wound down and around, for the most part in pretty good nick. We were sharing the driving and as soon as I took over we hit a really lumpy bit with ridges galore from where the water had drained away over the years. I took it slowly and carefully struggling to find that optimal speed where the bumps weren’t too bad. On the way back Stef was driving and of course just flew over them!
After a couple of hours we finally made it to the purpose of the drive, a 1,500 year old Welwitschia plant. It is so rare and delicate that it is now surrounded by a wire fence and a small viewing platform has been erected so that you can see down and onto the top of the plant. How they have managed to age it is beyond me. It seemed to have lots of different leaves all coming from some sort of central core. It almost seemed like a cactus in some ways and had seed pod like lumps interspaced between the leaves. It certainly ranks as one of the strangest, as well as one of the oldest, plants I have ever seen.
|Fifteen hundred year old welwitschia mirabilis, another Namibian oddity|
On the way out to the drive we had passed what looked like a checkpoint for some sort of a race. A lone chap was running in shorts and vest with a pack on his back so I though it was some sort of endurance running race. On the way back though we kept passing lots of quad bikes and back at the main road there was quite a cluster of them. We stopped to take a photo but were waved on by the police car that had obviously been sent out to keep order. There did seem to be some sort of poster and banner explaining what it was all about but we didn’t have the chance to stop and read it.
Back in Swakopmund we headed down to the aquarium which, along with the Kristall Galerie, is one of the main things to do. It is the only one in Namibia and it is a small but interesting place to visit. There is one main tank and a few smaller tanks mounted into the walls around the outside of the building. The main tank has a glass tunnel leading through it so that you can get really close up to the animals in the tank. We had timed it well arriving a few minutes before the 3:00pm feeding session.
Soon a chap in full scuba and wetsuit gear was climbing over the wall and lowering himself down into the tank. He had a small bag with a hole just large enough to put his hand in and pull out some food. Soon he was the most popular thing in the tank with the fish coming close to him to get some food. Most persistent were the large turtles that he continually had to bat away. One was so hungry it gave up on getting the bits of fish on offer and started to munch away on the strap holding the divers goggles on.
It was definitely worth being at the aquarium at feeding time. Although it is small, you only need about half an hour to visit it, they had a wide enough range of fish and small sharks to keep our interest. We walked upstairs where you can look down into the tank. It’s pretty hard to see anything much from here as they continually pump fresh seawater in so the surface is always rippled. We did though see the large turtles coming up to the surface to get some air. The biggest one must have been over a metre long and about half a metre wide at least.
After the aquarium we went back to the hotel and just relaxed for a few hours, watching a very funny film called The Actors starring Michael Caine. In the evening we headed out for a quick drink at Fagin’s Bar before going to the Brauhaus for dinner. A large screen in the corner of the bar was playing a video of a group of people who had been out sand boarding and the bar seemed to be full of the people who starred in the film. They looked as if they had had quite a lot of fun but it also looked like pretty hard work.
As we walked in to the Brauhaus we bumped into the South African couple who had been in our group touring around the cave paintings in Twyfelfontein. It really is a small place for a country that is so big. We were shown to our table and had a very tasty meal. I had kudu (a type of antelope) stew with German spätzle noodles which was for me the best meal in a restaurant I have had on our trip so far. Stef had a tasty plate of roast pork with red cabbage (one of my favourites) and potatoes. It was a lovely way to round off our stay in Swakopmund.