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Can you read the label?

Before leaving Swakopmund we did a last final run past the internet café to get as much stuff up to date as we could then headed out down the coast to Walvis Bay. The coast here is as stark as it was further north and it is hard to imagine people coming here for their two weeks annual R&R. Rising out of nowhere though there was a small seaside resort with campsites, self catering bungalows and hotels. It looks like it is doing well as more and more buildings seemed to be going up. It was an odd sight to see as it was bordered on one side by the Atlantic and on the other three by desert.

Walvis Bay came and went, another dusty seaside town but one we didn’t go to have a look at. We headed inland on the C14, another endless gravel road that again took us through vast open spaces with little vegetation other than grass. Our map showed that we would have to go through a couple of passes on this road and I’d expected them to be steep climbs up mountains and down the other side. Not so. Here the passes were driving down and across riverbeds formed in what looked like large cracks in the earth’s surface. They were pretty dry now and are obviously popular places because very rustic campsites were available at both of the passes we went through.

Our route took us further south and along the way we passed the Tropic of Capricorn, adding South Africa alongside Argentina and Chile as countries where we have passed this Tropic overland. There’s nothing much to mark the spot other than a sign by the side of the road but even so we had to get out and take a photo. More vast empty landscape stretched ahead of us until we finally made it to Solitaire. Willem de Wet, the owner of the Namibia Lodge chain that we had met in Opuwo told us about his lodge at Solitaire. Apart from the lodge and the petrol station next door it was hard to see what else made up this village. It was a funny sight to see because the only traffic was a steady stream of 4x4 trucks, some with tent on the top, others just cars, stopping off to fill up with petrol. Even if your tank is almost full you still top up at every opportunity.

Our plan for tonight was to head for the Naukluft National Park. Our only problem was that from our map it was not really clear which was the best way to go to get to the entrance. I had meant to ask at Solitaire but forgot to do so. As every time we ask how long it will take to get somewhere we are told “two and a half hours” only to find out it’s five hours, I suspect that we wouldn’t have got accurate information anyway. We followed our instincts staying on the C14 rather than turning off onto the C19. It turned out to be the right decision. As the Naukluft Mountains loomed into view the road followed the curve of them around and at Bullsport we turned off onto the D854.

A few kilometres on we went through a cattle gate and then about a hundred metres further on a small sign pointed right to the entrance to Naukluft. The campsite is 10km further on into the park along a small narrow gravel track. You can’t see where it winds to from the road and it’s not long before you can’t see the road from the track. It follows a windy route that leads between the folds of the hills and meanders deeper into the territory beyond.

The camp office was a small hut that had a phone connection but didn’t look as if it had electricity. No-one was around when we got there but soon people appeared from further up the valley and came to check us in and take our park fees. The campsite itself was another few kilometres further on into the park, a very quite and isolated spot. You had to cross the river to get to it and the sites were then lined up along side the river bank. We toured the site looking for the best available spot, mainly because none of the signs were for site 8 which is the one they had told us to use. After having gone back to the camp office to get a different site we then found site 8!

Farmer Stef

It was right along the river and next to a French family who were travelling in their campervan. It was no bigger than a Ford Transit van although the roof had been raised and there was Mum, Dad and a couple of kids. The licence plates were French so they must have travelled overland to get here. The Mum was sitting quietly with one of the children engrossed in what looked like a school lesson.

Having spent the last few days in a hotel I found it hard to adjust back to being in the tent/truck. Soon I was again dirty and covered in dust, which seems to be a consistent state of being for me. It’s not helped by the fact that I can stand up in the back of the truck whereas Stef can’t so I seem to spend a fair proportion of my day crawling around getting stuff out of the back and putting in back in again. I wouldn’t mind so much but the dust dries my skin out and makes me very itchy. Needless to say I wasn’t in the best of moods and I just wanted to get clean, be away from dust and stop itching.

Stef on the other hand was in a totally different frame of mind. He found the whole thing very romantic and couldn’t understand why I didn’t share his point of view. The moon rose gently as we cooked up some tea (mince with a tin of butternut squash stew which was very tasty and quick to cook). It was almost full and was a very bright white globe rising in the sky. The stars were out as well, as were the baboons who we could hear on the other side of the river. They are a problem at this campsite as the come scavenging for food and Stef was very twitchy throughout dinner thinking they were about to come up to our site. They didn’t.

We were soon tucked up in bed listened to the baboons and the tinkling of the river as it meandered along beneath us.