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African Adventure Part Five: Drive to Atlantic Ocean

You spend a day hiking up a dry riverbed in the sun, and the next day travel through the empty desert to Wavis Bay

Air pressure

At Sesriem camp you found some car fuses. Your electric tyre pump had blown its fuse, leaving you to rely on petrol stations for air pressure until now, which was not all that bad really. Each service station jumped to serve you with a great deal of enthusiasm, probably because that is the only viable business in the tourist-filled desert.

14km hike in thongs

The next camp was a short 150 km trip, followed by 10 km of adventurous driving between the gate and reception; in Namibia it's amazing what you can call a road sometimes. It was a surprise to find a river running though the campsite, especially after baking in an dry and endless desert for several days, so you and your lovely lady traveling companion set up the tent and had a snack with a smile. You had inquired about hikes in the area while at reception - they had no fuses but did sell cold beer - and decided to do the first half of the 17 km hike along the dry riverbed. You'd not yet adapted to the strong sun, so used every possible tree and buzzy-bug-filled cane tunnel for shade. A little later after taking a photo of a red dragonfly, and having a kinda awkward toilet break behind some boulders, you found the pools. They were a series of deep green ponds connected with trickling waterfalls. Perhaps they only looked so nice in contrast to the burning hot orange valley rocks, but they felt nice and cool to wade / jump into.

The hike up stream was partially shady and had the sound of slow flowing water, so was a rehabilitating rehydration from the dusty deserts. Each pond along the way was alive with frogs and water skimming bugs, and occasionally you'd see an antelope or animal carcass. At one place where the plants were overing the path, your lovely lady traveling companion got a bit of a scare from an enormous snake; she could only guess its full size after seeing a fat section of snake slither away, but it was enough to make her rethink her sandals as good hiking footwear. The riverbed became dry, and after what seemed hours of hiking over wobbly hot rocks in the open sun you came to a sign which you wished had said "almost there" but instead read 1/2 WAY. You were both basically out of water and getting tired of no shade. Luckily, the track headed up and over the hill you had both been encircling along the walk, which let you see down a valley and imagine how far was left. You took a break in the shade of some rocks and took some photos of flowers before continuing. The way back was easier, especially after finding to some flowing water and eventually more deep pools. One pool was so deep and dark that some of you didn't want to swim for long for fear of monsters lurking in the darkness. Fair enough; it was full of big frogs anyway. The more water appeared, the more scary monkey schreaks and baboon grunts you heard echoing through the valley. You weren't sure is the noises were normal or if the baboon king was ordering his monkey friends to get us. Either way, you kept a decent pace past the hoards of monkey and baboon families along the river and made it back to camp.

Back at camp

Back at camp you both had a water-drinking contest, but there was no clear winner. This was the first evening when the camping stove was fired up for cooking because you were both too buggered to bother with fire. Your tomato, beans and tuna with pasta cooked in the dark using a headlamp turned out well for dinner (and again for lunch again the next day), and was much faster than over a coals fire. Later that evening you had an open-air solar-shower wash with the water that'd been warming in the sun all day on the car bonnet. You threw it up on the roof, which blew the tube off temporarily, and showered beside the car. That thing was working really well! You both didn't sleep so well, even after all that hiking: damn noisy baboons and dry climate take some getting used to.

Long dusty roads

The next morning started with some disappointing pan-baked bread and lots of loud baboons (some real, some neighboring campers). Regardless, with all the green plants and water around, it was a good start. It was time to return to the desert and to engage 4x4 mode to climb a mountain range. The travel-guide's forewarnings that only decent vehicles should attempt it were apt, with you being forced down to first gear for most of the accent. Deserts have a special charm to them - a rugged minimalism decorated with colours and shapes - and are so much more exciting to navigate through than other places. However, where you may say exciting, others may say hazardous. During the day, you passed one overturned truck, one rolled car and a large variety of vehicle tracks swerving off the road and plowing through the dirt barriers into ditches. You really needed to be paying attention to keep things safe at 80 km/h on windey dirt roads. As the day progresses the scenery became more bland and flat until the horizon was the only distinguishable feature of the panorama ahead. The ground was bland grey sand, the sky was hazy clouds and there was barely a tuft of grass in sight. This continued for hours (save a single hill), all the way up to the Atlantic Ocean.

The west coast didn't look any more impressive than the hundreds of kilometers of desert before it. There was no bright and sunny weather awaiting you and considering it was the middle of summer it was not even warm. It was cool enough to enjoy wearing your safari pants (for the first time) while getting some supplies in Wavis Bay in a busy supermarket; being there was a strange feeling after being isolated in the desert since the beginning of the trip. Wavis bay had a lot of rich (white) waterfront property development underway, which differentiated the black and white population rather clearly - blacks underway by foot, living in slums. After fueling up you headed further north in search of coastal camping grounds. The first place (4-mile Beach) was over-full with South African campers and didn't at all look nice, so you drove on. The second place (14-mile Beach) was lined with beach fishermen and their beach-fishing 4x4s but was no longer operating (and the toilets were blocked apparently), explained a doddery old man who suggested we try further north. After another 50km along roads made of salty, sandy clay you found your stop (52? Mile beach?). The reception was closed for the evening and there were only people cueing for showers at the main building, so you just drove in. You drove along the beach past many fenced-off camps with petrol electric generators running xmas lights, and found a spot to tie down your tent as tightly as you could hoping it would withstand the wind. Even Australia would be proud of the sunset, which was a glowing mix of colour, burning deep red at the horizon and splashing back over the clouds above. If only the wind was less gale-force you could have enjoyed the sound of the waves as you heated dinner.