It was another cool start in Puros thanks to that sea fog – and tantalising that the Skeleton Coast is just a hop and a jump away but we have a few more days of mountains before we get there. We heard a hyena yipping before dawn and then the birds took over again. We had to cross the foot-and-mouth vet fence again today which meant we weren’t allowed to have any meat with us. A good excuse for bacon sarnies for breakfast before packing up the tents and off.
We’ve got quite efficient at it now, and were off by nine. Which seems to be our time for being off by…
The road out of Puros is a straight shot across pale desert sand and felt like we were driving across the Sahara. Then it hits the gullies and ridges of the floodplain and we were again twisting between little trees and jolting into dry riverbeds in a broad valley with stunning craggy mountains either side of us. Here and there were goat pens and white goats like snowflakes scattered through the distant bush. The sun lit up the yellow-green leaves of the bushes either side of the road, bright against the rust-coloured rock.
The mountains never got any less impressive and it felt we were driving through a magnified version of Monument Valley all day. At one point we crossed an enormous flat plain on a deep red sand road, and at around lunchtime we emerged from our Kaokoland adventure into Sesfontein. It’s a small community of one room huts with thatched roofs, some of which are shops advertising “Hairdressing” and “Tyres Repaired”. It has a couple of shebeens and a small general store with people shooting the breeze outside like in small towns everywhere. We we were looking for the old German Fort and had to resort to the satnav to find it, because it was only signposted for people coming up from the south. I’m not sure that many people come from the wilds of Kaokoland. It was worth the search though because it is a pretty little place, filled with palm trees planted by the German soldiers based there a hundred years ago.
It is now a lodge and prettied up somewhat with scarlet bougainvillea and cacti. It felt like a proper oasis and we had lunch there; Greek salads and rock shandies all round.
P and T fell on the chess set with carved African figures for the pieces,and afterwards we walked up the little cemetery for the handful of Germans killed in action there. It must have been a strange and lonely posting, but also a brutal one. Some of the headstones were dated 1908, which was in the final year of the German genocide of the Herero people.
We were on better gravel roads now, fast and smooth and I kept setting off the annoying alarm which beeps when you go over 80kmh on a gravel road, even when the signpost says the top speed is 100. After having been spoiled by days of stunning scenery the landscape was merely interesting and we settled into a couple of podcasts as we hummed along. We came to the vet fence and had the wheels sprayed, the fridge casually searched and our shoes plonked on the disinfectant mat. Barrier up and we were off to Palmwag, which appeared to be little more than a T-junction with two boys playing on road sign. We waved, they waved. Everyone does in Namibia.
Our destination for the night was Grootberg Lodge at the top of the Grootberg Pass, 1540 meters above sea level. The landscape suddenly built again with vast “Inselbergs” all around us; long mountains with flat-tops crowned with cliffs. We rose and fell and rose a bit more, climbing up the side of one of the bergs, the view widening and stretching in great sweeps of rocky valley. It was on an even grander scale than anything we have seen so far. We spent quite a long time looking through the binoculars at an elephant-shaped rock; which turned out to be…an elephant shaped rock.
Grootberg Lodge is reached via a very steep, narrow and bumpy track which is advised only for people who have good 4×4 skills. You can leave your car and they will come down to pick you up, but heck we’d just driven hundreds of K through Kaokoland and we put the truck in low range four wheel drive and up we went. Yup pretty steep but amazing views and we arrived to find all the other guests with 4x4s had done the same thing. Grootberg is one of the only community-owned lodges of its type and is beautifully built of wood and stone right on the lip of the berg. All the chalets have the same view down the valley and are comfortable without being ridiculously fancy.
It was nice to have a proper shower though – and someone else to do the cooking for a night!
While we were having dinner a group of schooolkids came in – probably aged about 11 and up – and sang and danced for us. They sang perfect close-harmony and had great enthusiasm. It was lovely to watch and their teacher explained they were raising money for a school trip to the coast. We were only too happy to contribute.
And so to bed – yes bed! With duvets and pillows and that jaw dropping view.