I have wanted to go the Skeleton Coast for as long as I can remember. As a boy it seemed to define remote and exotic; a cruel coastline backed by an inhospitable desert for mile upon mile – almost half the length of Namibia right up to the Angolan border. It is every bit as wonderful as I imagined it to be. But first we had to get there.
We called in at the main gate to see the rhino displays and also reflect that they really won’t be around for all that much longer because some ignorant, arrogant, senseless idiots are under the ridiculous delusion that their horns will have an impact on their libido. Someone needs to tell these morons that they could just bite their nails. They are made of the same stuff and it would have exactly the same effect – ie none. Can you imagine a more sad and pointless way to eradicate an entire species from the planet.
There was a Land Rover approaching in the distance. We stopped and they stopped and we compared notes. They were a cheery young German couple who’d been climbing in Spitzkoppe and were thinking about doing our route in reverse. I told them if they could get past the steep, wet bit of track beyond the Rhino Camp they would be OK for the rest of the route, but going uphill there would be a lot harder than coming down it like we did. We compared maps and they told us that the road ahead was very badly corrugated. It was nice chatting to kindred spirits in this empty landscape but eventually we bid our farewells, started the engines and went our separate ways.
The road was very badly corrugated and the gravel so deep that it was hard to get enough speed to glide over the ruts. At every crest we squinted to see the sea but the haze made it impossible to make out where the land ended and the water began. But then, just a few kilometers from the coast we could see blue water and big frothing surf. It was thrilling to drive out of the flat desert to such a dramatic bit of coast stretching away in both directions until it was lost in a milky haze at the horizon.
We needed to go south but wanted to see a shipwreck marked on the map and drove north for half an hour on an eerily smooth salt road that bobbed over the dunes. We turned left at the point marked on the satnav, but the sand had obscured any trace of a track so we made our own – the four wheel drive struggling to pull us through the deep sand. After a couple of K we stopped on a hard bit of beach (so I could turn around) and got out.
|I am quite excited about being on the Skeleton Coast|
The wind was blowing, the sea was pounding, the sand was almost too bright to look at in the brilliant sunshine.
It was littered with the bones of seals and birds, and near the waters edge, the rusting ironwork of the Winston, a fishing boat that ran aground in 1970.
A little further down the road is Henties Bay, a pastel coloured village by the sea with a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called “Fishy Corner” which promised great things… And it delivered! Inside, it was all fishing nets and white-plank tables with a mounted marlin head on the wall.
The fish was fresh and huge, the beer cold, the waitress jolly. We couldn’t linger though, it was now five and we had an hour left to drive on unlit salt-pan roads in the last of the daylight. Just a few K down the road though we saw a large ship rolling in the surf and pulled off again for a look. It was another fishing boat that ran aground in 2008. We watched it tossed around by the surf as the sun went down.