Namib-Naukluft National Park
This page relates to my first visit to Namibia and covers the journey north from the Desert Homestead, which lies south of Sossusvlei in the Namib-Naukluft Desert, to Swakopmund via Walvis Bay, both of which are on the Skeleton Coast. From Swakopmund we continued north, cutting inland to take in Damaraland and the superb Etosha National Park.
The Sossusvlei section of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, which contains the world`s largest sand dunes and spectacular dried-up lake beds, is a scenic gem and one of the country`s top tourist attractions - my wife and I just wished we`d had more time there to explore the desert region properly.
It`s another long, very dusty drive, mainly on the C19 then C14 via the isolated and aptly named settlement of Solitaire with panoramic views all the way. Animals such as Oryx and Jackals and birds including Ostrich were sighted occasionally, albeit usually at a distance.
The Tropic of Capricorn, the dividing line between the Southern Temperate Zone to the south and the Tropics to the north, is crossed en route.
There weren`t many other vehicles, especially considering this is a main route, but you don`t want to end up behind another one for any length of time, and if you see cars or trucks approaching it`s definitely `Windows up time!`
Although it appears as a large dot on the map, Solitaire consists of just a few buildings and a collection of abandoned and heavily rusted vehicles.
As this information board shows, Solitaire stands on the southern edge of Kuiseb River Basin which is dry for most of the year. The Kuiseb River is approximately 450km in length, flowing from just south of the country`s capital Windhoek to the sea at Walvis Bay, with the basin covering an area of around 21,768 sq km.
Although the light wasn`t at its best when we pit-stopped here around midday, Solitaire`s abandoned and rusting cars make great subjects for photography. This tiny, remote desert settlement provides vital services for anyone travelling on the C14 gravel road between Walvis Bay and the Sesriem area of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, and includes a shop, filling station and tyre repair facility. There`s also a hotel, the Solitaire Country Lodge and an adjacent campsite, but there are other accommodation options in the general area.
The hard-packed road surface has taken its toll on numerous vehicles over the years and this chopper bike and many of the sand-filled, rusting automobiles or tractors here date from the 1950s and `60s. Some appear even older and I thought the subjects were ideal for sepia toning...
And a gallery of vertical sepia images...
The filling station and adjacent tyre repair facility are the only ones of their kind for hundreds of miles. Fortunately we never had a single puncture, despite driving over 3,500km, most of which was on hard-packed gravel roads. Petrol and diesel prices are considerably cheaper than the UK and, considering the large size of our Toyota Hilux 4x4, the consumption was excellent. A full tank gave a range of over 700km.
Further information on Namibia and additional images taken there can be found on Clydeside Images.com. Utilise the blog`s search box or the `Overseas-Namibia` fly-out label on the right-hand side of the blog page. Please bear in mind that my Stock Photography Archive has even more shots taken in Namibia. If you wish to purchase any image(s) please email using the Contact Form and I will respond at the earliest opportunity.
Solitaire`s main claim to fame is Moose McGregor's Desert Bakery. Unfortunately, it must have been the big man`s day off when I called and therefore never got the chance to ask about his possible Scottish ancestry. I did manage to demolish a chunk of his tasty apple pie though!
Please bear in mind that all my images are subject to copyright. They are not free to use and have been embedded with a digital watermark.
North of Solitaire, two dramatic passes across rivers have to be negotiated, the Gaub (above) and the Kuiseb (below). The road through the Kuiseb Pass is quite exciting to drive compared with the long, open stretches of desert previously encountered but I didn`t manage any shots of the best bit! The route winds down to the valley bottom, crosses the riverbed via a small bridge, then climbs steeply with several bends to regain the desert plateau.
The rivers like the Gaub shown below are totally dry for most of the year but can flood spectacularly in rare years of exceptional rainfall.
Below: A scraggy Baboon was sitting beside the bridge at the roadside and ran off as I slowed down for a photo.
Just before entering Walvis Bay a thick pall of distant black smoke turned out to be this double-headed goods train. Nowadays, although there is an extensive network of track connecting most of Namibia's main towns, many of these routes are 'freight only' lines. Passenger trains cover only a relatively small area of the country and the service is slow and infrequent making it impractical for visitors to tour by rail.
The short stretch of road (roughly 30km) between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund is one of the busiest and most dangerous roads in Namibia. Not only are places to pass limited but a high volume of industrial traffic and people in a hurry combine with banks of thick sea fog for much of the year. There is also a high incidence of drunk driving here. Small crosses at the roadside along the route mark the spots where fatal road accidents have occurred and act as a poignant reminder of how hazardous this short journey can be.