Have you ever watched a bird battling its own mirror image? We were leaving Khorixas and headed for the Skeleton Coast when we noticed this on our car's side view mirror. We'd seen this earlier on our trip in Senegal when a Red-billed Hornbill exhibited this identical behavior. I guess any other male bird of the same species looks like a rival. This sparrow must have heaved a sigh of relief when we took off in our car (thereby taking his identical twin rival with us!).
Video : Bird fighting itself
The C35 gravel road from Khorixas to Henties Bay is a long and lonely 230 km stretch. The town of Uis splits it into two halves. The large reddish Brandberge (Burnt Mountain in Afrikaans) appears for much of the drive, first making its appearance in the distance as we approached from the north and staying with us until we dropped altitude dramatically towards the coast. This is Namibia's highest mountain at 2573m above sea level. We opted not to take the detour to see the White Lady Rock Painting and chose to enjoy the monotonous desert scenery. The monotony was occasionally broken by the presence of "graders" - large vehicles levelling the gravel road. These roads tend to form crests and troughs over time. It is a much easier ride to drive on well used paths unless the center mound is so high that it grates the underside of your car.
There is no chance of getting lost on the long stretch to Henties Bay, but we felt the need to have a few more signs posted on the road. It would be reassuring to see periodic signs with reduced distances to one's destination. On this stark and unchanging landscape one could easily be deluded into thinking that one is on an endless drive and stuck permanently in one spot even though one is going at 60 kph. Hours passed with no other car in either direction. Amazingly, we passed a couple of roadside shelters, each shared by a Himba woman and Damara woman in their respective traditional garb. As we approached them, they would wave maniacally at us to stop and look at their handicrafts. We would just respond with a friendly wave and keep on going. They make an unlikely couple (a la lioness and rhinoceros) with starkly contrasting appearances - the Damara woman decked in long, colorful Victorian gowns and distinctive "horns" and the almost naked Himba woman (unless their thick body paint is considered apparel). What would they chat about? And in whose native language? We did feel for them having to wait for hours in the middle of nowhere for the occasional vehicle to come by. The hawkers in the big tourist markets in Morocco or Senegal have it much better. It is a lot easier to harass pedestrian tourists. Those on wheels tend to speed away.
Video: Scenery enroute to Henties Bay
Video: 360 degree view of desert enroute to Henties Bay
The signs eventually came and the road in front of us merged with the blue of the sky in a very mesmerizing optical illusion. The blue of the Atlantic Ocean appeared in the distance as we seemed to be driving straight into the water which just kept receding as we rushed headlong into it leaving just a 100m stretch of gravel road immediately in front. Stick like figures appeared on the horizon to the right and on closer inspection revealed to be humans engaged in some sort of research activity. Due to the optical illusion they seemed to be walking on water. The day had begun with a bird confused by a virtual image and now it was our turn to go through a surreal landscape with images playing tricks on us. Unlike the bird, we kept our composure and drove on purposefully towards our intended destination refusing to let illusions overwhelm us.
Video: Optical illusion approaching Henties Bay
Video: Approaching Henties Bay Junction
The section of coast we had entered is part of the Dorob National Park. The Skeleton Coast term is used to refer to the entire northern coast of Nambia, but technically only the top half is Skeleton Coast National Park. The bottom half is in the Dorob National Park.
Eventually, the road terminated at a T-junction with the north-south coastal road. The town of Henties Bay is a short drive south of this point. The town is a major attraction for anglers looking for a good catch and most businesses in town seemed to cater to this this activity. We did stop for a night to give us some time to visit the Cape Cross Seal Reserve which is a 45 minute drive north up the coast in Dorob National Park. Henties Bay may appear to be a small town with just a couple of main roads, but it had the potential to make tourists lose their way as we discovered the next morning when we left town and headed south towards Swakopmund.
Google Maps Link
Such drives will be long remembered. There must be something to absolute isolation.
Chuckled much at the "don't drive over elephants" and the "Ugab Mall". Your sense of humour is intact even after such a long journey. From , on Mar 23, 2013 at 05:05AM