Saturday, 29 August 2009

Namibia, Swakopmund, The Welwitschia Plains.

As we drove out of Swakopmund and towards the Namib Desert, we drove passed an old Steam Train named ‘ Martin Luther’. 5 minutes past this point the Fog cleared and we were in the bright sunshine again
We had picked an entry permit and a brochure outlining the drive from the Ministry of Environment & Tourism office in Swakopmund. The brochure outlined a drive called 'The Weleitschia Plains –A Scenic Drive’. The brochure its self looks very old and I have basically copied it onto the blog in case it goes out of print and you want to do this drive. For some reason I did not take many photos, and apologise for this!!
The round trip by car takes approximately four hours, allowing you to get out at each of the numbered beacons , there are 13, and explore the area with the help of the brochure. The required permit, which allows entrance to the park as a whole is obtainable from the offices (as mentioned above) in Swakopmund. (There are not any gates or guards to check you in and out). A camping permit is required if you wish to camp.
1. No Photo. At first glance it would seem that the Namib desert is a dry and barren region. But if you look closely the ground is covered in stones and lichens. The lichens depend on the fog and mist for there survival. Unfortunately the lichens were all gone, or dead, but I had seen the BBC wildlife programme 'The Private Life of Plants', this was where it was filmed, (was that why the plants were all gone?) so understood what the brochure was alluding to.
2. No Photo. The Dollar bush this is one of two types of bush drought resistant bushes found all over the Namib. The dollar bush, so called because its leaves are the size of a dollar coin, and the ink bush. Both can survive without rain for years.
3 No Photo. Tracks of ox-wagons Although made decades ago, these are still visible here, showing clearly the damage that can so easily be done to the lichen fields by driving over them.
Some photos can bee seen on this link
4. The moonscape This is an unusual and spectacular view, usually called the moonscape, looking over a landscape formed by the Swakop River. It is best seen in the slanting light of early morning or late afternoon. It really did look like a moon scape!
5. In the background is Rossing Mountain. On the ground, more lichen fields, this time they were here. These remarkable plants can extract all their moisture requirements from the air. To simulate the dramatic effect that a morning fog can have, simply sprinkle a little water on one and watch carefully for a few minutes.
6 This is another impressive view of the endless moonscape.
7 Old South African camp. 'It comes as a surprise to find remnants of human sojourn in this desolate landscape. On this spot South African Troops made camp for a few days in 1915, during World War I. Along with broken bottles and rusty cans, one can also see the tracks of an early form of tracked vehicle.'
9 A dolerite dyke These dark strips of rock, which are a common feature of this part of the Namib, were formed when molten lava welled up through cracks in the existing grey granite. After cooling it formed dark, hard bands of rock which resisted erosion more than the granite – and thus has formed the spine of many ridges in the area.
10.The Swakop River Valley. Compared to the desert plains this riverbed has lush vegetation. It It includes wild tamarisk (Tamarix usurious), and anaboom (Acacia albida), better known for its occurrence in the humid Zambezi valley almost 1,000 miles east – sustained by underground water percolating through the sands beneath your feet. You can Picnic and camp here, but you must book first with the office in Swakopmund. It was very isolated.
11 Welwitschia Flats This barren, open expanse of gravel and sand is home to the Namib's most celebrated plants, the endemic Welwitschia mirabilis. These plants are unique to the Namib, and at just a few locations which suit their highly adapted biology.It is in face a coniferous dwarf tree and is related to the pine tree.
12 The big welwitschia. This is a splendid example of Welwitschia. One of the largest Welwitschia mirabilis known – estimated at over 1,500 years old. This beacon marks the end of the trail. But then we saw another beacon on the road.
13 Old mine workings On the way back to Swakopmund, continue straight past beacon 8, without turning right. Where the road joins route C28 to Swakopmund, marked by this final beacon, is that of the abandoned Von Stryk Mine. This small, hand excavated iron ore mine was worked during the 1950s, but was not economically viable. The mine is still privately owned. Now it is just another reminder of the park's chequered past.
The drive was interesting, and with out the printed brochure I don't think we would have stopped to look at the small things. The Lonely Planet does outline the drive in the 'Botswana & Namibia Book', but it would be more difficult to follow than it was with the brochure.
Back in Swakopmund, it was time to eat. We walked through the thick, cold and damp fog to 'The Tug'. This is in a beached tugboat near the jetty. We had not booked, but that was not a problem, I tucked into a 'Surf, small Turf', it was a massive Lobster, with a small fillet steak, and it was delicious. I also enjoyed the patio heater that kept me warm, it is the first (and last) time I have seen a patio heater used inside a building!