Kayaking with Seals

The change from the desert to the coast was dramatic. We had awoken to a bright warm morning in the desert and when we left for the 35km drive to the coast it had been a warm 22 degrees. As we neared the coast though we went over a small ridge and within about a kilometre the temperature had dropped to 9 degrees. Another kilometre further on and we were enveloped in a thick fog.
The cold Benguela current pushes up the side of the Namibian coast and when the cold air that accompanies it meets the warm desert air fog forms. This fog provides much needed moisture to the area near the coast and some insects are specially adapted to use the fog as their water source. It also makes the coastline especially treacherous for ships and there are many wrecks along the coast which is why it is called the Skeleton Coast.
Slowly making our way through the fog we arrived in Swakopmund. This is known as Namibia’s seaside resort but felt a bit like a cold day at Redcar (the nearest seaside town to my home town in the North East of England) when we arrived. The town has retained its German heritage as can be seen from the buildings and German is still widely spoken in town. In fact when we went to buy Lucy some more reading books for school initially all we could find were books in German.
On our first day the fog did not clear until after 1pm and on one day it did not clear at all. Swakopmund was the only major town (30,000 people) we were likely to go through in several months of travel so we went shopping for things we would need. Unfortunately we could not find new hiking shoes for Alisha. Her feet are just growing so fast at the moment.
We also passed our time visiting the snake farm and the aquarium and strolling along the promenade which was pleasant once the sun came out. There was also a proper Indian restaurant so we treated ourselves to a lovely curry one night.

 
The real reason we had come to the coast though was to go kayaking with seals. We had been recommended this by our friends the Tucks who we had caught up with in England. It was an early start so was foggy when we set off down to Walvis Bay. And the fog hardly cleared all morning so much of the bird life we passed, including loads of flamingoes, was shrouded in mist.

   

  
Alisha wanted to write the blog for our kayaking experience with seals and this was what she wrote:

“We got into our kayaks and paddled off. Lucy was too young to have a paddle of her own so Daddy had to do all the paddling for her. The seals were so playful. They kept on trying to steal the paddles and eat mummy’s Go Pro. Mummy has lots of video of seal’s tonsils as they were trying to play with it. I don’t know what they thought it was, maybe some sort of silver new toy to play with.
There was a seal who kept trying to bite my paddle upside down and one seal even tried to take my paddle by the handle. He reared up out of the water and took it just next to the end bit but it was slippery and he lost his grip. Sometimes they were on top of each other just to try and grab my paddle. They were a bit like friendly puppies and sometimes they were a bit naughty. Like puppies they put new things in their mouths to find out what they were.
We were out for two hours and when we got back we had a picnic. Our guide, Craig had got both me and Lucy each a box of smarties but when we opened them they had millions of ants in them. I got rid of them and we both ate all of our smarties.  
Afterwards we went for a walk and we found lots of jellyfish and some pretty shells”

   

  

   All in all it was an excellent trip and despite the weather we all enjoyed it. Before heading north we had to take the opportunity again to grab fish and chips. It will be a long time until we see the ocean again.
Heading north we had hoped to camp on the beach but the fog still had not cleared and the beach did not look too appealing so we headed into Henties Bay. There was not much there but we did finally manage to get the truck washed getting rid of the mud from when we got stuck in South Africa over a month ago. Mind you as we are driving on gravel roads within an hour there was dust all over the truck and you would never guess it had just been washed.
As soon as we headed inland the next morning the fog disappeared and it started to become warm and then hot. Jutting up from the desert floor is a large rocky set of mountains known as Spitzkoppe and it was here that we camped for the night. As the sun went down and it cooled it was lovely to climb up on the rocks and watch them change colours in the fading light.

   
  

  
The next day we were on the road again. A short way into the drive one of our rattles became more persistent. Fortunately we had heard this before and knew what it was. The front disc brake cover had broken again (that’s twice it has happened on both wheels). This was not really a big problem as we knew it could be re welded. The only issue was we needed to take the front wheel off to remove the cover. We pulled in to the town of Uis and found a “mechanic”. He was very busy but said if we took the wheel of he would weld it so it was down to Gilly and I to remove the 120kg wheel in the midday sun and to put it back on. After a couple of hours everything was fixed and we were back on our way again to another mountain outcrop in the desert.
Brandberg is the highest mountain in Namibia but it is also famous for a bushmans painting “the white lady” that is about 6000 years old. The next morning we set off with a guide to see the paintings. It was a 2 hour round trip. The “white lady” is not actually a picture of a lady but of a man probably a medicine man. It was a pleasant enough trip but was getting hot so we headed to find a campsite.

   
  
We had camped at Abu Huab when we first visited Namibia 18 years ago. Back then it was a small community campsite. Since then there are a lot more tourists in the area and things have become much more commercialised. Costs have gone up but not necessarily the quality of facilities.
While we were there we met our first other Overlanders since we had arrived in Africa. There was a French family travelling with their two children aged 10 and 8 in a truck similar to ours. Immediately the kids were off together and we let them stay up late so they could play together while we chatted. Unfortunately we were heading in separate directions the next day as they had their grandparents with them so needed to head back to Windhoek. However we will be following a similar route for part of our trip around Africa so hopefully we will meet them again.

   

After saying our goodbyes the next morning we headed to see the rock engravings at the World Heritage sight at Twyfelfontein. Here on our guided walk we saw lots of animal engravings that were 2,000 to 6,000 years old. Our favourite was the one of the lion with the long tail.

   

We did not want to drive too far as it was getting hot after our walk but thought we would find a different campsite. The one we found was much cheaper but had similar bush facilities. This meant the shower was enjoyed Al fresco but was very welcome at the end of a hot afternoon. We had hoped while we were on the area we would see some of the famous desert elephants that roam in the area freely. They must have been around as we saw footprints and dung but we were not fortunate to see any. We did see some giraffe roaming by the road though on one of our drives.

    

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