Namibia - Naukluft
Sat 20 Sep
A very slow start despite brave bar talk the night before about breakfast at 0700, off by 0800. Instead, by the time I had booked the next night's accommodation and Mike had tried unsuccessfully to book a coach ride, half the morning had gone.
The day's final destination was to be Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast. It would be about a 5 hour drive and to be sure of arriving before nightfall we would have to leave by 2pm at the latest. Even then this would allow no slack for pictures or punctures. To be earlier would be rewarded with a sunset over the Atlantic. To be later would mean driving in the dark with usual African dangers of Kudu crossing, one-eyed lorries, or even people sleeping on the road!
However, our first stop was the Naukluft National Park which offered excellent mountain trails and for day trippers some rock pools an hour or so up the (mostly dry) gorge of the Naukluft river. We discussed the timing with the ranger at the park office. His estimate was consistent if not a little longer than what we had been told, the pools were 1½ - 2 hours up the gorge. It was 1120 which meant we could get there, have the quickest of dips, and return only a little over time.
Knowing time was tight we set off keenly, both fit, both moving fast. Passed some small pools not big enough to swim in and after 45mins as we climbed the side of the gorge a choice of routes, one back down to the "dry" river bed, the other continuing ever upwards. We were too early to be "there" already so we kept going. Fools.
We passed what was to be the last water after 60mins and by 1½ hours there were still no pools. Well the man did say 1½ to 2 and having coming this far… you know how the logic goes (it's like the reluctance to start walking when you've been waiting 30 minutes for a bus). After 1¾ hours I decided that we really shouldn't take any more time - already we would certainly be finishing our drive in darkness. So we turned around and continued to hurry, retracing our steps. Easier said than done as all the markers assumed we were going one way on a 7 hour circuit, to follow the route backwards was a lot more challenging and much less efficient than we'd anticipated.
When we finally got back to the choice of routes, much against my inclination Mike proposed taking a couple of minutes to explore the alternative - of course we found a gorgeous rock pool and even then, much against my inclination, Mike said "we can't come this close without having a quick dip" and proceeded to strip off. Of course I joined him and was jolly glad I did. It was lovely, very cold, but so refreshing after 3 hours of fast paced trail blazing.
We finally drove off at 1520 - having done some excellent hiking and had an all too brief dip in the pools. We tried not to linger on the thought that had we found them earlier we would have had an hour to relax there and would have started our long drive on time. At first the route skirted around the beautiful Naukluft mountains, but then there were long, straight, boring sections through flat scrubby desert. The last hour of sun was unfortunately coming directly through the dirty windscreen and my tired dusty eyes were struggling to look out for the unexpected. However we did see desert squirrel and fox and several antelope. Once the sun had set we still had an hour or so to drive but visibility did get easier, especially when it occurred to me to put the headlights on full beam!
Namibia - Naukluft