With the Fish River Canyon behind us, we drove southwards down to the Orange River.
For a while, the landscape opened up with a road that went mostly straight, that cut through the desert, running parallel to Ai Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier park. We briefly stopped for a puncture, then continued west along the river on the C13 road to Aus. The trip took us less time than expected. It takes around 5 hours from Ai Ais Hotsprings to Aus with plenty of photo stops and a picnic too. As we had not booked any accommodation, our plan was to reach our destination by mid afternoon. We hoped that by doing this, we’d have ample time to make plan B, should the intended campsite be fully booked. Reaching our destination at mid afternoon would also allow us time to set up camp, start a fire and be well prepared for a spectacular desert sunset. Our plan was to stay at Klein Aus Vista, close to the wild desert horses and to Kolmanskop Ghost Town.
We motored on down the road with the harsh mid-morning light and heat beating down onto the slopes, leaving nothing to imagination. Even the quiver trees seemed to wilt in the full sun. I couldn’t imagine how anything survives in a place like this where during the summer months, temperatures reach the 50’s. This road was not nearly as busy as the C37 road which takes motorists from South Africa to the popular bucket list destination, the Fish River Canyon. For a while, I’d been thinking our ‘unique’ route was not so unique after all! Now, no-one followed us! Not a dust cloud in sight. The views of the river were ours only. Or have we missed something?
We stopped here for a bite to eat. We had our usual: luke warm tinned tuna, pickles, cheese, olives and some Provita biscuits. And a few bottles of luke warm water. We had no fridge on this trip and so we’d have to make do with our cooler box! Testing in a valley like this! Though the positive with this is that the kids will never complain about my home cooking again. Tinned tuna no longer features on my grocery shopping list either!
I get it now. The reason why we had this road to ourselves is because people do not travel this route midday. It’s simply too harsh. As a photographer, I know how the late afternoon light can transform a landscape dramatically. This route, no doubt is spectacular in the late afternoon or early morning, when the rusty red colours of the mountains come alive. Though don’t get me wrong. It’s beautiful in midday too. The lush green grass thriving on the river banks and the slow-swirling torrent of water is an endless temptation. Instead we turned the aircon up a notch and continued on our journey. Maybe we should have stopped somewhere here for a night of camping on the river bank, but since we’d only been travelling for a couple hours, we felt it was too soon to stop. Also, be mindful of the diamond zones. They don’t particularly like tourists stopping to dig for diamonds in the marked mining zones. There are plenty of big warning signs telling you stay in your vehicle and to leave their shiny stones alone! I think it’s Debeers who own most of Southern Namibia. At the end of this road, near the Sendelingsdrif border post, there is also a check point which they take quite seriously!
We pressed on – soon breaking through the towering sun-baked mountains, feeling a little relieved to be out in the open again. We stopped at the mining town Rosh Pinah for an ice-cream, filled up with fuel and then continued on the C13 to Aus. We had a couple hundred kilometres of straight road to go until we’d get to Klein Aus Vista. Plenty of time on our hands, we thought. It was only 1pm.
We got to Klein Aus Vista. We thought it would be a great spot to base ourselves for a few nights. From here we’d explore Kolmanskop, (Ghost Town) watch the wild horses and eat fish n chips at Luderitz. But when we got there – kids ecstatic to be out of the car and already proclaiming rights to be the first one to do ‘this and that’ – we were told that the earliest booking we could get is in two weeks time. Aaaah. We were a fair bit disappointed, I wont lie. We’d also read how Luderitz is the last place on earth you should camp as the wind howls day and night. But we had no choice. It was now 3:30 and Ludertiz was our final destination. Another 1 and half hours to go.
The Aus area is quite spectacular in the late afternoon…though most places are in Namibia! But here is where the red dunes make their first appearance. Not great big dunes, but a hint of orange sand here and there, with a few rocky outcrops to break the landscape and lucky for us, due to the recent winter rain, an explosion of purple and yellow daisies.
As we drew closer to Luderitz, so the landscape changed and sand dunes rolled in. We saw our first abandoned building standing lonely on a hill. The grass and daisies disappeared, brown hyena road signs replaced wild horse signs, and once again, Namibia changed.
We arrived at Luderitz soon after, booking in at the Shark Island Campsite. There is also self catering accommodation in the light house here, though I suspect it’s a place that one needs to book in advance! We pitched out tents, bought ourselves some fish n chips and settled on a great big rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We got our sunset alright. And best of all, there was no wind for the entire 2 days that we were here. We had perfect camping conditions, for Luderitz especially. The calm before a storm maybe?