A couple more interesting landmarks in the southern Namibe area

Welwitschia Mirabilis

It took us many hours to drive the 80 or so kms from Tchitundo-Hulo to the giant Welwitschia Mirabilis, a lot of it on a rough, rocky, bone-jarring single track. The bits that weren’t rocky were sand with ruts, so the whole drive was bumpy. As with a lot of the off-roading we do, we used 4WD for about 1% of it. It’s the ground clearance that’s essential. And time. Gotta take it slow.

We reached the Welwitschia late in the afternoon, with about 30 minutes of daylight remaining, so we camped there the night. Located in a long valley, with lots of other Welwitschias around, the main attraction was by far the biggest we have seen. These strange plants only ever grow 2 leaves, which grow longer and wider over the plant’s lifetime of hundreds or possibly thousands ot years. The leaves trail along the ground and are mainly green, some with red tinges. The ends dry up and eventually fall off.

They flower in spring and we saw dried-up old flowers on some plants. The males have stamens and the females have cones. I tried really hard to find some small, seedling-sized plants, but had no luck.

Arco

The next day, Sunday, we drove back to Namibe, stopping to see Arco – the Arches. We left our campsite near the Welwitschia and drove past a lot more of them on our way back to the highway, and then drove for just a few kms on unsealed road to get to Arco, an impressive set of sandstone arches which are located about 10 minutes’ walk from the carpark. A local man met us at our car and told us the entry price – AKZ 2000 AUD$10 per person for a ‘guided tour’. We paid and joined another group of people being led by another local man. We walked beside a lovely seasonal lake – I’ve since seen photos of the same area with no lake, so I guess it only has water in it during the rainy season. The arches were impressive – at home or in the US they would be in a National Park. We met 3 guys there – they work in the oil industry and live in the capital, Luanda. A Scotsman, an Algerian and a German … sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it? We had a long chat with the Scotsman and he recommended a good camping spot further north at Baia Azul Blue Bay near Benguela, & also told us that Luanda really wasn’t worth visiting. It’s expensive, crowded and just not a must-see place. Which matches up with most of the other things we’ve read and heard about Luanda, so we’re not going there.

Back in Namibe

We had thought about camping at an actual campground Villa Dorotea, just south of Namibe. We went and had a look at it and for someone who wanted to stay in a cabin by the beach it possibly would have been okay, but there was no vehicle access apart from a small carpark at the campground entrance. We parked and had a bit of a look around and realised that vehicles with camper trailers or rooftop tents were actually parked on the other side of the campground’s fence, near a very crowded tent area. To be fair, this was during Carnival – a 5-day long weekend, but we didn’t feel like staying there with lots of other people and overburdened facilities so we headed further down the coast and found our own piece of beach. So far we have spent nothing on accommodation, and in what may be construed as too much information, I haven’t seen a flushing toilet in over a week. Well, there was that one time at the Shoprite complex in Namibe but all 3 of the ladies toilets were broken, so I don’t count that.

We spent most of Monday in Namibe, getting a few things done. We were getting low on clean clothes and with limited access to water, we were happy to get it done at a commercial laundry. The woman who served us didn’t seem all that happy to see us and made a BIG deal out of counting out everything and pretending to look at her itemised list of dry cleaning charges to see how much she could get away with charging us. The boss wandered out from the back and suggested AKZ 4000, we thought AKZ 3000 AUD$15 was reasonable (and had read in iOverlander that someone else had paid that for a load of washing there) and everyone was happy. We went back in the afternoon to collect it and the woman was much happier then. And so were we, with all those clean clothes. And bed linen too! It was wonderful for all of 5 minutes before we brought in sand on our feet.

We’d been having trouble accessing the internet, despite Greg purchasing more data, so we went off in search of a Unitel shop to assist and after one false lead – from the outside the shop appeared to be what we wanted with all the right logos, but in fact was only selling phone cases and accessories – we found the right place on the same road as Greg had bought the inner tubes. Someone there helped him and we were able to catch up on some of what we’d missed and update this blog before we forgot what we’d done.

On Monday night we camped in sand dunes below a mesa north of Namibe, then on Tuesday we found a nice quiet spot between the road and the coast 5kms north of Bentiaba. Someone on iOverlander shared the spot because they had camped on the beach but we thought we’d be better behind the dunes – out of the wind, out of sight and away from fluctuations in tides. We spent 2 nights there and enjoyed it. Got out the insect/shade annex and settled in.

The stone cairn making the turn-off the the giant Welwitschia
Camped at the giant Welwitschia Mirabilis
The Arches south of Namibe
Camped at the beach west of Namibe
Sandstone formations near the Arches
A well balanced rock
Camped off the road north of Namibe
The many, many potholes in good roads throughout Angola.
Camped for 2 nights at Bentiaba near the beach
All 500w of solar panels out on a cloudy day
The Atlantic Ocean and the beach at Bentiaba

 

 

 

Tyres

Throughout our travels, tyre problems have been an intermittent but irritating companion. Something to do with the places we go to and the ways we get there, I guess. We’ve also returned a few rental cars with their batteries in much worse condition than when we first got them, but that’s another story for another time.

In mid-2001, 6 months after we met, Greg and I took a tandem bike to Viet Nam, back in the day when there was one ATM in Hanoi and one KFC in Saigon. We planned to ride from Hanoi to Sapa, but that plan came badly undone when we wrecked the inner tubes we’d brought with us and had loads of trouble finding replacements. Despite that, we had a great trip and … well, we’re still together 18 years later, and still travelling in unorthodox ways to off-the-beaten-track places.

Then there was the time a couple of years later when we drove to Broome via the Tanami Desert with our kids, Greg’s parents and his niece. We had so much trouble with tyres on the Tanami that I bought a new set at Hall’s Creek. They were eye-wateringly expensive but worth it – it was a great trip and when I remember the trip, the last thing I think of is the cost of those tyres which ended up lasting a long time and took us on other camping trips within Australia – Simpson Desert, Innamincka, across the Nullarbor to Esperance & Israelite Bay.

And then more recently there was the Swedish rental car that got a hole in a sidewall of a tyre in Oslo and we just couldn’t find a replacement, so Avis replaced the whole car for us. And the time we ‘did’ 2 tyres within 24 hours in Namibia.

Which brings us to our latest adventure. 4 punctures and 2 blowouts. I’m not even going to add ‘so far’, because I think that’s quite enough. We’ve had to spend a couple of nights pretty much camping wherever we could find to stop because of a puncture. Always in the right rear tyre. We’re using spilt rims and the tyres themselves are all good, it’s the inner tubes that are our problem.

Yesterday was a really trying day. We ended up on the side of the road to Namibe, a sort-of resort town on the west coast, about 10 kms south of where we’d camped the previous night, with our 2nd blown inner tube of the trip and rapidly dwindling options. It happened on a stretch of road where there was barely enough space to pull off, but thank heavens it WAS the right tyre in this country where they drive on the right side of the road. Changing a tyre right beside traffic wizzing past would be deathly.

Part our emergency kit is 2 hazard triangles and I put them out about 50m on either side of Clancy, to warn oncoming traffic. Trucks were decent and slowed down & drove on the other side of the road, most cars didn’t even adjust their speed although a couple did stop and offer to help. A tow truck drove the 50kms out from Namibe to see if we needed his services but we declined with thanks. At that stage we still only had 3 wheels on Clancy, so getting him on the back of the truck would have been tricky. We think someone must have just sent him out ‘on spec’.

We do have 2 spares, but by then we were down to: 2 wrecked inner tubes, one that had been patched and 3 remaining decent tyres. So Greg hopped online and found a really good piece of advice on the Beadell Tours page which suggested using talcum powder between the inner tube and the tyre to stop friction. We have talcum powder because Greg uses it when he makes fibreglass. Definitely worth a try. So, we limped into Namibe doing 40km/hr and with me watching the Tyredog tyre pressure monitor the whole time.

Then how do find a tyre place? We drove around a few streets in the centre of town without success, then Greg had the excellent idea of asking a policeman. There were a few gathered around a modest building which turned out to be the police station. One of them in plain clothes offered to go with Greg to show him where to go, while I waited inside the station. First place had none, but recommended another place where Greg bought the shop’s entire stock of 2 inner tubes.

Greg fixing inner tubes by the side of the road. He tried using a patch from a burst tube … unsuccessfully. Note the rock in the top rhs of the pic, holding the guy rope of the shelter in place.


By this time we’d moved back to a spot just off the road where there was more room to work
Camped south of Caraculco fixing tyres

We’re now heading south-east to Virei to visit Tchitundo-Hulo – petroglyphs and rock paintings. Last night we pulled off the road about 15kms south of Namibe and drove over a sand dune to be partially protected from the impending thunderstorm which hit about 5 minutes after we stopped. Honestly, the best thing about yesterday was standing naked in the rain, washing off the grime of the day

 

Dawn – camped in the Namibe desert south of Caraculo
Judy negotiating to get our Jerry cans filled at the Puma station. Note the Armed guard carrying an AK-47. There were 2 armed guards at all the Puma stations we visited. They were friendly and polite.
Camped again in the Naimbe desert 15km south-west of Naimbe.