After a very nice meeting in Swapkopmund with friends who live in Windhoek for several months of the year and who have traveled a lot with jeeps and their ultra-light plane throughout southern Africa, we head north to the Skeleton Coast. The shipwrecks as well as the seals at Cape Cross are still there and seem to have become rather more than less, compared to our last visit in the region 6.5 years ago. One estimates 60,000-100,000 seals on this small peninsula. This time, however, we do not want to enter the Sceletton N.P. itself but want to drive along the adventurous riverbed of the Ugab Rivier (dry riverbed) to the east towards the Brandberg massif and the Messum crater.
Initially, the Ugab Rivier is easy to navigate: soft sand only in a few places, hardly any muddy spots, so we make reasonable progress on the first 40 km (out of a total of almost 70 km). We see a lot of elephant dung and lion traces, maybe we still see a few large animals? But then the tree population is getting denser and the track finally is so narrow that even cutting branches with our tools is not helping any more. In addition, dark storm clouds build up over the Brandberg mountain massif, so we unwillingly decide to turn around and drive back to a section where we can exit the River bed. Turning around in such a situation is not usually our cup of tea, but it does not make sense to get stuck in a river bed, which can quickly turn into a raging torrent due to thunderstorm rain. We find a beautiful, stormproof place on a plateau with a view of the foggy skeleton coast below us. Of course, the storm is soon over again.
The slopes to the Messum crater are very bumpy and our new cab suspension (coil springs instead of air suspension for better off-road performance) squeaks more and more, although we have tried several times in the last few days with cleaning, greasing, etc.
The Messum crater itself is huge with a diameter of almost 25 km and is one of the few drivable craters of a former volcano …. At first, we do not realize that we are already in the crater. The scenery with its absolute solitude is fascinating.
On the way forward, with the support of a few locals, we readjust our cab suspension in the hope that the squeak will disappear. Unfortunately, as we will learn several times in the future, they want to be royally paid for this small help, according to the motto “the whites have sufficient money and are a good milking cow”. We give an adequate amount and drive away leaving some screaming guys behind us.
After we have completely circumnavigated the Brandberg massif, have driven along beautiful mountains and, with the organ pipes, the burnt mountain and the petrified forest, also have visited some classic tourist attractions, we head to the Desolation Valley on the Huab Rivier.
The valley is considered very difficult to reach and is very lonely and not mentioned in relevant travel guides … that is very appealing to us. As the driveway gets more rocky and the track gets narrower, we want to avoid further hardship for Shujaa: we’re looking for a nice spot for the night and want to get Shujoo – our quad – out of the garage and drive the last 30 km to the Desolation Valley with our extremely capable off-road “second car”. Unfortunately, we have to realize that the extreme shaking tracks of the last days have loosened one screw of our hydraulic spare tire lift and we have lost all the hydraulic oil …. We cannot let the lift down and therefore we cannot get to the quad (fortunately, the additionally built-in manual lift operation is working but we do not wind down and up again the entire lift manually). Great frustration, especially because we are in the middle of the loneliness and the next place with possible hydraulic oil is over 100 km away. After driving 200 km back and forth the next day we got the hydraulic oil in Khorixas – again for a very steep price. We are looking forward to drive with Shujoo to Desolation Valley from the same pitch as two nights before. However, Shujoo does not start … even after the battery is fully charged all night on the battery charger. The starter makes no noise at all. After finding out that the starter fuse is broken, for whatever reason, we finally set off … and Karin and I are very proud of my improving diagnosis and repair skills. Growing from a small base, but at least. The Desolation Valley itself is awesome: we see a lot of lion and elephant tracks, which is quite a special experience from an unprotected small quad (see also Karin’s blog), and the scenery is stunning. Our challenges in getting Shujoo out of the quad garage has clearly paid off.