Namibia is a long way to travel if you want to start from the Indian Ocean. Two days driving, not all of which was uneventful, and 1667 kilometres from Durban to Keetmanshoop with a short stop in Bloemfontein en route. Clouded skies rapidly made way to limitless blue skies over a burnt horizon. Miles and miles of scrub and dust make for a harsh beauty in the dry landscape.
Finally crossing the border between the Northern Cape Province and southern Namibia we were surprised by the distance between the South African and Namibian border posts. At one point we even wondered whether we had now entered the country illegally. We finally made it through the small buildings that marked our official entry into Namibia and set off across the flatness towards our destination near Keetmanshoop.
One of the first things that strikes you as travel through the Namibia is the emptiness. There are somewhere between 1.7 to 2 million people in the entire country. That is insane. It means there are about 2 people for every square kilometre. This of course means you see a lot of empty roads as you travel. Empty roads, empty hills, emptiness everywhere. It's almost a surprise when you come across another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. We did of course see other vehicles. If you stand still for long enough (for instance while you wait for the radiator to cool down so you can refill it with water, or when you perhaps have to fill the rear diff with oil since it's gushing out the seals), then you will see the odd car sail past.
Despite a few vehicular setbacks we managed to arrive at the Mesosaurus Fossil Site and Quiver Tree Forest with just enough time to charge off to the nearest portion of the Quiver Tree Forest. Overwhelmed is the best word to describe how Nick and I felt as we moved up the hill among the strange looking trees. The otherworldly landscape seems completely improbable. Bizarre looking Quiver Trees jostle for space and clamber over the dolerite rock mounds that litter the ground like some giant child's play blocks. We both came down the hill feeling at a loss. There was just so much to take in that it felt like our images missed the point. This is definitely a place where you need to stand back and take it all in before trying to capture any meaningful images.
After a hurried dinner we managed to get back into the Quiver Tree Forest for a brief spell of star trails and astrophotography. By this stage we were so hammered by the incredible journey that we felt that we were returning to camp far too early from fatigue. Still, I was surprised when I looked at my watch and it showed midnight. We had started at 2:30am the previous morning!
Our second morning seemed as incredible as our arrival. With one small caveat! I was so overwhelmed by the experience I forgot to change my settings back from JPEG to RAW! Absolute fool that I was, I had been shooting in JPEG to create a time-lapse of the moon setting the night before and had forgotten to reset to RAW. Lesson and note to self: Check your settings. It's an easy mistake to make, but not one you want to repeat.
Nick spent much of the morning in Keetmanshoop getting the Land Cruiser sorted out (so hopefully no more unexpected stops) while I started in on processing, sorting out equipment and writing. Then the afternoon arrived with the surprise of a stormy sky. We came to the desert expecting to see only blue skies, but of course we're at the beginning of the rainy season, so the occasional cloud in the sky shouldn't be that out of place. But what a show… Rain came cascading down in the distance in great sheets. Sunlight came pouring in through gaps in the ever shifting and dramatic ceiling of cloud. It all coalesced into a truly spectacular sunset that even threw out a rainbow between some Quiver Trees. At the end of it all Nick and I sat on the tailgate of the Cruiser, each with a Tafel in hand and simply soaked it all in. What an incredible beginning to the journey.
Nick is sharing his images www.facebook.com/tailormadesafaris. On our return from the trip we'll be posting a completed itinerary for next year's Namibia Landscape workshop. Onwards now to Luderitz and Kolmanskop.
To read the second part of the landscape Recce towards the coast read this page: Through the Desert to A Ghost Town - Part 2 of the Namibia Workshop Recce