I have received these last days two surprising emails from people who have found my blog, illustrating the magic of the internet. First, from Eric, who grew up in Cameroon, near Ebolowa and the road checkpoint where Cyril and I stopped to buy bananas and sugarcane. He even recognized one kid on a photo. I guess there are not many pictures on the internet of most of the places I traveled through.
The second email is hardly believable. In February, I left Quibaxe, a small mountain town in Angola, with a deflating tire. I stopped in a tiny village to change the unreliable Chinese inner tube. I went into the ruins of a house to unpack and repair, protected from the harsh sun. I had put online a photo of my bicycle upside down and the dilapidated house. Lately, Luis emailed me saying that his wife’s family grew up in that very same house. The world and the internet are big, yet this connection happened. His wife’s grandfather had moved to Portuguese Angola to grow coffee, and he built the church of another photo of mine.
The network is excellent in Namibia, I can get MTC’s internet almost everywhere. Showers in campsite are always warm; it is incredible how the living and touring standard made a huge stride forward when crossing from Angola to Namibia.
From Outjo to Khorixas, I could follow the straightforward but boring 130 km tar road, or take a parallel gravel road through the Ugab terraces and the Vingerklip. Of course, I pick the latter.
The first 20 kilometers on the tar are very fast until the turn to D2752 for Vingerklip. The more digits a road has, the smaller it is and the more scenic it may be.
There are only large farms and game ranches on this road. I disturb gemsboks (oryx) only.
There is a farm every 10 kilometers, so the population density is way below the national average of 2.5 /km2, yet the network coverage is excellent.
This place is called the Ugab terrace, after the name of the Ugab river, flowing mostly underground for 500 km. It is an ephemeral river taking the water from the Etosha pan to the Atlantic ocean. I’ve never seen water in it, but animals can find pools and I heard there are some springs around. It still looks very dry to me.
All these farm names, Eendrag, Nuremberg, Moselle, can be found on the map of Namibia I was talking about earlier, along the Ugab river.
After opening and closing the gates of all the farms than span on the D2712, I finally reach Vingerklip, the rock finger, with the sunset. It feels like a canyon; Damaraland is a dry and hostile region but truly a beautiful place.
At Vingerklip, in the middle of nowhere, there is a luxury lodge. It still hard to believe that I’m in Africa, when I find water / electricity / restaurants / tourists after 100 km of gravel road, but Namibia is like that.
The point I like about (luxury) lodges in Namibia is that they often have a campsite, so it’s possible to have a warm shower and recharge my batteries where I least expect it. Unfortunately, the Vingerklip lodge has no campsite. There is one 10 km away, but it’s too late and I’m tired enough. The owners allow me to camp within the boundaries of the lodge, away from the luxury. It means that I will sleep within a game reserve, with kudus, gemsboks, warthogs, and (hopefully not curious) baboons.
I clear a piece of land from the thorns so that I can set up my tent, seal tightly all my bags, and hope I won’t receive a visit.
Actually, around midnight, someone is looking for something around my tent. It’s not recommended to wander out in the wild (safer not to let predators know that there is fresh meat in the tent), but since there’s supposedly only game around, I try to scare off the disturbance. I don’t see which animal it was, maybe a wild pig.
This part of Damaraland is nice for the steep inselbergs standing out of the lowered adjacent surrounding landscape. After treating myself for the day at the luxury buffet breakfast (can you eat that much at breakfast so that you’re not hungry until dinner?), it’s time for the exploration of these cliffs around the Vingerklip.
The lodge has built a restaurant and a luxury villa on the top of this cliff. A 15 min hike is necessary to reach it, via a long staircase.
The Vingerklip (rock finger) attraction is not as impressive as the now collapsed Mukurob (finger of God) in Southern Namibia, but it illustrates how the extreme erosion is shaping Damaraland. The 35 meter high Vingerklip is made of the 100 m thick layer of sediments deposed by the Ugab river more than 2 million years ago.
The gravel road from Vingerklip back to Khorixas is tough. I’m suffering from the heat and the flies. On the way, there are what people call “Black communities” instead of White farmers. It seems that while White farmers tend to live alone and far from the main road, in nicely equipped houses, the Blacks live in groups and closer to the main road with the cattle roaming around numerous car wrecks. That’s much better for me as I can get water!
Sadly, the taps plugged to the tanks deliver too much green algae alongside with the water. The tanks are probably dirty and a perfect bacteria culture, so I skip water for now.
I met a couple of cyclists and we agreed: the flies are the most annoying things in Namibia. I will have some twenty flies most of the time, sticking to my head and trying to enter my ears, nostrils and eyes. They make my breaks very unpleasant and will never leave me alone, no matter how fast I pedal.
I reach Khorixas on a Saturday afternoon, and except for supermarkets in larger cities, everything shuts down in Namibia from Satuday noon until Monday morning. It’s bad luck, as going further west, Khorixas is the last town for a while. The campsite allows me to watch the Champion’s League final game, Atletico-Real.
From Khorixas, I will go deeper into stunning Damaraland with Twyfelfontein …