Where we had turned right off the main coastal road at mile 108 towards the Messum Crater and had found a spot to sleep, Stefaan had seen a Welwitschia, right there on our doorstep. Welwitschia’s are dinosaur plants that have survived for 1000’s of years and we first saw them when we visited Gavin and Lee in Walvis Bay a few years ago.
So we were quite excited to renew our acquaintance!
After our morning coffee, we started the drive towards Messum Crater. It proved to be a day of contrasts: rocky desert roads, dry and very sandy riverbeds and much to our surprise Welwitschia’s with the thousands!
It was quite amazing to drive through this outstretched rocky landscape and see “nothing”, but when you stop, get out and walk around, the desert shows its secret life with lonesome green shrubs on dry river arteries, pooh-proof of animal life in the desert and waving tufts of grasses sticking out their necks between the rocky surface.
The most interesting statistics of this particular part of our road trip: it would eventually be 63 hours before we would see our first human soul again (actually a car… we didn’t even see the human soul inside the car). Utter solitude, immense expanses and complete silence! Amazing and beautiful! Besides the human souls we saw about 3 pairs of duck, about 4 or so other birds, and a gazillion of bugs living on the Welwitchia’s.
Back to the road trip.
A great part of us getting to the Messum Crater was us having to negotiate thick and loose sand in the very dry Messum River. Trokkie is 4×4 but with only 1 diff-lock and of course she’s heavy: rounded off she’s about 12 ton. That’s a heap more weight to dig into the sand than a normal 4×4 of maybe 3 ton or a smaller expedition vehicle (like Moglet) at half our size! So yes, I’m always apprehensive when we hit soft sand. But we did ok! Stefaan got the hang of it to push the accelerator a bit more when he saw soft sand coming up and we never got stuck!
The river wound its way through sandy patches and rocky moon landscapes. But even on the rocks and hillsides we could see life: the ever intricate patterns and colours of the lichen that get their life sustaining moisture from the fog that drifts in from the ocean!
We eventually entered the penultimate circle of the crater and saw a sign that was so illegible, we ignored it. By now we know the rules of nature and discover it in a responsible way.
To have a better overview of the crater we decided to climb one of the hills. That proved a bit of a challenge because the hill is made of volcanic rock that peels off like onion skin. As you climb you can see the ring patterns in the rock and where the rock bulges out you can peel off the thin layers of the rock.
Seeing that this rock slivers off easily, the climb was a bit treacherous. Add to that, that it was a bit windy, and I had to grab Stefaans hand again to climb the last section. I’m paranoid of being blown off my feet and down the mountain with a strong gust of wind!
We eventually made it to the top, put our own stone on the cairn and just sat and admired this amazing view. If we think that Trokkie is big, just see how she disappears in the landscape! That kinda puts the awesomeness of this landscape in perspective! The realisation that there is really, really, really nobody around for (in our case) 60+ hours makes one feel humbled and small in this overpowering remoteness. All of a sudden our little time on earth feels so insignificant in the greater scheme of this planet.
And even here the rocks were adorned with brilliant orange and muted green lichen, funny plants and mini-trees.
We had seen the centre of the crater from the top of the mountain and decided that would be our night stop. We drove Trokkie to point X on the map and called it a day. We enjoyed our glass of wine in the quietest of quiet surrounded by sand, rock and mountains! All in all… a truly amazing place. We wouldn’t have minded if we could have stayed there another day or two, or three!
We dawdled around the next morning: a bit of cleaning here, a bit of sorting there, a bit of computer time too, but around lunchtime we started packing up. We had made arrangements with Gavin and Lee to meet in Uis and we didn’t want to rush.
We left the crater and skirted it on the south side and then headed back north towards Brandberg. We didn’t do many km that day, because it is just a landscape that invites you all the time to stop, climb out, walk around, look at holes in the ground, look at spoor, look at stones, etc, etc.
When we hit the last straight towards the ‘main’ road that circles Brandberg we decided to stop: there and then in the middle of a 10 lane highway. That’s how things work in the desert: a one car track gets very corrugated… so people start driving in the veld next to the road… until that gets corrugated too… I’m sure you get my drift. Before you know you’ve got ten-lane sand and rock highways in the desert!
So we stopped in the middle of one of those and made camp there, with Brandberg in the far distance. Not often one can sleep in the middle of a ten-lane highway!
When we woke up the next morning and Stefaan had to pack away chairs etc, his shoe prints kinda looked like the first man on the moon… the landscape certainly resembled the image we have of the rocky moon surface!
We covered a few more km of alternating sand and rock, looked for desert inhabitants in the various holes dotting the desert and eventually hit the ‘main’ road around Brandberg. We passed a weird carved rock, more gem stalls and weird cacti that seemed burned.
We eventually arrived at Uis, where we went shopping and booked in at Brandberg camping site and had a braai with our friends when they arrived a bit later.
Although we had initially played with the idea to climb the highest peak in Namibia (Konigstein at Brandberg) we decided against it. Temperature and fitness played a role, but also fees and time: such a hike would take up a few days! The fact that we are in Namibia on a 3-month visa, we thought we might want to experience more than climbing mountains (be it seemingly with a wealth of rock paintings).
We decide to leave Uis the following morning, drive closer to the mountain and see what we would do!
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