Moored with Confidence
“Road trip?” Floris proposes. “I would like to see the country, but doubt whether it is safe to leave Luci here,” Ivar answers. “But she won’t be alone,” Floris counters. “Andy is here!”. Andy has a boat in the bay and is in charge of the mooring buoys. “Your mooring is certified for ships up to 75 tons!”, he says when we ask him about the risks of leaving Luci alone. “And it is autumn now. In the summer the wind regularly blows 50 knots here but now it is much calmer.” His explanation and promise to keep an eye on Luci reassure Ivar. We rent a car, borrow camping gear from our new Kelp Blue friend Okke, and soon depart for an inland trip. “To the desert!” Floris exclaims.
Switching Sea for Sand
It turns out the desert starts where Lüderitz ends. Within five minutes of our departure, we are surrounded by nothing but sand. Only the road is black asphalt, the rest is a mixture of yellow, brown, and red. We can’t take our eyes off the endless sand plains and dunes that engulf us, while we zoom along at 50 knots. The speed drastically drops after our first intersection, from where on the road, too, is made of sand. For hours, we drive through the vast landscape without seeing anyone else. We regularly stop to take pictures of fascinating vistas, before we set up camp.
The spectacular sand dunes of Sossusvlei prove to be particularly photogenic. A river once flowed here but when it became drier, the sand dunes took over the area. We can’t resist climbing one, which is easier said than done. With every step we sink into the loose sand and due to the heat, we out-sweat our water supply. Yet we persevere. Exhausted, we reach the top, where the reward awaits. As we pant, our fatigue quickly makes way for amazement at the gigantic dimensions and artistic shapes of the dune tops.
Besides sand, we also encounter wild animals. Long, straight horns make Namibia’s national symbol, the oryx, easy to discern. The agile springbok, with its characteristic jump, also regularly passes by. While picnicking along the road, a curious jackal comes to investigate. We are amazed at how well these animals are adapted to desert life. There hardly seems to be water. Even the Fish River, responsible for carving out a huge canyon, does not carry much of it. Yet there are oases, such as the Orange River on the border with South Africa and the Waterberg. This large rock massif retains moisture so well that water seeps out of it all year round. The immediate surroundings are bright green, which attracts countless birds, large grazers, and the illustrious leopard.
Where Does the Water Come From?
Namibia is almost 20 times larger than the Netherlands but has only 2.6 million inhabitants. Indigenous peoples, such as the nomadic San, lived here thousands of years before European settlers arrived. They made petroglyphs of their prey animals, which we can still admire today. During the rainy season they also filled empty ostrich eggs with water and hid them to get through the dry periods. At one of our campsites, a local guide explains that the San’s way of life is no longer possible today: climate breakdown has made it too dry.
Modern Namibians pump groundwater, but the use far exceeds the rate at which scarce rain can replenish it. Is the desert going to beat humans in the long run? In the abandoned mining village of Kolmannskuppe we see how sand can swiftly take over an entire town. “Still, I do see opportunities for a sustainable future in Namibia,” Ivar says. “There is so much sun and space. You can harvest solar energy here, which you can also use to turn seawater into fresh water. Just like our watermaker on board!”