We come up on Hentiesbaii and start to spot the first houses we’ve seen in hundreds of kilometers. Seems like a harsh environment to live in. Water collectors on the roofs. There isn’t much action around these places, wonder if they’re even occupied.
The concentration of houses gets thicker and there are more vehicles about. Hentiesbaii proves to be larger than expected. Well… it’s still basically a crossroads town but we are waaaay out in the middle of nowhere. I think this is the main gateway to most of the Skeleton Coast park. Oh actually there’s a Tourist Info building here, let’s go check it out.
The building looks new. We park up and walk in. “Hello?” a hippy looking girl pokes her head around, “Oh hello! We don’t see people like you coming in here, brightening our place with your bright colors and angelic look”, “Well there’s a greeting and a half. Thanks”, “Accents too. You guys far away from home?”, “Yeah we took a wrong turn.”
The girl shows us a map of the area. There’s a game reserve but it’s closed right now. There’s a tin mine. There’s a lake with a super high concentration of salt that you can float on. A bunch of seals on the coast. Random other tidbits to stop at.
“What about camps? Will probably be dark by the time we get anywhere”, “With that truck you can camp anywhere”, “Oh yeah, I suppose that was the whole point”, “Just be careful. Don’t wander after dark. Lots of animals about.”
Front page news in the Swakopmund area
Ok, we’ve got a loose idea of the area. We decide to just get going and figure it all out on the way. We thank her and take off. Better fill up first. We pull into a station for gas. Mark and I are scouting ahead on maps.me and google maps to get a more concrete plan, “Wait, there’s something called Ugab Save the Rhino Trust Camp here”, “Yeah, I’m seeing that too”, Mark turns into an 8 year old boy, “Do you think we could see rhinos?”, “Maybe. That would be awesome”, “Well fuck, let’s go back and ask the girl”, “Yep.”
We fill up and backtrack to the Tourist Info place. “Oh the angels are back!”, “We noticed this Ugab rhino camp on the map”, “Oh yes, that would be a good place”, “Are there rhinos?”, “Yes sometimes there are. I’m not sure about right now. I’ll call them.” She calls the camp but there’s no answer. “You can just go up there and camp anywhere you want though. Just be careful. Find a safe place to camp. Be safe.”, “Great! We will, thanks!”
We walk out and Peter quietly says, “She seems more than a little worried”, “Yeah. Should be fun.”
Peter and I go into a hardware-looking store to find a machete. There’s gotta be a machete and an axe around here somewhere. Sweet, they have a machete! No luck on the axe though. The guy in the store asks what we’re looking for and we tell him. He scratches his chin and then just says to follow him. He leaves his own store and walks us to another place. That’s nice of him.
We go find the section with blades but all of the axes are blunt. The guy in front gives us directions to another place. No dice there either. Well fuck. Now we’re just wasting daylight wandering around every store in town looking for shit. Screw it let’s just get back to the truck.
We make a machete sheath out of beer boxes and duct tape and stash it in the back. The guy from the hardware store that walked us around suddenly comes out smiling and presenting a nice new axe. Now Peter turns into an 8 year old boy. He rushes out to meet the guy and they’re both chuckling in goofy victory like they’ve won the fucking lotto. He runs in to pay for it and comes back out with a fools grin, practicing his axe chops, Ha He-ay!
We might see a rhino, we’ve got a new axe, everyone is happy.
The hardware guy gives us directions to one last store to hit to potentially pick up a spotlight and a sharpener for the machete. We get over there and of course it is by far the best shop in the whole town and we should have just come here first. But how are you supposed to know this shit. We find a spotlight with a red filter that we can use to spot animals at night. We get a knife sharpener too. Peter also finds a safari hat. Between that and the axe he’s pretty darn excited.
Ok ok, enough with the shopping montage, let’s get the hell out of here.
To get to the Rhino Camp it looks like we can go up the Skeleton Coast passed Cape Cross, where Hippy Info Girl said there were a bunch of seals, and then turn North East along a road. It’s a ‘D’ road so probably not great, but we’ll see (we’ve figured out that the roads are ranked A to D based on condition. Also, there are actually no A roads).
We get back to the C-34 North and cross the Omaruru river. Beside the road there are tables set up full of pink crystals. Maybe quartz? They’re all abandoned with cash boxes on them. Deserted vendors. A ways up we pass some more. Then more. “What’s the deal?”, “Maybe honor system? or some elaborate trap?”
We can spot the point of land that is Cape Cross before getting to it. We take the side road down to a little hut. Oh shit, the place closes in 20 minutes! Always a race. I hop out and run in with our Nambucks to a girl reading a book with her feet up. “It’s closing soon”, “Can we get there in time?”, she just shrugs and takes my money. Ok fuck it. I run back out and jump in the truck, “Seals, let’s go!”
We crank it down to the cape. Wow that’s a lot of seals! We hop out and there are seals as far as you can see.
The sounds they make are hilarious. They sound like cows. Some giggle. Some sound like Jabba the Hut. Some sound like maniacal laughter. Or a stream of ‘A-a-a-a-a’. The variety of sounds is great. Sometimes it sounds like they’re talking to each other. They’re feisty too. Some of them will charge you when you get close. Like this guy, he’s not having it. “Ok bud, ok. Moving along”
I had to get a vid of the Jabba the Hut sounding guy
So cute. This is amazing. A shit ton of seals just laying in the sun. Babies nursing feet away from us. Super protective mothers putting themselves between us and the little ones, honking at us. We try to be respectful and not freak any out
“So, we going clubbing tonight?”, “Gaaaaaah, it was only a matter of time”, “I had too”, “Oh, I know.”
Well Cape Cross is adorable and all but this place is closing soon and the sun is gong on down. We’d better try to get to that Rhino Camp before dark.