As we journey farther south through Namibia, we cross The Tropic of Capricorn, a latitude about 23 degrees south of and parallel to the equator, at which point the sun sits directly overhead at midday. Little more than an imaginary line signifying the boundary of the tropics, it’s not the line itself that’s cause for excitement, but rather the dramatic shift in setting that this distance brings. Leaving the cool coastal air of Swakopmund behind and travelling once more into the desert, we are met with a beautifully mountainous landscape that is completely unique from anything we’ve seen thus far in Namibia. The sand is packed full of scorpions and snakes; antelope, oryx, and zebra travel from faraway homes in search of water; and thousands of years of geology in action can be observed in the exposed layers of rock. Although the heat seems hardly subtropical, it’s good to be back among mother nature and completely hidden away from civilisation at our little oasis in the desert.
All the details: Tropic of Capricorn & Namib-Naukluft National Park
Cost: Enjoy a guided desert walk in Namib-Naukluft National Park for N$250 per person, learning about the unique landscape and native critters.
Getting there: Both the Tropic of Capricorn and Sossus on Foot are located in the Khomas region of central Namibia, right on the eastern border of Namib-Naukluft National Park. The only way to reach this area is by car (3.5 hours from Windhoek or 2.5 hours from Swakopmund), and the nearest airport is in Walvis Bay (2 hours).
Where to stay: Sossus on Foot Campground offers simple sites for N$120 per night, with access to clean facilities, a small pool, and a bar with cold drinks.
Top tip: Head to the watering hole after dark to watch nearly a hundred wild zebra jostling for a drink!
Waking up in my comfy dorm bed around 8am (have to get the most out of it before we are back in tents tonight and getting up at 5am every day), I enjoy a pretty leisurely pack-up of my things back into my locker on the truck. For breakfast, I have about half of my steak and garlic bread left from last night, and then a bunch of us walk over to the markets to do a bit of souvenir shopping. All I’ve really bought in the last 6 weeks was about a dozen beaded earrings in South Africa (oh, and a pair of beaded bracelets just outside Etosha, but I only because I wanted to take a photo of the beautiful Himba women selling them), so I’m hoping to find some good presents to bring back for friends.
When we arrive, there are only 2 other shoppers there, but the markets are overflowing with wood souvenirs like bowls, salad forks, and little boxes (we apparently can take wood back to Australia if it is properly varnished), stone animals, painted tapestries, woven baskets, bracelets, etc etc. It’s always hard to know in a new country and city how much haggling is appropriate, but I am pleased to find that I can get away with quite a lot. I buy three wooded bowls to take home as gifts, paying only N$150 when the asking price was N$900, and spend the rest of my time at the market trying to bargain over a painted tapestry of the Big 5, getting his price of N$750 down to N$190, although I swear I could have gotten lower with more time (in saying that, it’s always so easy to get caught up in the negotiations and forget that I am arguing over $1, which probably means a lot more to the stall owner than it does to me, so whatever, I am happy with the purchase).
After our shopping, we hustle back to our accommodation, eat a quick sandwich lunch, and then hit the road for our 4.5 hour drive through the Tropic of Capricorn to the desert. On the bus, I do a quick catch up on my blog and then just end up napping as usual, enjoying the still-cool coastal air that likely won’t last long. Sure enough, it’s baking by the time we stop for a photo of the suddenly rocky landscape. The road has narrowed considerably and the truck is now travelling at about 10kph up the hills, plus I can tell from my ear pain that we must have been climbing for a while, so there is great relief when we finally find ourselves back on a more straight highway.
We stop for photos at the Tropic of Capricorn sign, trying to work out which way we would need to walk/swim to get all the way back to Australia, and then climb back into the truck for the remaining ride to our little desert camp. Once again, we are staying incredibly remotely, but I’m happy to sacrifice electricity and other conveniences for views like these. After setting up our camp, we all go for a swim in the bathtub-sized pool and then spend our evening playing cards until Kerri, who previously worked as a guide in Kruger National Park and currently works as a nature guide in Scotland, decides to lead us on a little desert walk. We have just over an hour before dinner, but we climb up a few of the hills to get a view of the mountains and Kerri points out a number of tracks and droppings for us. I can’t say that I’m disappointed not to see a tarantula (after Kerri identified one of the many holes in the ground as a spider hole), but I would have liked to see a scorpion or snake. Still, the frequent zebra and oryx tracks seem promising, so we all make plans to visit the watering hole (if you can call it that, because it’s the size of a sink) after dinner in the hopes of seeing some animals.
We all enjoy a tasty dinner of cottage pie (beef mince with veggies, mashed potatoes, cheese) and then go about our evening routines. I’m feeling incredibly tired, so I settle myself into bed around 9pm, but a large commotion eventually draws me out. There are about 30 zebra all trying to get some action from the puddle of a watering hole, so every few seconds there is a huge shuffling as zebras at the back try to push forward and the ones with their front hooves in the water try to keep the others out of the way. It’s way too dark for me to video, but it’s quite a hilarious watching them stomp and buck around. I will certainly miss waking up to the noise of zebras when I’m home..