If you don’t like sand, you’re not going to like Walvis Bay. Just the view from the ship across the town is beige – the whole city is built on sand. The residents must constantly be sweeping up the windblown desert out of their houses.
I joined the “Treasures of the Desert” tour which took us around some amazing Desert scenery, and showed us some unique flora and fauna, that had somehow adapted to the terribly inhospitable conditions of the parched Namib desert. Actually, even though they have less than 20mms of rain a year here, there is some moisture for the plants to live on. In the morning, the desert is cloaked in a thick mist that had blown in from the ocean, mist that the plants were able to harvest for just enough moisture to survive.
So, with the fog rolling in, it was pretty cold first thing in the morning when we got to the tall Dune 7. And, to generate some heat, as I do every time, I attempted to climb to the top. Normally I try a full frontal assault up the steepest section, where the soft sand saps your energy as you take one step forward and one step back. But, after repeated failures on my previous visits, I was told a sneaky way to get round to the top up a ridge without expending too much energy. For the first time I was able to conquer Dune 7 – all those hours in the gym are working.
Next we ventured into the bleak moonscapes of the Namib, and we were pointed out delicate lichen fields which came alive (miraculously turning from black to green) on contact with water. Then we saw the unique welwitschia– a primeval looking plant that looks like a triffid rather than a flower. Patience is a virtue for this slow-growing plant – the ones that we saw were about 600 years old, yet were still considered to be juveniles.
The Namib desert is a place that constantly surprises you with its stark beauty, its crazy rock formations, and the changing colours of the shifting sands. I really wouldn’t like to live in a place like this, but for a couple of days, you can have some unforgettable experiences.