“Nicely Bentley”

We’d got some suspension problems and put some requests for advice up onto ‘The HUBB’ and ‘The 4×4 Community’ forums.
It’s fantastic how fast these guys respond with helpful information.
In 24 hours we got a dozen responses, recommending 3 particular mechanics in Swakopmund & Windhoek.
We didn’t want to miss out on more of Damaraland & The Skeleton Coast so decided to head (slowly) for Swakopmund (Namibia’s second biggest town).

Leaving Uis we took a big, circular, wild route across the desert using the D2342, D2309, D2303 and a number of very poor tracks towards The Skeleton Coast.

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Still we see Himba women in small groups or in small communities close to the track.
In the middle of nowhere.

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It’s remarkable how people can live in the heat of the desert and with so little water about.

The landscape is as beautiful as it has been throughout Namibia – but it certainly is remote.

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Most of the tracks are very badly corrugated and do little to help our suspension, which is making more & more noise all the time.
Fortunately after about 110km we reach the fringe of the desert itself and the going gets a little less rough – but more sandy.

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That just leaves us with about 120km of the Namib Desert to cross heading west before we get to the coast road and south to Swakopmund.
We’d certainly rather the suspension didn’t fail here.

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The road (!) is dead straight and dead flat.
Very fine powder on a fairly hard surface so pretty good to drive on – apart from the clouds of fine dust billowing into the car, thrown up by the wheels as we drive.

They say there are only 2 things on earth you can see from the moon:-
1) The Great Wall of China
2) The gaps in a Land Rover’s doors.
I’m sure they’re right about the second one.

There’s little to see in this part of the desert.
The occasional Baboon…

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…and some Welwitschia ‘trees’. These have been protected (as you can see below) because they are unique to this part of the world and are Namibia’s most famous plants…

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Yes, that is a tree.
The Welwitschia date back to prehistoric times and are found only in The Namib Desert.
They grow underground and only have 2 leaves, which split on the surface, drawing their moisture largely from fog.
Young plants are very rare as it’s almost impossible for them to survive. Plants up to 20 years old are no more than 3-5cm tall.
The one in the picture is thought to be about 400 years old but there are others in the Namib Naukluft Park that are estimated at 1,500 years old!

Still, we’ve got more pressing matters to deal with (the suspension sounds like a bag of spanners falling down the stairs).
Back to the desert – only 60km to go to the coast….

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In the world’s oldest desert, as we got within 30km of The Skeleton Coast is was as if someone had installed Aircon in the car without us knowing!

Cold breeze around the ankles – and the shorts.

Bloody marvellous.

Still blistering sunshine, but the air is chilled significantly by The Benguela Current off the coast (the same one that makes the sea too cold to swim in and so dangerous for ships).

This one was wrecked about 12 years ago.

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We were at The Skeleton Coast on a benign, sunny day.
Almost 800km long (heading north to the Angola border) it must be awful when the weather kicks up and the treacherous fogs roll in.

There is nothing there.

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The only thing that keeps people alive around here is the ‘salt road’ (the C34) that runs north to south.
Made of compacted salt and gravel it’s surface is almost as good as tar when it’s dry – but like a skating rink when wet from fog (or the occasional water tanker sent out onto it to it by the local Government to ‘smooth it out’).

We must have arrived about 30 minutes behind one and instantly covered the car from top to bottom with wet, clinging salt. So slippery that we got off the road for a while and drove on ‘the verge’.

By the time we arrived in Swakopmund we sounded like a One-Man-Band on a street corner:
Suspension rattling,
Shock absorbers grinding,
The car bouncing so that the cow-bell fitted on the bull-bar sounded like a herd arriving at milking time.

However 3 days later, thanks to Nico and his team at Vinetta Shell (recommended by the overland forums) new Terrafirma suspension is fitted, oils cleaned, all bolts retightened – and the car is clean (at least the bodywork is!).

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We’ve also had the wheel tracking sorted out and the push-rod ends realigned (but still can’t get the steering wheel straight) by //Chengo the garage’s wheel specialist (and local Cobra collector!). The locals speak with ‘clicks’ in Damaraland and the //C is pronounced like a ‘tock’ sound, or geeing up a horse.

//Chengo told us he thinks the car is a rusty donkey….“Nicely rustley…Nicely bentley” he says.

Yeah, but it’s our donkey.