Day 14: Spitzkoppe

Trip Start Apr 15, 2009
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Trip End May 15, 2009


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Saturday, May 2, 2009

As things are moving rapidly, I'll have to recall the pledge I've made in my previous post of talking a little more about Swakopmund and move on to our next stop on the road to Botswana: Spitzkoppe .

Spitzkoppe is a group of mountains that spring out of the surrounding flat landscape almost from nowhere - some like to compare it to the Matterhorn/Cervino at the border between Switzerland and Italy - pushed off the ground during the formation of this area millions of years ago.

Visible from miles, its unique majesty is a spectacular sight, both when you approach it and when you finally set camp among the incredible rock formations, overhangings, and slopes that characterise it so beautifully*. At sunset, the sun flushes the rocks with a flaming red light, after dancing the whole day behind ridges and boulders, appearing and then disappearing through innumerable cracks. Finally, the very last rays of light coming from the west are pure delight when for a fleeting moment they caress the very summit of the mountain, before being swallowed up by the impending dusk. See some pictures here .

Claire and I arrived yesterday, so early in the morning the campsite office wasn't even open yet. The day before, we had driven along the coast from Swakopmund to Henties Bay, and then inland along the D1918** until before sunset, but thinking we were still a fair distance from our destination, we decided to stop near another group of mountains, sometimes known as Klein (little in German) Spitzkoppe. Woke up at sunrise, had a quick breakfast, and passed the gates of the community-run Spitzkoppe campground just after 7.30AM, as I said too early for any attendant to be around.

It is difficult to describe the site avoiding clichés, but it really is, and feels like, a magical place, rich in fauna and flora the can keep both the expert and the layman entertained the whole day. I can be listed in the latter category, so just listening to the cries, completely new to my hear, of countless different birds was my favourite. The mountain formation itself is a miracle of geology, among the oldest in the region, and it is instinctive to marvel at the events that made it the way it is: earthquakes, erosion, ground shifts, you name it.

The site is run by the local community of a nearby village, which you would pass by if you entered from the main gate, where you can also find a shower block, a restaurant, a bar, and, most importantly, drinking water. At the time of writing, the Spitzkoppe area has apparently been through a water crisis - so the sign by the fountain says - and campers must pay to refill their tanks: at a fair 50 cents a litre, it costs less than what you pay for bottled water, and I personally believe visitors should pay towards it anyway if they've been so foolish not to bring enough with them - exactly as I did.

Stay Tuned for another exciting Spitzkoppe day.



* Which are, I can tell, heaven for climbers. A couple of them have just arrived from Windhoek and are busy ascending an impressive rock face by my campsite as we speak.

**This road, at first tarred as you leave Henties Bay behind you, and then a good gravel, I'd like to nickname 'The Crystal Route': just as you approach the mountains, several makeshift stalls litter the side of the road, selling all sorts of semi-precious crystals and rocks from different areas of Namibia. It is a good pastime to stop, and browse through them while waiting for somebody to run across the fields and give you a price.
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