The Cape Cross Seal Colony

Swakopmund – Day 2

We were looking for a bit of a sleep in today, but the Primary School opposite seemed to start filling up at about 7am and then they announced classes were starting with a loud whistle about 7:30am. Even still we managed to go back to sleep and didn’t get up until after 8am. Ah the luxuries of town living, not having to shower outside!

Fur Seal at Cape Cross

By about 9:30am we are ready to head off to breakfast. After considering all our options for the Swakopmund region we’ve decided that the first thing on today’s schedule is a trip up to the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. The seal reserve is about 120km north of Swakopmond, back the way we had come yesterday, along the coast.

Unfortunately I’m still not feeling too good so it was time for a quick stop at the pharmacy to buy some cold tabs and some Strepsils, then we gassed up the car and took off north on the Salt Road C38.

About 31km north of Swakopmond we come across this very strange village called Wlotzkasbaken. It’s a small settlement that looks a bit like a colony on the moon. It’s houses spread out along the desert coast and seem to be made of a variety of salvage building materials. We will definitely stop here on our way back for a look around.

Village of Wlotzkasbaken

Our first stop is and emergency relief stop at Henties Bay and afterward we take a quick look around. Henties Bay is about 76km from Swakopmund and lies right on the Atlantic Ocean, down at the beach level they have built around a dozen BBQ’s and there is a small waterslide park.

Henties Bay Beach

The town boasts a gallows, not a real one but one erected in 1978 as an appeal to the townsfolk to keep the place clean, which as far as we could see seems to be working.

Gallows

The plaque says, “THE GALLOWS, erected in 1978 as an appeal to keep the town and beach clean. Initiated by Frank Atkinson and Willie Cilliers, who respectively settled here in 1969 and 1971 as the first two residents of Henties Bay”

As we leave the beach heading north we pass the Hentie Bay Golf Course It’s laid out in the old bed of the Omaruru River delta known as the Valley and the sandy fairways are considered quite a challenge.

Henties Bay Golf Course

Leaving the bay we continue north along the salt road, through the flat desert plains, toward Cape Cross.

Salt road to Cape Cross

There are a number of companies that have large leases of salt pans along the coastal road and you often see these large tractor trailers either coming or going from the salt pans.

Salt Pan Truck

Closer to Cape Cross, lining the road for a couple of kilometres, there are lots of little tables built from tin drums, old bits of metal and wooden boards displaying quartz crystals for sale. On each table is a small container for you honorary deposit.

Crystals for Sale

Apparently around this area there are a lot of minerals to be found. In 1973 the second only discovery of a mineral called Jeremejevite, a deep blue crystal, was made near Mile 72 north of Swakopmund. The initial discovery was made by the wife of a grader driver who frequently spent her days walking behind her husband's grader collecting pretty rocks. Her husbands grader turned over a few jeremejevite crystals that had weathered out into the sand, and she was there to pick them up. These specimens eventually made their way to the sharp eye of a Usakos/Windhoek gem and mineral dealer who at first glance thought them to be aquamarine, but an analysis identified them as Jeremejevite.

We reach the turnoff for the cape and headed for the park office. The location is one of the homes of the Cape fur seal, who can number up to 100,000 and are seen here all year round. In mid to late October the large males or bulls arrive, their massive body weight of around 360 kg far outways that of the females 75 kg. We were hoping that some of the bulls had already arrived by this time.

I can smell something in the air but it’s not too bad at the moment. We pay our car fee and our per person fee, get our pass and head for the Seal Colony. There’s about 5 other cars in the car park when we show up and the entrance to a boardwalk that presumably looks out over the seals. As soon as we get out the noise and smell assail you and it only gets more intense the closer you get.

Once you are on the boardwalk the sight is incredible. There are hundreds of seals, on the beach, in the water, and lots of bulls, wadling around chasing the females. The sound of all these seals is incredible.

Female and Male seals crowding the beach

The bull seals are trying to defend their turf from other bull seals while simutaneously trying to go after the females.

Bull Seal

Cape Cross, was so named, because in 1485, the first European to reach this point a Portugese captain and navigator Diago Cao, erected a padrão, stone cross, on the rocky headland.

Kelly at the Padrão

It’s time to head back down the coast road for Swakopmund. I don’t know what they put in the cold tabs but I’m really out of it, feeling so drowsy that Kelly has to drive while I sleep. About an hour later I wake up as Kelly’s heading off road out toward the shoreline. All along the coast, for kilometers and kilometers, there are these little pale yellow buildings and Kelly is curious as to what they are.

On the beach at the camping ground

Now the beach here is wide and flat and these things are everywhere. As we get closer we can see that the small poles mark off camping grounds and we figure the little buildings are abolution blocks.

Wide open beaches

On the way back we stop and drive into the surreal Wlotzkasbaken to take some pictures of these cool looking houses. Apparently the only water they get is trucked in from inland and nobody lives here permanently, they are all holiday houses and only occupied during school holidays and Christmas. Each house is quite unique and some seem hell bent on outdoing the others in regard to the style and decoration of each house.

There are no sealed roads in the town and after a fatal right turn we are bogged in the soft sand. I jump out and start scooping out sand from behind the wheels so I can chock in some flat rocks to give me grip. After a few false starts we are out of the sand and on our way a bit more cautious than we were before. (Note to self: When you think you are getting a 4 wheel drive vehicle, check that it really is 4 wheel drive before you leave the rental firm and head off the regular roads)

Back at Swakopmund, before we head back to the hotel, I pull into the parking lot of the Tug, a local restaurant that comes highly recommended.

The Tug

I go upstairs to see if we can book a table but unfortunately they are all booked out for the evening. We finally get back to the hotel around 4pm and on the off chance it may work, we ask the receptionist to see if she could make us a booking. Once again the reply was that there were no vacancies but she told us we could just front up and sit at the bar for dinner and it would be the same full menu as the restaurant. We were cool with that idea and decided to a bit of a walk around town finishing up at the Tug around 6:30pm.

Swakopmund is a bit of a strange place, not quite what we expected, I thought there would be more of the German architecture I’d heard about but there has been quite a lot of building recently and I think some of the older places may have been demolished. However there were still some examples around the town, just up the road from our hotel was this old hotel.

Old hotel

Old hotel

A few minutes and a couple of streets later we came upon the Lutheran Church.

Lutheran Church

We had a chat with the pastor and he showed us around the church's beautiful interior.

Church Interior.

The two most recognisable landmarks, especially for those Amazing Race fans out there, are the Swakopmund Hotel, 

Swakopmund Hotel

and the Lighthouse.

Swakopmund Lighthouse

During the Amazing Race 2 the teams had to race to the top of the lighthouse to spot their vehicles and Oswald and Danny had to retrive the fast forward from the swimming pool at the hotel.

It was time to head for the Tug and it was starting to get chilly out.

Kelly enjoying the early evening walk

To get to the Tug we walked down a long avenue of palm trees, you can’t walk right along the beach as there are houses that front right on to it, prime Swakopmund property I guess.

Walk to Tug

I have to say the bar at the Tug was awesome soooo much better than the restaurant we couldn’t get into! To get to the restaurant you go up one flight of stairs and there is an outdoor deck, where you can sit and watch the sunset and partake in a sundowner, and the entrance to the restaurant. When you walk in the restaurant the main room is pretty standard but as you walk through to the bar there is a huge section of a Tug that the restaurant is built around. 

To get to the bar you walk up on the deck of the tug and through one of the hatch doors and the bar is built inside it, is really a lot of fun. We found a good spot at the bar, hitched up a couple of bar stools and order two Hass beers, mine was in a man’s glass (1 pint) and Kelly’s was a girls glass (1 schooner). There was another couple at the bar having dinner and a place was set and reserved for another couple. There was also a small table for 3 and a larger table for 5.

Tug Bar

I started with 6 Walvis Bay oysters with Tabasco and then Kelly had the line fish and I had a fish cooked in foil with crayfish and mussels…hmmm. We finished by sharing a Crème Brulee. So if you are ever in Swakopmund my tip is go sit and have dinner at the bar inside the tug.

Another Nimibia day was coming to an end and tomorrow we head for Soussuvlei and the desert. I hope I feel better.

 

Tony Redhead

93 Maud Street, Unley, SA, 5061, Australia