I now know where NASA practices moon landings. Along the northern Namibian coast lies far and away the most remote, forsaken place I have ever been; the Skeleton Coast. In a country renowned for open expanses, this barren landscape sends even the most comfortable traveller into fits of agoraphobia.
The Bushmen called this region “the land God made in anger” and it is truly not for the faint of heart. Stretching northwards from Swakopmund all the way to the Angola border, this thin band of desert is home to some seal colonies and a couple of remote fishing outposts and nothing else – unless you count the shipwrecks.
The freezing cold Benguela current sweeps the Southern Atlantic Ocean along the sun parched deserts, creating an almost daily fog that leaves sailors at the mercy of the waves and rocky shores. Historically, sailors shipwrecked here had next to no chance of survival. If they were exceptionally lucky they would wreck near one of the dry river beds and follow it upstream until some mountain rain run off could be located. From there it would be a continued trek inland over the mountains to hopefully find one of the few settlements.
In fact, that is probably still the case since even car traffic is sparse along the coastal road. We drove from the eastern gate through to the southern gate and only came across four cars in about six hours. Further north is even more remote as the tracks take you onto the beach with the cold forbidding Atlantic on one side and 100 ft wind swept sand dunes on the other. It is not a place to take lightly.
Still, we had a fairly uneventful trip through this unique landscape – stopping at a couple of shipwrecks, an old oil rig and even coming across a seal colony – complete with stench! We wound up camping along the seashore much further south and saw firsthand how significant the fog can be as our little tent was quickly swallowed up as the sun went down. We, and our car, re-appeared the next morning so thankfully we didn’t have to test our survival skills!