Traversing Skeleton Coast with Toyota Land Cruiser

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Last weekend I joined a group of friends for a four-wheel drive along the most demanding stretch of roads of the Skeleton Coast and the great Damaraland, with the all-powerful 4-litre Toyota Land Cruiser.

The plan was to drive from Windhoek to the coastal towns of Henties Bay, Torra Bay and then onto Khorixas before making our way back to Windhoek.

The Land Cruiser at our disposal was a mechanical beast that boasts 170 kW power output and a torque of 360 Nm, a differential lock, five-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel drive system with a hardy low-range transfer box for staggering off-road ability.

The journey from Windhoek via Karibib and Arandis to Swakopmund was a smooth one. The Land Cruiser handled the tar road with ease. No hiccups there, apart from the fuel level that was low when we entered Swakopmund; this massive machine is quite heavy on fuel.

Early on Saturday morning we left Swakopmund for the holiday town of Henties Bay. I must admit that the Roads Authority is doing a great job in keeping that salty road intact. No potholes or bumpy rides. Lady Luck was on our side; the morning was clear of the familiar fog that usually makes the road wet and slippery.

Henties Bay, the last stopover on our journey with a filling station before Khorixas, saw us filling up the Land Cruiser and some additional fuel containers that we had to acquire on advice of my long time friend Frans Theron.

Theron is a 4×4 driver-training instructor and has extensively covered the coastal roads. It’s as if he knows these roads like the back of his hands.

As we got off the smooth road from Henties Bay, we engaged the strong muscles of the 4×4, putting it into 4-high gear, but the gravel road has some loose sand and if one is not careful, you might find yourself veering off the road.

As we hit Cape Cross, we stopped over to stretch a little and appreciate the beauty of the country, especially the Cape Fur seals. Though they are called “sea-dogs”, the small ones sounds like sheep in a kraal and reminded me of the times, when as a teenager in Epukiro we had to put the sheep in the kraal every night. The sounds the seals make reminded of those days.

Our journey continued from Cape Cross to Torra Bay through the magnificent and untouched Skeleton Coast. Entry at the Skeleton Coast Park was quick, because we were on “transit” through the park, thus the amount of paperwork we needed to fill out was less.

In fact, every minute counted, as we needed to reach Khorixas before sunset.

The drive from the gate to Torra Bay presented a different challenge. The road conditions were not the best and the car felt very much loose and “slippery”. We had to engage further safety measures by reducing the tyre pressure to 1.8 bars. This ensured that with the 4×4 already engaged to 4-High and the correct tyre pressure, the Cruiser now drove as smoothly as a sedan vehicle.

The Skeleton Coast is a haven for those who wish to escape the city rush with no cellphone or television reception. Like my good friend Reckliff Kandjiriomuini would say, “When out in the wilderness, I only want to listen to the wind and the birds singing. No loud music and noise pollution.”

As we drove from Torra Bay towards the town of Khorixas, we found the famous Welwitschia Mirabilis. This took me right back to my high school years as I remembered the significance of this plant that manages to survive in a desert with very little water.

In fact, the area where we found the Welwitschia was so dry, with no sign of any other plants growing in the area. This ancient plant, has various common names in local languages, for example kharos or khurub in Nama, tweeblaarkanniedood in Afrikaans, nyanka in Damara, and onyanga in Herero.

As we exit the Skeleton coast park, heading for Damara land, we were greeted by a number of Zebra roaming freely accross the land.

Just a few kilometres outside the Skeleton Coast Park, we realised that the thirsty Landcruiser would need some more juice. This is where the extra fuel containers came in handy and were put to good use.

As the sun was about to set, we could see the lovely red sun in the background behind us, whilst the cruiser was just cruising gently on the gravel road towards Khorixas.

Once we hit Khorixas, it was back to “normal” for the Landcruiser, as we had to fill up our petrol tank, pump the tyre pressure to tar road standard, disengage the 4×4 gears and go back to the normal 2-High driving.

We slept over in Khorixas and had enough rest after a long day of driving through this fascinating landscape. Needless to say, the drive back to Windhoek was smooth.

Woema would like to thank Dr Ndeutala Angolo for availing this magnificent and powerful Land Cruiser bakkie to us to explore the beautiful Damaraland and the famous Skeleton Coast Park. We would also like to thank Dr Angolo’s daughters, Hipuulenga Hishongwa and Monica Muchopa, who provided us with tasty snacks for the road.

Cruise-Zebra

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