From Palmwag we started the last leg of our trip around the north-west Namibia. This was the longest trip with no support and a tyre shredded on the Skeleton Coast (we only had one spare tyre) made our final trip a bit worrisome. In Cape Cross we noticed another tyre loosing pressure and we just made it to Swakopmund with two tyres destroyed.
The Skeleton Coast (German: Skelettküste) is the northern part of the Namibia and south of Angola coast, from the Kunene River to the Swakop River. The name is sometimes used to describe the entire Namibe Desert coast. The Bushmen called the region "The Land God Made in Anger", while Portuguese sailors once referred to it as "The Gates of Hell". On the coast the cold Benguela current gives rise to dense ocean fogs (called "caçimbo" by the Angolans) for much of the year.
The rainfall rarely exceeds 10 millimetres annually and the climate is inhospitable. There is a constant, heavy surf on the beaches and no sheltered bays. The coast gets its name from the bleached whale and seal bones which covered the shore when the whaling industry was still active, as well as the shipwrecks. More than a thousand vessels of various sizes and areas litter the coast. Notable wrecks in the region include the Edward Bohlen, the Otavi, the Dunedin Star, and Tong Taw.
The last stop on our trip was Cape Cross. Here, in 1486, the famous Portuguese seafarer and explorer, Diogo Cão, erected a “padrão”, which is a stone pillar topped by a cross, establishing his country's claim to the territory. He was searching for a sea route around Africa to India. Two years into the voyage, and after planting the padrão at Cape Cross, the crew returned home without their captain who had disappeared into thin air. All of the documents relating to his expedition were lost in a fire and the search continues to find of his whereabouts.
The cross became a landmark and important navigational aid during the 15th century. It was known then as “Cabo do Padrão” and eventually Cape Cross in English. These are recordings from Namibian sources and I have to research it a bit more because I remember from my earlier history studies that there was more about Diogo Cão than that.
In 1893 the Germans remove the padrão and send it to Germany. On 23 January 1895 and on the authority of the then German Emperor, Wilhelm II, a replica was made and re-erected, 15m from the original placing. The original eventually ended up in the German Museum for Technology at Trebbiner Strasse 9, Berlin after a number of loan and transfers. Efforts to have it returned have failed due to political differences, and both Namibia and Portugal have pressurized the Germany government over the years for the return of the original padrão to its rightful owners. Berlin refused even as 'a token of goodwill' in 1990 after Namibia independence, when the Founding Father and then President, Dr. Sam Nujoma appealed for the return of the padrão.
Cape Cross is also home to a smelly and noisy colony of fur seals. The coastline of Southern Africa is the only place in the world where you can find the Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus). They fight, mate, reproduce and fish in the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, home to the largest breeding colony of these seals on the planet, with at times up to 210,000 seals present during November and December. Pups establish a strong bond between mother and pup, essential if mother is to find their young in the midst of tens of thousands of bleating pups. Sound and scent play an important role in mother-infant recognition, since the first few months after being born, life is perilous to say the least. The infant mortality rate is 30%, with jackals and brown hyenas amongst the principal predators.
From Cape Cross to Swakopmund the road is made of a moisture of clay and salt water providing an excellent road surface superior to bitumen when dry but slippery like hell when wet.