Searching for sidewinders in little Germany

Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
Trip End Jun 12, 2006

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Flag of Namibia  ,
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

We got up early and climbed a rocky hill for sunrise. Great views across the plains as the sun came up. We could also see the large granite massif of Brandberg Mountain sticking up from the desert. At 8000ft (2500ft) it is Namibia's tallest peak.

As we all drove towards the Atlantic Ocean, the landscape became even more barren and devoid of life. All we could see was sand and gravel stretching out to the mountain that could be barely seen out on the horizon.

We knew we were at the ocean long before we could see it. All of a sudden we hit some really cold air, caused by wind blowing off the sea. The cold came from the waters of the Benguela current that came up from Antarctica. With this air we could also smell the sea and eventually we descended down into the mist that forms off the ocean here. We had the plastic windows on the truck pulled down. Everyone was freezing and wrapped in hats gloves and sleeping bags.

We arrived at Swakopmund and went straight to a place called Desert Explorers where we could book numerous activities. Swakop is a popular Namibian seaside resort and adventure center.

I booked onto the Living Desert Tour with Tommy's Tours that afternoon.

After checking in to the nice Dunes Hotel and getting a real bed for the first time since Vic Falls I went to check out the town along with all it's kitsch shops, German looks and tourists.

Later that afternoon Tommy came to pick me up for what was a real interesting tour in a Landrover across the sand dunes. We stopped and caught a Namib Sidewinder Adder almost immediately. They bury themselves in the sand so only their head and eyes are showing and wait for their victims.

We saw lots of Tenebrionid Beetles. These little guys wait on the tops of sand dunes with their bodies tilted waiting for the mist to come in. When it does the moisture settles on their bodies and runs down their undercarriage allowing them to get drinking water. Apparently they can consume up to 40% of their own body weight each day in water doing this.

Tommy kept stopping the truck and running off and digging in the sand with his hands at certain points. At one point he caught a legless burrowing skink. Totally blind and very smooth to touch.

Shovel Snouted Lizards are one of the few things that can walk on the sand once it's temperature reaches 70C. They do this by running extremely quickly and balancing on 2 feet at a time before switching feet to the opposite ones, in what looks like a strange dance. Once these little guys bite you they don't let go. Tommy's party trick was to let this guy bite his ear lobe and walk around with a lizard earring. He was quite a character.

Next we caught a Namaqua Chameleon that would hiss and snap at us if we moved our hands too close. Tommy tried to feed it some beetles so we could see it shoot it's tongue out to catch them, but the mist had just come in and this little guy was now just a little too cold to want to have to catch and then digest this food.

After all these animals we checked out a White Lady Spider Tommy had in a jam jar before having a bit of a fun drive around the sand dunes. It turns out that the other people in the car were Tommy's family and friends who were visiting from out of town, so I think we ended up going off the tops of some of the steeper sand dunes to try to impress/scare them.

That evening we went to the Germanic Swakopmund Brauhaus that was meant to brew it's own beer, unfortunately it had stopped. We moved on to the Lighthouse Pub for dinner that was fantastic. My seafood platter had some of the tastiest, softest calamari I had ever tasted. It was served with sole, shrimp, oyster and mussels.

Oryx was also on the menu. Byron got some of this and let me try some. Very tasty and not too gamey. A bit like a dry beef.
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