From Torra Bay to Ugab Gate, the southern boundary of the 500km long Skeleton Coast National Park, I had to stick to the road, this time due to diamond mining tenements along the beach. Out of Torra Bay, the road was rugged and sandy in places, but in the foggy, windless morning I was able to move along pretty well.
After about 30km, as the wind picked up, my speed dropped conversely from around 15km/hr average to an embarrassingly slow 10km/hr (such was the strength of the wind resistance).
The road tracked parallel to the beach. All day, above the breeze, I could hear the waves crashing on the shore. The landscape was pretty flat with small plateaus and breakaways. There was very little to impede the wind. There was no vegetation; the plains were covered in iron-based gravel stones giving the ground a red-black tinge.
After 70km, we came across a derelict oil rig. It was built in 1969 by an entrepreneur who had heard that there might be oil on the Skeleton Coast. Just like with several previous opportunists, the Skeleton Coast deadened any ambition of fortune. There was no oil and the rig was left to decay with his dreams, into the unforgiving landscape.
The oil rig soon disappeared behind me into the cold late afternoon fog.
I awoke to great cycling conditions. After an initial 10km rough patch, the road was in good condition. After about 15km, we diverted to the beach to see the wreck of another wooden fishing boat, the South West Seal, which ran aground in 1972.
After crossing the floodplain of the Ugab River, we arrived at Ugab Gate and received a warm welcome from Hilga and Amalia, two of the three women who controlled those entering and leaving the park, ensuring they had permits.
After Ugab Gate we entered the Dorob National Park.From there, I was on the salt road, so smooth, it seemed to be a faster surface than tarmac. I added some air to my tyres, switched off the AWD system and cruised along at about 25km/hr…not bad on a fatbike! I kept a good tempo and made it all the way to Cape Cross, far exceeding the plan for the day. With such great conditions, I was only 125km from Swakopmund. We diverted into Cape Cross to camp and take a look at the seal colony.
Total distance: 669km
I could have made Swakopmund today with a big effort, but that would mean we would arrive two days ahead of schedule, despite having lost two days at the start. I decided to break the journey in Henties Bay and spend some time viewing the seals at Cape Cross Seal Colony, the largest seal colony in the world. Elago said there were between 100,000 and 200,000 seals.
Some history: The Portuguese navigator and explorer Diogo Cão was, in 1484 ordered by King João II, as part of the search for a sea route to India and the Spice Islands, to advance south into undiscovered regions along the west coast of Africa.
During his first voyage, thought to have taken place in 1482, he reached somewhere near the Cunene River mouth.
During his second voyage, in 1484–1486, Cão reached Cape Cross in January 1486, being the first European to visit this area. He erected a stone at Cape Cross to claim the land for Portugal. As the German colonists took the stone as a moment (now in Berlin), a replica cross was erected in its place. Cão underwent an expedition inland and was never seen again, the first European to have disappeared in the Skeleton Coast region.
Two years later Bartholomeu Dias successfully rounded the Cape of Good Hope as the first European explorer in 1488.
The road to Henties Bay was a fast salt surface and I reached the campsite in just over 3 hours. Swakopmund tomorrow.