Tag Archives: Euphorbia damarana

Weekend at Palmwag

A visit to the Palmwag Concession in north-west Damaraland has long been on our ‘to do’ list, so it was with great anticipation that we left the Skeleton Coast Park and headed to our campsite at Palmwag Lodge.  The scenery along the way was quite spectacular, made even more enjoyable by the remoteness of the area and lack of other vehicles on the road.  This 450 000 hectare Concession is home to Africa’s largest population of free-roaming desert-adapted elephants, black rhino’s and  occasional lions.

Palmwag Lodge - an oasis

Palmwag Lodge is surrounded by waving palm trees and is situated on the banks of the ephemeral Uniab River (‘Uniab’ meaning ‘the one that carries you away’ in Damarana.)  It has about six campsites, some of which overlook the dry riverbed and the plains beyond.  All the campsites have shaded areas and private kitchen sinks.  From our idyllic spot we were able to see a variety of game and birds – of special interest was a hornbill’s nest that Rob will write about in another blog.

Our campsite on the Uniab River

We hired a guide from the local community and spent a wonderful morning with him searching for desert elephants.  Unfortunately we didn’t have any luck, but he took us over the Grootberg Pass to remote settlements that we would never have visited otherwise and it was great to see how the locals live in such an isolated and demanding environment.

View from our campsite

There are beautiful walks around the Lodge which give one a feel of the countryside.  The area is dotted with weird looking trees, like the bulbous Herero Sesame-bushes (Sesamothamnus guerichii) which are reminiscent of Baobab trees.  The Euphorbia Damarana, Namibia’s most toxic plant, is everywhere.  Although this bush is lethal to humans, it is grazed on by kudu, black rhino’s and steenbokke with no ill effects.  It leaks a deadly milky liquid when the branches are broken and needs to be avoided at all costs.

Euphorbia Damarana near Palmwag

The valley around Palmwag is surrounded by flat-topped mountains and conical hills, with the massive Grootberg visible in the east.   The ground is scattered with basaltic rocks that add their own beauty to the scenery.

Scenery near Palmwag

Although the Lodge looked a bit ‘tired’ to us, with unkempt gardens and buildings in need of repair, it was well worth a visit.  For folks planning a trip in the dry season, there is every chance that elephants could walk through the campsites or Lodge grounds.  What a drawcard!

Beware of elephants!

Day trip through the Skeleton Coast Park

With most of Namibia awash with rains, and a camping trip long overdue, last week we decided to head off to the dry Skeleton Coast Park for a visit.  Our first night was spent at Buck’s Caravan Park at Henties Bay, which enabled us to set off very early the next morning for our day trip through the Park.
We had spent some time researching the area so that we would know what to look out for.  There are a number of trip reports on this section of the coast, some of which are not very flattering, labeling the area as “boring”.  Fortunately, we also read that one should stop often to examine the countryside, as the desert is alive with lichen and other plant and animal life.  This made our journey so much richer and we’re glad we were offered that advice.

The journey to the Skeleton Coast Park is interesting in itself, with the Cape Cross seal colony a major attraction along the way, as well as the lichen fields, the salt works and the spectacular scenery, but we will write about these in separate blogs.
Gates to Skeleton Coast Park

Entry to the Skeleton Coast Park requires a permit, which we purchased in Windhoek beforehand.  The gates at the entrance to the Park were impressive, if somewhat forbidding with their skulls and crossbones, and added to the excitement of entering an area that has evoked feelings of fear and dread in the hearts of many a sailor who has been stranded on the beaches with little hope of surviving the harsh desert.  It has also spelled the ruin of many prospectors who considered the area to be rich in minerals.
Amazing scenery
The first thing that strikes you about the Skeleton Coast, apart from its incredible beauty, is its isolation.  It was comforting to know that the Park officials knew we were there, because we only saw one other car for the duration of our five hour visit.  Imagine having a whole park virtually to yourself in this day and age!
Wreck of the Atlantic Pride
After passing over the Ugab River, with its windblown shrubs and Acacia trees, we made our way to our first stop, which was the wreck of the Atlantic Pride fishing vessel.  Not much remains of this hapless boat, but it sets the mood and shows that man is no match for the angry sea and the desert.
Amazing scenery
The landscape is timeless and gives one a feeling of being in a state of quiet meditation.  The scenery changes every couple of kilometers so one is constantly looking at different colours and textures, from gravel plains to sand dunes.  We stopped often to examine the lichen fields which add golden colours to the ground.  It was as if our Maker had used every little rock as a miniature artist’s palette and then discarded it to go on to create an even better landscape further along.
Lichen covered rocks
Next we came across a rusty old oil rig which once was the dream of hopeful prospectors.  Now it is prey to the salt air that has rusted it into delicate filigree patterns that add a beauty of their own in the desert.
Remnants of the oil rig
We were excited to come across both a black-backed jackal and a Gemsbok in the desert,  wondering what they lived on in this inhospitable environment.  At Torra Bay, which is deserted for all but one month of the year when the fishermen are allowed to camp there, the lonely buildings were guarded by cormorants and crows, which lent a mournful air to the place with their loud cawing.
A lonely gemsbok in the desert
We exited the Park through the Springbokwasser Gate on the east and this drive is also through magnificent scenery of barchan dunes and grey-capped gravel mountains dotted with grazing springbok.  We stopped to look at the Welwitchia mirabilis plants that are abundant alongside the road and the poisonous Euphorbia damarana, which are quite different from the usual Euphorbia plants that are found elsewhere in the country.

It was an incredible day’s drive and at no point were we bored or tired of the scenery.  In fact we’d love to be able to spend a bit longer exploring further up north as we’re sure the Park has a lot more to offer than we could cram into a single day.