As a boy growing up in Russia I read a bunch of adventure stories about intrepid explorers traveling to far-off places. In one book a band of adventurers voyaged to the Skeleton Coast to search for diamonds. So one might say that it’s been a long time that I dreamed of visiting this remote and dangerous territory. Last week I finally realized the dream.
Over the past week I have been traveling in Namibia with two friends. It’s a spectacular country, justly famous for its landscapes and wildlife.
Our trek up the Skeleton Coast started at sunrise in the quaint town of Swakopmund (all photographs in this blog ©PeterTurchin):
Swakopmund in the early morning
Very quickly all signs of civilization are left behind, and all that one sees is a cold (water temperature is 15°C) and turbulent sea on the left hand side, and a desert on the right side. The road is basically sand cemented by salt:
The road quality actually was quite good. According to reports, it becomes slick and treacherous after a rain, but it hardly ever rains on the Skeleton Coast.
Sand and salt are everywhere; in fact, there are a number of salt-production businesses along the road:
The Skeleton Coast got its name because it is an incredibly dangerous area for navigation. It is literally littered with shipwrecks, from recent ones:
A recent shipwreck
To older ones, which provide excellent nesting grounds for sea birds:
An older wreck
And then to ancient wrecks, that have sunk into the sand:
An ancient wreck
In addition to these “skeletons” of ships, the sand is littered with actual skeletons:
The Skeleton Coast, true to its name
The road ends at an isolated outpost of Terrace Bay:
which doesn’t have a permanent population (people come to work there for three weeks, and then take a week off with their families back home).
The Skeleton Coast is not quite as devoid of life as it looks. Driving out of Terrace Bay the next morning we saw a couple of jackals:
All in all, traveling in this remote and desolate land was a wonderful adventure. Unlike the heroes of my childhood books, I didn’t dig for diamonds in the sand. But if you want to do it, apparently you can: