For our regular contributor, HENRY JONKER and his two sons, LIAN and JEAN, a visit to Torra Bay – which is only open to the public for two months of the year – was a bucket list destination. This fisherman’s paradise certainly did not disappoint, and neither did their farm visit to Nungubais!
We have never been a family that does ‘normal’ for holidays. We are proud that we always do something special, filled with unforgettable memories and loads of fun. So, when we hit the road for a Namibian New Year’s celebration, we knew it would be one for the books.
Accompanied by my good friend, Ruan de Kock (of Willeklong fame), we were up at the crack of dawn to hit the road northwards. A long day lay ahead, and I warned the two boys to stay strong since we planned to cover the approximately 1 800km to Swakopmund, Namibia, in one go. But as Lian always says: “One day of struggling on the road is okay because we know adventure awaits!”
And what wonderful adventures this vacation held! Our first overnight accommodation was in Swakopmund, we were showered with Namibian hospitality, a braai and a cold beer… let me tell you – a cold beer has never tasted this good! Unfortunately, we only had time for one night’s visit here before hitting the shops the following day for a few necessities. After that, we headed north on the C34. At Hentiesbaai (a first for all of us), we simply just had to stop for a photo, and we could refuel at the same time.
By this time, the excitement was palpable, and we couldn’t wait to join the rest of our group at Torra Bay, located within the Skeleton Coast Park. The whole trek there we were enticed with photos of big catches and fun in the dunes! When we finally reached the famous skull gate to the park, the boys fell silent with anticipation.
Torra Bay is about 10km further if you turn off the R38. What an experience this camping resort was! It is only open for two months of the year, in December and January, and has a small shop for everything you’ve forgotten (for a hefty fee, of course). However, the tangible sense of festivity and adventure more than made up for any inconvenience. There are neat ablution blocks near the various stands, but due to the water shortage in the area, the showers are controlled by a time slot in the evening at the central shower facilities. Many guests, like the group we joined for this adventure, had the men leave early to set up camp during the first week of December. It’s hard to explain, but it feels like a temporary base waiting for you – these men know about setting up camp!
Immediately upon arrival, we headed down the beach in search of black mussels. As with every day after that, we were delighted by the pristine coastline and ocean views. Not to mention the endless dunes! Simply stunning. Over the next few days, we quickly fell into a relaxed routine. Before sunrise, the men and the older children would hike down the shore to go fishing, with the women and younger children joining us later – bearing snacks and breakfast for the hungry fishermen. The rest of the day would be spent by the fishing waters, where the cool breeze fools you into thinking it’s not that hot, which can lead to severe sunburn, as Jean learnt. Best to slather on that sunblock generously!
When the youngsters got bored with fishing, they would frolic in the water under strict adult supervision. The tide here is no joke, and of course, there are no lifeguards. A few sand buggies were brought along and after a few days of nagging, we decided to put the toys to the test. Oscar Wilde once claimed that with age comes wisdom, and from the get-go, I knew how this story would end… The longer you stay on the buggy, the braver you become… and it wasn’t long before the boys took a spectacular tumble. Tears aplenty ensued, but after a headache tablet, all was soon forgotten… we’ll have to see if they remember this little episode when the adrenaline takes over again.
Torra Bay in the evenings is an adventure in itself. As the fires are lit, the longtop beers are exchanged for ‘black coffee’. And the food – fit for kings! We ate ourselves to death (my jeans are still not quite as loose as they were before this holiday!). After dinner, a serious game of ‘Knobel’ would take place. I won’t even try to explain how this game works because, after five days of serious participation, Ruan and I still haven’t figured it out! Like all good things in life, our visit to Torra Bay ended far too soon and the second part of our visit to Namibia was upon us. Torra Bay was incredible, and since we know that only a few people get to enjoy it, we are deeply grateful that we were able to experience it.
With the memories tucked away in our hearts, we set off on the long and hot road to Outjo. A part of our convoy set off in a different direction while our group pushed on towards Nungubais for a lovely farm visit. We last visited the farm two years ago, and with every visit, you can see the hard work that has gone into this little piece of heaven on earth.
Our visits to the farm are always good for the soul, and it was once again a privilege to experience a glimpse into this life. As always, the boys had a blast, and every day was an adventure on its own… driving a bakkie, working the sheep, swimming, chasing chickens, struggling with gate combinations, climbing anthills, napping, eating like kings… the list goes on and on!
When the sun starts dipping behind the horizon in the late afternoon, a colourful picture is painted before you, and you can only stand in awe of the beautiful creation. Every sunset is a work of art, and just when you think there can’t be a more beautiful sunset, the next evening surprises you.
Sadly, our farm visit was coming to an end, and we had to push the bakkie’s nose south again. On the way home – between the excited chatter about all the adventures that the holiday brought – I couldn’t help but think of the American poet, Jamie Lyn Beatty, who once said: “Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.” Indeed – our hearts and souls are full! Thank you, Namibia and your people!
More about the Skeleton Coast National Park
The Skeleton Coast National Park is located in the north-west of Namibia and is known as the area with the most inaccessible shores in Africa, dotted with shipwrecks such as the Dunedin Star, Southern Cross, Sir Charles Elliot, Kaio Maru and the Atlantic Pride, which can be seen near Torra Bay.
The park was established in 1971 and stretches approximately 500km from the Ugab River to the Kunene River. It covers about one-third of Namibia’s coastline, and the Bushmen called it ‘The land that God made in anger’. Among the Portuguese, it was known as ‘The Gates of Hell’. The landscape includes sand dunes and mountain ranges unique to the Namibian landscape, and the climatic conditions vary from extremely hot and dry during the day to cooler at night.
The southern part of the park – which stretches from the Ugab River to Terrace Bay – is freely accessible, but from the entrance gates at Ugabmund and Springbokwasser you need a permit (available for purchase at both of these gates). The northern part from Terrace Bay to the Kunene is not accessible to the general public and can only be reached with tour operators with a concession and qualification. It is also the most beautiful part of the park, which is 16 845km² in size.
Despite the barren appearance, the Skeleton Coast boasts a large variety of wildlife. Large mammals include the famous desert elephant, lion, black rhino, cheetah, oryx, zebra, springbok and the brown hyena – found along the coast in the dry riverbeds. Many Cape seals can also be seen along the coastline and the park boasts 249 bird species, including the near-endemic Damara Tern. Rivers that flow to the coast include the Ugab, Huab, Uniab, Hoanib, Hoarusib and the mighty Kunene, which is also the border between Angola and Namibia.
Follow Henry Jonker’s travel blog on www.jonkeradventures.com or find him on social media: @jonkeradventures