Vanda Kujbus

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Swakopmund - Exploring the Moon valley

Written by Vanda

Eating overnight leftovers from a gas station is not a good idea if you have a sensitive stomach. I learnt my lesson as well, when I was rolling around in the boiling hot tent hoping for a miracle to end my suffering. Well, at least it came on a day where we are not planning to walk that much, because, this day we were planning to see the desert, and the world famous 1000 year old plant – the Welwitschia mirabilis.

Fortunately the tour starts only at 2 pm, so I have time to sleep at least partially off my stomach ache, then we are picked up and off to go to the desert.

Moon valley

When someone says desert, everybody is thinking about endless sand dunes as far as the eye can reach. However, we learnt a new type of desert this time – a rocky wasteland where there are nothing but barren rocks and dust, and is called „the badlands” (can you guess why?), is also a type of desert (logical, after all, I admit). I never knew that such landscape can also be called the desert but now at least I won’t die stupid. It got the name Moon valley after the mountains wrinkling up as if it was on the surface of the Moon, and it looks pretty cool from above.

moon valley

We are taught some geology and biology lessons about rocks, plants and animals (thanks to this trip I know that ostriches don’t come only in one color, but 2: the mom is brown as she is taking care of the eggs in the daytime, and dad is black, taking care of the eggs in the evening, so they both can better blend in to the environment). 

We see some other natural wonders as well, such as sap from a tiny tree’s bark, used as traditional perfume (a.ka. Commiphora wildii), !Nara fruit (a.k.a Acanthosicyos horridus) eaten by animals as water source – if they manage to get through the bush’s thorns without cutting themselves. (the „!” mark stands for a click sound, similar to San people's language and it should be pronounced as if you would try to imitate the sound what horseshoes make on asphalt. Now try to pronounce it *klikn-ara”. Once more, *klikn-ara. Come on, it’s fun! *klikn-ara!). The fruit itself is poisonous for humans, but the oil which can be extrahated from the plant is supposed to give a special taste for salads. Better than olive oil – they say!

!nara fuit
!nara plant

Welwitschia mirabilis

The most interesting part, for which we came for on the first place, the Welwitschia is saved for the last. The plant has a nickname of „the living fossil”, as it can live up to 1000-2000(!) years under optimal conditions, making it one of the oldest plants on the planet. Its secret is that it has a very deep root system and their leaves never stop growing, resulting in a giant bush torn up by the iron teeth of time.

To be honest I was a bit disappointed, as on the internet they show plants growing up to hip height, while these plants in the area were only 100-800 year old toddlers, not even „stood up” yet.

Welwitschia mirabilis
Welwitschia and us

In case you would plan to bring some seeds home as a souvenir, don’t do that, unless you want to have first-hand knowledge of Namibian prisons. However, knowing how kind people are in here, I’m pretty sure they would be very gentle when you lean down for the soap.

All in all it was a very educational drive around the desert, which is perfect for you if you are interested in landscapes, flora and  fauna, you will be fascinated by this tour. However, for people who seek a program where some sort of action is also involved, then probably they should seek another activity.