Monthly Archives: February 2020

An ode to Namibian roads.

Once again I can’t help but sing the praises of the ‘German’ roads in Namibia! They’re superb! Although the only local premium-quality highway is still not that long – only 50+ kilometers. But the quality of the other paved two-lane roads here is mostly ideal. And the views along the road are something to behold! The biggest problem for drivers here is how to avoid being distracted by the scenery :)

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Ghosts of Lehrer, Buchhalter, Minenverwalter and other adventures in ghostly Kolmanskop.

The next destination on our Namibian tour and the main reason for going to Lüderitz is the ghost town of Kolmanskop.

The settlement sprang up around the diamond fields, went through a period of rapid growth, then the diamonds dried up and the town was abandoned. Now this once-thriving town is almost buried in the desert sand and is gradually eroding, leaving behind some apocalyptic images.

Welcome to Kolmanskop! Open from 8 A.M. to 1 P.M., entrance fee, drones forbidden.

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The one and only Chelyabinsk.

So my first business trip this year… Wait, what am I saying — this decade! :) Okay, so my first business trip this decade took me to the famed Chelyabinsk!

If you know Russia well, you know the stereotypes about how “tough/rugged” the people are here. But it’s not a bad thing! No, just the opposite, the jokes are reverent! One-liners like “People from Chelyabinsk are so tough that…” have turned the city into such a well-known brand that if I was… I don’t know, a taxi driver, I’d give everyone from here 10% off just out of respect! I can’t get enough of these memes! I searched the web for these memes and couldn’t stop laughing for 15 minutes :) The best part is that the jokes all mean well. The pictures and quotes are respectful in the vein of “don’t mess with Chelyabinsk”.

A question for %Russian hackers%: Got the guts to infect this Chelyabinsk flash drive? :)

In short, people in Chelyabinsk aren’t just tough, they’re very enterprising and keen on innovation. Years ago they were one of the first to recognize our newest solutions even when they were just prototypes. That’s a good a reason as any to take a trip to Chelyabinsk and show love to all these progressive guys and gals and guarantee the closest partnerships moving forward. “Peace and love,” as they say :) So ticket, plane, runway, sky! See ya Moscow! Next stop, Chelyabinsk!

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Lüderitz and why giraffes and penguins never made it to America, even though they don’t need a visa.

Day 5 of our Namibia trip is here, and already off to an interesting start. After trekking, touring and giving our cameras a workout in the Namibian desert sands and dunes, it was time to move on to Lüderitz.

Off we went, driving across the endlessly wonderful and wonderfully endless Namibia.

We had a 460+ km route planned for the day. It might not seem long, but after getting paranoid remembering how awful the road was two days ago, we decided to get an early start. Who knows what it’d be like before we reached the paved part they promised at the end?

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Mom, I want to be a geologist!

The emotions evoked from a short walk through the rocky area surrounding the Namibian town of Luderitz can be summed up rather succinctly. In fact, one word would suffice. Or maybe one or two more. Unfortunately, they’re all expletives.

But they’re just rocks, I hear you say. OK, let me try and share my impressions in a slightly differently way – like this ->

They’re not just rocks. This is a real mix, a hodgepodge of all kinds of rock forms. It’s as though someone threw heaps of different kinds of stones into a giant “stone mixer” and heated it up on one side. And it turned out something like this. Over a huge area:

Sedimentary rock layers, next to basalt outcrops, in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes…

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A hot day at Deadvlei.

A bit like with the Valley of Death, though its name is macabre and ominous, Deadvlei couldn’t be more beautiful! The locals realize this too, for this here ‘Dead Marsh’ clay pan with its dead forest upon it is the ‘business card’ of the country: any search on the internet for anything at all about the country returns photos of the place.

The trees, though dead, really are striking, especially given such a vast barren backdrop. You can meditate upon them, in-between taking photos of them, for ages. Which we did…

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Ok girls and dudes – time for some dunes.

The famous dunes of Namibia – in the Namib desert – were the ‘main dish’ of our Namibian trip. The dunes have been on my Top-100 Most Beautiful Must-See Places on the Planet, I think since I first drew it up. I’d long… longed to get there, and finally, early this year – I did it!

As I’ve already reported, the Namib is one of the driest places on the planet, with a mere centimeter of rain falling PER YEAR! As you’d expect, accordingly, hardly anything grows here at all. Oh, and another thing about the Namib – it’s the oldest desert in the world! If the internet is to be believed, it is 50-80 million years’ old! That is, it’s had dinosaurs roaming upon it! One more thing: in the local tongue the name Namib means ‘vast’. Indeed it is. Vastly beautiful too ->

This dune here happens to be one of the highest in the world – nearly 400 meters from top to bottom!

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Poles, meridians, tropics, circles – a brief digression.

What with our crossing – on foot – the Tropic of Capricorn in Namibia, which I told you about in yesterday’s post, I got to thinking about the two very important geographical points, seven lines, a pair of meridians, and five parallels that adorn our globe – in all, nine objects:

– The North Pole;
– the South Pole;
– the Greenwich meridian;
– the 180th meridian;
– the equator;
– the Arctic Circle;
– the Tropic of Cancer;
– the Tropic of Capricorn; and
– the Antarctic Circle.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been at both the Poles and I’ve crossed all the meridians and parallels plenty times (mostly not noticing – high up in a plane). But it’s alas only seldom I’ve walked across, along, and photographed these geographical objects like I did recently with the Tropic of Capricorn. Still, let me go over what I have ticked off, and what remains still in my to-do list…

I. The North Pole: been.

All my tales from the northernmost side point are here. Specifically, a highlight for me – taking a dip in a hole cut in the polar ice (at the Barneo ice base) – here!

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I have a bit of a tradition that goes back years. Each time I find myself at the seaside I make sure to get in that sea for a spot of swimming :) It's both healthy living and curiosity. Looking back at 2018 it turns out to be an absolutely fantastic year in terms of year-round bathing for me! The spots across four oceans and seven seas include: North Pole, Caribbean, Sea of Okhotsk, Fiji and Faroe Islands. У нас с друзьями есть давняя традиция. Каждый раз, когда по дороге возникает море или даже океан – мы обязательно должны там искупаться. Хорошая река, красивое озеро, любая подобная достойная купания водная стихия должна быть опробована с полным погружением тела. Считайте это одновременно проявлением ЗОЖ и врождённым любопытством :) Давече оглянулся на 2018й год и понял, что получился весьма разнообразный список. Многочисленные (в том числе экзотические) места купальной славы включают: Северный полюс, Карибское море, Охотское море, Фиджи и даже Фарерские острова. Всего 4 океана и семь морей. Ура!

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And btw: in good weather, the North Pole looks like this:

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Deeper into Namibia: the bluest sky, the Tropic of Capricorn, and odd-shaped aloe & cactii.

Back to the day we checked out exotic birds and geological wizardry…

We left Vogelfederberg in the afternoon, but we still had a full 270km ahead of us before we were to get to our next hotel. I wouldn’t have minded, for the sun was out, the skies were bright blue and cloudless, and the desert scenery continued to astound; however, the roads was becoming markedly worse…

Not that the road was full of potholes or anything; it wasn’t that bad. The problem lay in the way the sand on the road became rather heavily compacted somehow and it had formed itself into little ridges that ran across the road, which just got taller and taller. They seemed to be 15cm tall by our next stop – a ‘beautiful view with trees’ ->

Actually, the above pic was taken somewhere else; however, out of all of the pics of the ridged roads – this one showed them for what they were best. Also, I didn’t have any pics of the crazy-high-ridges-on-the-road as I was too busy holding the steering wheel with both hands trying to control the pick-up!

Funnily enough, I found that the optimal speed for navigating the ridged road was around 80-90km/h! Any slower, and the car would shake so much you kept banging your head against the roof. Any faster was just scary. The sweet spot at 80-90 was where the suspension managed best. But the car wasn’t being ‘driven’ along the road; it was flying low over it! It would glide from side to side also a little too uncontrollably for comfort; it was like driving over the ice of a frozen-over Lake Baikal! Who’d have thought it?!

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Namibian pink feathers, pink lakes, and mysteriouos geology.

Skeleton Coast – done. Time to crack on further along our Namibian route. Next up – the country’s famous dunes, which are best seen at Sossusvlei. From Swakopmund (where we stayed the previous night) it’s around 400km. Sounds a lot, but when I tell you that those 400km were perhaps the most interesting and intense of any road I’ve been on – ever – well… the more distance the merrier!

For on this journey we experienced: flamingoes and pelicans, a mysterious mountain with endless views all around, a deep gorge, never-ending roads as straight as die, our crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, and our car getting stuck in the sand! Accordingly, plenty of words coming up describing this extraordinary journey, and plenty more photos too. // And it turns out I took 200 photos on this day – that’s one for every two kilometers!

Read on…