Manual Counterclockwise (A Time Travel Short Story)

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Still, despite the driving challenges, the scenery was incredible, and changed dramatically throughout the journey.

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Rugged cliffs and rocky gorges slowly gave way to endless sandy plains, dunes eventually appearing as we drew closer to the coast. Burned-out cars dotted the roadside, a sobering reminder of how little I wanted to have an accident in this isolated part of the country.

An added bonus of coming in from the north, rather than the more common and paved! One of them lay on our route, lying just a few metres off a scenic, rugged beach. Seeing it just sitting there, slowly being reclaimed by the waves, was an odd, powerful experience. We were happy with the company we ended up with, Laramon Tours — the staff, food, and experience were all good, the catamaran was just smaller and older than others. No matter which company you go with, save some room in your stomach for the calamari I mentioned earlier, at Anchors on the waterfront.

With another long drive on bad roads ahead of us shocking, I know , we left straight after breakfast on our final morning in Swakopmund. First stop: a sign. Not just any sign, though — it was one telling us we were crossing the Tropic of Capricorn. We saw another beside the main B1 highway on the way back to Windhoek, but this one was much more impressive, with desolate nothingness in every direction.

A million photos later, we headed for Solitaire. Little more than a restaurant, bakery and gas station, Solitaire is famous for two things: apple pie, and wrecked hotrods. We finally bumped our way into Sesriem mid-afternoon, and with only two or three wistful looks at the cold beer on offer beside the national park office, paid our fees and headed into Sossusvlei. Since everyone goes to Sossusvlei for sunrise, being there in the afternoon meant we had the place to ourselves. It takes about an hour to drive straight from the park entrance to the last area you can get to in a two-wheel drive vehicle, but we took far longer, stopping at several dunes and also to take photos of a random warthog.

The wind picks up strongly in the afternoon, and combined with the heat, makes climbing any of the dunes dramatically more difficult. On the upside, you get a free skin peeling treatment. We soon abandoned that idea, deciding to save it for the following morning. With the sun lower in the sky on the way back, the dunes turned a much deeper shade of orange, and shadows made for more interesting photos… so we filled up our memory cards once more.

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Affordable accommodation anywhere near Sossusvlei is hard to find at any time of year. Those on a tight budget often end up staying further away, as far afield as Maltahohe in some cases, but that means driving in the dark for up to two hours to have any chance of climbing the dunes before the heat becomes oppressive.

It was the least expensive of the nearby options, and we liked it a lot. Despite being a tent, the room was clean and comfortable, with its own toilet, hot shower, fridge, and stove.

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Drinks beside the pool were very welcome, and listening to wildlife calling in the distance was a great way to fall asleep at night. The next day, we were up at sunrise to join the line of cars waiting at the park gate. We had bigger, sweatier things on our mind. Ditching the car, we travelled the last few kilometres in the overpriced NAD 4WD shuttle provided by the national park service, then hiked across the sand to our starting point. It took at least another hour to cut along the ridgeline and climb to our real destination… which was definitely a lot steeper.

The views were, of course, spectacular, and absolutely worth the extra effort. I nearly tripped a few times, but made it to the bottom without incident. Lauren… did not. Deadvlei itself was starkly beautiful, although we arrived a little late in the morning to take the best photos.

By around 10 am, the morning chill was long gone, and the sand on the way back to the pickup point was hot enough to burn my feet. Overall, Sossusvlei was at least as impressive as we might have hoped.

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Despite being the cheapest accommodation of the trip, and in the middle of nowhere, it was lovely, and the perfect place to break the journey. Dinner was delicious, and the camp store was well stocked with essentials beer for me, souvenirs for Lauren. On the advice of the owner at Betta Camp, we took the scenic D route towards Luderitz the next day. Full of the rugged beauty that Namibia seems to specialise in, the driving was even more interesting than usual, with deep gravel and bone-shaking ruts giving way to multi-mile sand drifts a couple of times.

The mighty Corolla, as usual, handled it with style and grace.

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Well, it handled it, at least. Bumping back onto tarmac near Aus, we celebrated with lunch at the Bahnhoff Hotel. It was good enough and there were few enough alternatives that we did it again on the way back the next day. That newness showed — it was spic and span, raised off the street with a lovely outlook over the ocean. There may or may not have been a chair on the walkway outside. I may or may not have sat on it with a post-dinner drink, listening to the crashing waves.

With limited time, and knowing the best photos were likely to be just after sunrise, we opted for the more expensive option, and set our alarm far too early once again. When he showed up half an hour later, he was less than thrilled with our approach.

Regardless, Kolmanskop was incredible, and the highlight of a trip that had been full of such moments. The town had a thriving diamond mining trade a century ago, but declined after World War One.


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The final resident moved away in , and since then, the desert has been slowly reclaiming the buildings. The town was bigger and far more impressive than expected, and we wandered round taking photos for over three hours. I wrote more about Kolmanskop here , and those shots tell some of the story, but seeing it in person left far more of any impression than any picture. It was an amazing, eerie experience. Get the photographer pass, insert a new memory card, and say goodbye to your morning. It had an affordable by Nambian standards , large, basic room, out the back of a local pub. There was decent food, and a nice beer garden to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Well, until the tour bus filled with 36 elderly Germans showed up.

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Counterclockwise: A Fiction-Atlas Time Travel Anthology

Apparently, our left rear tire felt the same way, blowing a huge hole in the sidewall barely an hour from the end of our journey. Thousands of miles of gravel? Totally fine. A few hours of well-paved highway? Hell no. And that was the end of that. We handed back the keys, checked in, and enjoyed a final Windhoek lager before the overnight flight back to Lisbon. Ok, two final Windhoek lagers.

It was one of those places that just seemed to keep getting better every day. Enjoyed this post?


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