C34, also known as Skeleton Coast Road, is one of the most stunning drives in the world. The surface of this road is sand and salt and is located along Namibia’s hauntingly barren Skeleton Coast in the country’s north west. The sense of being very close to the end of the world is overpowering.
The road is 460km long. It runs from the old German colonial town of Swakopmund to the tiny settlement of Terrace Bay. The road takes you through a desert area almost completely empty but for the occasional shipwreck embedded in the sand. The road along the coast is a "salt" road, which is smoother than an asphalt road and very nice to drive on. But when there is mist from the ocean, the road gets very slippery, a bit like black ice. The first 200km are salt and sand. The last 260 km are on a gravel surface.
The road still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. Further north is the Cape Cross Seal Reserve – where thousands of seals bask on the sand – and beyond that is the Skeleton Coast National Park with public access only by charter flight. You are requested to drive even in daylight using your headlights to alert oncoming vehicle of your presence. Mirage effect along this coast is common. Following a heavy mist the salt road becomes very slippery. Please drive accordingly. In the unlikely event of it raining you are advised not to make use of the road.
Due its unique location passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. There is little traction on the surface even for 4x4s. The salt and mud accumulates on the vehicle and is costly to remove. Driving on the road when it has been softened by rains will damage the surface even further making it a longer and more costly for the Roads Authority to repair the road to a senriceable condition. Proper preparation is essential to having a safe, enjoyable trip on this road. Although Namibia has used the metric system for over forty years, you will notice that all of the distance signs along the Skeleton Coast Road are marked in Miles and not Kilometers.
The road is also known as Skeleton Coast Freeway. The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities here. Don’t forget your camera! The Skeleton Coast of Namibia is famous all over the world for the many ship wrecks which litter it’s shore line. The reason for the wrecks is the thick fog that occurs there when the warm air from the desert meets the cold moist air coming in from the Atlantic Ocean. The road is made of compressed salt and can get slippery from the morning dew that rolls in from the coast.