Namibia is where the
travelling ends and the tourism starts. We all agree that this is the end of
the journey in so many ways. I arrive after Richard has already departed for
the beaches of South East Africa, before returning for a date with twenty
thousand people standing in a field (Glastonbury).
I spend two days in the
quiet Sachsenhaus game ranch near Eastern Gate of Etosha National park where
I acclimatise, and spend some time chatting with Paul Blackburn who has
travelled down the East coast in a Camel Trophy Defender (P239 KAC) that was
registered five vehicles after mine and also took part in the Mongolia
competition. Gerd, our host, makes us very welcome, and I could easily have
spent a week here chilling out (literally - it's getting pretty cold at
night). However I head on to Tsumeb to meet Roxana for a bit of real
After sorting ourselves
out at the relaxing Mousebird backpackers in Tsumeb (Tel 067 221777, GPS
www.mousebird.com) we head South West towards the Brandberg mountains,
where I finally get to see the so called White Lady - like Tom cruise, it
was a lot smaller than I expected when I eventually saw it in the flesh, but
it was well worth it all the same.
It was strange to be
following such a well documented trail - the next stop (please try not to be
late back to the bus as we have a lot of ground to cover....) are the
petroglyphs at Twyfelfontein. I'm not saying that these 'attractions' aren't
worth the effort, but it all seems so sanitised after trading smiles
with pygmies with filed teeth. Not very authentic by comparison, we joke.
Next we head North into Damaraland and the roads start to deteriorate - the
South Africans in their shiny 4x4s talk about the daunting route North - in
Angola it would still be considered a motorway.
Our destination is Epupa,
the falls on the Northern border with Angola, but the roads are ironically
too good - we are going too fast for the sharp flints that can now pierce
our worn tyres too easily, and we arrive with just four tyres left. At Epupa
we meet Chris, a friend of Roxana's who it taking a group around the North.
We share a few beers, and Roxana invents a whole new form of sacrilege by
mixing the last of my fine malt whisky with the syrup from a tin of peaches.
Surprisingly my Spirit Guardian from the Congo doesn't seem to be working.
Lucky her, as I hate travelling with frogs.
Epupa itself is a truly
beautiful spot - it's just inaccessible enough to retain its sense of
isolation, and you can easily find a quiet spot along the western trail
where you can watch the impressive cascades and contemplate life, the
universe, and you belly button.
Our next destination is
Etosha, but we take the indirect Northern approach as the roads are better,
and we are running out of tyres. Our route takes us back to Epuwo to the
South, and we arrive with three and a half tyres. An inner tube later we set
off, and the tube lasts as far as the tarmac road - we pump it up several
times and eventually park up for the night outside a small bar. I jack up
the car and hook up the foot pump for the morning as the tubes have a habit
of disappearing into the tyre. The next morning I pump up to a kilo or so,
and we take the short drive on to the gas Station for more air, and then on
to Trentyres at Oshakati where I bite the bullet and buy a new set of six
tyres. I'd hoped to get to SA for these as they are more expensive here, but
its hard to drive with three tyres. I'm a little concerned about the size -
my old ones were 255x65x16, and the new ones are a lot bigger at 245x70x16.
The manager assures me they are fine. And they are the only ones in stock
that fit my rims...
Eventually we head off
for Etosha, and return to Sachenheim which is a lot cheaper than camping in
the Park. Etosha is a great park - after the pretty poor show of wild life
in West Africa it's great to see such a variety of abundant wild life - even
if my camera is refusing to play. in the end I have to use my eyes and brain
- no substitute for digital gadgetry of course, but the resolution is
The camp sites are geared
up to groups - you pay a flat fee for the site which accommodates a group of
cars - must be part of the voortrekker mentality, but I noticed that lots of
the other tourists travel in convoy. The standards here are high - we
generally camp with free lighting, electrical socket, tap, and brie (BBQ)
with optional honey badgers if you're lucky. The showers are hot, but this
is necessary as it's getting pretty parky as we head farther South. Each
camp site in Etosha has a floodlit water hole, which is horribly artificial,
but at least you get to see rhinos... however entertaining it is I still
find it's more satisfying when you just bump into animals in the middle of
nowhere - my favourite animal encounter was with a bunch of curious ground
squirrels who came over to say hi to the Big Yellow Ground Squirrel.
On our second morning in
Etosha we meet up with Karl, who takes us up on an offer of a game drive,
and we finally get to see a cat - a resting lion with ten attendant 4x4s -
which is about as rewarding as watching a cardboard cut-out. Still, at least
there are actually lions here.
We left Etosha at last
light, and camped at a Cheetah sanctuary, where I found it far more
rewarding to watch the cats fighting for a slab of meat - their enclosure
may have been smaller than Etosha, but at least there were no other bloody
Windhoek was where Roxana
and I said goodbye - first to her fleece and then - more distressing by far
- to my beer. And then to each other. The Cardboard Box is a potentially
great hostel, but they seem far too blasé about theft - Meindert and Ed were
at Roof Over Africa which had a much better ambience, but is a real hike
from the town centre.
After sorting out my
laundry, I popped in to Trentyres because my tyres were rubbing against the
radius arms. After a bit of prodding they agreed to replace them with a
smaller size (235x70x16) - good on Jaco for sorting that out. Then it was
off to Swakopmund for a bit of fun.
The C28 - the scenic
route - it a beautiful drive. Namibia is amazing for the game that you see
outside of the parks - and I saw most of the horned beasts on offer before
camping in a pass which was surprisingly warm, and offered a spectacular
sunrise the next day.
Roxana had recommended
the Desert Sky Backpackers- a great choice for a bit of R&R. Swakopmund is a
great place for trying out new sports - Sky diving, paragliding, taking to
German chicks with a sense of humour - yes really! I took a morning up with
dune boarding which was not as much fun as I'd hoped, but to make up for
that you could lie down on a piece of hardboard and zoom down dunes at scary
speeds - watch out for the bumps if you value your testicles...
The weather was bright
and sunny - not normal for Swakopmund, but it made for a great trip up to
Cape Cross with Ferhat, who I'd actually met briefly in Youndé. The great
attraction is the seals - but what you don't expect is the stench of a few
hundred thousand seals in one place (without adequate sanitation, of
The next day the wind
picked up and a vicious sand storm hit town - no point in hanging around for
paragliding then - so I popped over to Walvis bay for a look around and then
headed past dune 7 (not a patch on the Col de Temet in Niger) towards
Sesriem, and more desert. I arrived at eh gates after closing time - at the
same time as another group, but we managed to get a camping spot of sorts,
and as we were sharing it was cheap enough for me to afford. in the morning
Liezel, Marisa and Ian joined me for the drive to Sossusvlei. The last five
kilomteres is 4WD only - and they were in a 4x2 so they were grateful for
the ride - even so it was a fast run to get there in time for sunrise even
with us getting up at 05:30. The last stretch was fun - new tyres and Sahara
experience saw me roaring past loads of shiny new 4x4s bogged down in soft
sand - the reward was a great sunrise amid the dunes.
The four of us agreed to
team up for a trip to Lüderitz, and the very touristy, but still quite
interesting town of Kolmanskop - the supposed ghost town. From there we
headed on to the Fish River Canyon - A great view, but it's something I
think you could only really appreciate by hiking down it for a few days.
The pace is now quite
fast - that's the trouble with travelling with people who only get a few
days of holiday - so after a hot swim at the spring at Ai-Ais we headed on
to the Border
The border - amazingly
open at 9pm - was where I failed miserably to claim back the VAT on my
various purchases - apparently the goods have to be unused - so that cost me
a packet on my new tyres - another black mark for the manager at Trentyres
Oshakati. So with a stamp in the last free page of my passport it's on to
the Augrabies falls.