Almost a year in the planning, I should have known things were going to go pear-shaped (we tend to invite Murphy on all our trips…). It started when the check-list disappeared three days before the trip, but at least we knew where all the necessary documentation was, right? Passports in hand, documents for the vehicle in the file and all our accommodation booked… and then our son became ill as we left… Our departure was delayed from 1am by an hour while we tried to figure out what gremlin caused a short on the trailer’s lights. Sunrise saw us just outside of Springbok, which was going to be our breakfast stop. Outside the Wimpy, we met several other families travelling to Namibia. It’s a good place to meet and make new friends.
The Border at Noordoewer was interesting (Murphy, again). No card facilities, only cash accepted. Luckily, Kallie, from Robertson – one of our new friends from the Wimpy, loaned us cash for our vehicle cross-border permits. In convoy we then drove to the Engine Garage less than a kilometre on the other side of the border, where the borrowed funds could be returned. Here, Kallie had problems of his own – the fuel station only had normal diesel, and he was unsure if his Ranger would be happy to run on it. After discovering it would, we parted ways, hoping to see each other on the road somewhere.
After lunchtime and we were at our first overnight stop, Felix Unite on the Orange River: A welcome stop after being on the road for about 12 hours. After a quick coffee the next morning, we were back on the road. We wanted to reach our destination early and knew we were bound to stop for pictures en-route. Not knowing what we would find, it was very surprising to see a Spar in the middle of nowhere.
Amazingly, some of Namibia’s gravel roads are in a better condition than many of the roads in South Africa. And the view – WOW – all along the Orange River to Sendlings Drift, then past Rosh Pina to Aus!
Here we reached our overnight stop at Desert-Horse Inn and off we went to see the famous Desert Horses. This is definitely a must see! The next morning, we trekked off to Kolmanskop Ghost Town, where we had a tour guide that made the tour very interesting. We then headed to Luderitz for a quick tour of the town and a lunch stop before returning to the lodge to collect the trailer. Oh, and a quick photo session at the disused railway line. Then it was time to head to Hammerstein Lodge.
Alarms were set for the early start, since it would take us at least an hour’s drive to Sossousvlei AND we wanted to be there for sunrise.At 5:10am (or so I thought) up in a flash, wake the family, rush around. No way were we going to make the gate by sunrise… In fact, it was only 4:10am. One of our clocks was still on ZA time (the alarm clock), and Namibia operates on Daylight savings Time. Man, the children were not impressed! We got to the park’s entry gate just after sunrise (to find a queue of other sun risers…), with another 60km to the parking area at Deadvlei.
Then, there was the matter of the 5km of sand (4×4 only territory) to the vlei itself. It costs N$100 per person for a return trip to use the shuttle, so we were going to walk! But very luckily someone stopped and offered us a lift. In hindsight, my family would have taken half the day to walk through that thick sand, and when we realised just how far those 5kms were, a decision was made there and then, to take the shuttle back. No need, however. On return, we bumped into a group of Japanese travellers who were too happy for us to ride on their big truck, in exchange for a gazillion photos with the children!
We then headed back to Hammerstein for another overnight. A highlight, and a “must-do” activity at the lodge, is a walk through their Wild Cat Rehabilitation enclosure. If you very lucky, you will see their cheetah drinking water from your guide’s hand. Make sure your camera is ready to shoot the scene.
The next day we made our way to Walvis Bay. Be warned, the road is be VERY bad, especially after Solitaire. We were doing 20km/h, 1st gear at times, just to have a break from the constant jarring. Murphy decided to strike again! We destroyed the 2 rear shock absorbers on the van.So while the rest of the family went quad-biking and sand-boarding on Dune 7, I stayed behind to fit new shocks to the van and repair the rear window.
Leaving Swakopmund with a quick fuel stop, we were off to Henties Bay, along the Salt road, then MORE gravel as we travelled towards Damara Mopane Lodge for an overnight stop. We stopped at one of the many shipwrecks along Skeleton coast – a trawler that had run aground about 100m from the beach. We made a quick (or so we thought) trip to check out Vingerklip en-route to Taleni Etosha Village – our tented camp overnight experience. The shop here had a nice stock of beer and various meats.
The next day, we dropped the trailer at Etosha Safari Lodge (our next overnight stop), and then headed for a full day drive in Etosha National Park. They have strict controls regarding meat products, so be advised. The park is open from sunrise to sunset. Adhere to the speed limit, or lower or you could miss out on some of the game in the park. There were plenty of springbok and zebra around. We adhered to the advice and timing given by Rodger – one of the tour guides we met along the road, and he was spot on. Lots and lots of elephant at the waterhole, plus kudu, eland, jackal, and warthog…
It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun, and before long, it was time to head back to the gate. But not before we made our last stop at a water-hole near the gate. We had not seen any lions yet, and here we witnessed two putting up a mating show for the kids – Life Orientation 101. Dinner was enjoyed at Etosha Safari lodge, but not before some stunning sunset shots from their terrace overlooking a dense forest. After a hearty breakfast, we were back on the road.
Due to a slight technical error on our part, the overnight stop at Waterberg Wilderness Lodge was not exactly “booked and confirmed”. A new plan of action was required. Our following stop was Windhoek, so we decided to drive as far as we could in this direction before sunset. It’s definitely not a good idea to be driving in Namibia in the dark. As sunset approached, we came across Otjiwa Eagles Nest, a very welcome sight. The option of sleeping on the side of the road was not feasible. The staff here were very friendly, and the rates reasonable, so we opted for the camping. The kids decided we were not pitching the tent with a: “let’s just sleep in the van”. Good choice, because Murphy decided to join us yet again. Our daughter decided it was her turn to be ill …for the next 4 days. Before sunrise the next morning, and while the rest of the family slept, the trailer was hitched, and onwards we trekked.
By now, I had gone 20 hours without coffee, and was not a happy camper. Okahandja’s appearance was a welcome sight. We discovered a hidden gem – Garden Cafe, and they make the best coffee, brewed while you wait. Their pancakes are to-die-for and the burgers put many establishments to shame, and for only N$20!Two cups of coffee (one to make up for the previous day) and a hamburger later, and I was ready to tackle the next 70km to Windhoek.
By now, the standard question every morning: “how far, and how long? And is there gravel involved?” So this is how we made our departure from Windhoek and headed for the 350km to Kalahari Anib Lodge. And yes there was gravel involved… All of about 2km. That and the free Wi-Fi made their day.
Next stop was Canyon Roadhouse, and because of our earlier technical error, we scored ourselves 2 nights here instead of the 1 originally booked, which worked out much better. We enjoyed some time at the Fish River Canyon viewpoint and then had a lot of fun taking quirky pictures around the lodge… Our next and almost last stop was back to Felix Unite.
The holiday had to end with a bang (or splash) so we all enjoyed the river rafting on the Orange River, and our last overnight stop in Namibia. After a wonderful 16 nights in this country of wide open spaces and phenomenal landscapes; hospitable people and interesting meals, we returned to Cape Town: Back home… Oh and back to work….
Must have items:
- Time, and lots of it.
- A good sense of humour for those bad gravel days.
- Music, preferably on an MP3 player, or even your phone.
- Camera (and a wide-angle lens, if possible), and a tripod.
- A decent tyre pressure gauge. A compressor to inflate tyres when going from gravel to tar.
- If possible, take your own bottled water from home.
- Days travelled – 16 days
- Kilometres travelled – 5400
- Photos taken – 3200
- Costs incurred – no comment
- Time spent with my family – PRICELESS