One of the joys of overlanding independently and in your own self-contained home on wheels, is that you can change your mind about an intended route and spontaneously head off in a different direction! That is what we did a few days ago and it proved to be quite a momentous decision for us! More of that later.
From Luderitz we drove towards Fish River Canyon via Rosh Pinah. Once we entered the Canyon Park area we were back on dirt road and following the river (SA on the other side) stopping for lunch at a good view point, to be entertained by a troupe of baboons and a couple of fish eagles.
Further down the road we looked for somewhere to park up for the night. I liked the look of a potential spot not far off the road and watched dubiously as Bruce sank up to his axles in soft sand, woops! Shovel and sand-ladders out for the first time this trip! As it was getting late, we just parked on top of the sand-ladders for the night and didn’t worry about getting out of the sand till morning (it wasn’t a problem).
We reached the resort of Ais-Ais and had a welcome stop to use their swimming pool before carrying on to Hobas where we could view the Canyon, quite an impressive sight.
It was around this time we decided to go to Windhoek. We needed to extend our visas as were only given 30 days on arrival (apparently because we didn’t show them our return air tickets) instead of the normal 90 days. We also wanted to get some new shock absorbers for Betty Buster. Although unsure whether it would make much difference on the corrugations, we are not really in a position to get air suspension fitted on the van at the present time, so new dampers will just have to do!
I was pleasantly surprised by Windhoek. We only stayed a couple of days (and one of those was sitting in Namib Truck Centre’s workshop while new shocks were fitted on BB) but it seemed a more relaxed city than I was led to believe by what I have read and heard. We have been given several warnings about many crime-ridden places and, touch wood, haven’t been affected ourselves at all, yet!
We then headed back to Swakopmund, to dust off and cool down! What a relief to feel the sea breeze! We took the opportunity to visit the Aquarium, interesting but sad. A mass of fish swimming round and round and round in circles all day every day. I know I shouldn’t relate to it in human terms, but how boring a life is that?
However, the lovely ladies who run the burger van outside the Aquarium are definitely worth a visit! Their burgers are truly vile and yet we went back for a second visit purely because they are such a delightful couple!
Our intention was to drive up the Skeleton coast from Swak, and after a rather typically African encounter with the Namibian Parks and Wildlife office where we were told to go upstairs to get our Park permits and told to go back downstairs by those upstairs, to pre-book our camping, and then told by downstairs we didn’t need to book the camp but to go upstairs for our Permit and then told by those upstairs we didn’t need to book a Permit, eventually we set off with neither pre-booking or permit.
The coast road north from Swakopmund is all about fishing! It is one long, long road with fishing spots at regular intervals and people having fishing holidays. The fishing lines are carried upright on the bumpers of the Landcruisers, in what look like candle holders, sometimes four or five in a row!
We drove up to Cape Cross and visited a seal colony. Oh my goodness, what a fascinating, amazing and extremely disturbing experience that was! In early December the seals are giving birth. When a “colony” is mentioned I never really consider how many that actually means. This seal colony is a seething mass of thousands of seals and pups, wherever you look! The first thing that hits is the smell and then the deafening noise of the calling, pups for their mum and mums for their pup!
As you walk around and see the sheer numbers, it is really hard to imagine how they can possibly find the right pup or the right mum, and it was clear that sadly they don’t always. We quickly moved away from the official tourist viewing area which is far too close to the seals, and found a quiet, solitary place to stop and watch at a reasonable distance. Fascinating watching all the seal action on the rocks, the squabbling, posing, basking, swimming and even surfing the waves!
At this point we made a big decision to go no further up the coast, but to head inland along a back road into Damaraland towards the Doros Crater. Well this proved to be more daring than we actually anticipated, but brought amazing rewards. We drove for two and a half days without seeing a single other vehicle, or indeed human being apart from one. In fact for the first 70 km there was little sign of life at all, animal or vegetable! It was an incredible, lunar landscape and I have never had such a feeling of being alone. We parked up for the night at a wonderful spot close to some boulders and enjoyed the expanse of it all and the silence. The following day, we reached the end of the dirt road and turned onto a track (4WD required) leading to a camp run by the Save the Rhino Trust where we saw our one human, the camp custodian . We were hoping to carry on along the current track to reach Twyfelfontein, another 75 km further on. However, the track we’d already passed along had proved incredibly difficult and hard on the van, driving over rocks and boulders so Bruce asked if the road ahead was the same. The park attendant said it was bad for about half an hour but improved once we reached the plains. Yeah right! It took us two full days to drive that 75 km, along the most challenging track imaginable (we have just met a German couple who did the same journey in 5 hours in their Landcruiser!)
However, it was all made totally worthwhile by the wonderful encounter we had the morning after parking up by a few trees in a dry river bed. We spotted a few elephant in the distance and then watched in awe as gradually the herd of 22, including several youngsters and babies ambled towards us, stopping to munch on the bushes and vegetation. They took barely a glance at us despite passing within a few yards.
This is what it’s all about! The kind of magical moment you hope to experience but cannot possibly plan! To have a herd of elephant come and visit, giving us our very own, individual game viewing experience! Total joy!
We eventually rejoined civilisation, having lost a few more bolts on the way, as well as the back door catch which has sheared off completely. As we can’t close the back doors at the moment, the van fills up with piles of dust every time we drive along the dry, dusty, dirt roads, so unsurprisingly we are delighted that we are now getting our first rains of the trip!
So here we are sitting in a campsite in Opuwu, in northern Namibia, waiting for a storm to blow our way with welcome, cooling rain. It’s been a hot and dusty few weeks, but with some great experiences, one of which will prove to be a major highlight of our trip I am certain!
A la prochaine.