Namibia Road Trip (Part 1)

IMG_9083 (1)Being in the travel industry, I have the fortunate task of visiting new countries and also having road trips into the bush to find out more about destinations, lodges, campsites and new and exciting adventures. Amazing adventures that we can introduce to new and existing clients.

With all the trips we undertake, the success lies in the planning stages. Having 3 vehicles being used on this particular trip, it meant more planning, triple the vehicle maintenance, checking maps, planning provisions and drawing up various menus for each vehicle to take it in turns to have a cooking evening. Then there was packing the right clothing, linen, filling gas bottles, checking batteries for the torches and head lamps, the lists really were endless. Of course when booking with Safari Odyssey you will know that all the  vehicles are checked, roadworthy and ready to take you to the deepest parts of Africa. Your routes, camp sites and filling stations will all be done for you following the route you would like to follow.

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Namibia in short…
Namibia is a country on the southern part of Africa that has a booming tourism sector. A country of unspoilt beauty, immense solitude, of far horizons, deserts, and jagged mountain heights. Hauntingly beautiful in its stark emptiness with stunning wildlife that would leave a memorable touch to your heart.

The country is named after one of its biggest tourist attraction which is the Namib Desert, and gained Independence in 1990, and has several natural tourist attractions. Namibian people are known for their strong belief in their cultural heritage and profound African language proficiency. The country is known as a semi-desert country and thus perceived as relatively dry.

Namibia is the first African country to address wildlife conservation and protection of natural resources in its constitution. A whole lot of places in Namibia are natural-born wonders, and it is only wise to preserve those beauties despite the force of modern development. Many people consider Namibia the beginner version of Africa. Well, it has how grown into a much more mature version of Africa and it does represent a portion of the African Tourism industry to a great existent.

The entire landscape of Namibia is divided into five major geographical features including – Namib Desert, Kalahari Desert, Central Plateau, Great Escapement, and Bushveld. The most interesting part is that each feature has different abiotic conditions, and some of them overlap each other. The best known feature is probably the Kalahari, with its varied environments from hyper-arid to some areas barely categorized as desert.

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It was at a very early hour that the 3 vehicles met just outside Pretoria and started the long journey to Namibia. For most it’s a straight road through the Skilpadsnek Gate into Botswana and onto a town called Kang. After an exhausting 704 km we had our first stop at the popular “Kalahari Rest Camp”. With friendly staff to welcome us and a pub with cold St Louis beers. The camp sites are all well laid out and big enough to take the 3 vehicles. We set up camp in time to see our first beautiful sunset while preparing our first meal.

Our first dinner menu included the following. For Starters we had Avocado Ritz, followed by Guinness stew for mains and Chocolate mousse for dessert. I must be honest, as the first on the list to prepare a meal we pre-cooked the stew. However, we do not compromise when it comes to meals. All our meals are carefully planned to rival any restaurant with the support of great beers and wine.

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With excitement we left The Kalahari Rest Camp early and started the trek further, another 731 km to Windhoek. Been a Sunday the road was not that busy and the border post from Botswana into Namibia was a breeze. Just a few kilometres outside the border of Namibia we encountered some cyclists on the road, surprised and uncertain of where they were from or where they were going. Their presence was confirmed to us by a organizer at the border post as participants of the Tour d’Afrique, a Journey of 11,220 km including 88 riding days, 25 rest days and 3 travel days.

Covering countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, with the average age of the cyclists being 55 years of age.

Happily climbing into our vehicles we continued to Windhoek, encountering some lovely rain which confirmed their good rain season the past 3 months. Arriving at our destination, the ”Urban Camp” we encountered a well designed and organised camping site, with what I can only describe as one of the best reception areas ever encountered. Right In the bar. So while checking in one can enjoy a lovely Tafle Lager. The evening produced more rain, letting us enjoy the restaurant in the camp site with many tourists from all parts of the world.

With a recommendation from a local Namibian in hand, we had planned not to travel the main highway to Swakopmund, but take an alternative less traveled route, the C28 over the Boshau Pass. This is a must for any person. While it is a dust road, it is well maintained and takes one through beautiful hills, vegetation that is difficult to even show on photo’s. A lovely breakfast on the top of the pass with a Gin and Tonic enjoying the beauty and the complete silence is truly therapy for the soul.

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On arrival at Swakopmund, we booked into what I then stated as one of the best camp sites I have ever stayed at – “Alte Bruecke”. A 6 minute walk to the beach, it has lovely lawns with your very own barbecue area, wash up area and separate toilets and showers at each camp site. The walk down to the beach for sundowner’s as one watches the sun set over the sea in the west is a good time to reflect on how blessed one is to be able to experience such beauty.

Swakopmund has so much to offer, the city itself is clean, organized and growing into a really big city. This is great for progress, but it could lose that small holiday town charm. The German influence is apparent on every street. Our morning drive to Walvis Bay to have a look at the colonies of flamingo’s had us stumble across a bird sighting which to us was a once in a lifetime experience. Thousands of Cape Cormorant’s in a feeding frenzy. If not resting on the beach they were wading, catching the waves to get out to the fish or dive bombing the fish from the air. Between the chaos were great white pelicans and dolphins also enjoying the seafood platter nature had served up to them.

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What was supposed to be our first stop, but moved down to number two, Dune 7 on the outskirts of Walvis Bay was our next destination. With water bottles, hats and suntan lotion on, we took the crest of the magnificent dune to the top to give us a view into the desert was well as the coast. While still relatively early the heat was starting to come through the shoes and sandals we had on, and a quick return to the bottom by running straight down the dunes was great fun.

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Walvis Bay is also synonymous with flamingos and a trip to the area would not be complete without some time spent in the company of these other-worldly feathered beauties. This is one of the best places in the world to see these ‘pretty-in-pink’ birds as it is said that most of the flamingos in Southern Africa visit this area at some stage to feed. Then in the middle of the night big groups of them will suddenly up and leave, departing for Etosha to breed.

Their long legs create a fuchsia forest on the lagoon front at Walvis Bay and coupled with their bizarrely long necks which they twist in bone-breaking fashion, their knees that bend the wrong way and the luminous colours that line their wings, they are some of the strangest and most gorgeous birds to look at.  Each a varying degree of pink, it’s almost as if each one has its own personality, choosing whether to be flamboyant in nature or more reserved in their clothing choice.

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With the birders satisfied with what they had seen for the morning, a lunch at the waterfront was on the agenda and here we were not disappointed by delicious plates of fresh calamari and kingklip, which if any fresher would be in the sea alive. A visit to “The Anchors” restaurant is a must for excellent food and craft beer or wine.

So to work off a great meal nothing is more exciting than going into the desert on quads or a dune rider. The sheer exhilaration and beauty of the desert kept us all busy for an hour and a half, with pit stops on some of the dunes giving us stunning views over this harsh but beautiful part of Namibia. With the engines off, the silence of the desert is quite eerie and one cannot but get lost in one’s own thoughts. Thinking about what it must be like to be lost in such vastness, or picturing yourself as the great ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ crossing the desert on a camel.

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With the sun already starting to set, it was a rush to get to the beach and enjoy another spectacular sunset with lovely food, wine and laughter.

Our stay in Swakopmund was too short and with the knowledge that we did not accomplish everything what we wanted to, we set off to Henties Bay with heavy hearts. We travelled along the C34 on a gravel road hardened with salt, passing numerous fishing areas and coming across the ship wreck of the “Zeila” at the Skeleton Coast.

The Zeila got stranded on the 25th August 2008 in the early hours of the morning, near “Die Walle”, a popular fishing spot about 14km south of Henties Bay. The fishing trawler that was sold as scrap metal to an Indian company by Hangana Fishing of Walvis Bay, got stranded after it came loose from its towing line while on its way to Mumbai, India shortly after it left Walvis Bay.

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After a fantastic brunch it was time to move inland into the arid Erongo region and onto the Spitzkoppe. The Spitzkoppe  (from the German meaning “pointed dome” – also referred to as Spitzkop, Groot Spitzkop, or the ‘Matterhorn of Namibia’) is a group of bald granite peaks or inselbergs located between Usakos and Swakopmund in the Namib desert of Namibia.

The granite is more than 120 million years old and the highest outcrop rises about 1,784 metres (5,853 ft) above sea level. The peaks stand out dramatically from the flat surrounding plains. The highest peak is about 700 m (2,300 ft) above the floor of the desert below. A minor peak – the Little Spitzkoppe – lies nearby at an elevation of 1,584 m (5,197 ft). Many examples of Bushmen artwork can be seen painted on the rock in the Spitzkoppe area. The Spitzkoppe Mountains was also the filming location for 2001: A Space Odyssey in the “Dawn of Man” sequences.

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Nearing the Spitzkoppe, we encountered a lovely little road store maned by no person but an honesty box, for payment of the lovely natural stones that have been collected and put on show for tourists to examine and to purchase if they so wished. Payment does not only have to be in hard currency, a bottle of water or any non-perishable food items are also accepted as payment, as the nearest convenience store is many miles away.

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The Spitzkoppe camp sites are very rustic. With only a dry (long drop toilet) at the camp site one could drive to the entrance to get a proper bathroom or a lovely shower. This is truly a very special place with the spectacular sunsets. A walk to the rock pools and the “Hole in the Wall’, reminds one how insignificant one is comparing your life span in years to the years that these hills have been around.

This is big sky country. As the stars come out it feels as if you could stand up and touch them. With the naked eye one can easily spot the Southern Cross, Three Sisters, black holes, satellites and falling stars. An evening of star gazing and reflection on the beauty of our universe.

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 (Part 2 to follow soon, off to Etosha.)

Shipwreck Source: http://www.waymarking.com

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