Faces of Namib with URI – From a female driver’s perspective

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A friend of mine asked me if I wanna pack my 15 year old son into my 4×4 vehicle and do this trip Faces of Namib with them as he wants to take his 15 year old son and go and do it. So what do I always say: YES!

As the time draw nearer and the messages start coming through from 4×4 Cederberge that this is a serious trip: it is not an expedition but a 4×4 excursion and we must be well prepared – the butterflies started!

So I started to read the “needs list”: water, extra fuel, V-belts (what belts?), gearbox oil, engine oil, etc etc….. what now? As what is all of this stuff??

So I booked myself into a Bush mechanic course – you know us women are information gatherers – so this is where it started. Here I learned about valve spanners, fixing radiators, about the oils, nipples (know what that is), bleeding the vehicle and also were my brake fluid bakkie is in under my bonnet. It does not mean I can fix this stuff, but I needed to file this information just in case I have to tell someone how to do it one day.

The other thing was I booked myself again with 4*4 Cederberge on a sand dune course at Atlantis. My golly – did I leave this with so much trepidation! I could not even get over the little sand hobble that took us into the dunes. I sat out on most of the dune rides as I had no idea what to do. Low Range second eventually sorted me out. And for now that is what I understand about my manual gearbox, so I and Low Range are now ready to tackle the Faces of the Namib.

I was quite impressed with my packing skills – ratchet straps make me as strong as an ox! My 120 liter water tank and four Jerry cans filled with diesel all fitted in – and four ammo boxes, Engel fridge, 6 bottles of Sjampers etc etc… And all was strapped down! O ja! And I changed my tyres to the best ones I could get advice on for my vehicle!!!

So the journey began. We arrived in Solitaire 20 minutes before scheduled arrival time with a very worried guide from 4×4 Cederberge for the female traveling on her own (he did not know I had a friend with his son in another vehicle).

Here I met the rest of our group – very well rigged with very good vehicles – ai tog can these butterflies please just disappear!!!! This night we met this calm earthy person Eben from Uri Adventures, whom explained to us what more and less we can expect for the next few days!

You know, as a women doing this ‘male thing’ the whole time I do feel a sense of I cannot let myself down here as it is not that I needed to proof myself, but more that I do not want these men to think that I am going to keep them up, or ja this stupid women should stay out of this or or…. Needless to say NOT ONCE DID ANYONE make me feel like that – I was just another driver!

Day One: wake up with serious butterflies, goods all strapped down, my first bottle of sjampers in the fridge, ready to go. This is where I saw Eben’s Nissan Patrol, my holy mack…if only I knew then how much man and vehicle will still teach me in the next few days! My son is my radio man – as geez – a woman can multi task – but to handle two gears, three pedals, a steering wheel and my own fears was just too much to handle. I can’t even remember how many times and I had to reverse on day one, I became very good with reversing back down dunes. The dunes were very small and low range second was still alive on my gearbox. After about 7 hours of driving, lunch and unbelievably scenery we ended up sleeping in the Kuiseb riverbed – sjoe it was amazing. After setting up – meaning popping our tents open – we sat down around the campfire and I did exactly what a women want to do – see how people make food for you! I have a special champagne chair were my champagne glass hangs in and my bottle fit in. To everyone’s amazement – I drank up my whole bottle (as a Borrelflerrie I am used to this) and we were given an excellent meal by Uri Adventures.

 

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Day Two: we started off rock climbing and descending, saw Welwitschias and wow again beauty that so little of the world has a chance to see. Then the butterflies changed into gremlins as the dunes got so much bigger and ai – I could not get over it! I am wasting every ones time and all my fears came to light! Then Johnny from Uri came to my rescue. I had to reverse far back, changed away from low range to second to high range- I said how can as this car will not operate in high range – but there I went high range first, then just before the dune second gear, and I was flying!!!!!!!! I started to understand about revs, and low and high range and it started to kick in, just for the day to come to an end somewhere in the dunes of which only a GPS coordinate can get you there with the path making skills of Eben and his Patrol. Another bottle of sjampers and a great meal prepared by Ma- Rita, Schalk (our rescue man with a rope), Birgitta, Johnny (my range hero) and Eben.

Day three flew into a day of so much gremlins and rescues (compliments from Lance my buddy). I was also cursing him alone in my vehicle as I asked myself why the bollas do I do this for. It felt like I am jumping out of an airplane every time I climb in behind the steering wheel. But as the day goes on I looked in awe at the beauty that we all were given to enjoy and respect. I was pulled out once by the Rock Schalk, as I realised afterwards low range must still be used sometimes! Wow woman!

I was very nervous after this as the dunes really got high and long and the sand was soft. I drove with determination as Richard from Cederberge 4×4 spurred me on via the radio that I eventually got my driving shoes on. “GOOI IT “was mentioned so many times. I’ve seen the light in high range and changing over to low range – like in one movement, low range first for that huge descents, to high range second in a split second to climb up the long sandy dunes. It could have also been Marc’s prayer this morning to help me with this day as he asked for special guidance for me!

We again ended at a location were the same ritual took place with so much more ease! And the surprise for me was (as I do not read all the things properly) we are staying at this location for two nights – seeing 2015 in! It felt like I am setting up my hotel room with the best view in the world! Again an amazing meal and tonight justify two bottles of sjampagne (obviously sharing) and the few hardcore bunnies – we made it till twelve a clock!!! Happy and respect 2015!

Day four: Sherbet, this was adrenaline as the first “play-gat” (10 minutes into our drive) dawned on us as we all looked and thought geez look at our view with the high dunes. Then Eben climbed into his Nissan Patrol and disappeared into oblivion. He looked like a white Smartie in the Kimberley gat! At an immense speed with engines roaring he went down the dune that felt like a 130km/h and hit the high dune – drove it out and then came down another one with the speed of dust and up the other one. Stopped calmly next to us and said that the track is made – “stay in the tracks” – who wants to go? As if he went for a morning run next to the beach. We all looked in disbelief, and then the adrenaline came alive. I did not have the sense to do it my vehicle – if I get stuck – I will need a helicopter to get me out. So me and my son jumped in with Dries, it felt like we were back in Disney World!

We went to the lovely Conception Bay, and little towns and boats stranded, saw Oryx running down the dunes (what a sight) and many a times while I was driving the tears rolled down my face or should I say it was so warm the sweat was rolling out of my eyes. This was a long day as we got back to our camp hotel as Eben saved us all from a “Gat”. He got into it and with amazing patience, himself, Marita digging sand out from the wheels just like the geckos digging into the sand and his Nissan Patrol; he got out of the Gat two hours later. We all could not believe it.

Again a great meal, hot showers and a bottle of cold sjampers. Can’t believe it is our last night in this God Given Miracle.

Last Day: I’m driving with not having to reverse once or ask Schalk to pull me out! There are only butterflies left! The tears don’t want to stop, the beauty must not stop! I want more and more…… We headed off to Walvis for our final night.

A bed, restaurant meal – were is Maritas food????, Sarah se gat, wil jy by my kom dodoo langarm dance with Tertius and lots of laughter and unbelievable people this Faces will not end as it is embedded in my head.

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We were all were people who appreciated nature, we felt guilty if we made a glips and threw the toilet paper into the long drop instead of into the waste bag (“what goes in must come out”), we are all adventure seekers (cannot beat Costa and Dee – geez I fell in love with them) and we all are achievers in our own worlds.
BUT I cannot remember when last I felt so proud of myself when my son during this trip told me the whole time how proud he is of me and how well I am doing with his innocent kisses on my cheek AND then…. when my Patrol leader climbed out of his vehicle in Walvis and told me that I can go sit on the couch, click my tongue twice and ask for a sandwich…..

THANK YOU Eben and Marita – you are my Livingstons – from one Entrepreneur to another.


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