written by Jackie Scott
Oh, how can I say this: People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do. We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar. Wildness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd.
Excerpt from Small Wonder? by Barbara Kingsolver
9 August: Finally!!! We arrived and set up camp at Amanzi River Camp, where we spent our first night in Namibia before embarking on our 4×4 Land Rover adventure on the less travelled roads of this beautiful country. 10 August: A spectacular picture waking up to the sunrise lighting up the Geelkrans Cliffs on the opposite side of the river. What a wonderful welcome into this country and trip we’ve all been looking forward to. Heading north, we passed Aussenkehr, a table grape farm, surrounded by mountains, desert, and the Orange River. It has evolved into a large settlement accommodating workers employed at the nearby wine farms. The houses in this village, are built of reeds from the river bank.
Surrounded by limitless nothingness… (is that even a word….?) on our way to the Fish River Canyon.
Known as the largest in Africa, and the 2nd largest in the world, The Fish River Canyon lies in front of us…. What an impressive natural wonder, this enormous 27km wide gorge with a depth of 550m meanders along a distance of roughly 160 kilometres.
On our way to Brukkaros Mountain Resort we stopped for something cold to drink at The Cañon Roadhouse. It’s unique décor was a quirky mix of old posters, cars and signs. One of the most memorable stopovers for all of us was Brukkaros Mountain Camp… none of us knew quite what a magical experience was lying ahead of us.
11 August: An early start towards Windhoek, a long uneventful drive… we stop for a leg stretch and a quick photo. Not even the tar roads escape the reality of the harsh Namibian sun.
We went for the mandatory dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse where we tucked into some good German & Namibian specialities. I have to mention… this is we first met Jens, after Alfred locked his keys in the car. Only a phone call away, Jens was there in no time with a locksmith to save the day!
PS: Can’t resist adding the pic of the bathroom at Joe’s!
12 August: Leaving Windhoek, our destination via Okahanja and Otjiwarongo is Etosha Safari Camp with its beautiful pool, green lawns and not least great bar and interesting decor. Jens is a star for sorting us out with such awesome accommodation and amazing hospitality.
We set up camp and the guys put together the famous P bucket… dangerous, after which we headed to Africa’s unique Etosha National Park. Other than it’s almost guaranteed sightings of wild animals around the watering holes, it’s main characteristic is a salt pan so large it can be seen from space.
Of the many highlights during our trip to Etosha National Park, the one that I believe stood out the most, for all of us, was the huge herd of elephants charging towards the watering hole appearing from a cloud of dust in the distance.
13 August: Up early again… met by the most beautiful Safari sunrise. We all went on a self-drive game drive and spotted a huge variety of game.
14 August: Woke up early this morning to a beautiful sunrise and got spoilt by Jens again with a nice cup of coffee before we hit the road on our +/- 680km drive to Epupa Falls…
The guys reevaluated our route and decided rather to go via Kamanjab, a little village in the Kunene region. We stopped to refuel In Opuwo, the capital of the Kunene Region in North-Western Namibia, and were harassed by people begging and trying to sell their goods.
Such a long dry mountainous road, and as we decent our final gradient… what an unexpected surprise!! Epupa Falls appear ahead of us, an oasis of Makalani palms and Baobab trees . After setting up camp everyone gets their camera’s set up hoping once again to catch the perfect time lapse sunset.
15 August: Up at 5:30 to go set up our cameras and take pictures of the sunrise over the Epupa Falls.
The series of waterfalls created by the Kunene river spreads over a width of roughly 1.5km’s.
The rest of today is spent chilling next to the river, a lot of excitement when the resident croc came for a rest close to our camp. (pic taken by Alfred Clark)
Before supper we came for a sundowner at the pub and lookout point at the camp next door. What a stunning view, I just couldn’t resist the cliché panoramic with wine glass pic.
Dinner is served… Adrienne and Pieter prepared a superb sirloin with blue cheese and figs on the fire.
16 August: Today we trek into Kaokoland, the most untouched part of Namibia, accessible only by 4X4 on some hard core tracks, not before we go on an early morning exploration of the rest of Epupa Falls.
The morning sky is setting the Kunene on fire.
Walking back to our camp we spot a little trouble… Dewald’s Defender has a FLAT….. battery!
On the road again… in anticipation towards towards Van Zyl’s Pass.
Maybe there is a good reason why the locals use this as there method of transport.
The first bit off traffic we have come across, taking a break on the side of the track.
What lies ahead…
12:06: The Disco has a FLAT… a sidewall puncture. A quick stop to repair.
12:23: (Sorry Alfred, have to record the times now 😉 It seems the Discovery has become a tourist attraction… The side wall plug has popped out and needs to be replaced.
Assessing what seems to be our first challenge on Van Zyl’s Pass.
4:30PM: I was wrong, I think this might have been the biggest challenge today. Two flats at the same time… They say things come in three’s, hopefully this is the last.
Look what I found… no-one however was in the mood for games right now!
Men at work with a different audience this time.
5:37PM: Is when this pic was taken… there is not even a glimmer of hope for us going down Van Zyl’s Pass today. The girls set up camp on the riverbed just a few metres away and started a fire while the guys tried their very best to get the tyres repaired before bedtime.
17 August, 7:12AM: Up early, with the hope that a new morning and a new strategy will get us back on the road again! …doom and a lighter to get the tyre back on the rim again. Someone saw this on youtube… really!!
It worked! But we did not have as quick a result with the 2nd tyre, but eventually we got there!
10:58: We’re making our way up the mountain again, one of the tyres has 3 side wall plugs… this is how we are going to have to make our way down Van Zyl’s Pass.
This extreme route leading up to the pass is 10-15km of tough driving, with us (with the Grabbers) having to dodge our way through boulders, rocks and those darned sharp stones!
11:38: We have just reached the top of Van Zyl’s Pass, the scenery can only be described as breathtaking and I am in photography heaven.
12:04: This Pass, for the super-experienced driver only, is known as one of the top 10 most dangerous passes in the world, and the most challenging in Namibia. Adrienne is the first vehicle making it’s way down this notorious pass named after a Dutch explorer who found the way across with a Model T Ford and a few 100 Himba.
From the bottom, Marinus making his way down.
A panoramic view of the drivers gauging the difficulty of their next road bump.
The start of the 2nd challenge with Alfred calculating his way ahead.
And everyone was saying the Discovery was difficult to hold on to…. and this is Alfred’s happy face, his tyres are still OK.
I’m not sure I can think of something appropriate to say here, other than well done for holding on Marno!
This outrageously steep pass was a pure adrenalin rush for everyone… one of the few pic’s I caught Dewald smiling.
The road ahead… Pieter guiding everyone through the next obstacle.The badlands of Northern Namibia
14:25PM: Cheers and Respect to the guys!
Looking back to where we came from…the descent from the top of the pass covers a distance of about 10km’s. It can only be driven in one direction (for very obvious reasons) towards Marienfluss.
The very bottom of Van Zyl’s Pass where people pack their memory stones. I don’t think any of us even thought about this… we were just too happy that the Grabber’s made it down!
Alfred… the happiest!
Known as the White Lady of the Dessert, this spider is normally active in the cool nights and spend their days hidden in burrows made of silk and sand. We were quite lucky to have spotted it… it seems.
The Landies… what an achievement to tick of on one’s bucket list! After the big trek over the Pass, we have just arrived in the Marienfluss valley, an unforgettable experience of nature stretching between the Otjihipa mountains in the East and the Hartmann mountains in the West.
As recent as June 2014 articles have appeared on the CNN and BBC sites regarding the Fairy Circles of Namibia still being a great mystery to Scientists all over the world. Theories from Alien invasions, poisonous gasses and termites have been put forward, but nothing proven.
The magical myths of the Himba’s say the circles are footprints of the gods, and another that there is a dragon breathing fiery bubbles, that when they hit the surface, burn the vegetation into circles.
A Himba kraal in the Marienfluss Valley
Rooi Drom, featuring on most Namibian maps started as a 45 gallon Caltex Drum put there by Ben Van Zyl as a way of storing petrol until he would next need it. It’s purpose has since changed to that of being a road marker. The murdered Strand ecologist and apparent pioneer in making 4X4 tracks in Namibia, Jan Joubert, re-painted the drum every two years when he could. According to research repainting the Rooi Drom has now become a tradition and memorial to him.
Camping on the river beds was a 1st time great experience for me. Here on the Khumib river bed we set up camp for the night, and Marinus and Carin set out a lovely spread of snacks before preparing their main meal of the holiday, a yummie oxtail potjie.
Pieter!!…. Slaap jy?? 18 August: Sunrise at our riverbed camp… Packing up and on our way around 9.
1st stop on our way to Purros was the shop, one of 2 buildings in Orupembe… a shop (with no Coke!) and a police station.
Lunch is done and we continue our drive along Hoarusib river bed into the aggressive wild elephant territory. These elephants are one group of only two known populations of desert elephants in the world, the other is in Mali.
While we didn’t see any elephants we saw a lot of elephant poop and water holes dug by them, as well as paw prints of a cat and her cubs
The corrugation on the road we are travelling on is horrendous… this pic does it no justice. The drivers all stop to release some tyre pressure with the hope of making this stretch of road a little more bearable.
On the road via Purros to Sesfontein we had an anxious call on the radio’s… Dewald’s Defender is on fire. Alfred charges forward (on this crappy corrugation), the last thing we want is a Defender on fire. As we got there Marinus is already there and ready with the fire extinguisher. Was just a short on auxiliary cables from the deep cycle battery.
16’km’s away from Sesfontein… this Valley with it’s 1000’s of hills is absolutely landscape is breathtaking.Stopped at FONTEIN SHOP in Sesfontein to stock up in some supplies. A lot of noise from the Liquor Sales next door… this is clearly where the party is!
Sesfontein, in the Hoarib valley and marks the Northen edge of Damaraland, was named after 6 springs that surface nearby.
19 August: We left our campsite just after 7am to make our way to Swakopmund.
After refuelling we are stopped at the Animal Disease Checkpoint, commonly known as The Red-Line. This fence separates the commercial cattle ranches in the South from the Northern free range herds as a precaution against spreading animal diseases. All animal products, other than chicken, are not allowed to cross the red line travelling from North to South.
Marinus and Carin have a lot of their meat confiscated and speed off. Dewald is also done and follows them… a story for later!
9:09: We are driving along slowly because of the fragile condition the tyres are in while Adrienne and Pieter are still at the Red Line.
Not even 15 min later we have a flat tyre… the existing plug has fallen out, Alfred replugs and off we go, only for the plug to fall out again 20 min later!! Pieter and Adrienne have caught up, after they had their meat confiscated too.
10:24: Plug repaired… again! We are on our way.
11:32: Panic as we aren’t able to make contact with neither Marinus nor Dewald. The fact that Dewald has a radio with a range that does not extend as far as the rest of ours does not help either. We manage to contact Marinus only to find out that Dewald and Marno are not with them!! The 4 Landies have gone in three different directions… not good if you are in the middle of nowhere with little to no radio contact or cell phone reception.
12:18: Everyone is back together again… Dewald and his navigator decided it was OK to follow a dust cloud thinking it might be Marinus and Carin! After detouring all the way to Torra Bay they made their way back again. Pieter managed to make contact via SMS.
20 August: Alfred and I are off to Walvis Bay to go meet his Mom and get our supplies for our seafood feast this evening.
A quick drink has become a pub crawl! …next stop Khuki’s Bar for a last quick drink then off to start supper back at the camp. It’s supper time and we feast on fresh oysters for starters, then Galjoen, Sole and Kabeljou. Thanks to Alfred’s mom for arranging all the seafood, and Marno & Carin for shucking the oysters. 21 August: After a yummy breakfast at the well renown Probst Bakery, we head off towards Sossusvlei over the Kuiseb Pass via the Namib Naukluft Park. This Park encompasses a part of the Namib desert and Naukluft mountain range. Gaub Pass in Khomas region of Namibia. Solitaire!! A small settlement in Namibia where tasted some of the late Uncle Moose’s famous apple pie…. And it was delicious! Solitaire has the only general dealer, gas station, post office and bakery between the dunes at Sossusvlei and the coast at Walvis Bay, as well has to the Namibian capital of Windhoek.
Leaving Solitaire we headed off to our next stop, Hauchabsfontein Campsite. +/- 4700km’s later, camp set up, we are ready for a nice relaxed evening… Irmi (the owner) joined us later for a glass of red which ended up being a bottle or more. 21 August:
10:49: Breakfast done, and we are on our way to Klein-Aus Vista.
10:57: What are the chances….! Not even ten minute after we have left our camp the Disco’s water outlet hose decides to give up on us. A R220 part causes a three and a half hour delay to our road trip. Couldn’t resist setting up this pic!
14:29: The boys managed to fix the leak to a degree that we could drive again. Hats off to them! How many other’s would be this self sufficient ?
18:19: we stopped to refuel and Helmeringhausen which is completely situated on private land, all infrastructure, except the roads, are part of the farm Helmeringhausen. The hotel and coffee shop at Helmeringhausen.
23 August: Up early, and heading towards Growcery. We are crossing the border back into South Africa today… can this holiday be nearly over?About 147km’s away from the South African border. Fascinating black mountains on the left and white mountains on the right.
Just crossing the Fish River on the other side of Namibia. Our first sighting of the Orange River14:11: We have just crossed the border back into South Africa, I could resist taking this pic…
Kotze se hoop is groot! 14:41: Arrived at Growcery and set up camp… beautiful spaces. A nice chilled day. We watched Western Provence kick the Lions asses today, 27-14. Ended up being a late night, many shooters later.
24 August: Where we spent our night watching the game last night… now leaving what was our last night together. 2 Defenders off to Brand se Baai, one back home, and the Discovery off to Springbok for some maintenance before taking the road back to Cape Town.
What a feeling of overwhelming emotion as I write this last paragraph. At this point I can just say thanks to a great crowd of people for this experience that I would never have had if I hadn’t met them.
I don’t think anyone can truly understand these endless landscapes and the sounds of silence that enveloped us without experiencing it first hand…. The experience was life changing, one I will treasure for a very very long time.
THANK YOU Alfred, Adrienne, Pieter, Dewald, Marno, Marinus & Carin!!
A special thank you goes out to Jens who made so much effort and personal sacrifice to not only treat us at some of the Gondwana collection lodges and camp sites, but to be a real superhero in assisting through all the tyre nightmares. There are no words to thank him !