Original Touring Africa Diary – Namibia

As Edmund had suffered a few injuries on our way through the last countries, the first thing we had to do was to drive down to Windhoek and get him fixed up properly. Arriving in Windhoek felt like driving into a New Zealand town and not Africa at all. It was clean and organised, modern buildings and everything looked new. The first night we ended up staying at The Cardboard Box which was an ok place for us as they served food and cold drinks, although it seems to be more of a back-packers place for teenagers who want to score in the evenings. The next day we moved on to Puccini House which was a lovely self catering place and since we left Edmund in safe hands for the next days with The Landy Center just around the corner, we stayed in a room which was a nice change to the tent for the next week. We hired a little Toyota to cruise around the lovely town for the next few days so we could pick up some bits and pieces for the second chapter of our trip. Arriving in Namibia was so different from all the previous African countries we have travelled through so I like to call it the start of the second part to our trip.

We picked up Edmund after a few days and this had been done to him; new clutch (ouch – pricey!), front corner was re-welded, rear shocks were modified and various bushes were replaced and a full service, they even washed the seat covers. All in all is was quite a good price for all of that, knowing that back in Switzerland all of that would have cost an arm and 2 legs. After doing huge piles of washing in the first washing machine of the trip (luxury!!), stocked up on food, having dined out at wonderful places in town, we were ready to explore Namibia good and proper and the first destination was Etosha National Park for 4 days.

After having seen the lack of wildlife all throughout Western and Central Africa it was fantastic to finally see so many animals! It’s currently the very dry season in Namibia (also very hot!) so you have a very good chance of seeing lots of animals at the artificial waterholes in the park, rather than being spread out. We mostly saw elephants – they are great to watch as they have such personalities and the little ones are just too cute. We were also very lucky to see a small leopard on the side of the road next to his kill which was up a tree, and we also saw a black rhino at dusk at one of the camps waterholes. Our four days in the park was up and we headed down to Khorixas via the Petrified Forest and Vingerklip. We were a little disappointed in the Forest as I think we were expecting a forest of petrified trees, hence the name, however we were shown 3 trees that were around 260 million years old, so nonetheless it was nice to see, but we wouldn’t do it again. The Vingerklip on the other hand, is a 35m-high pillar of limestone and said to be around 15 million years old, and it stands surrounded by only beautiful landscape in the middle of nowhere.

We decided to head up to northern Namibia by Angola, to see Epupa Falls, drive over Van Zyl’s pass and to track the desert elephants in Purros before heading down to Swakopmund and the dunes at Sossousvlei via the Skeleton Coast. On our way up north we stayed at Porcupine Camp in Kamanjab. This is a new camp run by mother and daughter of German descent. They have their pet turkey’s, ostriches, dogs, ducks etc walking around everywhere so you have to be careful where you put your feet. They were both hilarious and cooked us a very nice meal which we enjoyed whilst watching the neighbouring porcupines come for a feed only a few metres from us. The camp was lovely and we highly recommend it!

Next morning we headed up to Ruacana which is just by the Angolan border and we stayed in a nice camp called Hippo Pool which was recommended to us by 3 German interns in Windhoek. The camp overlooked the Kunene River and it was very calm and peaceful. This is also where we met Ralf, a German overlander, and it was funny to realise that we had met a lot of the same overlanders throughout the continent.

The North-Western part of Namibia is called the Kaokoveld and it’s a vast area of desert mountains that is crossed only by sandy tracks laid down by the South African Defence Force. It’s often described as the last true wildernesses in Southern Africa. It is also home to the Himba, a group of nomads in which the women never wash and cover themselves with a mixture of ochre butter and herbs and animal fat to protect themselves from the sun.

We didn’t get very far the next day, only 40km’s or so to Kunene River Lodge. This was a beautiful camp next to the river hidden in the tall trees around us. This is where we met Christine and Dudley who are very ;o) keen bird watchers and were on the hunt for the very rare Cinderella Waxbill (a bird). We were both heading in the same direction and decided to meet up the next day at Epupa Falls. The camp was right next to the falls and theoretically you didn’t need to have a shower because every so often you got sprayed with water from the falls. The location was yet again stunning. Christine and Dudley showed up and after much conversing about cameras (also very keen photographers and divers) and diving, we decided to drive down Van Zyl’s pass together. The track we were about to tackle was labelled as ‘Not Recommended’ on our GPS and nowhere to be found in any guide books, so we decided it be best to meet them at the top and drive the descent together. Little did we know, however, that the drive to the top was quite (!) tricky as well. It was sandy and rocky and steep most of the time. When we reached the top we saw Dudley changing his tire – they’d gotten a flat. A quick change and some lunch we began the climb down. The average speed we had was about 8kms/h or thereabouts and very hair-raising at some points – the track is only allowed to be done from east to west, as its very narrow and steep going down, driving it the other way would be suicidal. I had to get out a few times because it was too steep so I thought taking pictures of the car was a better option than being strapped in your seatbelt and holding on to something for dear life. Thankfully Milan managed the drive very well and we celebrated with cold beers at the top end of the Marienfluss (a 50 km long plain surrounded by beautiful hills).

We decided to stay a few nights at the camp in the Marienfluss to decide what the next step was going to be. Since Milans parents were joining us in mid October for 6 weeks we decided to join Christine and Dudley for the remainder of their time on an extensive holiday by going to Purros and then to the Caprivi Strip for further game viewing, and just good old fun, and then meet C and Ian in Botswana. We will come back to Namibia in a few months again to do the south of the country.

Only an hour into the drive south towards Purros and the Landcruiser got stuck in sand. Having done this before we got them out with the winch in no time and we carried on the track which was labelled ‘Aggressive elephants and flash floods’ on our GPS. Being the dry season we thought that flash floods were highly unlikely but the danger of elephants was of course there… It was a fabulous drive through the dried out sand banks and on our way into Purros camp we spotted our first desert elephants having a play in the water. After 3 nights at Purros we headed out early in the morning down the Eco-Trail through the sand banks of the river through a gorge. We spotted recent elephant prints and followed them for about an hour or so until we saw two young males playing just metres from us. It was amazingly beautiful to see them. We were also very lucky to see a brown hyena that morning!

We followed the Eco-Trail towards Sesfontein and planned to stay at Porcupine Camp in Kamanjab that evening. The track was a little trickier than we had anticipated and we got stuck twice each that day in the sand bed of the dried river. As the evening dusk crept upon us we decided to bushcamp before Kamajab. The next day was a long days drive up to Rundu, by the Angolan border once more just before the Caprivi Strip. We drove to Popa Falls and stayed at what Lonely Planet names as Namibias best camp site. Another lovely camp site just on the Okavango River where we could lounge in the pool in the river, which was a fenced floating area in the river close to the hippos and crocs. Early morning bird watching boat ride was organised with Christine and Dudley and we have now been officially converted to bird watchers. Next stop was further into the Caprivi, Bum Hill, where we slept in the trees for the first time. We went out for fantastic game drives in the early mornings and late afternoons and enjoyed numerous sundowners at Horse Shoe Lagoon looking at all the elephants wander down for their drinking sessions. One evening we counted up to 150 elephants!

After Bum Hill we crossed into Botswana and said our goodbyes to Christine and Dudley in Kasane.

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