There hasn’t been a country anywhere in Africa that has been more recommended to me than Namibia. When I was back home over Christmas, I lost count of the number of people that said I should go there. After all those recommendations and spending another night in the vineyards north of Cape Town we arrived at the border late in the afternoon looking forward to the exploring the countryside over the next fortnight.
The trip through the SA/Namibia border on the Oasis Overland truck was hassle free and we were on the road again within half an hour. It was already 4pm so we drove 10km down the road and spent the first night at Felix Unite Lodge on the shores of the Orange River.
Our first stop on the Namibia tourist trail was Fish River Canyon, which is advertised as the world’s second largest canyon behind the Grand Canyon in the USA, although neither of them are actually even close to being the largest canyons in the World. Nevertheless, it was a nice to have lunch on the rim while enjoying the views.
We continued north until late afternoon, then pulled off the road and camped on an open clearing under a full moon in the middle of the desert.
The days in the desert are warm but the nights have been cold and I’m glad I upgraded my sleeping bag in Cape Town.
Although virtually the entire country is desert it reminds me most of Iceland, where I was earlier this year. The scenery and habitats are obviously poles apart but both countries have the same ‘feel’ when driving long gravel roads from one scenic natural feature to the next. Vast open plains, rugged mountain ranges, inhospitable coastlines and incredible photo opportunities around every corner….same but different.
After a day of gravel roads, which compared to the rest of Africa are actually very good, we arrived in Soussavlei and the Namib-Naukluft National Park, containing the Namib Desert, which is possibly the World’s oldest desert with only the Atacama Desert being slightly drier.
Soussavlei is home to a sea of huge spectacular burnt orange rolling sand dunes that stretch unbroken for hundreds of kilometers. Amongst these are the World’s tallest dunes with several over three hundred meters high.
After an early morning start we drove to the nearby Deadvlei, ‘dead marsh’ which is a white clay pan with several dead Camel Thorn Trees over eight hundred years old, suspended in time and surrounded by the World’s tallest sand dunes. The image is synonymous with Namibia.
From Deadvlei we headed north leaving behind the sea of dunes and travelling across vast open plains and the Tropic of Capricorn only stopping for apple pies at the Solitaire Roadhouse, until we arrived in the coastal town of Swakomond.
Swakomond is a modern seaside town with palm tree lined streets, shopping malls, ATM’s that work, good restaurants, clean streets, coffee shops and everything you might need while traveling through Namibia.
After a few days in Swakomond we drove north towards the infamous Skeleton Coast, an area so inhospitable that no one lives along the 250km coastline which is where the cold Benguela Current meets the hot Namib Desert, resulting in an almost daily sea fog that envelops the desert and is the only source of water for the few plants that struggle to survive there.
The fog causes a major shipping hazard, hence it’s called the Skeleton Coast because there’s over one thousand ship wrecks lining the coast. Well, that’s what the old TV documentaries and the media had me wanting to see but these days things are different. Unfortunately the ship wrecks have been cut up for scrap and are no longer there and to make it worse we visited on a gloriously sunny fog-less day!
The highlight of the coast was visiting the Cape Cross seal colony, which is home to two hundred thousand Cape Fur Seals.
After driving the length of the coast we headed inland to the Otjitotongwe Cheetah Park where orphaned Cheetahs are prepared for release back into the wild.
At Spitzkoppe we camped under the boulder strewn mountains and walked to the summit, finishing the day watching the sun set over the savanna and mountains.
The Himba are an indigenous people, from Northern Namibia, who are famous for covering their skins in a mixture of butterfat and ochre.
We continued north arriving at Etosha National Park. ‘The Great White Place’, the Etosha Pan, covers a quarter of the entire 20,000km park and during the dry season when the animals congregate at the waterholes, offers perhaps Africa’s best game viewing around its water-holes.
After dinner on our first night in the park we ventured down to a floodlit waterhole near our accommodation and watched Rhino and Hyena come in to drink.
The highlight was on our second day in the park when I spotted a Leopard crouched behind roadside bushes watching a heard of Springbok fifty meters away. We watched it stalk it’s prey for nearly an hour before it disappeared off into the bush.
From Etosha we drove south to Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek where I’m finishing this post. It’s been a great two weeks and tomorrow we head east to the Botswana border and then drive across the Kalahari Desert, arriving at the Okavango Delta in about four days. Life on the truck has been good and Namibia has been a very easy country to travel through, undoubtedly the easiest African country to visit. A land of good roads, friendly people, mountains, desert, wildlife and unspoiled beauty.
We’ll be spending a week in Botswana and then a fortnight in Zimbabwe prior to a brief visit to Mozambique. My next post should be from Zimbabwe.
Bye for now.