On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is making music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
My dear Into The Wild Family!!!! We are back again!!!! As Willie Nelson said “On the road again”. It was way to long from our last post – 3 freaking long years!!! It took time to get back on the track, but we did it and hopefully we never have to take a break from travelling again 🙂 .
This time was Africa’s turn. Namibia to be more precise. 4300 km of amazing road trip through savannas, deserts, harsh coastlines, wild animals crossing our roads, crazy off-road roads… But let’s go step by step.
If Namibia is ‘Africa for beginners’, as is often said, what a wonderful place to start. They say few countries in Africa can match Namibia’s natural beauty – and although we don’t know other African countries, we’re sure it will be really hard to match this road trip. At some point during your stay in Namibia, you may well look around and wonder if you’ve fallen off the end of the earth or if you are just on another planet! Namibia combines in one country so many of our passions – nature, wild life, adventure, interesting people and unexpected experiences. A road trip across Namibia is an education in its own – Lonely Planet, History Chanel, Discovery Chanel and National Geographic – all in one.
As I said, we did 4300 km of dusty off-roads (well most of them). Starting in the capital Windhoek (start and the end of the trip), continuing to Etosha National Park (amazing safari), Epupa falls (beautiful waterfalls and Himba tribes), Palmwag, Damaraland (Mad – Max crazy film set), Skeleton coast with Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Sandwich Bay – with ship wrecks and beautiful sand dunes, trekking in Namibgrens and last but not the least amazing red dessert in Sossusvlei.
Windhoek (320.000 people) is the sort of place that divides travelers, with those who love it as the most “Western” place in Namibia and those who find it a little too ‘Western’ for their African tastes. And they’re both right: Windhoek is a modern city for African conditions, which lies at around 1,700 m above sea level, almost exactly at the country’s geographical center. Neobaroque cathedral spires, as well as a few seemingly misplaced German castles (Namibia use to be a German colony), makes you feel as you would be in some small German city.
Such apparent incongruities aside, Windhoek makes a great place to begin or break a journey through Namibia. The accommodation choices, food variety, cultural sights, shopping and African urban buzz give it an edge not found anywhere else in Namibia . And that’s exactly what we did. We stayed 1 night when we arrived and 1 night Before going back home. That gave us enough time to rent a wonderful 4×4 pick up truck for our road trip, buy our supplies for few first days and do a bit of the sightseeing. I wouldn’t recommend to stay in Windhoek more than a night or two, since there is not much to do and there is so much more to see once you leave the capital.
ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK
Approximately 400 km to the North from Windhoek, you will find Etosha National Park. Covering more than 20,000 sq km, Etosha is one of the world’s great wildlife-viewing spot. Etosha’s essence is the vast Etosha Pan, an immense, flat, saline desert that, for a few days each year, is converted by rain into a shallow lagoon teeming with flamingos and pelicans. In contrast, late in the dry season Etosha is white chalky dust.
We stayed in park for 4 nights – 1 night in Eldorado guesthouse and camping and 3 nights in Onguma Bush Camp. I have to say at this point, that all the camping sites that I am gonna mentioned in this blog, are exquisite, well prepared, neat and comfortable!
And what a wildlife there is in Etsoha!!!!! Even if you’ve had a taste of African wildlife watching previously, you are likely to be mesmerized by it here. Just park your car next to one of the many water holes or were other cars are parked randomly (they usually stop because they see something interesting or well, a flat tire ;)) then wait and watch while groups of animals come and go – lions, elephants, springboks, oryx, gazelles, rhinoceros, giraffes, gepards, jackals, zebras, hyenas, birds, you name it! – and they come not two by two but by hundreds. We did around 750 km through the park in 3 days, 10 h every day of Safari and it was worth every km and h of it, you never know what you will see next.
Opuwo is the only town of any consequence in the area and therefore an important base from which to explore the Kaokoland, visit the nomadic Himba people and beautiful Epupa fals.
There aren’t any tourist attractions here, but as it’s the only settlement in the area where petrol and a supplies of groceries can be purchased, so it warrants at least a last-minute shopping trip and to see a great mixture of different tribes in one place.
700 km further North we decided to visit Epupa Falls, which are created by the Kunene River on the border of Angola and Namibia. The river is 0.5 km wide and drops in a series of waterfalls spread over 1.5 km, with the greatest single drop being 37 m.
We stayed in amazing campsite called Epupa Falls lodge and campsite for 3 nights. Activities around range from guided tours to the Falls and Himba villages around, excursions to see crocodile and rafting. We had luck to meet a local guide Owen who took us for a crocodile safari and short trekking through the falls, the river and nearby hills.
But the absolute highlight of Epupa falls was, without any doubt, the visit to Owen’s village (he comes from Himba tribe) which was not planned at all – we were supposed to see the typical Himba village that is more or less set for tourist. But since he had to talk to his uncle about where to move the tribe next (they are nomads) he asked us if we could make a short stop. The visit started a bit shy and we were not allowed to take pictures – but a bottle of wine we had in the car changed everything 🙂 In the end Maja made a photo session with all the kids and women and we had a pleasure to eat and talk with them.
Although you’d think this remote corner of the Namibia would be off the tourist trail, Epupa Falls is a popular detour for 4×4 and definitely should not be missed.
400 km South from Epupa Falls, we visit a natural reserve in the middle of the desert, in a region of Damaraland, called Palmwag. We stayed there 2 nights in the Palmwag Lodge, a mobile tented camp managed by Rhino Trust, which is intended to provide a base for rhino watching. We did some organised walk to get familiar with local nature and admire one of Namibia’s most dramatic collections of landscapes, where the last Mad Max movie was made.
SKELETON COAST (Swakopmund, Walvis Bay & Sandwich Bay)
500 km drive through the Skeleton coast National park, was an experience by its own. The harsh desert stretches out more than 77.000 square km and receives less than nothing of rain per year. It’s a tough place to be a tourist – and that’s with a 4×4 pick-up and supplies on hand. Now imagine being an animal and calling the place home, or have a flat tire as we did 🙂 – luckily thanks to the local people, we managed to go through.
A brutal, inhospitable environment, wind and mist – the Skeleton Coast has claimed many ships and many lives over the years. However, this once dreaded land, has now become a popular tourist destination. When you’re there do stop at Cape Cross, an impressive seal colony spot.
Sandwiched between Atlantic ocean and the Namib Desert, Swakopmund is a city with plenty of personality and it can feel like a holiday town along Germany’s North Sea transplanted onto African soil. We were supposed to camp in 4 mile campsite, but due to the weather conditions (it was windy, cold, humid and very misty in the morning), we upgrade it to an indoor hostel in the campsite. Definitely a good decision 😉
30 km away from Swakopmund, Walvis Bay is architecturally uninspiring, and lacks the Old World ambiance of its northerly neighbor. In contrast, the area around Walvis Bay is home to a number of unique natural attractions, including one of the largest flocks of flamingos in the whole of Southern Africa. It’s a nice one day trip to have a beer or two in the “Raft” restaurant and to organize the tour to the famous Sandwich Bay.
Sandwich Bay, where desert meets the sea
Sandwich Harbour, 56km south of Walvis Bay in Dorob National Park, is one of the most dramatic sites in Namibia – dunes up to 100m high plunge into the Atlantic, which washes into the picturesque lagoon. I have to say I didn’t go on a tour since it was quite expensive, but we sent Maja to the photography session and enjoy the nature, while I was sipping beer in Walvis Bay.
About 280 km to the South we stopped by for 2 nights at the Nambigrens guest farm located on Spreetshoogte Pass. Spreetshoogte Pass is a mountain pass in central Namibia, connecting the Namib desert with the Khomas Highland. The road is extremely steep. As such, it is a little trickier to drive. It’s passable only for vehicles without trailers. Trucks and caravans are forbidden to use it – but don’t worry its safe and worth to go through.
Ideal country-side, overlooking the Namib desert where you can find one of the most spectacular views of the desert area of Namibia, is a perfect place for trekking. We were provided a very good map at the campsite and the trek itself is also very good marked, easy to go for a self guided walk. We did a 2-3 h trekking through surrounding hills before we headed to our next stop.
Solitaire is a lonely settlement of just a few buildings about 80km north of Sesriem along the A46. Although the town is nothing more than an open spot in the desert, the surrounding area is home to several guest farms and lodges, which can serve as an alternative base for exploring Sossusvlei. Otherwise, the town is little more than a place to refuel and it currently features the only gasoline station, post office, bakery with amazing apple pie between the dunes at Sossusvlei and the coast at Walvis Bay, as well as to the capital Windhoek.
Further south you will find Sossusvlei where we stayed 2 nights in the Agama River Camp, 45 minutes from the park, which made a good base for further exploring.
Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan, surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib desert. As a consequence of its fascinating and surrealistic landscapes, Sossusvlei is one of the most photographed places in Sub-saharan Africa. The area has been the setting of a number of commercials, music videos, and movies. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light. The dunes can be seen by foot, car, plane, balloon or quad bikes.
Once again we decided for a self drive tour to see all the highlights of the park: Dune 45, Big Daddy and surreal Deadvlei and finally much less visited Hiddenvlei. A tip – drive first till the end of the park (Big Daddy) and visit Dune 45 on your way out, you’ll miss the crowds and you’ll have it pretty much to yourself. Also, the last 6 km can only be traversed with 4×4 vehicles as the road ends and sand begins (the place where the metalled road ends is known as “2×2 parking” as any non-4WD vehicle must stop there). We got stucked 2 times in the sand there, but hey it’s part of the adventure 😉 , nevertheless there’s a shuttle that drives every 30 min between the parking and Big Daddy.
Big Daddy and Deadvlei
Big Daddy is the highest dune in the Sossusvlei area, at about 325 meters and is one of the highest dunes in the world. A climb can be a quite an effort, especially in the extreme heat but once at the top, dune climbers will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. As i said before, head on this dune early in the morning (park opens at 6:30 AM) and walk on top of it barefoot since the send is not warmed by the sun at that moment and the walk will be easier. After 11 AM, I do not recommend walking barefoot – ask Maja why :).
Much less crowded than its famous neighbor, but definitely not less beautiful… and with a bit of luck you might find yourself alone there.
Dune 45 is so-called, because it lies 45 km past Sesriem on the road to Sossusvlei. It is 80 meters high and it is composed of 5-million-year-old sands. All the tours stop here in the early morning, so as I said before leave it for the end.
At this point our trip was sadly coming to the end…. The last part of the road took us 400 km from Sossusvlei to Windhoek, where we had to return the car and stay 1 more night before the flight. We stayed at Urban Camp – a hidden gem right in the city center, totally recomendable (although, before seeing it, I almost killed Maja for making me sleep in a tent even the last night). Thank god we did it in the end, such a nice place to stay 🙂
To finish this post, I would jut like to share few facts with you about Nambia (our own opinions). I usually do top 5 and negative 5 things at the end of each post, but this time almost nothing bad happened to us, so we decided not to do injustice with negative opinions about Namibia.
- 17 days of travelling
- 4300 km done by car
- 2500 € per person (including the flight)
- 9 different camp sites
- hundreds and hundreds of wild animals seen
- quite cheap but not the best quality bear although formulas were left by Germans (Windoek Lager, Tafel)
- cigarets a bit cheaper than in Europe (between 2-3 € for a package)
- only 2 MIO people in a territory of 2x Germany
- country is not prepared for backpacking tourism but very good for middle and high-profile tourists
- not the cheapest country to travel to (prices are similar to European ones)
- food not to impressive since there is a lot of German influence, you can’t try wild animals meet though
- very friendly people (although you don’t see many of them ;))
- with english you get around very easily, it’s the official language
- not hard bargaining with the locals
- incredible scenery (desert, oasis, platos, mountains, animals….)
- try to have 2 spare tires in the car not just 1 🙂
- if they stop you and want to give you some bogus fine – simple don’t pay it (just a way of looking to be bribed)
- Rugby is a national sport
- 80-90 % of population is supposing christians although we have seen that is not true – specially with the tribes
- Traffic is on the left side so a bit tricky at first for us 🙂
Until next time,
your Into The Wild team!!!