By Lou Zagagnoni
I have had an amazing and unforgettable adventure travelling across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. I experienced the blistering heat of the Namib desert, drove for hours and hours without seeing a single soul, and learnt how to deflate the wheels of a Land Rover Defender. I also witnessed the beauty of Nature in Namaqualand, camped on the banks of the lovely Orange River, and enjoyed the Sossusvlei dunes in all their glory. This was definitely a journey to remember!
Driving 6000km across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe is our challenge. Our car is named Maggie, she is a Land Rover Defender fully equipped with tent on the roof. We have three fuel tanks, two batteries, massive torches, a water tank and fridge to allow us to survive in the bush. We’re leaving Cape Town with a boot full of clothes and luxurious fresh food (fruits, yogurts, vegetables, meats, ham, salads, etc). We are ready for this adventure!
670 km. We left overexcited for our very first camping/safari adventure and took the N7 toward the border between South Africa and Namibia. On the way, landscapes changed from fynbos (vegetation specific to the Cape) to boulder mountains and rocky hills with little vegetation. We noticed many wild flowers on the side of the road despite the season being over (so the Internet said). We decided to make a small detour to the Namaqualand Park which has a 5 km circular tour known for its wild flowers. Wow. That was a good decision!
We arrived to see a carpet of orange flowers that were ever so precious. Those flowers grow in the semi arid area just below the Kalahari and are therefore very tough and have no smell. We then carried on toward the border where we found a camp before the border, on the bank of the Orange River near the Richtersveld National Park. The landscape changed to a white stones’ desert with green vegetation only within 50 metres of the river.
Thank goodness we found a camp early. At first we didn’t know how to deflate the wheels to drive on gravel. We explored our giant toolbox, trying to figure it out. After struggling with that, we had no idea how to open the tent and set camp! After a good two hours of fighting with Maggie’s features, we were set and ready to make a fire to cook dinner. We had yummy lamb kebabs, marshmallows, cucumber G&T and some fruit salad.
270 kms. This morning we woke up to the sound of birds playing by the Orange River. We then had a luxurious breakfast fruit/yogurt bowl before fighting the tent and the damned zip that secured it down on our roof. We then crossed the border between South Africa and Namibia, which consisted of filling in two forms and repeating that we had no guns to officers. We were finally “abroad”, and the landscapes did not deceive: straight after the border, the long highway in the middle of the gravelly/sandy desert started.
After 2 hours on the highway we deviated to gravel roads and deflated the wheels heavily to give us more grip. Driving on these hilly, bumpy, sandy and completely empty roads was hilarious! We went through the Mad Max Fury Road landscape and really felt the desert vibe creeping in…
The view over the Fish River Canyon and the 4×4 trail on the edge of it only increased our excitement. Then, the Hobas camp was very sandy and at Marco during our attempts to cook, huge sand storms hit us! Thus, we gave up on cooking for a while and took a well deserved jump in the pool followed by a shower, with no hot water, of course. That night, the lights went off at 22:00 to allow us to see the sky full of stars.
600 kms. We left the Fish River Canyon pretty late as we knew that we had a full day of driving ahead. We had not really planned for snacks, nice cool drinks and food. Big mistake! The road wasn’t tarred the whole way and we drove over 300 kms without seeing one village! We felt really in the middle of nowhere: there were no signs, no people, two cars max per hour, no wild animals, and no vegetation other than bushes.
It was very difficult to stop and eat something as it was over 35°C outside and there were no trees around to provide us with shade. After an hour spent looking for a tree, we stopped and quickly ate a snack. We got back on the road only to find out there was a picnic area 3 kms away!
We arrived before sunset in Solitaire where we stayed at Little Sossus Campsite, which had the best view and a private bathroom, shade and a pool: awesome! We relaxed with a gin and tonic before going in the tent to fight the thousands of insects rising from nowhere at dawn. The next morning we woke up early to try to be at the Sossusvlei dunes by 07:00 – sunrise! We failed for two reasons: one, the road was ultra full of people having the same idea and two, the dunes are far from the entrance of the park.
Despite the missed sunrise, the dunes were spectacular – it was not even 09:00 when we attempted to hike a small 50m high dune and goodness it was hot already! Once on top we jumped down the dune toward the deadvlei. It was a very fun day and we were visited by many geckos.
What was your Namibia experience like?