From the Kagagladi Transfrontier Park, we are crossing the border to Namibia at the border post of Rietfontain 160 kms away. The formalities are done quickly, because there is absolutely nobody ... On the other side of the border, we are still in the desert and we drive more than 150 kms to find the first Namibian city. It is a not so interesting and tiny village and we really wonder how people live here. Our first stop will be at Keetmanshoop and it will only be for groceries shopping before reaching the largest canyon in Africa.
Fish River Canyon National Park
We begin our discovery of Namibia through the southeast part of the country and the Fish River Canyon. If you've read the article about South Africa, you know that it's the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA.
The road to go there is not paved but the sand track is in rather good condition and we can drive easily between 80 and 100km / h.
We arrive at Hobas camp and go directly to the canyon and its viewpoints. It is absolutely mind blowing! It is not allowed to go down to explore the canyon and only hikers doing the 5 days trail until Ais-Ais are allowed to go down there. But it's still impressive from above.
Still in the national park, we go south to the Ais Ais camp. This camp offers a pool with water from the hotspring, so very hot! So good ! We continue our journey towards the North and the small town of Aus. We drive along the Orange River on breathtaking gravel roads through the National Park. The landscape is surreal , it feels we are on the moon! We will stop for groceries shopping at Rosh Pinah, a "rich" and surprising village in the middle of nowhere, between zinc mines and diamonds!
Aus is a small town (300 inhabitants), in the Kalahari desert. Namibia is relatively sparsely populated and it's always a surprise when one arrives somewhere and expects to find a city that turns out to be nothing more than a small village with a gas station ! Aus area is known to host many wild horses whose origin is still quite mysterious! One theory is that these horses were abandoned by the German Imperial Army during the South African invasion in 1915. Another theory is that these horses were stranded on the Namibian coast during the sinking of a ship connecting Australia to Europe. They have the particularity to be really wild and to have adapted perfectly to the life in the desert. They can spend more than 1 week without drinking ... We had a great campsite (Klein at Vista Camping and Lodge) at the foot of beautiful rock formations and rather isolated. We spent the evening by the campfire admiring the stars and the Milky Way! We had never seen a sky so clear and starry. We then went to the observation point of the wild horses and could see some of them. Our next stop is on the Namibian coast, in the city of Luderitz.
Luderitz is a relatively unexpected city! Germanic architecture is omnipresent and reminds of the legacy left by the Germans when they colonized Namibia. This region has a large diamond mine operated by the Namibian government but also by South Africa. Our campsite is located by the ocean on Shark Island. We were never as cold as this time during our camping trip. The wind on the seashore froze us and we didn't have warm clothes for that temperature! So we had to put on several layers, make fire and drink a lot of wine to warm us up !
11km from Luderitz, there is a great attraction called Ghost Town (real name Kolmanskop).
This once prosperous city was the headquarters of the company operating the nearby diamond mine. It had a theater, many houses, an hospital and was connected to the city of Luderitz by a tram. The first one in Namibia. The city was totally abandonned in 1956. The discovery of a larger diamond mine in the south of the country helped the decline of Kolmanskop. When visiting this ghost town we have an idea of what it was before. Shifting sand and permanent strong winds have covered many buildings and paths. It's a weird feeling to walk among the dunes with these vestiges of a not so distant past.
Back in Luderitz, we will go groceries shopping, filling up the tank to continue our journey towards the north of the country.
You really have to plan these stops and manage the supplies because there is no supermarket /Gas stations everywhere.
Our next stop will be Duwisib Castle.
Before visiting this castle and spend the night in the adjoining camp, we are receiving our replacement vehicle! We had several problems, electric, jumping roof padlocks etc but the big problem was the amount of dust in the cabin after driving on gravel roads and sand tracks ... Short story : we got our new vehicle and could visit the castle.
The story is quite singular! A rich German baron falls in love with an American woman. She asks him to build a castle where there is no castle! It is therefore in Namibia that he will build the baroque palace of his sweetheart in 1909. Barely 2 years after moving in, the 1 World War breaks out and the baron is called to serve in the German Imperial Army. He will die in the battle of the Somme. The baroness never returned to Namibia and the castle was recovered by the Namibian government in the 70 years.
It is not very big but all the belongings of the baron and his wife are exposed! It was a nice stop before continuing our journey to the Namib Naukluft Park!
Namib Naukluft National Park
The first stop will be in the Naukluft Mountains. They are characterized by a large plateau surrounded by gorges, canyons and water sources. We spend 2 days and we did a 17km trail, the Waterkloof trail. It was really great! We walked in the dry rivers beds, very very rocky, then climbed to the top of the mountains with a sublime view and we went down by a really steep canyon and again very rocky! It was very difficult to move the day after!
It's time to get back on the(gravel) roads to go to what will probably be the highlight of our trip in Namibia!
Sesriem: Sossuvlei and Deadvlei
The famous dunes of Sossuvlei and the dry pan of deadvlei! The road to get there was horrible! There is no other word! The road was badly corrugated and we could not drive faster than 50 / km / h without the risk of losing pieces of the car! But it was well worth it! We had a great camp right next to the gate of the park with private ablution block in the middle of the desert! The road in the park is a beautiful paved road of 60 km long in the middle of red, white, orange sand dunes depending on the light! After these 60 km there is a deep sand track to get to Sossuvlei, the main attraction of the site.
We were confident with our 4WD that this sand track would not be a problem for us! Unfortunately after 4kms we got stuck! Big bummer! It's hot, the sand is really loose and deep ! Thomas starts to shovel to try to get us out of this mess. A shuttle bus driver from the park, because yes there is a shuttle service that costs as much as the entrance to the park, stops and asks us if we need help. YES! He tries to get us out of there, but nothing to do! The clutch starts to smell and we are still stuck! He tells us he drops off customers at the parking lot at 3km from there and comes back! It even tells us leave to the car in the middle and take the shuttle to Sossuvlei and "enjoy our afternoon!
Thomas continues to shovel and after 20min, the driver comes back and manages to get us out of this situation!What a relief! We do a U-turn because we are not ready to retry the experience and we are heading towards the easily accessible dune 45! We are recovering from this stressful situation and Thomas climbs the dune to clear his head!
The next day, it is impossible for us to not go to Deadvlei and Sossuvlei! We will pay the shuttle service to get to the site, and it's really worth it! It's just beautiful! We will try to climb Big-Mamma dune, but it's already late and very very hot so we will stop halfway.
It is time to leave the dunes to go to Swakopmund one of the main cities of the country located on the coast.
The trip was absolutely horrible again! Roads conditions are really bad, and it took us almost 8h to reach the city! We thought during the trip that we had a problem with our car (again)! No more than 30km / h on roads limited to 80 and even 100! And of course, one of the locks that keeps the roof closed broke so we had to find a hack with the tow rope to keep the roof closed! We called the rental company who directed us to a garage in Swakopmund! What a day!
After a very cold night in a great campsite (Alte Brucke), we drop the car to the garage and are start to discover the city walking! It's rather nice! Some nice shops, souvenirs, crafts, coffee shops, a very nice walk along the ocean!
There is also a great museum that kept us busy for almost half of the day about the history of Swakopmund since its creation with the arrival of a small number of German settlers in 1892 until today, a tourist attraction in Namibia because of its position between the Namib desert and the Skeleton coast! Architecture is like Luderitz, Germanic!You can still see the historic places where the first settlers arrived, the barracks, the fire station and so on.
After walking all day it's time to pick up our car from the garage and get ready for another pretty cold night!
Before continuing our route along the coast, we make a slight detour to Spitzkoppe inland to enjoy warmer temperatures.
Damaraland and Skeleton Coast
Spitzkoppe is located in the Damaraland . It is a chain of rocks overlooking the arid plains and is a paradise for climbing enthusiasts! Since this is not our case, we are taking a guided tour of the San people's rock paintings sites and "climb" a bit to watch the sunset!
The evening will be around the fire, listening to music and admiring the beautiful starry sky! Great moment!
Back on the "cold" ocean coast we head to Henties Bay on the mythical Skeleton coast.
We were supposed to stay 2 nights in Cape Cross, but the cold and the little tourist activity will prevail. We will visit the famous seal colony of Cape Cross, then spend a night and leave for warmer places. The colony of seals is incredible, they are literally everywhere! More 100 000 seals, on the beach, rocks, parking, ... they sound more like pigs than seals. Beyond the noise, there is the unbearable smell of their excrement but also dead bodies that are a feast for the jackals. This is another remarkable example of African wildlife.
We will then hit the road towards Torra Bay, the heart of the Skeleton Coast. Drdiving along the ocean for over a hundred kilometers through lunar landscapes, it is a unique driving experience. Our goal being to reach Etosha National Park at 6h from here, we will spend two nights in Damaraland discovering the local history.
First cultural with the visit of the largest rock paintings / engravings site in Namibia at Twyfelfontein, interesting but quite expensive. Then the geological history with the visit of the Petrified Forest, a forest of fossilized pine trees trunks, which was to be there several million years before Namibia became a desert. We arrive at Etosha National Park after 2 days driving .
Etosha National Park
One of the jewels of Africa! Etosha's roads are less comfortable than the one in South African parks. During any safari in Africa, most people are looking for the BIG-5: Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Lion. Etosha got almost all of them. Here in Etosha, and especially in the dry season there is not much water so the opportunities to see the animals are mainly around the different manmade water wholes . No water buffalos or hippos but the number of animals around these water holes is incredible. Zebras, blue wildbeast, elephants, lions, jackals, impalas, rhinos, hyenas, giraffes! We also loved the opportunity to observe the animals at night at the water holes located in the camps. They are lit all night and we spent all our evenings and even a part of our nights there. We saw rhinoceros drinking in large numbers: 10 of them were there the first night in Okaukuejo, plus a herd of thirsty elephants rolling in the mud at sunset: it was just magical ! Later in the night, several lionesses came to drink, and will try an offensive approach on a baby rhinoceros without success, his mother will protect him. We will also hear without being able to fully distinguish in the twilight the mad rush of a giraffe trying to flee a predator. Not mentioning that the next day, a female Kudu being chased by a hyena will finish its course in the fence of the water point. Injured she will be able to leave again, but a few seconds later we will hear what will sound like the killing.
Since the beginning of our trip to Africa, we had seen all the animals in their wild state, and almost all of them. We missed the cheetah. It was done on our last evening in the park. Under a tree on the edge of the pan, we crossed path with a female cheetah and her two pups. It was amazing! We will not see them running at 2km / h, but we will still see them moving around and go back to the nearby bushy area.
We will spend a total of 4 nights in Etosha: 2 nights in Okaukuejo, one night in Halali and 1 overnight in Namutoni. It was probably in Okaukejo during the late afternoon and at night that we really had our best time in the park.
We leave with plenty of memories to the next step of our journey : the Caprivi Strip and the Okavango River. The road was pleasant because paved and we realized that most Namibians live in the northern part of the country bordering Angola, with a more mild climate with more water.
3 days off at Ngepi Camp in the Caprivi Strip
At Ngepi Camp it was relaxing time!, More or less bush camping, and funky outdoor ablutions block. And the must, the sound of hippos every night swimming in the Okavango River. We tried to swim in the natural pool, but it was too cold! We just went for a boat cruise on the river to enjoy the wildlife more closely, admiring the sunset, an unforgettable memory.
Balance sheet of Namibia
- The dunes of Namib Naukfluft National Park, it's just beautiful and unique!
- Etosha National Park and the animal nightlife.
- The magnificent landscapes from south to north
- Campfires at night with the starry sky !
- The roads conditions are sometimes horrible especially between Sesriem and Walvis Bay!
- Hard to find more flops!
- Windhoek the national beer! And also some wine, but imported from South Africa.
With an initial budget of € 3,360.00 for 21 days, we have in the end spent 26 days in Namibia ie € 4,160.00 budget. We were almost in our budget. Again as in South Africa, the car insurance did costs us extra money. Without it, we would have spent in total of 4 EUR for the 4 days, including everything: accommodation, petrol, food, activities, entrances to national parks, ... With it we are at 4029 EUR 26 EUR beyond the budget. No comment ...