Namibia

Honesty is the best policy. Never is that more true than being honest with yourself. There are a few things I have to admit to myself – I’m not the most skilled on deep sand roads and mud, and travelling solo increases the vulnerability in the event of a fall compared to riding with buddies who will be on hand to help. Talking to off-road instructors their advice in my case is clear – travelling solo, stay off the sand and mud! I’m also honest about the kind of overlander I am – I like to go to interesting places and don’t mind if they are at the end of a tar or (good) gravel road, but I am past that point in life of finding the most difficult way to get somewhere. I’m also not the first one to put my hand up for setting up camp late in the afternoon, crawling around on the ground to cook, make coffee, and get in to my sleeping bag, only to break camp at the crack of dawn the next day. For one night stays I prefer booking in to a room, and supporting local employment by letting them make the bed and wash the dishes! Camping is reserved for emergencies and those multi day stops with friends or at epic places overlooking awe inspiring scenery. 

Camping in a 4×4 is a completely different experience, and one I could quite happily do every night, week in, week out. There’s no crawling on the floor, and a decent roof top full size bed and bedding makes for a much better night’s sleep than a cot and a sleeping bag.

Namibia is a fantastic place to visit and lots of the must-see places are along gravel roads, so if you are reading this in preparation for your own trip, expect a few km of good gravel along the way. Last October I took a 4×4 to Namibia and visited those places where a bike isn’t allowed – see the Namibia 4×4 blog for a few of those photos.

With that in mind, and the object of this trip focused on Zambia and north, I only spent a couple of weeks in Namibia. After Kobus and Lorraine left Port Nolloth, I stayed another day before heading up to Namibia via Alexander Bay and entering at Oranjemund.

The road north to Aus from Oranjemund (Orange mouth, referring to the Orange River) goes through the Sperregebied, an open diamond gathering area. I say gathering as you hardly have to dig, they are often found lying on the ground surface. Most of them have been gathered up now, to the point the town of Oranjemund and road north to Aus was opened to the public as recently as 21 September 2017. The road is open, but it’s still illegal to venture off to the side of the roads in an attempt to pick up your own diamonds.

I stayed in a lovely guest house in Aus, run by the same people who own the only petrol station – call in and they’ll sort you out a bit cheaper than the Aus Hotel. The self catering room included a tub of cornflakes and 500ml milk in the fridge. Bargain, can’t let that go to waste so first morning I prepared a bowl of cornflakes with milk and sugar from the little sugar bowl, only to discover on the first mouthful that the sugar was in fact salt! I hopped on the bike and rode the 114km to Kolmanskop for a proper breakfast.

I had been to Kolmanskop and Luderitz in the 4×4 a few months earlier, but still good to visit again. Miraculously, both occasions had zero wind. The guides I got chatting to at Kolmanskop said that only 2 days earlier they had to cancel a whole group from a ship cruise because the ship or tenders could not get in to port due to high winds. The evidence of the winds is all around, not only the fact Kolmanskop is being swallowed by sand dunes, but even the smaller dunes on the side of the road can be seen to be on top of surfaces previously flattened by earth moving equipment. There are long stretches of nothing around there, with the road dead straight from horizon to horizon. Taking a panorama shot of that looks quite freaky – it looks like two roads at a Y-junction, but it’s the same road 180 degrees apart.

Leaving Aus I headed for Swakopmund via Windhoek, camping at Oanob Dam for the night. I arranged the bike service for the Monday in Windhoek, booked at Urban Camp for 2 nights from that Monday, and headed off to Swakopmund.

As you approach that costal region you often ride in to what they call the coastal fog belt. It’s a belt of fog and low cloud that forms when cool moist air rolls in off the ocean and mixes with the hot dry inland air. The phenomenon can occur the entire length of Namibia all the way down almost to Cape Town. Unfortunately despite staying there the weekend and hoping for a sight seeing flight, that was not to be due to the weather. I guess I’ll just have to go back another time. Riding out on Monday morning started at 11 degrees in town, 20km later it was 24 degrees, and by 30km out of town the temperature had shot up to 33 degrees.

I got the 70,000km service in Windhoek on Monday, and had a really great conversation with Dieter, their master technician. Wednesday was a public holiday so everyone was going to meet up at The Old Wheelers Club, and I was invited. A great place full of nostalgia, and a great evening. The taxi got me back to Urban Camp just as they were closing up.

The ride up to Grootfontein and Popa Falls was really just a bit of mile munching, knowing I’ll be back again either with a group of mates or a 4×4. Popa Falls is a bit of a misnomer, it’s technically a waterfall, but looks more like “Popa Rapids”. Still, the accommodation there is very nice, and we had a great river cruise seeing crocodiles, hippos, and various birds. Having said that, I still think the best river cruise is the one from Kasane in Botswana that takes you along the river in Chobe National Park – see the Bushwackers blog for a few of those photos. This trip in to Kasane was only really to get to Livingstone, and Victoria Falls.

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