Stories

 

Namibia


From the 13th of June to the 8th of August, 2016

Cubs played like puppies, biting each other and "running" away. Yes they can even be pretty fast! When tired, they definitely have a sense for comfort, using each other as pillow or climbing into rocks for better view points. I think I have been one of them in a previous life... After my Sardine Run diving trip in South Africa, I caught Raphael on the coast in Swakopmund. From there, we headed north, following the Namib desert and it's sand dunes to the Cape Cross seal colony. I have seen seal colony before, but that one was huge (over 100 000 individuals)! It reminded me of the Costa Brava in summer, when the beach is so packed that you can't even find a spot for your towel. They covered every square meter of the beach and extended offshore surfing the waves. A few meters away, a jackal was rooming, probably in prospection for his dinner.

    

We left the misty and cold coast for the desert, driving through the 22 kilometers wide Messum Crater. Here and there, some kopje (boulders hills) looked like little islands. A few kilometers away, the Brandberg mountain popped out of the totally flat landscape. During those two days, we only met one other car. We were alone in the silent desert with millions of stars to ourselves. Damaraland is rich in history and geology. Sand and wind have eroded the symmetrical dolerite pillars of the Organ Pipes. At the petrified forest, a thirty five meters long fossilized trunk estimated to be 260 million years old is still showing his bark and nods even though it is now a piece of stone. But the main draw in the area is the rock art of Twyfelfontain. 6000 years old Bushman rock engravings showing shamanic believes for rain-making, hunting and healing. For the first time in Africa, the big and empty landscapes of Namibia offered us some truly amazing wild camping spots which revived memories of our time in Oman.

    

After driving for weeks through arid landscapes, who could have expected such a river. The Kunene valley marking the border between Angola and Namibia is lined with lush palm trees surrounded by dry rocky hills. At Epupa, the river falls into three different canyons merging again a few hundred meters downstream. Huge baobabs are precariously growing on the edge on the canyon.

The natural pools by the waterfall seem to be the villagers meeting place. Himba women were busy with their laundry, men were bathing naked, herder boys were bringing their goats for a drink and kids were sliding down from one pool to the next. I sat down and watched the people and animals come and go. A little princess girl watched my messy hair and decided it was time someone took care of it. I ended up with a dozen hands working on my head. I was totally amazed by their traditional outfit and hairdos representing their stage in life. The kids are wearing a belt holding a simple piece of cloth in the front and the back and hug necklaces made out of leather and bolts. The ladies are wearing a warrior like miniskirt made of animal skin, jewelry hanging around their naked breast and their body is covered of red ochre. But the most impressing is their hair looking like an helmet of dreadlocks made out of clay. They seemed proud to carry on their tradition and didn't mind the camera although always pausing with a very serious face. For sure Rapha's drone was the first they have ever seen. We had a fantastic time!

      

We stopped the engine in front of the waterhole and watched the herds coming and going while enjoying a cup of tea. Sitting like in a drive-in cinema, we enjoyed the constant flow of zebras, waterbucks, Oryx, giraffes and ostriches which was sometimes interrupted by a herd of elephants or a solitary Rhino. That's the way we discovered the amazing wildlife throughout Etosha national park.

Just after sunrise, the Okindeka waterhole was totally deserted. We patiently waited for an hour without seeing a single soul. Losing our patience, we decided to move on. Fifty meters away, I saw two dark shades on the horizon. Bingo, it was a lion couple on their way to the waterhole! They crossed the road right in front of us, went for a drink and had a quickie. The male fell asleep, while the female walked away for her daily hunt. A few kilometers away, we found her hiding and waiting for a pray. For two hours, we watched the herds passing by, but they were apparently out of reach for the lioness. By the time we drove back to our sleepy male, he was lying on a little promontory just 3 meters away from the road. As he looked right into our eyes with his intense look, I felt like he could have jumped right into our window in one go. With his majestic mane, his looked just like the Lion King. What an amazing day!

      

Although southern Namibia is out of the main tourist path, it is full of curiosities. Beautiful quiver trees, 300 million years old Mesosaurus fossils, some of the very few remaining wild horses living in the very arid Namib desert and the colonial architecture of Lüderitz. For a change to the desert, we enjoyed a little break on the Luderitz peninsula. It has a nice coastline mixed of empty wild beaches, rocky shores, sheltered lagoons with flamingoes and rough open ocean. Nearby island are even home to seals and penguins colonies.

    

But the most surprising place in the area is the ghost town of Kolmanskop. Once a substantial diamond-mining town, it has been abandoned since 1956. It is said that at the beginning of the diamond rush they could be found lying openly on the ground. Nowadays, some of the renovated buildings are acting as museum while others are slowly being invaded by the sand dunes. The colorful rooms filled up with sand look like they are being swollen by the dunes. Those crazy Germans liked their comfort and entertainment and therefore built a bowling alley, an opera and a gymnasium, had a butchery and an ice factory. All that in the middle of the desert at the very beginning of the 20th century!

    

At the southern end of the country, the Orange river is the border line between Namibia and South Africa. As the Kunene River in northern Namibia, our eyes couldn't get used to such a big flow of water. The river and its green vegetation snaked between the red rocky hills. Nearby, the Fish River has carved one of the biggest canyon of the world. From the different viewpoints, we enjoyed breathtaking view over the different bends and shades of red.

    

After traveling through such poor countries with very little supplies available, it felt good to find all the goodies we were dreaming off for the last few months. The main cities of the country are stocked up with supermarkets, camping gear shops and car spare parts. The Germans will feel home with Brötchen (rolls), Sauerkraut, sausages and other German specialities. The down side is that there was no more big mamas selling their fresh fruit and veggies along the road resulting is less contact with the local population. But Namibia is big and empty. Between the very few cities there was simply nothing. Either empty desert or never ending fenced farms. Stocking up on food, water and fuel before hitting the road was essential. Planning ahead with distance and time frame until the next town was crucial.

We had traveled thousands of kilometers on dirt roads without a single puncture and Namibia proved we were still not ready for it. In the middle of Damaraland, a first tire blew in pieces. Using the spare tire for the first time, we discovered that our spare was not only smaller than the others, but the nuts didn't match the rims properly neither. Alone in the middle of the desert with very little traffic (that is one car every three hours!) we didn't have any other option than fitting it anyways. We made it to the Palmwag Lodge and got our asses saved: Their supply vehicle was scheduled to arrive two days later and they sent their driver to buy a new tire for us. Because of driving with inappropriate nuts, it required quite some sweating and hammering to get is off again. As nothing is ever easy with Hyundi, it took the strength of 6 guys, 3 jacks and the weight of a car to fit the new tire on the rim. They spared us the 500 kilometers drive back to Windhoek to get a new tire. We paid the new tire at cost, they didn't charge us for special delivery and we only paid 9 EUR for the fitting which took 2 hours instead of the usual 5 minutes. How lucky!

    

Fifty kilometers later, we had a new puncture but we drove on for 25 kilometers pumping the tire up every 5 minutes. Reaching a little settlement, three young guys who didn't have any other tool than a lever offered their "services". Lacking patches and glue, they tried the repair with a piece of inner tube and contact glue. A few kilometers later, the tire was flat again, too flat to be pumped. Cherry on the cake, our jack gave up on us! We couldn't even fit our "half fitting" spare tire. We waited and waited until our saver Mr. Bois came to our rescue with proper equipment. He fitted his own spare tire which fitted better than our own and we drove on to the next town for a proper repair.

    

Driving even further away from civilization with tires and tools failing one after the other was too risky. We were left with no other option than giving up on our adventurous off the beaten track route. At the end, we accumulated 3 punctures and 2 blown tires. The last blow out happened on our last few kilometers of dirt road in Namibia... Because of our uncommon tire size, we had to drive 600 kilometers with our "half fitting" spare tire until reaching Cape Town where we finally changed the 3 totally eaten up tires.

Namibia is full of contrasts. Modernity and tribal people living with their ancestral traditions. White, colored and black people living in peace. Super good roads as well as tire eating gravel tracks. Huge supermarkets and tiny grocery selling a few packs of sugar and three potatoes. On moment you feel like you are in Europe and the next you are deep in Africa. The overall journey didn't really feel like Africa, but it was surely refreshing not to be the center of attention anymore and to find some big and empty spaces for wild camping. We felt free!

Click here to read the following story about our journey through South Africa.

Album "Namibia - June-August 2016"

Video : "Etosha National Park - Namibia"
Vidéo : "Namibia"