The Great Namibian Adventure

It was a bit like Christmas night … I laid awake for hours in anticipation Dan and mine’s pending road trip into the great Namibian wilderness. Morning finally came and I lugged all my gear down the stairs in three quick trips to the Land Rover waiting below. After a quick cup of coffee, I headed off across town to collect Dan and depart Cape Town. We started up the N7, which leads out of Cape Town towards the north. Our early morning departure required a coffee stop an hour or so outside of Cape Town. We pulled off the motorway into a rural petrol station where we were greeted with 2 instant coffees … not quite the freshly brewed cup I was expecting, but it did the trick. I was amazed how quickly the landscape changed as we put distance between us and Cape Town. The nearly tropical vegitation of Cape Town gave way to semi-arid desert and long expanses of open space. The drive from Cape Town through Piketberg is dotted with farms supporting cattle and sheep. As you move north past Citrusdal the livestock is replaced with wineries and citrus farms. We were on the lookout for wildlife, but only saw a troop of baboons somewhere near Vanrhynesdorp.

We pulled into Springbox to get provisions for the trip and top up on diesel. Springbox is the last ‘major’ town before the Nambian border. We went to a staghuis (Afrikaans Butchery) loaded up with boerewors, lamb chops, beef steaks, and biltong.  It was an interesting experience watching the butchers hack away at the animals as people queued up to give thier orders. We walked next door to the Spar (grocery) and grabbed the remaining provisions including coffee, corn cobs, and vegetables. On the way out of town we stopped and collected a few beers and grabbed our last lunch in civilization.

The border separating South Africa from Namibia is nothing more than a couple block houses with a few border guards manning each station. We happened to pull up just after a bus load of students so the border crossing took quite some time. After getting our departure stamps we crossed the Orange River and proceeded to repeat the process as we crossed into Namibia.

The Namibian landscape is lunar in appearance. There are vast expanses of land dotted with rocks that appear to have been placed into neat little piles by somebody. You can drive for hours and not see a living creature much less another truck pass on the long roads. I’ve heard the expression ‘deafening silence’, but it was only after driving through Namibia that I can appreciate the meaning.

As dusk approached we turned off onto a dirt road leading towards Ai-Asi. Finally we were off the beaten track and headed into the bush. The sun set over the mountains as we continued towards the park providing a pitch black sky filled with hundreds of brightly shinning stars. Along the road we ran across a Kudu and I tried unsuccessfully to snap a picture of it dart across the raod. We pulled upto the Ai-Asi camp entrance well after dark and we’re pointed to the campgrounds by a night watchman. We setup camp and proceeded to start our braai. We had boerewors and our lamb chops for dinner and spent some time talking with our neighbors who also made the trip to Ai-Asi in a Landy. The next morning we awoke to a flat tire on the Land Rover. Our neighbors had a air pump and re-inflated our tire so we could head over to the service centre in the camp. They managed to replace the tube in the tire (still not sure why the LR is running tubed tires) and get us moving again. Ai-Asi is located next to Fish River Canyon, which is the world’s second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon. We took a 2 hour hike up the river canyon. It was absolutely a remarkable experience walking between the towering canyon walls. Along the walk, we stumbled upon a troop of baboons grooming each other. Once we got back from the hike we changed into swimsuits and went to the natural hot spring pools. From Ai-Asi we drove up to a viewing area for Fish River Canyon. I had seen several pictures of the canyon on google, but it didn’t do justice to peering down into the depths of river from our perch on the ledge. We took the Landy past the viewing platform and parked here right at the ledge of the canyon and took in the views for awhile.

From Ai-Asi we headed up to Aus in serch of Nambia’s famous sand dunes. At 5pm we pulled off the road for sundowners on the roof rack of the Land Rover. We were interupted mid-beer by a hissing noise coming from the Defender. I hopped of the Rover to discover water pouring out of the bonnet. I opened the hood and found the tube leading out of the radiator had dislodge. I manged to reattach the tube and we used our remaining water to refill the coolant tank. We pulled into Aus at dark and searched around for a campsite. After driving through town without much luck, we pulled into the hotel to ask if they could point us in the right direction. They recommended a campsite 2k down the road called Klien-Aus-Vista. We drove over and were surprised to find a very well appointed lodge. Inside we were given directions to a campsite and told to come back in the morning to pay. We braaied our beef steaks and corn in the pitch black night before heading off to bed. In the morning we found a hiking trail not far from our campsite and headed into the Namibian wilderness in search of sand dunes. We didn’t find any dunes, but we did climb up a mountainside and heave a couple boulders off the ledge. We back to the main lodge to paid and asked the ‘Happy Trainee’ where we could see dunes. Turns out the nearest dunes were another 100k away in Luderitz. Being pressed for time we went to view the wild hores instead just up the road. It was interesting to see horses in the wild as I have this image of them as race horses needing constant attention from people. We pulled back into Aus to refuel and reload on provisions. After topping up on diesel, were greeted with a neighborhood braai sprawling out across the road. We loaded up on boerewors, sosaties, gemsbok steaks, and koeksisters. At the braai we meet two guys from Durbanville who were biking across a huge stretch of Namibia on these enormous postal bikes.

We decided to head down through the Richtersveld back into South Africa to camp alongside the Orange River. The drive from Aus to the border post at Vioolsdrift was stunning. The road follows the Orange River down through some of the roughest terrain I’ve ever seen. As night approached, Dan went to turn the headlights on only to find they had stopped working. The brights worked but only if you held the switch up. So we proceeded to alternate between driving with brights and no lights till we got to the border.

We pulled up to the border with Dan driving and holding the brights lights on. The Namibian side of the border went fairly smooth. Almost everybody at the border was headed into Namibia for the school holidays so the emigration side was more or less wide open. The South African border started decently enough as well. We pulled up to a empty border post and proceeded to the immigration area where we handed over our passports. It was here that everything went very wrong. The border official asked me the last time I had been in the United States. I responded that I had been back in late March still fully expecting a new 90 day tourist visa. He stunned me by saying I only got a 90 day tourist visa when entering from the United States and proceeded to give me 7 days on my entry stamp. I’m now one week from being in South Africa illegally.

Our night along the Orange was quite the departure from our routine in Namibia. The campsite was nearly full and noise from the surrounding campers filled the air. We made short work of getting camp setup and quickly had a braai going to prepare our last red meat dinner. For once we had trees in the campsite and I made use of them to setup my ENO hammock and relax. In the morning we walked down to the Orange River and took in the great outdoors one last time before leaving for Cape Town.

I may not have gotten my new 90 day visa as I had planned, but it was a remarkable trip!




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