When travelling the earth’s more inaccessible sectors, it can often be days before you and your party see another person, let alone someone who speaks the same language. Perhaps this is why overlanders, travellers and outdoorsy people are often friendly and welcoming − they’re simply glad of the chance of someone new to talk to. That was certainly the case on this trip. We came across a good few saffers en route who were keen to chat, but once they’d learnt more about our trip, the conversation would often peter out. Clearly, our route and our vehicle were cause for pause and concern.
Naturally, this simply gave Jack and me more motivation to push ahead. How does that line from the movie “Back to the Future” go? “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” Heading on a circular trip from Windhoek to the Angolan border and back, we were kitted out with all the recovery gear we could squeeze into the Duster. Luckily, there’s rather a lot of space when you fold the rear seats down; plus, we had a roofrack. My travel companion – Jack Landon – is an Englishman who was bitten by the African travel bug early on and is now a keen explorer (and a helpful handlanger).
Shooting up to the border from Windhoek in a day isn’t much trouble; the tar roads aren’t too bad. It’s where they are working on them that’s the problem. The C35/M76 has been rerouted to a bad gravel road alongside, but that was a small price to pay for the privilege of being up along the Kunene River where the views are definitely worth it. The river runs south from the Angolan highlands to the Namibian border, and then west along the border until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. The river is flanked by reeds, ancient baobabs, fig trees and mopane shrub; it feels almost like a tropical belt. Arriving at the Hippo Pools Community Campsite in Ruacana, we found that we had the campsite to ourselves − and what a beautiful setting, right on the river. Plus, the ablutions were surprisingly good. Though the campsite is immaculate, just remember that Hippo Pools is a community TRAVEL • NORTHERN NAMIBIA January 2015 SA4x4 | 043 campsite and there may be subtle language barriers. We chose a sandy campsite right next to the river, beneath a camel thorn tree. When we asked the lady on duty whether we should be concerned about hippos or crocs, she told us not to worry as they were scarce in this stretch of the river.
To read this article in full, buy this issue from selected stores or you can also subscribe here.