After completing a tour of the Central Kalahari in 2013 with our friends Bes and Johan Steyn, we decided to embark on an extended southern-African trip once all four of us were on pension. A mere two years later, our dreams became a reality when we began our journey.
This was through the central part of Namibia, and traversing the north and eastern regions of Namibia, southern and south-eastern part of Zambia, Zimbabwe and southern Botswana. As we intended to travel out of the normal tourist season, we decided not to make reservations at any of our planned destinations. Instead, we worked on a simple basis: “If it’s nice, we’ll stay. If not, we’ll leave.”
Our experiences on this trip taught us to be very wary of campsites recommended by travel journalists. At one point, we wondered whether any of these journalists had actually visited the lodges they’d swooned over, or whether they had just read the Trip Advisor reviews. We decided to invent our own “rating system”, and have shared some of our thoughts on the places at which we stayed.
And so, after many pre-tour planning braais and bookmarked travel reviews, we finally left Pretoria early one morning in August, got onto the Kalahari Highway, and headed for the Namibia/Botswana border...
Namibia: The First Leg
Entering Namibia was like giving a big sigh of relief–suddenly, the road had fences on both sides, keeping the wildlife off the tarmac and in the bushveld where it belonged. From here, we headed towards the Erongo Mountains and stopped at the Omandumba farm of Deike and Harald Rust – a boulder-strewn paradise for both rock climbers and hikers alike.
After setting up at the Split Apple campsite, we climbed up a rocky massif and soon realised why the Erongo Mountains are so special. It felt as if a magic spell had been cast on all of us. Here, we were, close to civilisation, but at the same time so very far from it. The nightly jackal serenade further reminded us of this reality.
Continuing on our little safari, we headed towards the Spitzkoppe. Many years ago, when we lived in Windhoek, we’d visited the Spitzkoppe at least once a month to do some rock climbing. Arriving there was nearly like arriving home. Nowhere else is the night sky so beautiful and clear or the atmosphere more spellbinding.
Our time at the Spitzkoppe was far too short. Had it not been for the heat brought on by an east wind, we would have stayed longer before leaving for Swakopmund,
where we spent a few days enjoying the German feel of the town.
From Swakop, we continued north towards Uis, which is located in the shadow of the Brandberg Mountain (Namibia’s highest). Uis is a quiet little town where the shops close at noon on a Saturday. The town nowadays survives on tourism, and it is not strange to find people “escaping” the coastal weather to seek the sun in Uis.
We opted for the White Lady B&B; and, although there are comfortable chalets, we decided to camp. The camp’s atmosphere was somewhat lacking, but the ablution
and other facilities were great. All in all, it’s not such a bad spot for a short stopover.
From Uis, we continued in the direction of Khorixas. Apart from the beautiful landscape, the trip through the desert kept interesting by Himba ladies selling handcrafts and semi-precious stones
along the way. And, once in the town, we quickly discovered the wonderful sense of humour of the people living in the shadow of the mighty Brandberg.
It seemed as if the rural shops (‘Cuca shops’) were all competing to have the most original and quirky names. Where else would you find shops called “Pay as You Go Mall” or “Desert Waters Shopping Centre”? Only in Africa…
To read this article in full, buy this issue at selected stores or you can also subscribe here.