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alone from puros to kunene

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    can i and my wife drive safely alone from puros to kunene?by “safely” i mean vehicle wise ,with a fortuner and cooper discoverer tyres.what would best route be,and how long would drive be?

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    hans1 on

    it seems no one either reads this column or no one knows.or cares.

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    SA4x4 on

    In the absence of comment from other readers, this is our advice: This is a remote region, so read about conditions in all the travel guides you can lay your hands on. Before setting out, you should be 100% sure your vehicle is properly equipped, recently serviced and you know how to handle mechanical breakdowns. You’ve covered the tough tyres angle, but still, have two spares, a puncture repair kit and compressor.

    We usually do not advocate solitary vehicle travel. Rather go with at least two other vehicles. If that’s not possible, ensure you have the necessary dry country experience. Be sure you know how to handle deep sand and rocky conditions confidently. If you lack experience in this sort of terrain, get some additional training.

    In addition, make sure that you have shared an accurate travel plan with family or friends, and that you are carrying a satellite phone.

    As ever, be prepared with all the necessaries, including additional food, and, more importantly, stocks of water for up to an extra 5-7 days longer than your planned travel time. Good planning will make for a trouble-free experience. Enjoy!

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    Johan Van Wieringen
    Johan Van Wieringen on

    Hi the SA4x4 has given you good advice, I can only stress that you must take plenty of fuel. In 1995 my wife Ilse and I in our 1992 Land Rover 110 V8 Station Wagon did a trip in Kaokaland starting at Ruacan Hippo Pools Camp Site. taking the DR3700 to Epupo Falls overnight stays at Okovahene Lodge for two nights, stopping at Okupe Camp and Dorsland Trekker Monument at Swartbooisdrift and on to Epupa Falls for two nights. Then on the DR3700 to Okongwati then east on the DR3703 to Van Zyl’s Pass, this section has the famous “Tyre Eater Pass”. All the roads (tracks) in Kaokaland have broken up rocks with very sharp edges, deposited by the South African Defence Force so that their vehicles could supply the Guard Posts along the Cunene. From Van Zyl’s up north through the Marienfluss, another danger area where the long grass gets caught up in the exhaust pipes and catches alight especially in petrol driven vehicles which run much hotter than diesel, to Otjinhugwa and the Okarohombo Camp Site. Then down south to “Roo Drom” Red Drum, then to Orupembe then east to Opuwo to fill up with Petrol. 7x 2ol jerry cans + 100l total 24ol R 445.00 27.72l / 100 km’s. We turned East after Orupembe  as we had encountered a tour coming up north and they mention fuel was only available to people staying at the lodges in the Purros area. The Kaokoland trip was part of a 16 week trip of:-        .

    South Africa 28 days 6,196 km’s  2,648 km’s dirt.

    Nanibia 47 days 8,156 km’s  5,292 km’s dirt

    Zimbabwa  26 days  3,514 km’s  1,173 km’s dirt

    Total 19,520 km’s  Tar 9,757   Dirt 9,763 km’s

    Camped 72 Nights 64.29 %

    13 National Parks  55 days

    8 Game / Nature Reserves  37 days

    Petrol R7,373 .54 4,188.52 litres 176.o4c/litre  37.77c/km’s 21.46l/100

    Total  113 days  R32,110.64  R 286.70/day


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    hans1 on

    thanks for that interesting tale.time flies.i was so busy in my life that i forgot that i also grow old.travelled far and wide and worked to travel.But some trips remain and that area is one of them.

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    Claud Bosch
    Claud Bosch on

    Morning Hans

    I only joined this forum recently and stumbled upon your request. Yes you can safely drive that route with a 4×4 Fortuner. we have done it in groups a few times. Johan von W described a different far more complicated route from the East.

    If you have not yet changed the front suspension to a longer travel more off-road type I would do it before hand. The Coopers are probably the best available wheels for this terrain. Best to deflate your tyres to 1,5bar from Fort Sesfontein onwards.  That road is frequented by supply trucks and support vehicles servicing the lodges north of Purros. so, it is not a “lonely” road. I would also take with a snatch strap and proper u-bolts.

    Fort Sesfontein Lodge is very nice and affordable to stay but the Warmquelle Campsite just before that is very good with hot springs to swim in and new well appointed ablutions and camp sites.

    The timing of your trip is the most important. If after a good rainy season I would not do it before mid May. The issue here is more the road between Fort Sesfontein through Omanye to reach Purros. About 100km, mostly good road. Long stretches of that road is actually in the Gommadommi river bed. Mostly dry but not a good experience if alone and the river is soggy. Sesfontein is your last fuel point.

    The distance from Purros to Kunene is about 150km one way depending on which tracks and routes you follow. I would prepare myself for sufficient fuel to cover 600km at 7km/L. That should be safe. You can work on a average travel speed of 50km/h excluding stops for pictures etc.

    It is also important to have proper jack points and a high-lift jack. Water is important although you can refill at Orupembe. The lodges past Purros are all in conservancies and very unfriendly. The lodge at Purros are very helpfull and a good spot for sundowners. The community camp site at Purros is very nice, friendly people and good water with hot showers.

    To access the Kunene river basin to the West is a bit tricky. You need to know your way around to get through the Hartmanns Mountains and Valley and then to decent from the high escarpment down very steep sand tracks.

    If alone, I would aim for Camp Syncro which is on the Kunene and a nice photo trip through the Marienfluss and with proper directions to get there. I would stay at Purros and the next day pass Orupembe (enjoy an ice cold Windhoek Draught there) to aim for Marble Campsite 17,59″07 S 12,35″08 E. A real gem on the Khumib river with good fresh water and hot showers. from there through Red Drum to Camp Syncro.

    There are some critical points you need to have to ensure you are on the “right” track because at some intersections there are quite a few tracks ‘misleading’ you in the wrong direction.

    I do not know which Fortuner you have but if 4.0L V6 work on 5,5km/L and if 2,8GD or 3.0 D4D work on 7,5km/L. The Coopers are probably the best wheels for this terrain. deflate to 1,5B

    If you are till interested send me a mail at and I will forward you some critical GPS points to double check your routing with.

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    nico hager
    nico hager on

    Good advice from all the above. Puros to Syncro more like 250km. Follow the road NW out of Puros past Orupembe and Rooidrom to Marble Camp and stay over. Use Tracks4Africa GPS and/or map. Routes reliable and visible. Then through very dry Marienfluss and stop for ice cold beer at kookashop at holy mountain Ondau (diesel available sometimes from @ N30/l). Stay over at Syncro. Then back over Van Zyls pass or long detour around south to Marble again and possible early stay over OR go for one of the community camps along the very slow track past Otjihende, Otjitanda to Okangwati OR overnight in bush somewhere in between. You need Tracks4Africa!! There’s no-one to ask except a Himba herdsman here and there. This particular track VERY bad offroad with dead slow sections. Vehicle damage guaranteed if you’re not careful. It’s 280km plus from Marble to Epupa and not easily do-able in one day unless maybe if you use Van Zyls pass. Saw video at Marble camp of chap who comfortably did Van Zyls in 200 series diesel LC with trailer day before us. Trick is SLOW and CAREFUL. From Okangwati to Epupa easy and from there back east to Ruacana civilisation easy. Rains followed us from the north all the way down. Now in Dec Kunene was in flood at Ruacana and at Epupa. Dry riverbeds were all in flood or about to be flooded. Had issues at Swartbooisdrif. In fact, down south at Puros had to stay longer for river to subside and further down Hoanib also challenged us. Use Tracks4Africa GPS and/or maps and preferably take another vehicle with driver who understands long distance travel on bad corrugation and zero refueling and tyre eating vehc damaging off roading where there is no help. We had a (non-Toyota) breakdown north of Puros and it took recovery vehc to be called in 600km from Swakop! If you drive carefully it’s however easily do-able. I must compliment the campsite of Michael on the northern side of the Puros river. Great guy with his wife – great  amenities (lodges and campsite)! We did not stay in the community campsite further downriver towards the river crossing. True what someone said above about the attitude of the fancy lodges throughout Kaokoland. They don’t like people wandering in seeking help (staff very helpful but not the owners). Best is to avoid them and be self sufficient. Diesel available from village trader on southern side of Puros river. Kaokoland is generally fuel-less and no card facilities. Carry cash because the odd place with card facilities along the Kunene not reliable.  Long range diesel fuel tank required plus at least 2 full jerrycans. Petrol even worse. Must be able to do 1000km plus north from Puros on own 6-7km/l capacity otherwise you ae forced to drive all the way past Opuwo. General comment about Kaokoland is that it remains especially remote and naturally beautiful despite the searing drought. Dead Himba cattle everywhere – even few dead sebra and oryx. Here you’ll see why the Kanniedood trees (Corkwoods – Commiphora species) got the right Afrikaans name: they’re the only ones looking well in this terrible drought and there are special ones only to be found there. Heart breaking for me that modern day accessibility, misguided philanthropy (dishing out sweets and left over food etc) and the longstanding drought have made the once proud Himba nation a nation of beggars…



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