Wed 14th & Thu 15th Dec – Klein Aus Vista campsite
Fri 16th Dec – Canyon Roadhouse, Fish River Canyon
Sat 17th Dec – Crossed the border to South Africa, Orange River Rafting Lodge campsite
Sun 18th Dec – Bakinumpelis
Monday 19th Dec – !!!!! CAPE TOWN !!!!!
Kwessi – Dunes – Aus 289km
Kolmanskop & Luderitz visit: 246km
Aus – Fish River Canyon: 275km
Fish River Canyon – Orange River: 210km
Orange River – Nuwerus: 308km
Nuwerus – Cape Town: 339km
Total km driven in Namibia: 3,668km
Total km driven from Nairobi to Cape Town: 15,303km
WE FINALLY MAKE IT ALL THE WAY TO TABLE MOUNTAIN!
In Namibia, you never really leave the desert behind, so as we drove south from Kwessi Dunes and seemed to be getting into more mountainous terrain, it was no surprise to suddenly be on the edge of a sea of sand dunes again when we got to Aus. This part of the desert was best known as being home to Namibia’s wild-ranging desert horses, a population of around 100 individuals that were left behind by German settlers, potentially even cavalry units of World War 1, but now inhabit the Garub Plains of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. We stayed at Klein Aus Vista Desert Horse campsite, set in a valley amongst rocky mountains, from where we wandered up to a view point one evening to look over the desert plains below where a rather impressive 80m x 140m geoglyph of a galloping horse had been created from 4,244 rocks arranging in a single, continuous swirling line over a kilometre long. Back in our campsite, we were kept entertained by a charming family of 4-Striped Field Mice and a large colony of Sociable Weavers, who tried to find different ways of liberating us of our food supplies.
Aside from the Land Art and the wild horses themselves, one of whom seemed quite happy to wander up to us and munch an apple from Kian’s hand, we also visited Kolmanskop, an old mining town established in 1908 but abandoned in 1965, and the desert has been steadily reclaiming it since then. We explored the various houses, hospitals and shops, some of which were dilapidated and almost entirely buried in sand, making us feel as if we were exploring a movie set – perhaps for ‘Indiana Joe & the Raiders of the Ghost Town’? Other buildings were in surprisingly good shape, including a casino and bowling alley, which had both been restored to some degree. It was fascinating to see the old German town frozen in time and we enjoyed speculating what it must have been like for the people who just walked away from it all nearly 60 years ago.
Our journey continued with a stop at the Fish River Canyon, which at 161km is the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the US. There’s a famous hiking route along the canyon floor, but the trail is closed in the rainy season due to the risk of flash flooding, so we only got to peer down into the canyon from the edge, which was still mighty impressive, but not for those with any form for vertigo! I’ve no doubt that Kian and I will revisit the area during a dry season in the not-too-distant future to tackle the challenge of a 4/5 night, 85km hike along the canyon floor… we learned that you need to carry in everything you need for the hike, including water and apparently the hardest part is clambering down a series of chains hammered into the canyon walls… let us know if you want to join us for that.
This was also our final night of camping in our faithful 2-roomed Eureka tent, which had kept us safe and dry, at the Canyon Roadhouse Lodge campsite. The site was nice enough, but it was the restaurant and bar that really made an impression… full of old vehicles and decorated with number plates and other automobile-related signs and paraphernalia… some of which didn’t quite pass the PG rating necessary to make it into this blog!
The following day, we crossed the Orange River into South Africa at Vioolsdrift. It was sad to leave Namibia behind. The country lends itself to the ‘Road Trip’ – we covered nearly 3,700km in the 2 ½ weeks that we had here, but all that seemed to just whizz by – and, as we’ll now likely be spending more of our time based in Cape Town, I’ve no doubt we’ll be back to explore more of this scenically amazing country. We spent an evening at a lodge on the banks of the Orange River, from where we enjoyed a leisurely 2-hour rafting trip down the river and established the river was quite swollen and more of a murky olive-brown colour as a result of recent heavy rains. It’s this river that carries the sands that end up as the dunes of the Namib Desert, all the way from the Drakensberg Mountains in eastern South Africa.
The journey from the Orange River to Cape Town is 650km and can easily be done in a day, but we decided to break it with a stop, but we had a bit of a challenge looking at the map and trying to find somewhere interesting that we hadn’t visited before from Cape Town for our final night on the road … until we stumbled across ‘Bakinumpelis … with a name like that, how could we not round off our trip in royal luxury?
We were the only guests staying at Bakinumpelis, which is definitely not quite as large or grand as its namesake in the UK, so we weren’t bothering anyone else by turning on the TV to watch the excitement of Argentina playing France in the World Cup Final… what a game that was! Almost as soon as the match finished, we had our first encounter with South African ‘load shedding’ – scheduled power outages that affect day-to-day life here – but our ‘mini-palace’ was comfortable, we had snacks, a rack of spare ribs, veggies and even had some drinks left in the car fridge, so enjoyed a lovely candle-lit evening reflecting on the trip… the highs (which to choose from?… the lows (there really weren’t that many, if any at all) and all of the amazing experiences we’d had, wonderful people we’d met and fantastic sights we’d seen along the way.
So here we end up, 90 days and 15,303km later, having pumped 2,188 litres of diesel into the car – we’ll need to figure out how to offset that carbon usage – driving into Cape Town directly towards Table Mountain. Our entire adventure has been in the southern hemisphere – home in Nairobi is just a degree below the equator – and we’ve passed the Tropic of Capricorn to end up 34 degrees south. We’ve also traversed all the way across the southern part of the African continent, starting at the 37th meridian east and with our most westerly point being where we first saw the Atlantic Ocean on the Skeleton Coast, some 13 degrees east of Greenwich.
As we drove into the ‘Mother City’, as Cape Town is affectionately known by its residents, we could see it’s already bustling for the festive season and I suspect our re-immersion into the modern world is going to be something of a culture shock, especially given we were fossicking around remote corners of the oldest desert in the world just a few days ago. Turning into the close where our house is, there’s a small welcoming party waiting for us ready to throw colourful streamers over the car and singing a rather interesting rendition of a ‘Welcome to Cape Town’ song. The sun is shining, and we’ve got a series of festive events planned for the next week in the run-up to Christmas, including catching up with friends from the UK and Kenya who are in the city, as well as spending time with our South African family.
So, our adventure has drawn to a close and we’ll sign off, hoping that our adventures across Africa have entertained and inspired you. We’ll follow up with more in the New Year – I’ve yet to finish compiling the bird and animal sighting list where we have several hundred species recorded, including some first-time sightings and we’ve some highlights that we wanted to collate and a few ideas for future safaris in countries away from East Africa that we’re keen to share. In the meantime, we wish you all a very festive holiday season and a wonderful and safe start to 2023!
Joe, Gillian & Kian