Beating The Odds - Navigating Namibia Naturally
Thanks to Boris Johnson, who tried to win Browny points, South Africa was again back on the red list, banning all travel to and from our country. By the stroke of a pen, millions of travellers could unpack their suitcases, lock up their passports and go out and buy a Christmas tree they were home for the holidays. Within nanoseconds, the terrible news reverberated around the globe, and rapidly most first world countries followed suit.
Butch and I went into overdrive and got ourselves sorted to make it to the Namibian border before something similar happened there. Butch was more optimistic, and we agreed we’d rather spend our holidays in Namibia than at home.
In a mad flurry, we packed, stowed our groceries, charged our camera batteries, buffed our lenses and set off. An afternoon earlier than the itinerary!
By now, poor Cyril had tried every trick in the book to reason, cajole, appease, and assure the world that Omicron was a milder version of Covid. As luck would have it, he’d also contracted the dreaded virus and did a Trump on us. He took to his bed. I can’t blame him.
Twenty-four hours before our planned departure, we had our PCR tests, a painless procedure, at our local laboratory in Worcester.
With huge grins, and a sigh we were beating the odds. We were off but not before my beloved did some pre-journey checking of the tyre pressure gauge. It’s continuous beep driving us bananas. As if on cue he was lying under the truck checking her vitals.
Without a hitch, we made it to our first campsite on the banks of the Bulsberg dam on the Rondeberg farm between Clanwilliam and Klawer.
We set up the basics for a braai, sundowner, and quick walk to loosen stiff limbs on the freshly mowed green lawn. An early night was called for to set off as early as possible in the morning. Our entertainment, a group of boys, we think they’re matrics, singing school songs, fishing, scurrying about, ever busy with tackle, bait and a beer.
If you’re looking for an excellent location to dabble in water sports, fishing, and boating, this is undoubtedly the right place to be.
There’s a gentle breeze sashaying the bullrushes near my workstation. All I need to do is lift my head to see a busy Buffalo weaver collecting leaves and sticks for his new nest, a pair of Southern brown-throated weavers are swaying in the buffalo grass, and a Lilac-breasted Roller is catching insects. Ah, and there’s a Coucal, too quick to identify, coucalling away. In all this, the gregarious White-browed Sparrow weaver clan don’t stop their loud, liquid ‘cheeoopprreeoo-chop” song.
I’m distracted and off course. History has taught us that we have to take note of our tyre pressure, especially when the tyre pressure monitor warns us. We were waved through the roadblock just as the beep started. We pulled off at the only Service station at Bitterfontein. Butch calls the owner the Bitterman. He dogmatically refused to allow us to air up our tyres with air unless we filled our tanks with fuel. I kid you not. Our offer to pay was obstinately declined. Never is a long time…. I’m not as kind and I think calling him McDuff or sourpuss would be flattering.
(side note: I'd started this blog while on holiday, but, the lack of wifi connectivity and the simple pleasure of being on holiday without any deadlines or responsibilities weighed heavier, I packed up my laptop, took out my binoculars and bird watched. I unpacked and rebooted at home.)
To beat the crowds at the Noordoewer border post, we didn’t linger en-route except to stop at the Garies Tourism office, a favourite haunt, for a quick brunch. I couldn’t resist the red hat.
Without any ado, officials stamped our passports on the South African side. At the Namibian border post, we ran around from pillar to post, in the scorching heat, filling in forms, having our PCR’s checked, and paying road taxes. Explaining our vehicle was a “motorised caravan” was challenging (always is) until we found “other” on the notice pinned to a corkboard. We met up with Lana and John, who are also Isuzu motorhome owners. We compared notes like new parents. Their trip to the Caprivi followed different routes but we were sure to find their spoor along the way. While we cycled they had the luxury of riding their motorbikes. Parked next to the big boys we were reminded that size was a matter of perspective.
Using our hats to fan our flushed faces, we scuttled off to the first Engen filling station to buy cold drinks and I went in search of a SIM card, but none were available. We finally managed to buy some the next day at Keetmanshoop.
MTC was the recommended service provider and their “Aweh” the desired package according to Butch’s extensive investigations. Once we’d installed the SIM card into our router, our struggle became real. For the love of Mike, we couldn’t get it going. We argued, frustrated at our inability to find connectivity, and once we did, our data was gobbled up within a few hours. When something is too good to be true, we concur; it is too good to be true. In our experience, we’ve never found data to be as inexpensive; 3Gig at R65 ($4.27 US). Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised that most campsites and lodges we stayed at offered free WiFi access to guests. Not always very fast and capped with a daily limit, we could connect with family and friends. MTC has installed convenient self-service terminals in many shops, malls, and fuel stations. Unfortunately, they were mostly sold out of data during this busy time.
Unfortunately, it has become virtually impossible to manage one’s affairs without data in the world we live in. We will have to find a solution to this problem before we embark on an extended Overlanding trip.
With every down hill there's going to be a steady climb. The ruler straight road, stretching many kilometres and, uphill from the border post, always surprises, it's an illusion that Namibia is flat Butch reminds me every time we hit that gradient. In fact, he says, the landscape is a terraced plateau
Scarlet faced, exhausted, and crippled by back pain; we stopped at The White House Farm Stay north of Grünau. We’d both had enough. With our bathing cozzies stretched over our winter bellies, we stood in our flip flops swatting flies with rolled-up beach towels. Shimmering, half a kilometre away, we spotted the sign for the pimped up farm dam. Jaded, we made our way there to cool down in the icy water.
Refreshed, we set up our campsite, watched a magnificent tangerine sunset and, for the hell of it, Butch and I took our drinks up to the secluded Victorian bath set up in the veld and bathed while the heavens turned scarlet and the earth cooled down. We sipped our sundowners while watching the evening star glide up from the horizon.
No sooner had we switched on the lights, and the aerial attacks started. Winged insects divebombed, crawled, hopped, bit and zoomed annoyingly everywhere, and I was their targeted bull’s eye. For the duration of our five-week trip, we’d work in the dark. The romantic Citronella candle, our only light source, sizzled with carcasses. Before bedtime, I’d douse myself in Eau de Sommeil Paisible (Peaceful sleep). Our Kindle and iPad's illumination sometimes attracted these pesky little critters, turning reading in bed into a swatting match. Notwithstanding all of this, I’m not complaining.
We both drifted off on a cloud, induced by Voltaren gel, massaged into aching muscles and joints, plus anti-inflammatory capsules.
The White House is our go-to stop before and after the border post and I can't recommend it enough. There are chalets, the manor house and camp sites. The current owners, a young couple are delightful. Three course suppers can be pre-ordered if the journey has been too tiring or you just want to chillax. Our German neighbours couldn't stop raving about the shoulder of lamb done the "French way" the friendly, chatty Dolf de Wet delivered after sunset.
Sipping our coffee and munching on Nita's delcious Karringmelk beskuit (Buttermilk Rusks), a gift from The White House, while driving, we set off on the B1 to Keetmanshoop, where we filled up with fuel and managed to buy some data. From there we turned off continuing on the C17 to Koês and then the C15 gravel road to Stampriet, where we’d sleepover. We missed Dolf SNR.
Our aim was to do laste minute shopping and fill up with fuel at Gobabis, as we were to be far from any civilization for at least 4 nights after Stampriet.
We stopped en route to enjoy our picnic lunch at the Mesosaurus Fossil Camp. Unfortunately, the office was closed, but it seems guided tours should be arranged beforehand, which we weren’t aware of. According to our itinerary we would’ve camped there but we were ahead of schedule and decided to head on.
I will confess that I suffer FOMO (fear of missing out). Not exploring the Quiver tree forest, Mesosaurus site and Dolorite rock formations was a great disappointment.
While we enjoy the warmer weather, we’d certainly not acclimatised to the extreme heat in Namibia and couldn’t wait to reach our destination at the Kalahari Farmhouse and Campsite, part of the Gondwana Collection’s portfolio in Stampriet.
“If there was ever an enchanted garden, this is it. Entering the Kalahari Farmhouse is like stepping into a magical enclave or an oasis in the desert - far away from the world. It urges you to take off shoes, lie on the soft grass, open a book and relax.” Is what the website promises. That’s exactly what we found and as soon as we’d parked the Honey Badger we rolled into our bathers once again, poured ourselves a life saving drink and wallowed in the pool until we'd cooled down to our core. Later we lolled about on deck chairs reading and catching up with our families.
We enjoyed an Al Fresco supper and were surprised that every table was occupied, by locals, we enjoyed our dinner and retired early. Our tiny camping fan whirred us to sleep, kept the bugs at bay while its gentle breeze kept us cool.
Once again we enjoyed a picture-perfect Namibian sunrise, a perfectly brewed cuppa and beskuit before setting off on the M42 and later the C20 to Gobabis. As far as I was concerned our holiday would officially start once we’d cleared the decks of last minute chores. But, you'd say, the road is part of the journey, yes, of course but, the great distances do take their toll us.
For Navigation we used: Tracks for Africa Maps, Garmin GPS and Garmin in Reach for emergencies e.g. Satelite communications.