Into Namibia

After a quick stop to re-supply in Tsunkwe, including 3 large bottles of Windhoek beer, we took a turn on the Bushman 4×4 Trail, into the Nyae Nyae Conservancy. We camped in an elephant infested field, and soon after dawn we drive to the nearest village to arrange a bushwalk/mock hunt with the help of John, a local who has learned enough English to make a modest living as a guide. This small community is just starting to provide such tours, which offer a glimpse on the traditional way of life of one of Africa’s oldest surviving tribes.

The San women are the gatherers, picking up berries and leaves and digging up roots for food, hydration or medicine. Elise appeared to be their leader.

Some of these plants are said to be a sort of natural Viagra, some cure all sort of stomach issues and so on. Some, Elise said, can turn the shyest person into a proper Cicero!

In the dry season hunting is restricted, so we could only witness a mock hunt. Nobody gets anywhere before a fire is lit the way the ancestors used to do. Bits of wood were made into tools, and rubbed on top of a particular kind of grass until a fire warmed us all up. The hunter prepared his arrow by screwing two branches together and dipping them in vegetal poison. Apparently we are far from grasping the Bushmen’s ability to live of the land. One can only hope that such ancient knowledge and survival skills won’t be lost. We chatted, and collected our thoughts a bit, before venturing back into the bush.

After leaving the village we spend a few hours driving about the place, munching on baobab fruit and bumping into a large group of male elephants who were fighting for the best spot at waterhole.

The last quiet bivouac before the arrival of our guests.

For the first ever adventure tour lead by us, we designed a 3000-3500kms route. We were to revisit some of our favoured spots, but as we hate to have everything too well planned in advance, we left a few grey areas to discover together with the group. Watch a short clip from the tour:

The first few days were dedicated to Etosha National Park, eerily spectacular in the dry season. This is not Maasai Mara, animals have vast swathes of land to hide into, and they are not easy to track, but the rewards are unforgettable.

We had our share of adrenaline rush: our battery died a few yards from two generations of lion cubs playing and waiting for their parents, while a second car was stuck a few hundred meters up the road with a flat. The third car had not joined the safari that day, so it took a while to signal SOS and get help from another visitor. Getting out of the car to connect the batteries and trying to ignore the 5 cubs, while everyone else was on the lookout for potential adult lions jumping from the bushes…. well, I never felt more scared in my life!

We also visited a Himba community and explored the unique wild west where ephemeral rivers have carved another world, populated with specially adapted desert elephants and desert lions. These are some of the rarest and most difficult to see animals in the world, and they are vulnerable. Too many lions were recently lost in human-wildlife interactions…

After a hike on the “field of Fairy Circles“, we discovered a blessed waterfall and crossed Damaraland, making our way to the stunning Spitzkoppe.

All days were filled with adventure, we worked as a team to navigate the dunes, and shared the emotion of discovering that our bivouac had been visited by a lioness during the night.

At beautiful Spitzkoppe 🙂

Sossusvlei took our breath away, so did the lagoon populated with flamingos, the technicolor sunsets and the superb Namibia oysters.

After we said goodbye to our group (and new friends), we turned south to explore on 4 wheels a route discovered first during our tour of Africa by motorcycle. We remembered D707 as one of the most beautiful. So after a very quiet night we refilled in Betta and started our descend along the dwindling Namib desert, which slowly melted at the foot of quiver tree-infested mountains. Wild horses grazed at the fringes of Ais town, but we pushed further west, towards Luderitz. 40 km around town a sand storm blasted dunes across the road. Breathing sand and cussing our bad timing, we stared at the info board at the entrance to Kolmanskop ghost-town. It was closed. This is diamond country, but to see the real deal we’d have to return some other time. The storm chased us away and back to Aus, then south, in search of a bivouac. No worries: down south the Namaqualand had to be already in bloom!

When we toured Africa by motorbike we happened to cross the Northern Cape of South Africa during the summer. We had returned now to witness the Namaqualand in full bloom. Spring transforms the desert, the steep valleys and the mountains. Wild flowers open towards the sun, glowing in the wildest shades of purple, pink, blue and yellow. After a cold, wet night in a place that could have well been in Mongolia, we roll deeper into the kingdom of flowers. A day was not going to be enough!
The night of the 1st of Sept. was the coldest so far, perhaps a couple of degrees above freezing. We woke up to a damp tent, a fridge still at 5 degrees (despite being unplugged overnight, so for 12hrs+) and a valley sunken in fog. We fetched tea to warm our hands, and skin was painfully stiff. Finally the sun rushed into the valley and we felt like playing again. Leaving Namibia proved far more difficult and adventurous than coming in. Instead if driving to the border, we took a detour east on a 4×4 trail. It started with a steep rocky climb that might have wet some pants (can’t say whose) and continued with gnarly boulders and riverbed descends. It was awesome, and hard. We continue across a canyon infested with Klipspringers, Oryx and Hartman’s mountain zebras, up to the Orange River. A pontoon crossing and a stamp later, we were back in South Africa. We took a long look behind, and then to each other. The Namibian leg of our journey was over.