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Trip Report Our trip to the land of contrasts: September 2012

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I had the priviledge to visit Namibia for the first time this year and thought it a good thing to try and help fellow travellers. After all, this is where many of us look for advice. hope this helps!

Namibia 3 – 20 September 2012
Background and planning:
Las t year we had the privilege of visiting Italy and Switzerland and this year we decided to visit our neighbour, Namibia. We know a lot of people who visited and we have had this in the back of our minds for the last five years now, but every year something happened.

Planning for me started about January 2012, when I started talking to some people about a possible itinerary. Almost all of them said I should do Namibia in two or three visits, but I decided to do as much as possible in one go.

Most of my planning was based around word of mouth and then reading and checking on forums such as Trip Advisor and Fodors on accommodation and restaurants.

The trip is a mixture of camping (12 nights) and chalets (7 nights). Travellers were just Dear Wife (DW) and I, after our friends and family withdrew as time went by. We had an old bow type tent, and bought ourselves an inflatable queen sized mattress and pump. Over and above the normal things like clothes, chairs, table etc., we also bought an Indel B 45 litre fridge/ freezer and a quick -pitch gazebo. The freezer proved to be an essential part, while we only pitched the gazebo in Swakopmund. However, the latter would have been useful if we did not have such an extended driving programme!

We used our own Toyota Fortuner 3.0 D-4D 4X4, which is an SUV vehicle with full four wheel drive capabilities. Our trip was exactly 6604 kilometres (1.6 kilometres = 1 mile) and we used 642 litres of diesel for the trip: consumption of 10 km/litre, which is great for this vehicle. We did not have a roof rack or trailer; instead, I took out the sixth and seventh seats (foldable), as well as one of the rear passenger seats. In this way we could pack all we needed in the back of the vehicle.

Of the distances we drove, 4, 000 of this was in Namibia, with about 1, 000 of those on gravel roads. Some of these gravel roads, especially around Twyfelfontein and Brandberg were very good, in some instances as broad as 50 metres, while some were not very good. Much has been said about four wheel drive, SUV or sedan and their virtues on the gravel roads. All I can say, is that I was very glad to have had the high ground clearance and the four wheel drive option on some of the roads. I did deflate the tyres by about 25% when on gravel roads, which I think does assist in smoother driving. I am also very glad to say that I did not have one flat wheel on my entire trip, while I met people who had three about halfway through their trip. They did not deflate their tyres, so there must be some truth in this advice. I believe that a road ‘talks’ to you and determines the speed you should be driving at. We mostly drove at 80 km/h, but in some cases went down to as low as 50 km/h or as high as 110 km/h.

The tarred roads were all well maintained and easy to drive on, although some were quite narrow. There was a lot of road maintenance being undertaken all over the country, which is why the roads are so good.

Much has been said about the friendliness of Namibians, and I can now emphatically agree: all Namibians are friendly and courteous and will often greet you first and then with a smile. The fact that almost all of them speak Afrikaans (my first language) fluently surely helped with communication and made my trip even more pleasant. There seems to be a mutual respect among all the different cultures and also towards the country. With the exception of Usakos, all cities/towns were very clean and neat and everybody seems to be proud of them and kept it that way. To all Namibians who read this: thank you for the honour we had to visit your country and the true hospitality you showed to us.

We had no problems withdrawing money from our Bank’s ATMs, although I had a problem at one stage with my withdrawal limit that was cancelled. Luckily one call to my Bank in RSA relieved that problem quickly.

Fuel (diesel) was also no issue and was available freely everywhere we went, but I made sure that I filled up whenever I could, even though I may not have driven very far. Prices in Namibia and Botswana were lower than in South Africa.

We did laundry three times during our trip: laundry in Windhoek and Swakopmund and a hand wash while in at Etosha Safari Camp. We still overpacked!

I will try and give you an oversight of where we went, the mileage we did, where we stayed and ate, in the hope that it may help you should you be planning to do something similar. The accommodation and restaurants I will rate out of 10, because doing it out of five just does not give enough leeway. I have used the view that 6/10 is good enough to return to in future.

3 September 2012: Kang, Botswana
Distance Travelled : 760 km on good tarred roads, both in South Africa and Botswana. Lots of animals along the roads in Botswana, so drive carefully. We honoured the speed limits at all times, which can change from 120 km/h to 80 with only a small sign indicating the change. The N4 from Pretoria to the border was extremely busy until Rustenburg, after which it became nice and quiet
Stayed at : Kang Ultra Stop Chalets.
Rating 6/10. Neat chalets, with own bathroom/WC. If you are a light sleeper, the trucks passing through at weird hours of the night will probably wake you up quite often. Did not bother us that much. They have fuel pumps, a restaurant/bar, shop and curio shop. We bought hamburgers (take aways) which we thoroughly enjoyed.

4 September: Gobabis
Distance travelled :380 kilometres on tarred roads. Most very good. Watch out for ostriches, they are all over!
Stayed at : Kalahari Bush Breaks (camping).
Rating 6/10. This is the Kalahari so there is not a lot of grass, we camped below a big camel thorn tree in the sand/dust. Every stand has power, a tap and a little table. Bathrooms had warm water and were very clean. The only let down was the kitchen sink for washing of our dirty crockery and cutlery, where the lights were broken and the one tap was loose. We bought some nice dry wors, biltong and venison fillets from the owner at reasonable prices.

5 & 6 September: Windhoek
Distance travelled : 255 kilometres on good tar roads. Became very busy after we passed the airport, which is about 40 km east of Windhoek.
Stayed at : Arebbusch Lodge (chalet)
Rating 8/10. Nicely serviced chalets with breakfast included. Well looked after and seems to be busy all the time. A bit out of the city, but it really did not bother us – we were about 3 km away from a nice mall in any case.
First dinner: Sardinia Restaurant in Independence Avenue.
Rating 7/10. We both had pizzas, which were quite enjoyable with thin crusts. Service was good, but the setting is a bit impersonal.

Second dinner: Joe’s Beerhouse, 160 Nelson Mandela Street.
Rating: 9/10. We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the decor, while the food lived up to standard. We enjoyed the idea of having people at our table who we do not know and I think it adds to the charm. Only negative is that the service was a bit slow and we had to call our waiter to order etc.. Best overall food experience of the trip.

7 September: Waterberg
Distance travelled : 265 km mostly on tar, with about 15 km on reasonable gravel road.
Stayed at : Waterberg Plateau Park (Camp)
Rating 6/10. Each stand has a braai, a tap and electrical power; stands seem not to be cleaned properly. Bathrooms had hot water and were kept quite clean. There is a nice communal swimming pool where we relaxed and it was so peaceful, we dozed off a bit! Sadly the chairs are in a bit of disrepair. Big problem: baboons! We were packing up the next day and when I turned my back, one of the female baboons jumped into the boot of my car and got hold of one of our bags with food. Apparently this has been a long time problem. However, the surroundings are so beautiful and so different that we enjoyed our stay there. Plus point: the manager of the resort introduced himself to us when we booked in, which we appreciated.

8 September: Tsumeb
Distance travelled : 325 km mostly on tar – first 15 km on gravel as above. Visited the Hoba meteorite just outside Grootfontein, which was quite nice, but is a once off.
Stayed at :!uris Lodge (camping).
Rating 4/10. The campsite has recently been moved to about 500 m from the Lodge. It now has electrical power for lights, but a fire needs to be made for the ‘donkey’ for hot water to shower in. It has a kind of open air shower (which we liked) and a sink for dishwashing. Camping is on the dirt. What bothered us a bit here, was the setup of the camp site. There was a big branch of a tree right above the sink where I kept bumping my head and the fire place was so centrally located that it was difficult to find a decent level part away from the braai area to pitch the tent. The shower also needs a bit of attention, but maybe the idea was to keep it as natural as possible. With a bit of attention, this may turn into a good site.

9 & 10 September: Etosha
Distance travelled : 265 km, 90 km on tar, the rest on Etosha’s white dusty roads. These were in reasonable condition except for the Olifantsbad road, which was extremely poor. Visited Lake Otjikoto just outside Tsumeb, which has an overpriced entry fee. Again a must do once.
Stayed at : Etosha Safari Camp (camping)
Rating: 9/10. When you drive into the campsite, al you see is green, soft grass! So your fist thoughts are that this must be a 10/10 campsite. Well, all sites have electrical power, a braai place and a fixed table and there are some nice shade trees around. The bathrooms are kept clean and so is the whole campsite. So why not a perfect 10? The bathrooms are a bit old and need some attention. Not all the showers have hooks for your clothes etc – they are missing or broken. The lower of the two also has very small basins and no hot water taps for shaving.
Bird life here is awesome and there were birds literally everywhere. There was some wildlife around, including a honey badger, which tipped over all the rubbish bins looking for food. There is also a swimming pool that can be used by campers.

Dinner at their restaurant: 7/10. Nice food at reasonable prices, with live local entertainment. The theme in reception and around the bar is shebeen, which DW thoroughly enjoyed and which really helped the overall atmosphere.

11 September: Brandberg
Distance travelled : 465 km of which 80 km on tar and the rest on gravel. Some of these roads were very good, especially the two from Twyfelfontein to Uis. Visited the Vingerklip along the way, which we enjoyed: the attraction and the two close by mountains rather look at home in a Louis L’Amour western setting and seems out of place in Namibia! Turnoff to this is actually through the gate to the Vingerklip Lodge (directions not that that good) with an acceptable entry fee of N$ 5. We did not return to the Outjo/Khorixas road, but took the road going the other way. Very slow most of the way, with even a gate to open at one place! Because it was so different, we enjoyed it.

A bit of advice: do not do what I have done here. This day included a visit to the Vingerklip and Twyfelfontein (which is about an hour’s walk). Rather sleep over a Aba Huab and then go to Brandberg the next day. We left quite early that morning and only arrived at Brandberg at seven that night. We were so tired the next morning that we slept until after 08h00 and thus had to skip the rock paintings at Brandberg. Shame on us! Wel,l now we have a great reason to go back!

Stayed at : Brandberg White Lady Lodge (camping)
Rating 6/10. No electricity, but with a braai place and a tap at your camping site. Some of these sites were huge indeed. Open air communal showers and bathrooms. Hot water for the showers is obtained via the ‘donkey’ again, but here it had been started by the lodge itself . The camp sites seem to be in the Ugab river, and has some huge trees in it. Sky is so clear, that the stars seem to be close to earth.

I must convey my appreciation to Stephen, the on duty manager for the night, who graciously allowed me to connect my freezer to a power supply in their kitchen. It meant that my precious cargo of meat could remain frozen. Well appreciated Stephen!

12 September: Usakos
Distance travelled : 165 km on gravel road. Most of it in good condition.

Stayed at : Ameib Ranch (chalet).
Rating 7/10. Newly taken over by Sigrid. Nice clean accommodation with showers and shared dishwashing facilities and great breakfast the next morning. All the buildings are solid and the garden is well kept. The problem that Sigrid has, is that they can’t get electricity from the government and has to rely on a generator which only runs at certain times. In spite of this, we enjoyed our stay here.

What they have here as an extra, is Bull’s Party and Phillips Cave. Bull’s Party is into the mountain and has huge rock formations. I had to drag DW away from there as she was really into climbing and taking photographs. If you want to understand how small you are, go there and walk among those rocks and boulders...

Phillips Caves holds some old Bushman paintings that are a bit faint, but still well worth the 30 minutes’ walk/climb there.

13 – 16 September: Swakopmund
Distance travelled : 170 km, 144 on tarred road.

Stayed at : Alte Brucke (camping)
Rating 9/10. Green grass as well! And each campsite has its own ablution facilities with a braai, electricity and dishwashing sink! Great facilities and our top camping site of the trip. Stands are kept clean every day and the grass on unused stands is watered daily.

Dinner first night : Lighthouse Restaurant
Rating 7/10. Very nice setting right on the beach. DW had Fish n Chips which was both a massive portion and delicious, while I had my favourite: Kingklip. Service was good but the wine a bit on the expensive side. Our only sunset of the four days we were in Swakop (the other days were overcast) and it was great to see it.

Dinner second night: The Jetty – right on the end of the famous jetty in Swakopmund
Rating 8/10. Very nice seafood soup and a great salad. DW and I split a seafood platter, which included a bit of everything and we thoroughly enjoyed it. And sitting with the Atlantic passing by underneath you – excellent. Service was also acceptable.

Late lunch third day: Stadtmitte Restaurant (wanted to do Kucki’s Pub, but was not opened and we were hungry)
Rating 5/10. Food was good, but ordering it was very impersonal; you have to order and pay for everything at the cashier, take your seat and the food will then be delivered to your table. The waiter brought our desert before our mains, not once but twice and said we ordered it. Took some time to get over that one!

Dinner fourth night : The Tug. At the start of the Jetty.
Rating 8/10. This was DW’s birthday and we were well satisfied with the food we received and the service, although our waitress seemed a bit deaf! We had catch of the day, which was galjoen (cob). Nicely cooked with a great salad to accompany it.

Mola Mola Adventures in Walvis Bay:
Rating 6/10. This is a boat trip around Walvis Bay Harbour with visits from a seal, and a pelican on the boat, with a quick view of a school of dolphins and a visit to the seal colony. Sanel was a good guide and the skipper Niekie was also helpful with info. They were close to a whale the previous day, but we were not so lucky...

Tommy’s Living Desert Tours
Rating 8/10. to us, this was a trip that was well worth the time it took. It is a visit into the desert and seeing small animals such as skinks, snakes etc. Tommy has a very engaging personality and obviously loves the desert and what he does. What we did not like, was that the group was quite big and the SUV we rode in was a bit cramped and we did not enjoy the ride.

We also did the self drive to see the moon landscape, which was out of this world and for which both of us will return. You have to see it for yourself. We did the whole drive up to the big Welwitschia, which is also interesting, although a bit out of the way. Remember to buy the NWR entry fees at their offices in Swakop (only open weekdays).

Do stop at Goikantes, which is an oasis in the desert and is on the edge of the moon landscape. In fact, why not camp there for one night, in the middle of nowhere? They have a nice campsite.

17& 18 September: Sesriem
Distance travelled : 340 km of which 295 on gravel. The first 180 km of the gravel road was not very good and we seldom travelled faster than 70 km/h. The worst part was up the Kuiseb pass, which was one of the worst bits of gravel road in Namibia (maybe the downhill drive will be a bit more acceptable . About 30 km before Solitaire, the raod started becoming a lot better and we could travel at 80 km/h again. Stayed like this until the turnoff to Sesriem, where it worsened a little bit, but was still okay. Yes, we did have apfel strudel at Solitaire and yes, it was good! By the way, they have a little tyre repair shop here as well, which can mend some holes in tyres.

Stayed at : Sesriem (camping)
Rating 2/10. Am I a bit harsh on them? Well, neither the braai, nor the gridwas cleaned while we were there. There is also a little ‘boma’ in the camping site which had coals and ash in it when we arrived and which was still there when we left two days later. The bathrooms are basic, needs attention and are tired. And then to crown it all, the outlay of our campsite (15) made no sense. It has a bit if a view towards the desert with the mountain in the background. Guess where the three dustbins (glas, metal and other) and the electrical box were situated? Jip, right in line with those views! At least the pool was clean, although too full and overflowed the moment somebody got in. Still, this was the worst stay of our entire trip. It can be so much better.

We also visited Sossusvlei which is an absolute must see – about 65 km from Sesriem with the last 4 km only accessible by four wheel drive. The reason why we chose Sesriem as our accommodation was that you can leave for Sossusvlei an hour earlier than people staying outside the resort. Sossus was very impressive and we were lucky to have grass there because of the rains they had the last year or so. The yellow/white grass and red dunes made for some wonderful photos!

We also took a walk down Sesriem Canyon, which was very impressive. We made the mistake of visiting it at 14h00 and it was way too hot. I think early in the morning or late in the afternoon would be the best time.

19 September: Keetmanshoop
Distance travelled :500 km 165 on gravel. The gravel road was a bit of a mix with some parts where we could do 80 km/h and some where 60 km/ h was spot on. Had a nice breakfast at the Woestynkombuis (?) in Maltahohe and then travelled the newly rehabilitated tar road between it and Mariental. The B1 tarred road between Mariental and Keetmanshoop was narrow and bumpy for at least the first 100 kilometres, after which it became a bit wider at least, but was still bumpy.

Stayed at : Maritz Country Lodge (chalet) right behind the Engen One Stop.
Rating 8/10. Very nice and clean chalet, with good attention to detail. The whole setup there just speaks to you and is well looked after. We had dinner at their restaurant as well, but the pizzas were not a winner, we should have ordered something different.

We visited the Quiver Tree Forest and the Giant’s Playground. We both found the former to be very interesting and I think this is now DW’s favourite tree. We even bought some on the way home. DW enjoyed the latter a lot more than I did, although I must say it was impressive. It is basically lava kind of rocks that looks like it had been built by giants because they are like walls which fit onto each other. Ah ,maybe you should go and look for yourself; it is too difficult to describe!

20 September: Grunau
Distance travelled : 275 km of which 225 was on gravel. The first 50 km or so on the C19 gravel road must be the best one I have ever driven and I was very comfortable doing 110 km/h. After that, it became a bit of a gamble, as the straight parts were good, but the drifts were a bit of a challenge. They were busy grading the roads, so that may be the reason why the drifts were a bit rough. Turning off and driving to the Fish River Canyon, the road was again quite good. Please stop at Canyon Road House which you will pass on this road. It is absolutely worth your while. From the turnoff to Ai-Ais to Hobas, the road gradually deteriorates until it becomes really bad. Again, they are working on it, so it may become better. Coming back onto the C19, direction Grunau, the road again becomes very good.

What can I say about the Fish River Canyon? Impressive is not the word. We spent about two hours there and did not stop at all the lookout points. Next time! Remember to pay the NWR entry fee at Hobas.

Stayed at : Die Withuis (The White House) 10 km north of Grunau on the tar road (chalet)
Rating 7/10. Do yourself a favour and ask Kinna to do dinner for you at a nominal price, especially the lamb chops. You will not be able to finish your plate and you will love her home cooking. Chalets are adequate and well looked after. Normal double bed with winter bedding, which worked well, because it got quite cold that night. What I liked was the ‘honesty bar’ that each room has and of course I used it.

21 September: Kuruman
Distance travelled : 530 km all on tarred roads.

Stayed at : De Oude Werf (chalet)
Rating 8/10. My best sleep of the whole trip! The mattress was perfect, and the place well looked after. Everything was clean in the room and the one we stayed in, was nice and big, with a nice flat screen TV.

In conclusion:
1. Try and do Namibia in parts and not the whole lot in one visit. Too much driving!
2. It was only the two of us doing the whole trip, but this country is better for sharing with family or close friends.
3. Do not try to drive at much more than 80 km/h, you will feel unsafe.
4. When you see a warning sign for a drift on the gravel roads, heed it!
5. Take a tyre pressure gauge and a compressor along and deflate/inflate your tyres accordingly.
6. Do not forget sunscreen and hats.
7. If you have a four wheel drive vehicle, make sure you have an idea of how to use the four wheel drive and the low range functions.
8. Camping is a much cheaper way of doing this, but spoil yourself every now and again with a chalet.
9. Take along snacks and cold drinks/water for the long drives.
10. Take along extra water just in case.
11. When climbing the dunes, or doing outside activities, take enough water along. It gets very hot in the desert and the mountains.
12. Make sure you take enough cash along; some places do not have Credit Card facilities.
13. Try the biltong at Delareys Butchery in Outjo, any meat at Namaqua Meat Market in Swakop and buy biltong or venison from the De Wets at the Withuis; you will not be sorry.
14. Stop at any of the picnic spots along the roads. Most are well looked after and kept clean.
15. Remember to buy brötchen at any of the bakeries. And do try any of the products they sell; all of it are good.
16. Watch out for wild animals when driving, especially at night.
17. Make sure you pay entry fees at all NWR parks. Some people only had lunch at Sesriem’ restaurant, but found out when leaving that they had to pay it.
18. Stop to take photos whenever you can, you will be glad that you did.
19. Make sure you pack rechargeable batteries and charger for your camera and charge them often.
20. Stop at Canyon Road House, have dinner at Joe’s Beer House and at the Jetty and the Tug, have a braai at your accommodation, sit and talk around a Camel thorn fire, make coffee in a coffeepot over the coals, smell the air, look at the stars, visit when the moon is full. In short, enjoy ever y moment.
21. Start planning your next trip to Namibia!

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