I have been fortunate enough to participate in three scheduled tours with Nomad and decided it was time to share the experience with my friends, so we headed to Namibia for 10 days, on a private charter, booked through the Groups & Charters department. We decided February was the most convenient for us, taking into account our work schedules and for our overseas based friends to be able to join.
The route was simple, but most importantly included all the highlights Namibia has to offer, Orange River, Fish River Canyon, Namib-Naukluft Park, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Etosha National Park & Windhoek, or so that was what we planned & expected, what we got was the “unexpected”….
Heading North from Cape Town, we made our first overnight stop at the Orange River, now what I need to explain is that a few weeks before our trip, we received news of “heavy rains”, “not seen in decades” in Namibia. “Really? But it’s a desert, it never rains in a desert, does it?”.
Crossing the border between South Africa and Namibia, we had our first glimpse of the “heavy rains” and upon arrival at our overnight stop, we saw further evidence, but, we had blue skies, sunshine and the most delicious bobotie (a dish of curried mince with an egg custard baked on top) for supper, besides, we were on holiday, what’s a bit of heavy flowing water? As we had a mixture of camping & accommodated, the campers chose to sleep under the stars, while those that chose accommodated settled into their river facing bungalows for the night.
Our journey continued north, next stop Ai-Ais hot springs, tucked away in the southern end of the Fish River Canyon. The afternoon was relaxed with a few rounds of poker being played while the chicken potjie was on the go. As the evening approached, we all hopped on the truck and headed to the Fish River Canyon viewing site for a spectacular sunset, and spectacular it was! We spent about an hour hanging out at the Canyon viewing point just staring into the sunset and beyond.
Day three greeted us with a sprinkling of rain as we headed for the Namib-Naukluft National Park and our overnight spot, Sesriem. Every kilometre driven showed more evidence of the “heavy rains”, the normally dusty gravel roads were soaked, muddy and slippery which made for an interesting ride. The landscape was something I had never before witnessed – green, green, green. Having travelled to Namibia on many previous occasions with my family, I was used to the dry, arid landscape, I was in awe at the amount of water and the shrubbery and felt privileged to have been able to see the desert this way. Upon arrival at Sesriem, we pitched our tents, lit the fire and had an early night in preparation for our earliest morning and the climbing of Dune 45 at sunrise.
Sadly our dream of climbing Dune 45 did not materialise, the road into Sesriem and Sossusvlei was closed as the river had come down during the night which made the road impassable, however, this did not deter us as we made our way into Sesriem and found the next best dune called Elim dune. Taking all the huffing and puffing into account to get to the top of the dune, it was all well worth it. While we were up there, a hearty cooked breakfast was being prepared, which we gobbled down upon our return to the truck. Next stop… Swakopmund.
Now this is where the fun really began and the warnings of “heavy rains” started making sense. Just outside Solitaire we came across a number of cars parked in the road, the river was in full flow over the road and was impassable. Luckily there was a detour further back, so we backtracked and carried on our merry way, it was after all tea time and we were salivating just thinking about the famous Solitaire apple pie.
Take a moment to notice the beautiful blue skies, we opted to spend a few moments admiring this raging river and photographing it as we all thought it rather impressive. Finally, after our detour, we made it to our warm apple pie. If ever you find yourself in Solitaire, buy yourself two slices, one to eat while in Solitaire and the other to save for later, you will regret it if you don’t!
Now what I have not mentioned yet is that Sonny, our beloved truck, developed a disliking to the mud, rain and river beds which he had to pass through on the last two days, he was starting to choke up. But it was manageable as we would be in Swakopmund within a couple of hours and there Sonny could be sorted out and given a rest. Ready to leave Solitaire, we heard a couple of stories from the shop assistants that the Kuiseb pass was closed as the river was raging down, that is the only direct route to Swakopmund from Solitaire. In the meantime, another Nomad truck had pulled into Solitaire, and a second truck was well on his way to go and investigate the Kuiseb situation. We decided to follow truck #2 and investigate the Kuiseb pass, after all, we wanted our photo at the Tropic of Capricorn which was in the same direction, so off we went, poor Sonny huffing and puffing along.
While having our pics taken at the Capricorn sign, in the distance we saw truck #2 coming back, not a good sign, he was headed back to Solitaire as Kuiseb was full of debris and there was a strong build up of water. Back in Sonny, we turned around and headed back to Solitaire, once there we would plan our next move. Heading back to Solitaire, we saw the reality of the situation right before our eyes! A huge big rain storm was in front of us and we were heading straight for it.
Sonny had now decided enough was enough and he was going to wait while the rain passed, so we decided to wait with him. While our guide and driver attended to the problem, we watched as the storm moved over and so the downpour began. Who would have thought that a river could form within five minutes!
It was late afternoon and we were still waiting in Solitaire, would we still make Swakopmund? The baker of the famous apple pie had just heard a rumour that there was a grader down in Kuiseb busy moving debris and the pass would be open soon. Truck #2 headed back down to the Kuiseb Pass. Sonny was still being stubborn, so we waited. Truck #1 in the meantime also decided to leave, after consultation with our operations department, they headed to Swakopmund via Windhoek on the C24. By now it was probably around 15:30, our guide proposed the alternative, that we follow truck #1 to Windhoek and onto Swakopmund, which meant arrival in Swakopmund would be late, very late. We all agreed to and were very happy with this plan (we had big plans in Swakopmund, we packed the snowboard to play on the dunes and we had a birthday to celebrate).
Off we headed towards the C24, cellphone reception was dodgy while we were making our way through the mountains, so only about an hour into the drive, our C24 journey came to an abrupt end as a message was received from Tosca, our beloved operations manager “STOP, C24 has been closed – road in bad condition, do not proceed” (in case you were wondering, Sonny had since been given a good talking to and was happy to continue). We all stood there, in the mud in the middle of nowhere, speechless. Our operations department had already put Plan B into motion, we would be backtracking to a lodge just between Sesriem and Solitaire.
Getting to our Plan B overnight stop was without incident, back through the mountains, past the detour and so we arrived. Lucky to have a beautiful sunset and a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon – a waterfall in the surrounding desert mountains! Yes, a waterfall in the middle of the desert, how many people can honestly say they have seen a waterfall in the desert of Namibia? After a long day on the road, well, over 500km, 10 hours in and out of Sonny, we ended up 47km from Sesriem, where we had started that morning.
After a group meeting, we all agreed that to go to Swakopmund would no longer be realistic and therefore opted to proceed north, to the gates of Etosha National Park, which would mean we would have more time to explore Etosha and relax. The C24 had been opened and off we went, quick shop stop in Windhoek and onto Outjo where we spent the night in Plan C accommodation.
And so we entered Etosha National Park and the game viewing started immediately. Over the next few days, we would encounter an old male elephant, 2 packs of lions, a rhino and her calf at the watering hold in Halali, antelope and various bird species. And what would a trip to Etosha be without a stop on the pans themselves.
After 2 wonderful days of sunshine, spending hours staring at the campsite waterholes, we said goodbye to Etosha and headed back South to Windhoek, which would be our second last night of our tour. While we only had one night in Windhoek, we chose to spend this evening at Joe’s Beer House, enjoying a great meal.
Our second last day of tour saw us taking the long drive back down to the Orange River, back to where our journey had begun 8 days earlier. Having had a late night out in Windhoek, the morning felt a bit rough, so I thought it would be a good idea to slip on my three quarter pyjama pants and travel in those, after all, it was going to be a long day in the truck and comfort was my number 1 priority.
Just outside a town called Rehoboth we pulled off to the side of the road to have a quick “bathroom” stop, making use of bathroom #3 (which for those that have travelled with us before will know is a bush toilet), you look for a bush and squat. Myself and two others eyed out the perfect spot and off we went through the ankle high grass. All of a sudden, there is a scream and my name being called! With a “WTF” expression on my face, I turned around to my friend who was waving her hands and screaming wildly, yet no words came out her mouth.
In the movement of me turning around and my “WTF” face – something became entangled in my legs, natural instinct told me to start screaming, jump, shake my legs and run!! S.N.A.K.E!! Aha, that is what my friend was trying to warn me about! I stood on a snake and apparently not a small one either. The moral of the story, never wear your pyjama pants when in the bush!
And so we arrived at the Orange River, our final night of our adventure. Exhausted, we had a refreshing swim followed by copious amounts of red wine, reminiscing about our last 9 days. Our last day saw us head back to Cape Town. Our wonderful, memorable adventure had come to an end, but that was not the last adventure, as soon, we would be heading to Mozambique to start a brand new adventure!
Join us on and adventure of your own! Contact our Groups and Charter department if you’d like to build your own tour: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would prefer to join us one one of our scheduled tours to experience Namibia – we have a whole selection for you!
20 Day Vic Falls to Cape Town – available in the opposite direction
14 Day Vic Falls to Swakopmund (Desert and Delta) – available in the opposite direction
12 Day Cape Town to Windhoek (Best of Namibia) – available in the opposite direction
7 Day Cape Town to Swakopmund (Desert Explorer) – available in the opposite direction