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Namibia Tour April-May 2003 - Land Rover Defender

Adri was turning 40 this year and wanted to go somewhere special for her birthday. Initially she wanted to go to Mauritius, but after looking at the cost, and the number of days offered, we decided to rather go on an extended overland tour of Namibia and South Africa.

A rough plan started to emerge and what a tour this would not turn out to be !

3 Months of research, planning and preparation, two bosses who almost had heart attacks when we applied for 38 days leave, and we were off !

Thursday 17 April

Our offices were closing early because of Easter weekend and 13h00 could not arrive soon enough. Our 5-year-old Land Rover Defender Tdi Hardtop was packed and waiting at home. At 13h50 we hit the road from Stellenbosch to Beaufort West where we would overnight in the Karoo National Park. We had a nice drive through a surprisingly green Karoo, with pools of water standing next to the road and in the normally dry riverbeds. We covered the 455km in 5 hours.

Soon after our arrival we were joined by some of the other members of the Cape Town section of the Mineralogical Society of South Africa, also on their way to the annual get together (Gemboree) of all the clubs in South Africa, to be held in Christiana this year.

Friday 18 April

We made a fairly late start, got stopped at a road block near Victoria West by the same traffic cop (Mr Oosthuizen) that gave me such a nice speeding fine last year August when I returned from a hunting trip in my car, drove in rain near Britstown, got stopped at another road block near Hope Town and finally arrived at Aventura Christiana 8 hours later. Distance for the day was 650km.

That evening was spent registering for the Gemboree and talking to old friends from all over the country. Even Paul, an American who has been touring Southern Africa for the past year, and who pitched up at last yearís Gemboree held in Springbok before asking if he could join us on a 3-week tour of Namibia was there ! He has since upgraded his transport from a VW Combi camper to a fully kitted out Land Cruiser.

Saturday 19 April

During the day we visited an active open cast diamond mine near Bloemhof where agates could be collected. Although no one seemed to be checking us, no small shiny stones were found that I know of !

The evening was spent with a communal braai next to the Vaal River and some of the members were swapping and selling rocks, gems, and related goods.

There were a lot of holiday goers at Aventura Christiana and the place was too crowded and noisy for my liking. It is a beautiful place though, and I would like to visit it again Ė but this time during midweek and not during school holidays. I must say that I have not seen so many obese people (grownups and children) in one place for a long time.

Sunday 20 April

My 41st birthday. On this day we visited the NP Muller shooting range near Bloemhof. Fortunately no one was shooting that day. The whole site is covered in agates and we could pick up as many as we wanted to.

The evening we had another communal braai and spent the night socialising.

Monday 21 April

We rose early and were on the road just after 7h00. We travelled via Jan Kempdorp, Kuruman, Hotazel, Van Zylsrust and Askam to the border post at Rietfontein. The area next to the road from Van Zylsrust to Rietfontein was beautiful, but the same could not be said of the road. But, we were on holiday and travelling on roads we wanted to be on. We eventually arrived at the border post 30 minutes after closing time. We had to pay R200-00 on the South African side for them to process our passports and raise the boom. No such problems on the Namibian side and we were passed through within 5 minutes.

The gravel road on the Namibian side was as smooth as tar and we could pick up the pace. We came across a massive Cape Cobra and when it saw the approaching Landy it raised its head to strike. It stood almost a meter high and looked very impressive. We had to pay our R100-00 road tax at Aroab and arrived there at 17h55. The office was closed. No problem - someone went to call the girl that worked there, she opened up with a smile, issued the permit with a smile and closed up with a smile !

By now it was raining lightly and becoming dark. We drove until we reached the D615 (thick sand road and 4x4 recommended). We parked under a tree, raised the rooftop tent, had supper, a field shower and went to sleep at 20h30 with not a sound to be heard anywhere.

12 hourís travelling and 797km for the day.

Tuesday 22 April

We woke up after a good nightís sleep, had breakfast and were on the road by 7h15. We followed the D615 and had an easy drive through the thick sand. We made our way to the D1033 and travelled along the (dry) Olifants River. Good roads and lots of beautiful thorn trees to be seen. We arrived at a friendís farm north east of Stampriet and spent the rest of the day and night there. We went for a drive on the farm and I was asked to shoot a springbuck for the house.

6 hourís travelling and 333km for the day.

Wednesday 23 April

We made a late start and continued along the Olifants River. We made our way along the back roads to Rehoboth where we filled up with fuel. This was our first fuel stop since Aroab and the Landy had 4 litres left in its tank. From there we travelled via Nauchas (C24) and the Spreetshoogte Pass (D1275) to the Namib Naukluft Park. The campsite was full and we were given the keys to the hikerís house. The zebra thighbone with our names written on it is still hanging from the roof of this house. (We added it to all the other momentos in the house when we completed the 8-day Naukluft Hiking Trail in May 2000)

8 hourís travelling and 451km for the day.

Thursday 24 April

We walked a section of the Water Trail in the morning. It follows a tiny stream, with crystal clear water and some very nice swimming pools. We returned to do some washing and had lunch before we left to travel towards Walvis Bay (C14). We had a look at the Kuiseb Canyon and some other places of interest along the way. We pulled off the road at dusk, parked behind a hill and camped in the desert for the night. Not a sound to be heard and millions of stars to be seen.

6 hourís travelling and 205km for the day.

Friday 25 April

We made an early start, travelled to Swakopmund (B2) where we did some shopping and from there on to Henties Bay (C34) where we would be spending the next 5 days.

3 hourís travelling and 234km for the day.

We stayed at a town house complex called ďDie OordĒ. Each house is fairly well equipped, has a security system and a lockable garage that can accommodate a Landy with roof rack. Security guards also patrol the complex.

The fishing was not too good, but I caught enough for us to eat. I also took a Purglas 400/4 fishing rod and Diawa 450 reel, loaded with 600m of 35lb breaking strain line, on the trip to fish for sharks, but unfortunately none of these worthy opponents were prepared to cooperate.

Before we left I took the Landy to Grobler Motors (the Total Garage) in Henties Bay and asked the owner if I could use the lift to check if everything was OK underneath the vehicle. No problems and they even greased the prop shaft. Cost ? R8-00 !

Thursday 1 May

We made a late start from Henties Bay and drove up the coast (C34) to Mile 105. Obviously it would be the perfect fishing day with blue sky, sunshine and calm sea. We turned right onto the D2303 through the Messum Crater and then headed towards Uis. Lots of Welwitschias are to be seen next to the road. At the end of the D2303 we first took a detour up the Ugab River before turning onto the D2342. (This is where a Dutch couple got lost a week later. They were only found 14 days later and by that time the husband had died). From there we took the C35 and C39 to Khorixas where we would spend the night.

The area we passed through had some rain recently as the ground was covered with emerging grass shoots.

Along the way, I noticed that the 25L plastic fuel container we carried on the roof had started to leak. We had to drive for more than 200km before we could empty it into the Landyís tank. By that time it had leaked almost 1Ĺ L and made and awful mess on the roof. Although diesel is not as flammable as petrol, it is sticky, creeps all over the vehicle and attracts dust. There is only one sure way that I know of to clean it off and that is hot water with lots of Sunlight Liquid and Handy Andy added to it. What a job to clean the roof and Ėrack.

8 hourís travelling and 402km for the day.

In the campsite we met a couple travelling in a Nissan Terano. The wife complained about the dust and the husband about the corrugated gravel roads. What were they doing in Namibia ?

We also met a Namibian couple (Alex and Louise) accompanied by their 13-year old son and a friend (Hubert) who flies over from Germany for a 3-week holiday in Namibia every year. Although Hubert speaks German and a bit of English he entertained us all. He prepared onions as a side dish for supper. The onions were cleaned, and almost half of it was removed when they were hollowed out. The cavity is filled with garlic and pepper before the onion is wrapped in tin foil and placed in the fire until cooked. Extremely potent is the only way to describe it, and everybody has to eat it otherwise you will never be able to live with your companions !

Friday 2 May

We made an early start, as we wanted to take a few detours on our way to Warmquelle. The road between Khorixas and Palmwag (C39) was very corrugated and almost all the river crossings were washed away. Where it runs alongside the Huab River (several places) large sections of the road were washed away too. Lots of green grass and yellow flowers to be seen everywhere. We made a detour to the top of Grootberg Pass (C40) before turning off to Palmwag (C43).

As I was keeping the Landyís tank full, we filled up at Palmwag. The cost was N$80-00. They only accepted cash but had no change. We only had 100ís one 20 and a 10 with us. I was reluctant to give the attendant a N$20 tip, as I knew that this was a scam. Fortunately another vehicle pulled up and we exchanged a 100 for two 50ís. The petrol attendant was not too impressedÖ..

Almost all the river crossings between Palmwag and Sesfontein (C43) were washed away. Lots of green grass and fat springbok to be seen everywhere. In contrast, the cattle belonging to the locals we emaciated.

A few kmís before Sesfontein we turned off to drive through the Khowareb Schlucht (D3710). It is 23km in length and its main attraction (?) is the thick layer of powdery dust covering the track. We found fresh elephant tracks, but the animals were nowhere to be seen. We drove back through the Schlucht and continued to the Ongongo Community Camp Site where the Warmquelle is situated. The campsites are situated on both sides of a small river and some 4x4 skill is required to reach some of them.

9 hourís travelling and 339km for the day.

At Warmquelle, a large pool under overhanging rocks is fed by a cold stream of water. The water in the pool itself is actually warm and when you walk around in it you can feel the hot water rising through the gravel in various places.

Hubert and company once again entertained us.

Saturday 3 May

We made a late start, visited Fort Sesfontein and hit the road to Puros (D3707) and Orupembe. If you ever want to experience a case of extreme corrugations in a road, this is the place to be ! The corrugations are about 150mm deep and 300mm apart. Fortunately our Landy has coil springs.

For the first 185km of the D3707 you only have rocky plains on both sides of the road but from there on we entered grass filled plains with hundreds of springbok.

We arrived at Orupembe and then turned onto the road to Otjitanda. We passed the turn-off to Rooidrom Pass just after sunset, pulled up amongst some trees next to a dry river and set up camp for the night. I noticed that the steel jerry can on the roof had also spilled some fuel even though it was not filled to capacity. I promptly emptied it into the Landy, gave it to one of the locals at the same time vowing to NEVER carry fuel on the roof again.

We had a peaceful evening with just a sliver of moon on the horizon and millions of stars to be seen.

8Ĺ hourís travelling and 273km for the day.

Sunday 4 May

We made an early start, but the track soon deteriorated even further and we slowed down to a crawl. The first 70km took 4Ĺ hours. The next 30km to Otjitanda took 1 hour. In hindsight we should have stopped and stayed over at the Otjitanda Community Campsite. The next 60km to Okangwati (D3703) took 4Ĺ hours. Lots of steep gradients, big rocks and 2nd gear low-range. We also encountered the first vehicle of the day on this stretch Ė an Ausie with 3 good-looking Shielas in a V8 Defender.

We reached Okangwati by 17h45. This is a fairly big settlement with lots of palm trees, but the bad influence of western civilization is to be seen everywhere. Lots of litter, and empty Carling Black Label beer bottles lying everywhere.

The track had by now become a graded road (D3700) and we decided to push for Epupa if a suitable overnight stop could not be found. We reached the Epupa Falls after dark and moved into the Community Camp site. 

12 hourís travelling and 241km for the day.

Monday 5 May

This would be a rest day and we explored the area. As the Kunene was in flood the Falls were spectacular with a huge plume of mist above the main waterfall. There are some huge baobabs and lots of palm trees to be seen.

Tuesday 6 May

We made a late start, and after some difficulty in finding the correct road (D3700) we headed off along the Kunene to Swartbooisdrift. There are lots of Ovahimba Kraals along this route. There were lots of ups-and-downs and rock but the driving was not too difficult. There were lots of trees and low branches that threatened to rip the fishing rods off the roof.

We arrived at the Kunene River Lodge near Swartbooisdrift and the people there were surprised that we had managed to complete this section of the route in one day.

9Ĺ hourís travelling and 121km for the day.

Wednesday 7 May

We made another late start, and headed off to Ruacana (D3700). The road had been upgraded and graded recently and the going was very easy. At Ruacana we said hello to tar roads after travelling for nearly 3800km on gravel, sand and rock.

You have to go through the Namibian border post (no formalities) to have a look at the Ruacana Falls. As the Kunene was in flood the dam was overflowing and the waterfalls were spectacular.

From there we drove to Oshakati (C46), where I was based 21 years ago while doing National Service. A lot of buildings have been erected there since then and it now almost looks like a city. The Namibian Defence Force now uses the old base and we were not allowed to enter. The place looks pretty much the same as then, but looks like it had not been painted, or otherwise maintained, since I stayed there.

Another surprise was the row of buildings on both sides of the road between Oshakati and Ondangwa Ė houses, shops, shebeens and even a few discoís. 21 years ago this 25 km stretch of road had vacant veld alongside it.

We ran into a spot of bother at the veterinary control post at Oshivello where they wanted to search our vehicle for fresh meat and dairy products. I removed two packets of meat from the freezer and stated that this was the only meat we had with us and that we had no dairy products with us. When they saw the meat they promptly lost interest in the vehicle. Apparently you need a permit to transport raw meat from the northern parts of the country, regardless if you took it there from elsewhere, and they wanted to confiscate it.

I refused to hand over the meat, pulled off the road next to the control post and much to the dismay of the officials got out our braai goodies and made a fire. Soon afterwards people we met at the Kunene River Lodge also had the same problem, but by that time the coals were almost ready and we had a very nice braai. We loaded the braaied meat into new bags, burnt the original plastic bags, as they are also not allowed through the control post, extinguished the fire, and were on our way again.

We arrived in Tsumeb at 18h27. We refuelled and decided to have supper in the Wimpy at the garage. We were the only people there, received special attention and a very good meal. I went to ask the manager if they had a dentist in town as a loose tooth had bothered me for the past couple of days. The secretary of the local dentist walked into the shop at that moment and an appointment was made there and then.

We slept in the Municipal Caravan Park that night. After all the peace and quiet of the preceding days the traffic on the adjacent road did bother Adri a bit.

10 hourís travelling and 566km for the day.

Thursday 8 May

I visited the dentist at eight and he sorted out the loose crown. From there we drove to the VW Garage next to the Wimpy and asked them if I could use their lift to check the Landy. No problem and no charge. Nothing bent or broken to be found and we left town at 10h00 for the Waterberg Plato Park (B1 & C22).

3Ĺ hourís travelling and 297km for the day.

Friday 9 May

This day was to be a rest day. I noticed that the left front wheel of the Landy was deflating and after removing it found 3 small punctures. I inserted plugs as a temporary repair. We went for a nice walk in the Park, spent some time at the pool and just relaxed.

Saturday 10 May

Adriís 40th birthday. She woke me up at one oíclock in the morning because a mosquito had found its way into the tent. We sorted that small problem out and then she opened all her birthday presents. Maybe the mosquito was just a handy excuse ?

We made an early start and visited a childhood friend of Adri in Omaruru. We left Omaruru at 12h30 for the Erongo Wilderness Lodge where we would spend the night.

The Erongo Wilderness Lodge is situated amongst the Erongo Mountains (obviously) and consists of 14 luxury safari tents erected beneath thatch roofs along the slope of the mountain. We spent some time at the pool, went for a drive on one of their vehicles, had sundowners high up a mountain slope and were in general having a good time. Individual attention at supper and it felt strange to be wearing long pants, socks and shoes for the first time in 3 weeks.

4 hourís travelling and 244km for the day.

Sunday 11 May

We rose early, had breakfast, went for a long walk and climbed up the mountain. We left at 12h00 and made our way to Windhoek where we visited some friends before renting a room for the night at the caravan park next to Eros Airport.

4 hourís travelling and 336km for the day.

Monday 12 May

We made a very early start, as we wanted to meet Adriís oldest brother, Jan, who was a passenger on the Interkaap bus to Swakopmund when it stopped over in town at 6h30. He had no idea that we would be there to meet him and was very surprised. At 6h00 it was 4įC.

We did some shopping, had the temporary plugs in the left front tyre replaced and were on our way to Ai-Ais where we planned to spend the next 2 days. We stopped in Mariental to collect biltong that our friend had left at a shop for us and had a very relaxing drive down to Keetmanshoop.

17h30, just before sunset, 55km before Grunau and travelling at 100km/h - DISASTER ! An adult kudu cow decided to commit suicide by leaping up a 4m high embankment and right in front of the Landy. There was nothing I could do. The force of the collision pushed back the bull bar, modified the front of the Landy and punctured the radiator in a few places. The kudu was flipped over Adriís side of the roof and landed up in the veld next to the road.

No one bothered to stopÖ. Eventually a truck with a CJ (Paarl) registration number stopped and promised to pass a message to the garage at Grunau. The tow truck arrived at 21h00. The Landy was too heavy to be towed with its front wheels off the road, so we decided to tow it with a steel pipe. It took some time to get everything sorted out. The guy in the tow truck towed us at between 90 and 100km/h and we passed another 3 kudus on the way to Grunau.

We were invited to sleep over at the garage ownerís house and left the Landy parked in the workshop for the night.

7 hourís travelling and 652km for the day.

It appeared as if this was the end of our holiday.

Tuesday 13 May

We rose early to have a look at the damage and again realised how fortunate we were to walk away from the collision without a scratch. The damage was much less than anticipated. A block and tackle was used to pull the bull bar and nose more or less back into shape and the radiator was removed. Lots of solder and it was declared to be leak free and reinstalled. A road test revealed no leaks or any other damage and we were able to proceed with our holiday.

The cost of the tow-in, overnight accommodation and 5 hours labour amounted to R808-00 !

Leaving Grunau we were nearly involved in another accident when a vehicle travelling towards us wandered into our lane. Soon after that we narrowly missed running over a dog and then drove through a flock of birds without hitting a single one. My nerves were shot !

We had to go to Karasburg to report the accident, so decided to skip Ai-Ais. Upon our arrival they were only interested in the location of the kudu and immediately dispatched a vehicle on a wild goose chase.

We passed through the border posts at Ariamsvlei and Nakop without incident. We stayed over at ďDie EilandĒ in Upington. 

6 hourís travelling and 341km for the day.

Wednesday 14 May

We made an early start and drove to Johannesburg where we spent the night at my good friend/fishing partner/hunting buddy Chrisís house.

9Ĺ hourís driving and 826km for the day.

Thursday 15 May

The day was spent preparing for our hunting trip, a visit to the shooting range to familiarise myself with the rifle I would be using on the hunt and doing some last minute shopping.

We had delicious kudu fillet steaks for supperÖ

Friday 16 May

We rose very early and observed the lunar eclipse. We left Johannesburg at 6h12, travelling on all the back roads on our way to the Natal Midlands. We arrived on the farm, had tea with the owner and then drove up to the mountain hut where we would by staying.

The distance from the house to the mountain hut is 12km. The steep and winding mud and clay track is situated amongst pine plantations and they had received 55mm of rain 5 days before. This was exciting stuff and it took us an hour to reach the hut.

10 hourís travelling and 580km for the day.

We went for a night drive on an open Land Rover with a powerful hand held spotlight. To say that it was cold would be an understatement. We saw 2 pigs, a porcupine, a bushbuck, some reedbuck and a blue duiker ram. (The blue duiker is the smallest antelope in South Africa and an adult male has a total length of 65cm, stands 30cm high and has a mass of 4kg.) 

Saturday 17 May

We made an early start as we intended to have a very busy day. We were both hoping to achieve a Macnab that day. To do this you have to hunt a game animal and a game bird and catch a game fish - all on one day.

We left for a camp on top of the mountain where Chris wanted to hunt 2 blesbuck. The first buck was fairly easy, but now the herd knew what we were up to and it was proving to be impossible to get a shot at the individual that Chris had in mind.

On our way back to the hut we saw a nice reedbuck ram and he succumbed to a single shot. So far so good. We both had a game animal in the bag. There were a fair number of guinea fowl and pheasants around and brown trout in the dam. Our spirits were high.

After skinning the animals and lunch we returned to the camp where Chris intended to hunt his second blesbuck. We located the buck without any problems and Chris got his shot. But this buck decided is was not going to give up that easily and made a run for it up a rocky slope where the vehicle could not follow it. I set of on foot after it while Arthur went to drop Chris off at a cut-off point to the left of the slope before he sped off to the right.

It was difficult going in this terrain with knee high grass and lots of rocks and I had a difficult time keeping the buck in sight. While running, I had a massive fall, but as everything seemed to be fine I carried on. We did manage to get the buck and while loading it I noticed that the palm of my right hand was turning blue and that the hand was swelling. We decided that I best see a doctor and that put an end to our plans for the rest of the afternoon.

Adri and Chrisís son stayed behind at the hut, and we hit the road to Howick. The doctor informed as that they had no x-ray facilities, and referred us to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg. We arrived at the hospital and after completing the administrative formalities, it was off to the x-ray room. The operator was not on duty and we had to wait for an hour. She took 3 identical photos of my right hand and another with my hand held upright with my thumb uppermost.

The doctor finally saw me some time later. He removed the x-rays from the envelope and when he held the envelope up to the light, I knew that there was going to be a problem. He realised his mistake, held the x-rays to the light and promptly informed me that my hand was so badly broken that I would have to return on Tuesday to see the orthopaedic surgeon ! A nurse bandaged my hand and gave me some pain tablets. I took my x-rays and left.

We got back to the mountain hut at 23h00. My hand was throbbing and I knew that this was the end of our holiday.

Sunday 18 May

We had a lot to do before we could leave and rose early. It was very cold and had started to rain. We had to load the vehicles and still had to cut and pack the meat. I only had one useful hand and the other one was acting like a magnet. We were finally ready at 13h00 and I now had to drive the Landy down the mountain on those wet tracks with only one hand. We made it without any mishap.

We decided not to drive home along the coast as planned, but instead to travel via Bloemfontein. Adriís brother, Nico, lived in Bloemfontein, and we reasoned that I could visit the hospital there if my hand got worse. The pain tablets affected my sight a bit, but the effects soon wore off. My throbbing hand ensured that I would not fall asleep.

We arrived at Nicoís house at 20h00, and after supper and a couple of pain tablets I felt much better.

7 hourís driving and 555km for the day.

Monday 19 May

My hand had not become worse, and we decided to head for home. As it would be a long stretch I chose not to drink any pain tablets.

We discovered that Adriís youngest brother, Terry, was on his way from Cape Town to Johannesburg and arranged to meet him along the way. Adri was very pleased with this, as it meant that she would have seen all her brothers in a period of 8 days.

After a painful day we finally arrived home after 12 hourís driving and 1031km.

Tuesday 20 May

I visited the doctors just after 8h00. He had a good look at the x-rays and declared that it was a clean break with no fragmentation. The bone of my ring finger, situated in the palm, was fractured lengthwise. Apparently it would heal rapidly and no operation would be needed. The important thing was to immobilise the hand, and a splint was taped onto my hand. I had to return in two weeks time for x-rays, and if the bone had started mending, the splint would be removed.

From there I went to my insurers to obtain the necessary documents to register the claim and have the Landy repaired. From there to the panel beaters for quotations. R47 000-00 !

Some other details of the trip :

We were on the road for 33 days and drove a total distance of 10965km, of which 4150km was gravel, sand and rock roads and tracks. The average fuel consumption of our Landy worked out to be 8.34km/l.

A memorable holiday indeed - if only we can win the Lotto we will be doing this every day !

Johan Snyman

 

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