Week 1: Trip report: South Africa/Namibia:Cape Town to Namtib Biosphere Reserve (on the D707)
Updated: Sep 27, 2019
This is the first of hopefully many weekly trip reports, to try and give an overview and a glimpse on where we’re at and how we got there…
So first the stats:
· Total days travelled: 7
· Total distance from Cape Town: 1,770km
· Total borders crossed: 1
And then the Aardvark stats for Week 1:
· Best drink: Namibia’s local Naute Kristall Gin (infused with Duiwelsklou) and date Brandy
· Best food: Our first braai in Namibia at Ais-Ais…consisting of pork and t-bone from Springbok, chicken sosaties all the way from Potch (thanks Dad), sweat potatoes wrapped in foil on the fire, and a salad of roasted broccoli, cabbage, carrot, apple, sweet mustard and a couple of other bits and bobs! (enough food for 2days!)
· Best view: Definitely our breakfast spot about 300m away of the Fish River Canyon Lookout point.
Week 1 got off to a SLOW start…we only did 66km to Paarl on the first day ☹ The evening before, we noticed a small cut on the sidewall of the left back tire (we suspect the origin was a combination of a bit of “hungry eyes” and a sharp knife whilst parked in town), and thought to better play it safe and get it checked out in Paarl. The verdict: the tire will most probably burst within the next 500km, as it is carrying the 1ton load on the back. So we thought it would be an easy fix – just buy a new Cooper 17” 285 AT Pro Tire, right? But to our dismay we had to learn that the Coopers’ are notoriously difficult to get hold of, and have a typical waiting period of 3-5 DAYS to order in…or we could pick up a spare in Windhoek for 2.5x the price…definitely NOT what we wanted to hear! The easiest, and quickest solution, was to replace all 4 tires with BFG AT K02’s…which is apparently a lot easier to get up through Africa, has thicker side walls…and matches our spare 😊 And luckily for us, whilst they removed the tires, they also noticed that the back rim had a small crack in it – again easy to repair there and then, but it could have potentially disastrous consequences later on in the trip. Our guardian angels were looking out for us!
So 4 new tires and a welded rim later, we were ready for action…but it was already getting dark and rainy, so we thought it wise to stay over at friends in Paarl. Day 1 done 😊
Day 2 started with a bang – whilst sorting out our food the previous night, we noticed that the freezer didn’t want to go below -3 degrees, and again thought to rather play safe, and get it looked at (thinking it only needed to be re-gassed) in Paarl before we hit the road. Again, we received the bad news that our brand new cabin fridge is a “dud”(compressor not kicking in), and our 4year old main fridge/freezer has something seriously wrong with it, and must be sent to Johannesburg to see if it can be sorted…and this is 2 days before a long weekend! But yet again, we stood amazed by the universe (and a couple of extremely helpful people)! After 5 hours, and some incredible after-sales service from both National Luna and R&D Offroad in Brackenfell later, we were ready to hit the road with 2 brand new replacement fridges: a National Luna 72l fridge/freezer in the back and an IndelB 15l fridge between the seats (in case we need something cold to drink!).
There was just enough time to still hit The Baths at Citrusdal before dark…and what an amazing campsite for our second night! Think hot natural spring pool, river snaking through the camp sites, big fires burning…just happiness!
For Day 3, we only had 2 main goals – get Aardvark’s Police Verification Certificate sorted, and cross the border into Namibia for a swim in Ais-Ais’ hot springs! It seemed easy enough, until we were informed that the only police station in the Northern Cape that can issue a Verification Certificate is in Vredendal, and we’ll have to wait a couple of hours for an appointment…which placed the Ais-Ais swim out of the picture, as we are trying to avoid driving in the dark if at all possible. But Aardvark’s paperwork was more important than a rushed swim, so after a couple of hours delay in Vredendburg, we at least had all the paperwork sorted, and knew where to find the VIN and engine numbers for future border crossing reference…SCORE 😊 At Springbok we stopped for the obligatory droewors at the Springbok Butchery, followed by a brandewyn&coke at the Springbok Lodge…why not! The border crossing at Vioolsdrif / Noordoewer was very fast and painless, in and out in under 30minutes – if all our future border crossings can be like this, it will be amazing! It might have helped that we caught the new evening shift, and not a lot of fellow travelers!
We called it a day not even 2km after the border at the Orange River Lodge, where Paul was kind enough to let us camp within the Lodge’s grounds. A hearty dinner and a couple of local beers later, and we at last felt as if we arrived in Namibia.
We arrived in Ais-Ais early on Day 4, and for the first time in a week could unpack, sort out, and repack Aardvark at a leisurely pace in the sunshine…and the craziness of calling it home for the next year slowly started to sink in! Luckily there are very few things that a hot pool in the middle of the desert cant fix (the afternoon nap also helped to settle us right down 😊).
The next morning we hiked the last bit of the Fish River Canyon hike – I did the hike 10years ago, and our shortish morning hike reminded me again of the beauty of the canyon, but also the relentless assault on your legs from constantly walking through either thick sand or over river rocks…with no flowing water in sight…it is super dry here at the moment. We then decided to rather than staying for 2 nights, we were rather going to have a swim and take Aardvark 80km up the road to the Canyon Roadhouse. We were still finding our own rhythm wrt hours on the road per day, when to have rest days, and the likes. And because packing and unpacking Aardvark, and thus our entire home and camp setup, takes the best part of 5minutes, we don’t have to be inhibited by the dread of daily packing…so off we went to the Roadhouse! The iconic pictures of old rusted cars, a repurposed loading shed filled with posters and signs from years gone by (and of course Pandora’s Box!) was exactly what the Roadhouse was – iconic, random, quirky, and with a great campsite right behind – definitely an overnight stop to recommend!
One cant go to Ais-Ais, and not stop at the Fish River Canyon Lookout – even if it meant a 50km detour, it was still the most perfect place for a breakfast stop on Day ! Overlooking the immensity of the canyon, whilst cooking breakfast in Aardvark, really brought home the beauty of Africa, and the privilege that we have of this experience – even if this has only been a taste of what’s to come…
Fuelled and ready, we hit the long road to Aus and the wild desert horses, grazing next to the road. There was even a little one who was super inquisitive, coming right up to the cars to either peek at the travelers, or look for some sugar, who knows! We spent the evening in Luderitz, a windy old mining and fishing village. The camping spots were very exposed and not too safe, so we thought it better to book into a B&B for a night of comfort out of the wind – which was a good call! It might have been the wind, or because it was a Sunday, or it might have been to get us in the mood for the next day’s ghost village of Kolmanskop…but Luderitz also felt like a bit of a deserted ghost time on the night!
Day 7 was a slow, relaxed day…starting with a leisurely breakfast, a visit to Kolmanskop and a beautiful drive along the D707 to the Namtib Biosphere Reserve. As I’m sitting here next to our campfire, being enclosed by mountains on 3 sides and the open planes in front, typing this blog, the first words coming to mind to describe the view is SPACE, OPENNESS, SILENCE, BEING. There is space to breath. And it is breathtaking.
Till next week.