We continue with Tamzyn and her 21 day overland adventure from Cape Town to Victoria Falls...
Day 4: The Fish River Canyon
Exploring the Orange River banks with a monstrous hang over is not the greatest idea but at least we get to spend most of the morning recovering on the comfy deck chairs of the pool deck overhanging the brown waters of the river.
After lunch we are back on the truck and driving past sheer cliff faces as the truck rumbles and tumbles along the rugged landscapes of rich ochre reds and sahara golds. The dry desert wind fills the truck and the dust adds it’s own special flavouring to our already dry mouths . Last nights action has a lot of the heads nodding on the truck even though these bumpy Namibian roads are trying their hardest to keep us awake.
Canyons, Cars and Quiver Trees
The Canon Roadhouse, a quirky campsite decorated with windmills and classic cars/new potholders is our rest stop for tonight. We are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by desert and rock expanses stretching out for miles to the horizon. AWESOME doesn’t even begin to describe this place!! After a refreshing dip in the campsite pool we venture off to the grand Fish River Canyon for one of Southern Africa’s most scenic sundowners. The Fish River Canyon is the second largest Canyon in the world, the largest in Africa and one of Namibia’s top natural wonders. A 160 km long ravine cuts deep into the dry, stony plateau creating an enormous chasm which is 27 km wide and in places, up to 550m deep. The sunset fills the sky in a kaleidoscope of bright blue, pink and orange all melting into each other. You can’t believe your eyes out here. We are all standing in stunned silence as we watch the sun sink below and the canyon filled with shadows. If there is a more spiritual experience in the world I would be surprised. The desert around our camp is peacefully quiet tonight with our evening fireside chatter being the only source of noise on the desert floor.
A Midnight Swim in the Desert
My hopes for a cold shower to wash off the Namibian dust tan have been dashed by the hot water that is flowing out of the showers cold water pipes. The underground pipes are cooked by the daily desert heat and will stay warm all night. Instead, a few of us go for a midnight swim in the cool pool water before we turn in. We were supposed to be trucking to the Namib Naukluft National Park tomorrow but instead we are splitting the drive over two days and spending tomorrow evening at the Konkiep Lapa campsite. We fall asleep to a full moon peeking through our tent netting in the absolute stillness of the desert! I think I have found heaven and it’s on a Namibia Overlanding Tour.
Day 5: The Seeheim Hotel and Konkiep Lapa Rest Camp
My first shower in two days is a heavenly after a quick hike up the hill behind our campsite. Endless desert views stretching out in 360 degrees are the order of the day as we follow the Namibian railway tracks north across the vast gold landscape, dotted with quiver and acacia trees. Snacking at the Seeheim Hotel A welcomed stop in the midday Namibian heat, the German inspired Seeheim Hotel (the sole business in Seeheim) is our lunch stop. Zirkie Kloppers and his wife have lived in Seeheim for 12 years and say “there has never been a cool day”. It’s so hard to make ice here that frozen bottles of water set you back R20 a pop, which you will gladly pay to suck on something cool. A proud Afrikaans heritage oozes through the hotel and the black and white photographs covering the walls. Mrs Kloppers, originally from (South Africa's) Eastern Cape (small world) trained as a taxidermist and has stuffed many of the trophies which loom over us as we order our cool drinks from the bar. After lunch Innocent, Trymore (cook) and Zanele's (driver) stories of overlanding client’s ridiculous questions and expectations, like knowing "what time it will rain exactly?" or "Where are the lions?" have us falling out of our chairs.
The Smell of Rain
The Namibian terrain and climate change quickly and dramatically around us as we venture off on the truck across Namibia. Different smells fill the air here but the smell of a Namibian thunderstorm is something to be appreciated. We are barely 20 minutes out of scorching Seeheim when we are hit by our first glorious downpour.
Kim’s ball-to-the-wall attitude makes putting our tent up tricky but hilarious to watch. By the final peg we are both brown in mud resembling soldiers in fatigues. The mud is easily washed away with a quick dive into the warm Konkiep Lapa Rest Camp pool. We all huddle under the thatch Lapa where we spend the rest of the evening admiring the sheets of water coming down around us.
Stay Away from the Papsack
One of the girls is tipsy as a tart after sampling 2 glasses of South Africa’s infamous Overmeer box wine (‘papsack’) she was convinced to buy earlier today in the historical town of Bethanie, the first town colonised by the Germans in Namibia. A few of our travelling group enjoy a camping-style swim when they are forced to rescue their belongings from their flooded tents. Nothing can dampen our excitement to reach the Namib Naukluft National Park tomorrow though and see its enormous and vibrant coloured sea of towering sand dunes, Namibia’s iconic attraction. The magical sound of rain hitting the canvas tent carries us off to sleep before tomorrow’s early start. Some have had to abandon their tents as lost causes in the rain and have opted to upgrade to bungalows
Day 6: Namib Naukluft National Park
Catherine, Dan and I are up before the sun to hike up a deceivingly steep hill which proves how embarrassingly unfit I am. The climb is great fun even though my lungs are heaving like a chronic emphysema patient whilst my slow pace is holding up poor Catherine behind me.
Getting Stuck in the Mud
The Namibia’s awesome and fast-changing terrains whizz past the window. We pass through raining red desert expanses, savannah plains, mind-boggling green rocky outcrops and back to flat raining desert before the truck sinks deep into its first sludge pit. Freeing it from of the thick brown sludge leaves us dirty but proud at having successfully rescued our mud covered truck with a little (read a lot) of help from the guides.
Dreamy Desert Visions
As we turn in towards Sossusvlei Lodge on the edge of the Namib Naukluft National Park we all do a double-take at what we see. Red oxidized dunes which foreground purple jagged mountains in the distance surrounded by golden savannah plains. This place looks as though someone has copy-pasted a Mars landscape into the middle of the Namib Desert. Trymore prepares Sadza (a maize meal pap) for us to taste along with chicken innards and gravy whilst we recuperate from the truck drive under the shade of a oddly-shaped acacia tree. A small group of us go for a 2 hour mountain hike up a steep rocky mountain face to see the beauty of the desert floor stretching out before us in one infinite expanse. Exhausted and happy, we spend the rest of the afternoon watching ground squirrels scurry around camp and listen to the tunes of the social weaver birds overhead. The darkness of the desert lets us all disappear to bed early, dreaming of spending tomorrow surrounded by the beautiful sand towers and desert of Dune 45 and Sossuvlei. Stay tuned for the next installment!
For information about overlanding in Africa or to find out more about this trip, contact the team at OverlandingAfrica.com.