After almost 4 months of home leave, during which we were also able to welcome two new grandchildren, we are finally going on tour again in mid-April. Qatar Airways brings us relaxed to Windhoek where MOMO waits patiently for us. After some service work and a few days in the Urban Camp we leave Windhoek for Swakopmund. We spend our first night at Uitkyk Lodge surrounded by giraffes, springboks and ostriches. Unfortunately, we did not see the two rhinos that also hang around on the farm.
In Swakopmund we move back to our favorite campsite "Old Bridge" and meet there also Susa & Pit again, with whom we were together for some time last year. Together we visit the excellent restaurants, slurp delicious Walvis Bay oysters and eat sushi until we drop.
We continue north along the sea to Hentiesbay. There we enjoy fresh seafood probably for the last time for a longer time before it goes further into the loneliness. We find a nice campsite in the hills off the road. Unfortunately it is cool, hazy and windy at 12 degrees and 90% humidity and after sunset we are happy to own a warm and cozy one-bedroom apartment.
Not far from our overnight stay is Cape Cross with a sea seal population of over a hundred thousand animals. We pay the completely exorbitant entrance fee to see the spectacle up close. The seals lie lazily around and are surrounded by a beastly stench that will accompany us the whole day. The ammonia smell you will not get rid of so quickly. The whole thing is really interesting during the mating season in December/January. Then up to 250,000 animals stay there and after the birth of the offspring, the jackals roam around, looking for prey.
Then we leave the sea and turn off to the Messum crater, a 100km offroad track on which MOMO finally feels really good again. On the hard corrugated iron road we make progress with max. 20km/h, but per kilometer that we move away from the sea, it also gets one degree warmer and when we make the first stop after a good 20km, we first have to change the dress code, because outside it is a good 35 degrees. In the middle of this wasteland we meet the Welwitschia mirabilis which is one of the oldest plants in the world. It existed 112 million years ago and only grows in the Namib Desert in southern Africa. The oldest specimen was estimated to be 1500 years old. After a good 50km of piste, we have had enough for today and find a nice place to spend the night in a picturesque setting in the middle of nowhere.
The next day we leave the track through the crater after about 100km and hit the main road which is also nothing else than the track where we come from, only a bit wider and treated with the wheel loader from time to time. At least there the average speed increases to 30-40km/h. We leave out the campground at Elephant Rock and look for us a few kilometers further rather a beautiful free site on another rock that gives us some shade in the sweltering heat.
Via the small village of Uis we continue to White Lady Lodge, a tourist hotspot on the Brandberg, Namibia's highest mountain massif at 2500m. This is already noticeable on the approach, because every few kilometers enterprising locals jump on our car and want to bring crystal stones to the man. In addition, there are a few small Himba villages along the way whose inhabitants also want to make us stop by waving wildly.
The White Lady Lodge is so popular because the desert elephants appear here from time to time. They mainly wander along the riverbed of the Unab in search of water and, if they are there, visit you directly on the campground. Unfortunately there were no elephants to be seen during our visit. Instead, it was scorching hot and dusty with more than 35 degrees and during the day every movement costs infinite strength and energy. Only after sunset it becomes a few degrees cooler and thus halfway bearable.
Actually, we wanted to continue north, but now have to make a short 150km detour to Omaruru because, you guessed it, we have once again a defect overtaken. The compressor does not convey the air he should and has probably somewhere a leak that we can not identify even with telephone advice from our travel friends Rene and Wolfi. So after two days we go to Carsten in Omaruru whom we know from last year. He doesn't even need 5 minutes to find out that the compressor at the air outlet is leaking. The screw is loose and just needs to be tightened properly. Old Mercedes suffering at this point. Well, if it's nothing else? I know now where the compressor is and that I need a 27mm wrench. Mine stop at 22. We are happy that the problem can be solved quickly. The next hundred thousand kilometers we want to see but now no more workshop, except to change oil and lubricate.
Due to the detour to the workshop, we plan the route a bit and celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary near Outjo on a lonely campground. Karin's outdoor kitchen conjures up once again a delicious fish on the table and in addition there's Aperol Spritz.
Via a side road, where we have to open cattle gates from time to time, we arrive at Fingerclip Lodge, which is picturesquely embedded in the mountains and also serves delicious lunch. The area reminds a bit of Monument Valley in USA, but the attraction is the Fingerclip Rock. If you have mastered the 4*4 slope with a very steep last section, you can bring your vehicle up there in a very photogenic position.
The next day we meet with Anke & Dieter from Pirna in the Ugab Lodge. The two are traveling for 3 weeks with a rental car and roof tent and we have met them last 2021 in Albania. At the pool it is nice to relax and we spend a nice evening.
The two have a tight program and have to leave early in the morning. We drive on to Kamanjab to the Oppi Koppi Lodge where we are greeted by a bird Strau for breakfast. The owner has a heart for overlanders and you can stay for free on the campground as long as you want. In addition, one is immortalized in a photo album with a picture and a short description. We browse through the numerous folders arranged by year and find some familiar faces that we have met in the 10 years that we are now on the road in different parts of the world.
We continue to Hoada where we meet again with Anke & Dieter. The campground is located in a small rocky landscape and reminds a bit of the Yoshua Tree National Park in the USA. Even a sundowner bar and a small pool are lovingly embedded in the rocks.
In the morning we say goodbye to them for good because we are going in opposite directions. They go to the Etosha Park and we go up to the north. Whether this is such a good idea we doubt several times on the really terrible track. In Palmwag we want to spend the night, but everything is full. Actually unimaginable in this wasteland. So we have to drive another hundred kilometers of hard corrugated iron road before we arrive in Khowarib and go to the community campground there. While parking my tire pressure system shows a pressure loss of one bar at the right rear tire. We are afraid of bad things and indeed a small stone has pressed through the ceiling. Outside it is a good 35 degrees and we are not enthusiastic about the upcoming pleasure of a tire change. I check the alternatives with the nice lady from the campground and she negotiates a deal with the tire workshop in Seisfontein, 30km away. A troop of three people comes by, mounts the wheel and I drive with them to Seisfontein. There in the tire workshop, the hole is expertly patched in just under 30 minutes and everything is done in time for sunset. By the way, so are we. But the Community Campground lies very beautifully at a river which even leads water and thus the action is soon forgotten.
The next morning we start for another 160km of bad track. In between it gets a little better from time to time, but all in all the whole thing is an ordeal for man and material. In the early afternoon we finally arrive in Opuwo. At the Country Lodge we meet Susa & Pit again and spend the afternoon at the pool. Opuwo is a wild mix of cultures. Himba, Damaras, Hereros and other ethnic groups live here in sometimes really miserable conditions. On the way to a lodge we cross a small settlement that is nothing more than a collection of makeshift igloo tents patched together. From all corners children come rushing towards our car and wave to us. Not far from the village is our campsite, well guarded and fenced in with barbed wire and high voltage electricity and watched over around the clock by armed security personnel. In view of the poverty, only a few meters away, one can feel not necessarily only pleasure while bathing in the infinity pool.
Shopping in the supermarket is a special experience. We already knew that a bunch of children wants to watch the car. What was new was that the Himba women hold the Spar brochure with the special offers under your nose and announce their shopping wishes based on the pictures. There it is to keep calm and stay cool.
After we have recovered from the exertions for a few days, we continue a few kilometers to a Himba village. There we put ourselves on the campground and spend the day in the hammock. In the morning we visit the village and spend almost three hours there. The Himba still live as half nomads according to centuries old traditions. Since a few years the village is designed as a Living Museum and offers the possibility to experience the culture of the Himba very close. This has the advantage that you can ask questions, take pictures and film to your heart's content and don't have to ask for permission every time. Our guide Robert speaks good English and makes the tour very interesting. He inherited the name Robert from his great-grandfather. In the for us Europeans inglorious colonial times, the settlers could not pronounce the traditional African names and simply gave them names they knew.
We thought the road can't get any worse, but far from it. The drive to Epupa falls is a rock-hard corrugated iron road and we are glad when we finally arrive at the campground. There we meet Susa and Pit again. The campground is located directly at the waterfall and we sit in the first row. After driving almost 400 kilometers through dust and dirt, where water is a precious commodity, you can hardly believe it when suddenly the Epupa Falls open up in front of you, surrounded by an oasis of palm trees. We walk the trails at the falls and enjoy the sundowner on the terrace of the restaurant.
On the other side of the Kunene River is Angola. A tough offroad track leads along the border river and in many places it is only possible to drive with four-wheel drive and walking speed over big rocks and deep ruts. At one point the track is washed away and we have to take a bypass which is a real challenge for our 10-ton trucks. For the good 100 kilometers we need seven hours and arrive around 17:00 completely exhausted at the campground. For the first time in a long time we are standing on a grassy area directly at the river. Unfortunately we can't swim because there are supposed to be crocodiles. But the campground is quite appealing and we urgently need at least one day driving break.
After two relaxing days we are going to Etosha Park. What we experience there you will learn in the next blog. Until then, have fun reading and looking at pictures.