We welcomed this plan of traveling with Paul & Julie into the Marienflus Valley, because the area is extremely remote and two vehicles is better in the event of an emergency. Together, we looked at a map to figure out where to get fuel, and food. We had stocked up on groceries in Swakopmund, the last place we had seen a grocery store. Other travelers reported no fuel in the far north, and no food for sale north of where we sat. A quick check of our pantry and fridge showed we had enough food for a couple of weeks. We calculated our fuel consumption over the planned route and came to the conclusion we would be fine, with just enough for a couple of side excursions should we want to do so. At our next camp, overlooking the Khorasib river, we talked to a group that had come from the area we were headed. They told us where the rivers were too high to drive, and where the safe trails were. The next two days were spent driving along mostly dry rivers, avoiding the spots still too wet. On the narrow trail crossing between the Hoarusib and Khumib rivers, I sliced the sidewall of a trailer tire on a sharp rock, ruining it. After putting on the spare, Paul noticed that they had damaged the back of their trailer in the previous riverbed, dumping all the water out of one tank and leaving their tent pole storage open. We stashed his tent poles somewhere else on their trailer and continued onward. We kept seeing fresher and fresher signs of elephant, they must have passed right by our camp one night. The next night, Jen heard the coughs and grunts of lion. At least we think it was lion, they never showed themselves to us. The next day, we reached the last camp before the Marienflus Valley.
Marble Camp, named for the nearby marble mine (no longer in operation), is run by a Himba community, and we found it a fantastic oasis. Hot showers, potable water, and shady campsites, welcomed us, so we stayed a couple of nights. We found a way to plug the water outlet hose on Paul and Julie’s trailer, and topped up our own tanks. The camp manager was able to arrange a tour of the local village for us, where we were introduced to a group of Himba women and their children. They are so photogenic with their ocher covered skin and memorable hair styles. At the same time, it was a little strange, imagine someone staring at you and taking your picture, all for just being yourself. We did give them some food and money for their time, which they planned on sharing and using to go to the new medical clinic in the village. Jen also brought a Polaroid camera, taking each of their pictures and giving them the photo. This was the most exciting for them, they were all abuzz as they showed their children and each other their photos. One of the ladies looked at the photo and then reached up to check her hair and marriage hat (a piece of cowhide formed into a shape and worn in her hair to show she is married). Their reactions were priceless.
Our next destination was the Marienflus Valley, in the far northwest of Namibia, known for how remote it is and the often difficult roads leading there. Another family in camp with us joined our convoy to the Marienflus so they didn’t have to go it alone. The first 10 miles was pretty tricky, steep rock trail, but the rest was good road, if a bit corrugated . We rounded a corner and saw the wide valley floor, carpeted in golden grass. We drove 20 miles through the valley to the Kunene river, the northern border of Namibia. We camped right on the banks of the river, looking across to the hills of Angola. Welcoming us to camp, to our dismay, were giant crickets similar to those we had seen earlier in the trip. They were in force at the campground, and we were back to cricket flicking. It was nearly 100°F here, having dropped from over 3000 ft down to about 775 ft above sea level. After a couple of days checking out the area and lounging about camp, we headed south. Our goal was Opuwo, a town where we knew we could find groceries, fuel, and a tire shop to maybe repair our trailer tire. The road grew steadily better and better as we got closer to town. In town, we confirmed the fact that our tire, bought in March, was destroyed with the cut sidewall. We bit the bullet and ordered another tire, which they said would arrive the next day. Opuwo is an interesting town, where a variety of tribal cultures meet. Our favorite scene was two older ladies walking down the street chatting arm-in-arm. One, a Himba dressed in the traditional cowhide skirt and no top and with a cane, the other a Herero decked out in her brightly colored Victorian style dress and three cornered hat. We are pretty bummed out that we weren’t quick enough to snap a pic of this duo. As we hit the grocery store for a few supplies, Jen heard from a French family we had been following, they were in Opuwo! We met them and joined them for a couple of nights wild camping just outside of town, close enough to hear the music from one of the local bars. The next day, we said our goodbyes and headed out of town for Epupa Falls. Further upriver on the Kunene than where we had camped only a week earlier, Epupa Falls was cooler and more developed. We hung out for a few days amongst the palm trees on the river’s edge before heading towards Etosha National Park.
Etosha is one of the oldest National Parks in the world, the Germans set it up prior to World War I. Park rules stipulate no driving at night, and camping is only allowed in designated, gated camp villages. Most of these camps have a restaurant, a post office, and a waterhole that is lit at night, for the best animal viewing. Though we didn’t have any reservations, they found us a campsite at one of the established camps. Driving across the park, the latches holding the bed closed both broke. I was able to Email Conqueror to get the repairs covered by warrantee, and they sent parts to a shop in Windhoek who would do the work. We spent 5 days in the park, driving to various waterholes and sights during the day, walking to the water hole in camp at dusk. Luck was with us as we got to see black rhino every day we were in the park. Just after one sunset one evening, we saw nearly 20 elephant come to the water hole at camp This was our first real animal watching of the trip, most of the rest of Namibia is so dry we only saw some zebra, gemsbok, springbok, and ostrich. In Etosha, we saw a massive herd of zebra, ostrich heading out into the inhospitable pan, rhino and elephant. It was pretty special.
Our last night in Etosha, we met Roger and Jenny, who wanted to go to another, more remote park, Khaudum National Park. Though we had heard fantastic things about Khaudum, Paul and Julie were unsure about the deep sand road out the north end of the park, so we were glad to meet people that we could convoy with. The one hitch in the plan was we needed to go to Windhoek for trailer repairs and to pick up some mail. They wanted to see some sights in the north, and agreed to meet us outside Khaudum after our trip to Windhoek. On the trip towards Windhoek, we ran into Boet at a grocery store, the guy who had convoyed out of Marble Camp with us. He insisted we stay at his house that night, setting up camp right in his front yard. We enjoyed a lovely dinner with he and his wife Marthie. The next day, we made camp just out of Otjiwrongo, at a campground on a hillside overlooking the plains to the south. We needed to wait for the parts to get to Windhoek, so we stayed for 3 days, stocking up at the fantastic grocery store in Otjiwrongo. We were glad to share Paul’s birthday dinner, grill roasted pork belly. The groundskeeper at the campground, Patrick was super curious to talk to us about America and our trip. He asked some interesting questions, “I hear it is night in America when it is day here in Africa. Also winter when it is summer. I understand winter here and summer there, but I don’t believe it is night there during the day here!” I think that I was able to show him how that worked. He was full of other questions about America and our travels. We were glad to have met him and his questions made us think about life and home in a different light. We parted ways with Paul and Julie, as they decided to skip Khaudum. Off we went to Windhoek.
We camped again at Elisenheim Guest Farm, and enjoyed their restaurant for dinner that night. The next day, we dropped off the trailer at the shop for the warranty work. They weren’t sure if they could get it all done in one day, so we packed an overnight bag and set to getting shopping chores done. The shop ended up needing one more day to get the work done, so we spent our first night in 73 not in the trailer. It was nice not to have to walk across the campground to the bathroom, but still a little weird to stay not in the trailer. The next day, we reached out to our friend to pick up our mail, and use his internet to get some things done. We posted our last update and then went to pick up the trailer. One last night at Elisenheim and we were on the road early the next morning.
We drove 8 hours to get close to Khaudum. Up early the next morning, we had to drive another 3 hours to get to Tsumkwe, where we would meet our new friends Roger and Jenny. Along the way, we came across Les Doudz, the french family we had met up with in Opuwo. They were camped alongside the road, and planned on crossing into Botswana that day. We chatted with them for a bit, then left them to their breakfast as we carried on. We were pleasantly surprised to find diesel in Tsumkwe, so we filled up our tanks. It was only 30 miles to camp in Khaudum NP. Upon arrival, we could tell this was going to be different than Etosha. What it lacked for in developed polish, it made up for with rustic solitude. We were the only people in camp for 3 days. We extended our stay by two days, and that very evening, saw over 90 elephant at a waterhole. Just listening to them suck water into their trunks and shoot it into their mouth was amazing. Watching them jostle for position at the prime spot where the water came into the hole was breathtaking. Seeing them greet each other and play with one another was precious. They are amazing animals. We spent one more day in camp, gearing up for the long drive out.
We knew the road through the north of the park, and then north to the paved road along the northern border of Namibia, was deep sand and would be a challenge. We had been told that to drive that 60 miles would take 4 to 6 hours with a trailer. In the end, it took 8 hours to go 60 miles. We did stop for lunch for about half an hour, but the rest was just slow going and digging ourselves out a couple of times. I did get the Jeep stuck twice, once just because the sand was so thick, and the second time because I tried to get clever and drive out of the tracks. Both times, we were able to get ourselves out in about half an hour using only shovels. And torque. We dug out enough for the Jeep to inch forward in low range, chewing the sand out of the way until it could climb back up on top. We had never been so glad to see pavement as we were at the end of that road. Sand hadn’t been a problem before, but the road was so rough that we couldn’t go fast enough to float well. We pulled into Paul and Julie’s camp along the Okavango river just after dark. That night, we heard our first hippo “laugh” as we relaxed after a long day of driving.
This was to be the final parting of ways. Roger and Jenny headed into Botswana after a couple of days. Paul and Julie headed further east down the Caprivi Strip and then into Zambia. The last night we were all together was Julie’s birthday, and we had dinner at the lodge, overlooking the river. It was great to meet fellow travelers that we had so much in common with, and share good times with them.
We waited another couple of days, doing chores and projects. I changed a set of wheel bearings on the trailer. We were also waiting on news about renewing out Carnet, which we had unknowingly let expire. When it became clear it wasn’t going to get shipped in time to arrive before our Namibian visas ran out, we headed across the border. We got lucky, Namibian Customs didn’t flinch at stamping our expired Carnet, and Botswana didn’t even ask for it. We will get it sorted out before leaving Botswana.
Namibia by the Numbers
Miles Driven: 6,563
Days in Namibia: 86
Nights Spent in Hotels: 1
Times Stuck: 2
Flat Tires: 1