Through April 2016, a team of travel, media and marketing experts from Namibia Experience undertook an epic trip across Namibia. Here’s the final part of three dispatches from the road, written by travel writer Christopher Clark, and accompanied by his images. Read part one and two here.
We pulled into Sesfontein just after sunset and set up camp at a locally-run campsite called Zebra Camp. Then we fell into the usual routine of gin and tonics and braaid game meat before turning in for the night.
Early the next morning, we struck out cross-country for Purros, a small village in one of the wildest and most scenically-dramatic parts of Kaokoland.
The arduous and corrugated dirt road was certainly not for the faint-hearted, but the striking mountain vistas provided some distraction, as did the occasional dry river bed crossings.
On the outskirts of Purros, we visited a traditional Himba village, where one of the more senior women gave us an introduction to various aspects of the Himba’s fascinating culture.
After another night back in Sesfontein, we headed south into Damaraland and the Palmwag Conservancy, famous for its populations of desert-dwelling lions, elephants and black rhino.
At Palmwag Lodge, the owners gave us some insight into the commendable work they are doing to reduce human wildlife conflict with the region’s local communities.
We also took an afternoon trip up into the mountains to visit Grootberg Lodge, the first entirely community owned and managed lodge in Namibia, a shining example of Namibian eco-tourism in action. The lodge also has an infinity pool with a view to rival any in Namibia.
Next destination on the list was one that all of us had been looking forward to since the beginning of the trip: the mighty Etosha National Park, an easy few hours drive from Palmwag.
We restocked our supplies in Kamanjab and reached the Galton Gate on the far west side of the park just in time for lunch.
The Western section of Etosha only recently opened to the public, and is still much quieter than the rest of the park. The topography is more undulating, the vegetation greener and more dense.
On our way through to Olifantsrus Camp, the park’s newest accommodation option, we spotted a range of wildlife, including elephants, a lone black rhino, a young pride of lions and plenty of plains game. In each instance, there was hardly another car in sight.
The most interesting feature at Olifantsrus is the hide, which sits right on the edge of one of Etosha’s many busy waterholes.
We fell asleep with the sounds of an old bull elephant rustling around just beyond the camp fence, and a herd of zebra sending off alarm calls into the night.
After another day exploring the park closer to the Etosha Pan, and a night at the popular Okaukuejo Camp trying (in vain) to keep the jackals away from our food boxes, we were on our way once more. With so many kilometres already under our belt, by this stage I found that I’d become most at home when we were on the move.
We headed westwards towards the coastal resort town of Swakopmund, marketed as a little Germany under the African sun, and hemmed in by the Namib Desert and the Skeleton Coast.
Over the next few days, we indulged in a range of the desert activities that are run from the town, including the informative Living Desert Tour and a once in a lifetime flight over the Namib and Sossusvlei.
We also took the opportunity to enjoy a nice comfortable bed and various other creature comforts after our weeks of camping.
From Swakopmund, we continued our gradual journey south, passing through the quirky frontier town of Solitaire, and then into the famous Namib-Naukluft National Park at Sesriem.
What we thought would be a quick stroll up Dune 45 turned out to be much harder than expected, but we soldiered on to the top, not wanting to disappoint the excited busload of Chinese tourists who were taking our pictures as we went.
The sunset over the great burnt orange dunes almost moved me to tears, but I tried to blame it on the fatigue.
The following day we set off at the crack of dawn to try to beat the crowds for sunrise at Sossusvlei. In our excitement, we went too far and plunged our 4×4 into some deep sand off the beaten path, from whence it wouldn’t budge.
We managed to get help from a passing car back on the main drag, but having pulled us out they got stuck themselves. A Namibian Wildlife Resorts car showed up just in time and managed to pull them out, and then it also got stuck.
Eventually we all escaped this comedy of errors and made our way to Deadvlei to marvel at the iconic scene of the dead camelthorn trees presided over by the enormous Big Daddy dune.
From Sossusvlei, we made our way back towards the coast and the town of Luderitz, an incongruously picturesque slice of early 20th century Bavaria – with pastel-coloured art nouveau houses and hilltop Lutheran churches in tow – grafted onto the wild and windswept Skeleton Coast.
We ate excellent seafood and drank German beer looking over the harbour, and then got an early night in preparation for the final push the next day.
On our way out of Luderitz, we paid a visit to the eerie ghost town of Kolmanskop, once a booming mining hub, now slowly being reclaimed by the desert. We then stopped to see the wild desert horses at Aus, who somehow continue to eke out an existence here more than a century after their ancestors were freed during the First World War.
Then we pushed on to Fish River Canyon, where we would all say our goodbyes and head our separate ways.
Standing above this great, deep horseshoe-shaped scar in the earth as the sun set, the silence was overpowering, and for a precious and rare moment I had no desire to be anywhere else.