Through April 2016, a team of travel, media and marketing experts from Namibia Experience undertook an epic trip across Namibia. Here’s the first of three dispatches from the road, written by travel writer Christopher Clark, and accompanied by his images. Parts two and three to follow soon:
Last week, I got back to Cape Town after a month and just shy of 9,000kms on the road in Namibia. I’ve caught up on some much-needed rest and just about got the dust out of everything, but I still haven’t entirely processed the almost unfathomable amount of stimuli that Namibia threw at me. Retracing my steps in writing from the very beginning might help, so here goes. . .
After a comfortable seven hour drive from Cape Town, we crossed the Namibian border (via a slight hold up at Customs after they discovered the considerable amount of alcohol we were bringing with us) and set up for our first night camping on the Orange River. A sunset swim in the almost-bath-warm river after a long drive was the perfect way to end the first day.
The next day took us through to Windhoek on a road so straight and so empty that sometimes I had the feeling we were hurtling towards the end of the world. When we suddenly encountered traffic on the fringes of Namibia’s small capital, it was strangely unsettling.
The next few days were spent getting everything in order for the long road ahead, whilst also snatching some time here and there to see some of Windhoek’s cultural highlights. It had been six years since my last visit to the city, and while it seemed bigger and busier than I remembered, it still felt more like a provincial town than a booming African capital, and getting around was always pleasantly easy.
From Windhoek, the real journey began: much of our route for the next few weeks was completely unknown to me, and we’d largely be without the mod cons we’d enjoyed in Windhoek. I for one couldn’t wait to get out into the wilder reaches of Namibia.
Waterberg Plateau National Park was our first stop out of Windhoek. Josh, my passenger, and I arrived a couple of hours ahead of the rest of our convoy and took a hike up to the top of the plateau and marveled at the expansive views.
From Waterberg we continued north east towards Tsumkwe, where we spent the evening with the Ju/’hoansi San as they captivated us with stories from their long history in the region and fascinating insights into their traditional culture. I’ve always been rather skeptical about the concept of Living Museums and the potential for voyeurism and exploitation, but this experience and the energy of the people shattered my preconceptions and were something I will never forget.
We slept soundly in the Living Museum’s campsite and then joined the Bushmen for an early morning educational bush walk where, among other things, I emphatically failed to start a fire in the traditional fashion with a couple of sticks and some dried grass.
We said our goodbyes and as we hit the road again I was left with a resounding feeling that there are many things inherently wrong with the developed world that I usually inhabit, and with its assumption that it is the only viable model for all of us.
We soon entered Khaudum National Park and our wheels sunk into the deep, soft sand that makes a 4×4 essential for this park and helps ensure that it currently remains one of the least visited in Namibia. On our journey through the park to the campsite, we came across a ranger who said he was on his way to rescue a vehicle that had been stuck in the sand for three days. A lone bull elephant meandered almost soundlessly through the long grass beside us, unphased by our presence or the conversation.
The road to the campsite was slower than expected and we arrived and set up our camp under the cover of darkness, but this made for an even more emphatic sunrise the following morning, when the soft light revealed the campsite’s stellar views across a vast, open floodplain.
From Khaudum a long drive through the sand eventually brought us back onto the tarred B10, which cut like an arrow right through the narrow finger of the Zambezi Region, formerly known as the Caprivi Strip. Suddenly surrounded by lush green vegetation and with storm clouds rolling in from our right, it was as if we’d entered an entirely different country.
In fact, if you look at a map and brush up on some local history, the Zambezi Region essentially should be a different country. Either way, it was a place I’d heard a lot about, and was very much looking forward to getting to know in person. . .