Family, overland safari; 6000+km; 2 – 20 July 2004
Namibia is one of the easiest and safest African countries to tour by road, given its excellent dirt road network. Here’s a photo essay of such a road trip…
Border jam, Vioolsdrif: It seemed as if half of South Africa’s 4x4s were heading north of the border.
The other half was already there at Ai-Ais resort, Fish River. It looked like an outdoor gear showroom with posing to match. Hobas is a better camping option.
In the Fish River Canyon, north of Ai-Ais: Here I resolved to tackle the 80km Fish River Canyon hiking trail with some likeminded friends – next time.
Fish River Canyon Panorama: This is quite possibly the most photographed site in Namibia, but 29 years since my first visit, I couldn’t resist it once more. I’m still learning how the photostitching software works. The hiking trail commences off to the right.
Namib Panorama: We took the D707 which skirts the Tiras Mts with the red sand sea of the Namib lapping to the left. This is a spectacular drive – well worth it. The plan was to camp at Solitaire for two nights and drive down to Sesriem and Sossusvlei and back. But heeding local advice – and the remonstrations that night of our tent, for which I have new respect – we skipped the vlei.
Threatening sandstorm on the D707: Just as well, as we heard the stories about sandblasted bodywork and frosted headlights later. Apparently it was a real “red out”.
Here’s a shot of Sossusvlei in April 1997, when we saw it in flood – an unusual event.
Namib-Naukluft National Park: As the South African convoys made dust for Walvis Bay, we diverted through the park and the gravel desert. Wonderful solitude.
Swakopmund’s Pier at sunset Swakopmund is a colonial anachronism, but 15 years after my last visit, it is starting to look like downtown SA. Much of its quaintness is dissipating in a sea of commerce and tourism.
Welwitschia Plain: On the gravel plains of the Namib-Naukluft Park you will find many specimens of Welwitschia Mirabilis, a “bizarre Namib endemic” plant. Surprisingly, for us, we continued spotting them well into Damaraland.
Spitzkoppe: While the convoys headed for Henties Bay, we angled inland to see these granite inselbergs. One would think that some granite koppies are nothing special, until one sees these spires rising out of the flatness.
Spitzkoppe: Up close the Spitzkoppe are even more striking. The rock seems to possess a satin-like finish. The community-operated campsite looks like a good base to explore the massif from for a couple of days
Brandberg White Lady Lodge: A new lodge in the Ugab River valley. “White Lady” refers to the San rockpainting of a warrior in white pigment, mistakenly identified as a “white lady” by a European explorer. The painting is located in the nearby Brandberg.
Tsisab Gorge, Brandberg: I like this photo because of the colour of the rock, which probably accounts for the Brandberg’s name, literally “fire mountain”. It is the inner granite core of a once massive volcano – and also the highest mountain in Namibia.
Brandberg, Heather and me: On the walk back from the “White Lady”. Most of these sites, including the “Petrified Forest” are now operated by local communities, with state assistance, and cannot be visited without the local, trained guide. It’s a great idea and we enjoyed the guides.
Ugab River campsite in the riverbed. The Brandberg is in the background. This was a great camp and we would have liked to spend more time here. There were no other campers within earshot.
Himba girl: Above Epupa Falls on the Kunene River we ran across this beautiful Himba girl. The Himba are a pastoral, Herero-speaking people clinging to their traditions. They live on both sides of the river, commuting between Angola and Namibia and seemingly ignoring national boundaries.
Epupa Falls and Leigh: Camping at Omuranga Camp above the falls was the absolute highlight of our safari. This is a spiritual place.
Epupa Falls: The camps are located under the Makalali palms just above the falls. A proposed hydro-electric dam threatens to submerge this beautiful place, and with it the ancestral lands of the Himba, not to mention their way of life. To help stop the government and the West’s dam building consortia in this unnecessary venture, visit the IRN’s site.
Epupa Falls: I love this photo – it speaks of Africa. An untamed river threatens to dislodge some baobabs from their tenuous perches. Well, not quite untamed. The Ruacana Hydro-electric Dam, some 50km upstream in Angola, cycles the water level by half a metre each day. So why would one need another such dam here?
Peace pipe: A fascinating use for a heavy machine-gun cartridge. This old Himba woman was looking for tobacco. At least the South African military left something useful behind. Twenty-four years ago our unit spent a couple of weeks doing patrols near Opuwo, the regional capital.
Kunene sunset taken from the deck at Kunene River Lodge. Marion and I have resolved to return for a whitewater rafting adventure.
Fort Namutoni, Etosha National Park: Namutoni, the site of a colonial German fort, is the easternmost restcamp in the park. Although Etosha is large, it’s easy to spot game, especially in the dry winter, because they converge on the few waterholes along the pan’s shores. There’s little bush and the landscape is flat.
Thank you for visiting my outdoor blog. RalphPina.com documents my experiences over many years of appreciating, and adventuring in, Nature. It celebrates visual beauty, advocates minimal impact, reflects on humans’ relationship with our ecosphere, spans the planet but focuses on the wild diversity of southern Africa. Photos, videos and GPS maps of hiking, cycling, kayaking, abseiling, canoeing and windsurfing..