Namibia destination information: Sossusvlei, Sesriem, Namib Desert, Kalahari, Naukluft Mountains, Namib-Naukluft-Park, Rehoboth

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Destination Info: Hardap - Namib Desert - Part 2 <<

     

Related pages: Adventure - Art - Birds & Wildlife - Experience - History - Landscapes - Museums - Sightseeing - Towns

 

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Namib Desert Routes

4x4 Off-road Experiences in the Namib Desert

   
 

... continued from page 1

Fischersbrunn, consisting of a few wind-swept wooden huts, was erected many years ago by the Angling Club and used by the Ministry of Fisheries. As Venus rose first as the brightest evening star next to a sickle moon, we set up camp in the shelter of the huts.
After refuelling all our petrol tanks to the brim, we also filled up our water canisters with fresh water provided by the well nearby. At Fischersbrunn, the Tsauchab River finds its way through the desert underground towards the sea. Although the water was a little murky, it was perfectly usable for dishwashing and even coffee.
At Meob Bay, only a few kilometres away, there is also an airfield with a runway well marked with dark rocks and a lonely wind sock. We were delighted to see the remnants of two old surf boats, lying in the desert sand. These boats were once used to transport passengers and goods ashore, during the early pioneering period of diamond mining between 1896 and 1914. These boats were in use along the entire Atlantic Ocean coast, from Swakopmund all  the way south to the Sperrgebiet (the "Prohibited Area") and the mining towns, as far as Bogenfels. There is a project underway to restore these last two historic boats under the auspices of the National Heritage Council and the Windhoek Underwater Club. Also being restored is the last remaining prefabricated wooden hut, which served as accommodation for the Transport Manager of the Namaqua Diamonds Company, during the 1920s. The small ‘museum’ sports a few artefacts of early diamond prospecting in the former Diamond Area 2.
 

 
 

As we carried on through a barren countryside resembling a lunar landscape, I tried to imagine the hardships endured by the early pioneers and local inhabitants who had to brave these harsh desert conditions. A little further along our route, we came across remnants of a horse carriage; a strange sight in the middle of no-where. We also noticed many heaps of basalt rocks, which used to mark the individual mining claims. Another 77 km further north of Meob Bay, 20 km inland from the shore, we arrived at Grillenberg, where deteriorating items of mining activities as well as a few ramshackle huts are still visible. Some of the artefacts provided us with eerie photographic scenes. There was a small caterpillar, some iron sieves, other hand operated mining equipment, a few horse carriages and 100-year-old glass bottles, all of which slowly but surely are being covered by desert sands.

From here, we turned north-east to travel into virgin dune landscape again, which required skilful driving manoeuvres and good discipline. As we negotiated dunes of  a scary 150 m or so in height, I bowed to the capability of the cars and drivers. Whenever my thoughts started drifting towards ‘what if…’, it turned out that we would manage yet another dicey stretch and would get over yet another dune slip face. Although our recovery rope had to be used a few times that day, we made good progress. We often encountered ‘roaring' dunes’ and a few petrified ones as well.
In this immense dune landscape, communication between the cars with the help of 2-way radios is absolutely essential, as drivers need to follow instructions from the guide in the lead vehicle as well as often have to depend on his knowledge to navigate solely by GPS. With tyres deflated to 0.8 and everyone on an adrenaline high, we managed to cover a total of 141 km (including 14 km of dune driving), before we set up camp in between dunes for a last night in the desert.


As we negotiated one high dune after the other and drivers' skills were honed to perfection, we carried on through the Namib Naukluft Park towards the Tsondab Plains and the Elim Dune. We drove around dried out pans and over grass covered hills, which was especially hard on the vehicles but rewarded passengers with many sightings of oryx antelopes, bat eared foxes and springboks. In the last afternoon light, we arrived in the tiny settlement of Solitaire, situated approx. 80 km north of Sesriem, on our last drops of petrol and looking forward to our first proper shower in days. We were sad but also in a way glad to be back in civilization safe and sound, after a 1400 km exploration trip into pristine and uninhabited territory.
 
On a general note:

The Namib Desert provides unique thrills and poses many personal challenges to any serious all-wheel-drive enthusiast.

Driver and vehicle are getting highly stressed during such an adventurous off-road trip and good planning is essential.
Fuel consumption will differ between vehicle types but an average of 350 litres have to be assumed on this trip, from/to Windhoek.

The operator's lead vehicle was well equipped with all kinds of recovery gear, however, it was likewise important for participants with own 4x4's to have come equipped with  spare parts and essentials, as advised beforehand. Each vehicles should preferably also be fitted with front & rear tow-rope points and carry a high-lift jack.

Top-heavy vehicles and diesel engines  are not suited for heavy dune driving.
 

For passengers the list of essentials is fairly short in comparison:
Luggage should be limited to approx. 10-15 kg in a soft bag plus camera equipment in a small extra bag (protect your camera against sand and moisture!); your own drinks (not only alcoholic); torch & batteries (head lamps are ideal); nibbles, your favourite coffee mug, sun-protection items, wet-wipes come in handy, your personal medicine, toiletries & towels. If preferred, participants are welcome to bring their own sleeping bags, stretchers, pillows and camping chairs.
 

Environment & Permit issues:

Ensure that your tour operator is in possession of all necessary permits - in our case, the operator carried the documentation required for a concession area, for the Namib-Naukluft-Park, and for angling.
Participants should be expected to make use of a chemical toilet, with toilet paper either to be taken home in refuse bags or to be burned.
When you travel in such a pristine environment as the Namib Desert, please leave only footprints behind!

 

For more information, contact the author by email:
lisa@compass-marketing-namibia.com

 

 
 

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Last Update:  August 2010