We decided to travel to Namibia by 4x4, and we wanted to do the trip
as adventurously as possible, without guides nor precise plans. Preparation was simple: we got some
information about possible destinations and dangers, we booked the intercontinental flight
to Johannesburg, in South Africa, and we avoided the flights to Namibia as they were
too expensive. We also booked a Nissan with rooftop tents (our
future “home” for 15 days). We downloaded the Tracks4Africa maps
for our Garmin GPS navigator (12 euros per country).
During our flight we had a
12-hour stopover in Doha.
We visited the city and we found mainly skyscrapers and shopping
malls. The heat was impressive: forty degrees Celsius by night.
We landed in Johannesburg on the afternoon of the 7th of
August, the right period for Namibia. An employee of the
4x4 rental company picked us up at the airport and drove us to
their headquarters. We were explained all the secrets of our
jeep. Immediately after sunset, we went to a nearby supermarket
to buy food and drinks for our following days and nights in the
wild. In the shopping center there was an Italian restaurant
where we had a surprisingly good pizza. Then, we drove towards
This was our first
crazy decision. We drove all night, covering
approximately 900 kilometers in the middle of South Africa,
following the road-signs and the compass – we had no maps for
the GPS navigator because, to save money, we had only bought
maps for Namibia and Botswana (now I know it was an insane
Anyway, for some
reason not only we survived, but we didn’t even get lost and at dawn we were in Namibia and after
another 300 km we reached our first destination, the Fish
The scenery was
spectacular: the huge gorge between the mountains (second only
to the American Grand Canyon), the colours, the wild landscapes,
the deserted dirt roads, a few plants peeking through the rocks,
unlimited spaces and freedom. In the afternoon we
left a tiny dirt road and we ventured into the rocky ground to
find an empty space where we could camp. It was all empty, so it
was easy. We opened the tents and mounted the table. Then we lit
a bonfire with some dry wood found on site and we enjoyed our
first African night.
The jeep was equipped
with everything necessary for camping (water supply, fridge,
cutlery, blankets, etc.). We cooked some excellent grilled meat
and we drank wine.
For the first time in our lives we were watching the southern
Dead tired after
about fifty consecutive hours of travel, we began our holiday
routine: in bed early in order to wake up at dawn. The next morning
brought another beautiful day in Namibia (zero clouds in a
fortnight: I’ll never stress enough the importance of travelling
in the dry season). After exploring the surrounding area on
foot, we set off in the direction of Sesriem, where we
had booked a place in a “real” campsite (booking in advance was
recommended as it was a national park). Along the road the rocky
ground broken by canyons turned into savannah: yellowish
grasslands, with red barren hills in the background, a few
lonely trees and the first mammals (goats, zebras and oryx).
We made good use of
the jeep to wander offroad, in the bush. We calmly approached
the animals. At one point we tried to join a herd of zebras,
but they noticed we were intruders.
We got a puncture in
one of the rear tyres. We changed it and at Sesriem we had it
fixed. We settled in the
camp-site and we dined and drank beer in the restaurant. Unfortunately, a
raging wind hit Sesriem that night. The tents slammed
The next morning the
camp was still blown by the wind. Clouds of sand flew in from
the nearby desert. The camp bathrooms had two inches of sand on
the floor and on the toilets. To our surprise, also our jeep
filled with sand, because one of the windows had been left
We visited the
beautiful Sesriem Canyon, but we couldn’t reach the nearby red
sand dunes of Sossusvlei because of the storm. It was a pity
because it was a focal point for any travel itinerary in
Namibia. We were a little bit sad when we left the desert and
continued our journey towards North. We drove through new
landscapes: the ground was still arid, but the colors and the
shapes changed. There were dark round hills separated by small
canyons. Then we arrived to
the Atlantic Ocean, near Walvis Bay. There was a road running
along a lagoon. On the other side of the road, there were big
yellow sand dunes. At one point we turned offroad, testing
the 4x4 capabilities of our Nissan.
We got stuck in the sand a
first time, then with the help of the shovel we managed to move
the jeep and
climbed to the top of a dune with stunning views of the lagoon
and of the flamingos walking in the water at dusk.
We had really enjoyed
that night so were in very good mood when we resumed our
drive towards the north of Namibia. We stopped soon to climb
some huge dunes that looked out over the ocean. On foot, this
time. We took another break on a beach, from which we
could see a recent wrecked ship.
A bit further north we stopped
at Cape Cross natural reserve, where thousands of seals
lived and smelled. It was impressive to see them dive into the
big waves among the rocks.
We left the Ocean and
we started traveling through the savannah of Damaraland,
a beautiful and wild region. We had yet another wonderful night
in the nature.
The next day we drove
to Etosha National Park, a nature reserve almost as big
as Belgium. Tourists could access a large part of the park near
a giant salt lake. Around the many ponds the animals gathered to
“have a drink”.
Driving along the
dirt roads we came across gazelles, zebras, oryx, elephants and
giraffes: we were surprised by how easy it was to spot animals,
there were hundreds everywhere. So we tried to spot the rarest
animals and wildlife scenes, also following other travelers’
comments. We saw some hyenas eating the carcass of a giraffe
(it didn’t look very appetizing), a leopard walking
quietly among the bushes, some lazy lionesses yawning in
The most exciting moment was when we saw two
cheetahs hunting a gazelle. The patient wait, then the quick attack, the sad end for the gazelle
and the good lunch for the cheetahs.
Free camping in the
reserve was forbidden, so we didn’t run any more risks of being
eaten. Instead we camped in a beautiful structure, very well
organized. Finally we were able to have a shower and we had
dinner at a restaurant where we were served crocodile meat. We
complimented the chef, who laughed satisfied. The next day we
spotted also a couple of rhinos. Then we left Etosha and,
changing our plans, we decided to visit the northern part of
Namibia. So we headed towards Opuwo, a small town where women
dressed in western clothes walked side by side with Himbas.
These indigenous women didn’t wear any clothes apart from a
short skirt; their hair and part of their body were covered by
argilla. We wandered through the village, we did some shopping
and then we walked into a booth with a “tourist information”
sign. Inside there was an old man with yellow eyes. Health had
abandoned him a long time ago, but not his kindness. We left Opuwo and by
heading North we met many Himba villages: a wooden fence, few
huts and several goats. They were a primitive population who
lived life their own way, they didn’t speak any English and they
didn’t care about Western habits. We approached one of the
villages by 4x4, then we walked with extreme caution to the
fence gate. At first we were squared with surprise, but nobody
said anything. So we walked a few steps forth and an old man
invited us to enter.
The village was tiny
and poor. It was more like an ample family house with a
courtyard and some small stables. There were two women, their
children and the grandparents. Were the men at work, maybe in
the fields? Then we drove North,
towards the Angola border, and vegetation became greener
and greener. The northern Namibia is more humid and rainy than
the deserted South. We met a group of schoolchildren, although
there was no trace of buildings in the surrounding area, maybe a
few huts among the trees.
We resumed our drive
towards the Epupa Falls.
In the middle, we camped in a
beautiful spot on the dry bed of a river. There was just the nature, the stars and us; we all
felt a subtle tension when we walked in that forest of low trees
to get some wood for the fire. The Epupa Falls
deserved the visit: glorious views, palm trees facing the river,
a big, strangely colored lizard and a "Danger: crocodiles" sign.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see them.
Driving along a
fascinating gravel road we reached the Namibia-Angola border.
Here we continued our trip along the Caprivi Strip.
This is a narrow strip of Namibian territory to the north of
Botswana; it is crossed by the Okavango, Chobe and Zambezi
rivers. It is quite humid, green and populated (especially
compared to the rest of Namibia). After having spent
many consecutive nights in a tent, it was about time to sleep in
a bed, so we stayed in a B&B run by a Chinese lady married to a
Swiss guy (in an extraordinary holiday we wanted to live this
strange experience as well). The following night we camped
along the Zambezi river, terrorized by the calls of elephants
and hippos and by the myriad of mosquitoes flying around.
We had not taken malaria pills because they weren’t supposed to be
necessary in the dry season, but that camp maybe was an
exception. Anyway, none of us fell ill, neither the hippos
overturned our jeep and tents.
So, the next day we could cross two borders, with
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