What a trip
I will not do justice to it in a report.
I will just give some highlights and lessons learned for anyone considering a similar trip.
And of course some pictures that I think gives the best summary of the trip.
The whole lot of pictures I will put on a dropbox for anyone who would like to see more.
Total duration was from 25 June to 16 July.
Total distance covered was 5414km.
The most important point about this trip report is fuel range. Secondly, about the kind of vehicle and engine damage you may need look out for when driving in persistently tough conditions, such as corrugated roads and when flexing the axles throughout the day. I will get to that later.
I had a long range tank installed that has a capacity of 140litres.
So the total capacity under the body was 180 litres. I also had the engine remapped prior to the trip that improved consumption quite a bit. Open road consumption when fully loaded ranged between 6 and 6.8 km per litre depending on patience. So I could do comfortably 1000km plus. I also had two jerry cans on the roof. So you can do the sums. This proved insufficient however. With hindsight I would have taken 5 cans on the roof.
This is because the total distance I ended up needing to drive without refuelling was 880 kms. This distance however was a combination of corrugated roads, sand, sometimes deep soft sand in the Huanib and Huarusib rivers, trails (including the van Zyls) and other passes. So the true consumption in these areas was very poor. Very little of this was plain dirt road, and no tarmac. Total distance on dirt road was just over 1100km, until we eventually reached Kamanjab. I never thought I will ever be relieved to see tarmac again, but I was!
Our travel mates had a Prado 3 with D4D diesel. This car has 150 litres standard, but he also drove with 2 jerry cans on the roof. It sports a modern and efficient turbo diesel. Although it can take 500ppm, it is not ideal, and a bad mix from a questionable source such as a lone entrepreneur's barrel would not have been a good idea. Although we both made it from Ruacana to Sesfontein to refuel, he would have (in hindsight) taken 4 Jerry cans. This is because the fuel supply at Sesfonetin (although from a real pump, rather than a barrel), is also variable. We heard earlier in our trip that they were out pf Diesel at the time. When we got there, though luckily that had both.
Prior to Sesfontein I ended up refuelling from a barrel a total of 20 litres at Epupa falls, and another 20 litres at Purros. Both times the price was R20 per litre. One cannot be certain of the quality of these refuelling points, and the price also makes this an option of last resort. Fortunately unlike with Diesel, the consequence for a Petrol engine is less likely to be fatal if the fuel is compromised.
As for the route
Day 1 (from Jhb to Kang (Botswana) - Total distance was about 715kms.
Day 2 (from Kang to Harnas animal sanctuary about 70 km North of Gobabis - Namibia). Total distance was about 600 kms.
This place is a real paradise of animals, but may seem a little artificial to some. E.g. the bat eared fox looks like an overweight daschund, from feeding off the customers tables. The kids however enjoyed it immensely. Stroking a baby cheetah etc. It was also our coldest night camping. The car temp gauge showed minus 1 in the morning.
Day 3 (from Harnas to Okaokuejo - Etosha) - Lots of dirt road driving North, until you get to Okakarara. Then it is tarmac Until you get to the Etosha gate.
Day 4 (from Okaokuejo to Olifantsrus camp in the West of the reserve)
Few people know about this camp. It only opened recently.
It used to be a place where elephants got hunted and slaughtered. We only learned later that this had been done until the Eighties and the meat was used to make bully beaf. (Now we know what Cedric and Tinus used to eat when they did National Service!)
The reason for the hunting was apparently due to over population of Elephants.
The hide at Olifantsrus is probably the best I have ever been at.
It is like watching National Geographic Live. The second floor is built to overhang the water hole itself. Putting you in very close proximity to Elephants drinking. I can report that when an Elephant drops the water from its trunk into it its mouth, it sounds like a toilet flushing.
We stayed here for three days. There was no point in game driving, We saw lots more at the water hole. Incl Rhinos (both variations), lion, and lots of game.
Day 7 (from Olifants rus to Ruacana - close to the Kunene river which is the border with Angola, then on to the Kunene River lodge).
We we able to refuel here from a proper pump for the last time.
This was also the last day one could buy meat and other fresh food. It was also the last time we saw tarmac for just over 1100km.
Day 8 (from Kunene river lodge to Epupa falls).
This used to be a tough 4x4 trail that took at least 8 hours to drive.
It had been bulldozed into a flattish dirt road only a few months ago. In fact trip reports on the Community forum from December 2015 still had the 4x4 track done. We only took 4 hours to drive this. It was therefore a bit of a disappointment, but also a relief to save on fuel.
Day 9 we chilled at the falls. There are 'Kol gate' at the falls which are safe to swim in. Otherwise the waters are infested with Crocs.
Day 10 (from Epupa falls to the van Zyls pass community camp)
The latter part of this route ended up being more technical than van Zyls pass itself. It is not as steps, but required a lot of navigation through and between rocs. This is a long day's driving. It proved longer for us as one of the kids picked ups stomach bug at Epupa falls.
The van Zyls pass community camp was a pleasant surprise. It has a working donkey, flushing toilet, although it needed some plumbing, and running water at a basin.
Day 11 (from van Zyls pass community camp, through the pass itself, then Northwards again to the Kunene river to camp Syncro).
If you are used to weekend trail driving, then the van Zyls pass is not that hard. It required some getting out and checking though. We found two abandoned trailers. Later in the day we were passed by two families from Limpopo that had trailers. So it can be done, but would require some skill. Also note that it is very remote in this area. So if you do manage to damage your trailer, you will need to either fix it, or leave it for the Himbas to strip. The landscapes on the Marienfluss is out of this world. It is not a reserve per se, but the land is protected none the less.
It is also the land of Fairy circles, which scientists cannot agree on in terms of its cause. Basically these are empty circles on the soil were nothing grows. We saw Ruppel's Korhaan here, as well as various game. Some previous travellers have seen Cheetah here as well.
Day 12 - we chilled at Camp Syncro.
Sychro is run by a young (early thirties) Swiss couple, that decided in 2013 that this is their dream life.
The dream life means that they are 8 hours' drive away from help or supplies. Getting supplies means driving to Opuwo, where the supplies also vary. Unlike Switzerland, they can make their own rules, but a tough life nonetheless. It is also difficult to make a living out of 5 campsites and two self catering chalets. They also had to endure two "1in100 year" floods during the past two years that basically destroyed the campsites and brought the crocs right up to their front door.
Day 13 - Drove down again, past "Rooi drom", visited "Blou drom", drove over another rocky pass and stayed at Etamburra (near Orrupembe).
Etamburra is beautiful. It sports the most exotic desert trees, with gold and silver paper bark. Pictures are in the following posts.
Blou drom has a phone, but this is a dummy phone. Our co-travellers rented a satellite phone. Otherwise there is no way of making contact with the outside world.
It was at this point that I discovered the toll taken by the persistent corrugated roads. My air intake shredded off the air filter. I do not know how long I had been driving like this.
Our fellow travellers included an Orthopeadic surgeon. The pictures (in later posts) makes it clear that a surgeon can also work with bloudraad. Bloudraad is an essential part of any overland trip. It proved to be the case here as well. Also added in the operation was sealing tape.
Further car issues: I later on had to use sealing tape to keep our front windscreen intact as well. Watching the screen from the inside, while driving the corrugated roads, showed how it moved relative to the body of the car! Another casualty of the road conditions. The other fails were the main tank's fuel gauge, which suddenly dropped to empty at one point. This was rather scary, as I was convinced I had a big fuel leak somewhere. On inspection everything was dry. The final casualty of the road conditions was the Xlink system, which in hindsight was foolish of me to install only months before this trip. That however is a story for another thread (maybe).
Day 14 - Drove down further and camped (unassisted) on the banks of the Hoarusib (about 40km North of Purros)
(there is really nothing at Purros, except cooldrinks, and Petrol from a barrel).
Day 15, we drove down to Purros, and drove bit into the Purros Canyon (also part of the Hoarusib)
Driving in the Hoarusib is similar to the August River trip in the Klein Letaba and Moletetsi, only more scenic, and with real animals along the way. The same applies to the Hoanib river. The latter is more 'commercial'. You can actually find other travellers in this river. Winter time is safe and dry to drive. Summer can include more water, more vehicles getting stuck and flash floods.
When we drove in the Purros Canyon, we saw spoor of the Desert elephants. Then we saw them, 5 in total, including a baby that could not have been more than 4 weeks old. So we obviously had to keep a safe distance. The Canyon also got narrower at this point. We therefore had to resort of an alternative route. We headed back to Purros and went South towards to Hoanub river. Here we camped (unassisted) in the middle of nowhere for two days. About 20km North of the Hoanib river.
Day 16: We spent the next day doing some game driving in the Hoanib, and dove into the Ampspoort desert, which looks a bit like Mars. What amazed me is that this is only 1km away from the Hoanib river. A general thing that we experienced is how quickly the landscapes changed as you drive. Each time with a great sense of vastness.
Day 17: From here we drove to Sesfontein, via the "Fearless" pass (nothing fearless about it, other than its remoteness, and that we were running quite low on fuel and water at this time), and the Giribis vlakte (which included some more Fairy circles).
After refuelling at Sesfontein (880 kms after Ruacana), we drove to the Khowarib campsite.
We stayed here for two days. Camping is handwork, and it started to take its toll on everyone.
Day 19: Drove to Grootberg via Palmwag, and said our fair wells to Kaokoland. Stayed at the Hoada campsite near Grootberg. Very pretty campsite. Each site is built in-between large bolders. At Palmwag one of the Kumhos finally took a punch, and I had to do the first and only plug on a tire for this trip.
Day 20: Drove down to Windhoek, after finally hitting the tarmac again at Kamanjab.
Day 21: From Windhoek down to Kang
Day 22: Kang to Jhb.
The total distance was 5414 km.
But it took almost 2000 km of tarmac to get to Ruacana (except of bits between Harnas and Okakarara) and another +/-2000 km of tarmac from Kamanjab back to home. In-between was 1100 kms of gravel, rocks, sand, and persistent corrugation.
Pictures to follow in the posts below.
Last edited by Alex Roux
on 17 Jul 2016 22:41, edited 1 time in total.