Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

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Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by iandvl »

I was lucky enough to recently to be assigned to a project in Windhoek. A little bit of negotiation, and I managed to arrange that I drive through and I'd be reimbursed for petrol money up until the sum of what the flights would have cost...

Worked with a reason - because, since I'd be stuck there over the weekend, I'd head up North on the weekend and then head back to Windhoek to finish the project. After this I'd take the scenic route back to Brits via the great nothing of Southern Namibia. However, this trip was particularly long. Between my weekend sojourns and my trip back, I spent 15 days travelling (this excludes the time I was there for work), so I'll probably post the trip report in several installments over the next couple of days. This post can therefore be assumed to be a place-holder for the thread and I'll post the bits and pieces as things progress as I get around to typing them up.

The actual route I travelled over this period is as follows:
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Some technical details. I was a little in two minds about posting consumption figures, as my none-Patrol acquaintances have indicated that I'm stark raving mad, but hey - it's a Patrol forum. We know they're not exactly light on fuel... :rolling: :rolling: :rolling:

Vehicle: GU Patrol 4.5 GRX. Loaded for bear. Roof Top Tent, gasbottle, 45L water tank and double jerry cans on the roof and both spare wheels on the back bumper.
Total Distance Travelled: 5639km
Litres 95 Octane Petrol Consumed: 1169,18 L
Worst Fuel Consumption: 3,69 km/L
Best Fuel Consumption: 6,26km/L
Average Fuel Consumption: 4,79km/L

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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by iandvl »

2019/07/20 - Brits to Kang

Distance: 639km
Moving Time: 6 hours, 50 minutes.
Stopped Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes.
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I had to check in at work on Monday 22nd, so on the way to Windhoek, I drove for time. I opted to use the Trans-Kalahari highway through Botswana.

I left the bustling Metropolis of Brits early Saturday morning, refuelling on the way out. Pushed through to Zeerust taking the N4 the whole way, and refuelled again in Zeerust. I crossed the border at Skilpadshek/ Pioneer near Lobatse. First time I've used this border crossing, as I normally cross into Botswana at Derdepoort. It was originally a little confusing with the massive traffic circles as well as it is considerably busier than Derdepoort, but I figured it out eventually. Cleared immigration at Botswana and paid my road tax, after which, I headed North-West on the A2.

The A2 was nice good tar up until shortly after Jwaneng, except one really has to be wakey for the animals on the road. There are animals everywhere.

Between Jwaneng and Konkhwa, the road works start. With long stretches of dirt road next to the A2. This continued intermittently up until probably around 100km from Kang after which the road was tar again for the entire stretch.

Got to Kang in the afternoon. I refulled the truck and then checked into the Nkisi Guest house behind the Kang Ultra Stop. It's owned by the same owner as the other garage and the other Lodges (ie: Johan Marnewick) and is a pretty nice place, actually. Ordered a St Louis beer (just because I've not been to Bots in about a year and I miss the beer) whilst waiting for my late lunch. Had dinner and relaxed a little, and then crashed for an early night prior to the trip to Windhoek.
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Some thoughts about travelling this route. This was the first time I'd travelled this route. Not knowing what to expect, I'd asked several friends of mine prior to the trip about fuel availability after Lobatse. In short: I don't think there are any issues with fuel I saw fuel stations regularly on my drive through to Kang.

The other discussion I had with someone, was that it is a rather miserable drive. I tend to agree with them. The next time I head to Windhoek, I reckon I'm going to head down Upington and in either at Rietfontein and Ariamsvlei. Yes, it's a little longer (300km I think), but the Trans Kalahari I found to be a little boring. Also, I think one may actually make up the time lost from the extra distance with border crossings when heading to Windhoek.

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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by iandvl »

2019/07/21 - Kang to Windhoek

Distance: 703km
Moving Time: 6 hours, 26 minutes.
Stopped Time: 53 minutes.
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Early AM, I grabbed a cup of coffee in Kang, before heading out North again on the A2. Tons of wildlife on the road. Wildebeest, Hartbees (I think) and ostriches. Road was good tar most of the way, but was a little cracked and a little more "rough" where the A2 splits off left towards the Namibian border just before Ghanzi.

Saw vultures scavenging somebody's left over lunch at one of the picnic spots near Tshootsha.

The road was surprisingly quiet, and I got to the border to the Trans Kalahari border before lunch. I cleared customs on both sides, and was eventually in Namibia again. Felt good being back. Really love the place and I'd missed it despite having been there as recently as December...

Headed West on the B6, refuelling in Gobabis, and then tackled the last bit towards Windhoek. Between Gobabis and Windhoek, I must have seen a few thousand vlakvarke eating next to the road, but surprisingly, nothing else much. Later chats with friends of mine in Windhoek indicated that the reason for this might be the massive drought in the area for the last few years.

Anyways, got to the Klein Windhoek Guesthouse where I'd be staying for the next week and a bit. I check in. Had another late lunch and a bunch of beers, and then an early night...
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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by ricster »

:coolphotos: ... really nice Ian.... look forward to the rest of the trip
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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by iandvl »

2019/07/27 - Windhoek to Hentiesbaai, Skeleton Coast and Windpomp 14

Distance: 680km
Moving Time: 7 hours, 24 minutes.
Stopped Time: 3 hours, 3 minutes.
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My five days of work were chaos. Apart from having to get a lot done in a relatively short space of time, my laptop had also died on me on the Wednesday (I think), requiring me to buy a new one and spend a whole sleepless night getting it up to spec so that my project went on.

I'd originally planned on heading up to the Skeleton Coast, but I'd not been able to get away on leaving earlier on the Friday and it is a hell of a long drive... I was weighing the pros and cons of skipping this, but decided on the Friday evening I'd do it in any case. Early Saturday morning, I filled up the truck in Windhoek, and hit the road.

Headed North up the B1, and then turned West on the B2 at Okahandja, through Karibib until Usakos. At Usakos I refuelled again. Not that it was necessary - I guess I would have made Henties - but I just like to refuel when I can. From Usakos, I continued on the B2 for about 20km before I turned off on to the dirt D1918 road towards Henties. The first 20-odd kilometres of this road (ie: up until the D1925 turns off) are very badly corrugated. The only reasons I could potentially think for this is the particularly heavy tourist traffic heading towards Spitskuppe with softroaders and overly inflated tyres. After the D1925 turns off, the road is remarkably better. However, it still has it's moments. And there are several random bends in the road which could possible be problematic if one takes it too fast.

Shortly after reaching crossing into the Dorob National Park, I was stopped by a lone adventure biker who just wanted to enquire what the road conditions were on the way back to Usakos. I sort of felt a little better after that. I was heading out into the great f-all on my own, but there was somebody on the planet at least that was madder than me... :rolling: :rolling:

Anyways, eyes are "bedrieglik" - at some point I thought I could see the see ahead, only to realise shortly thereafter that it was the sea fog.... Entered a foggy Hentiesbaai, found a service station and refuelled. I then located the local Spar, found it to be well-stocked, and stocked up on several items I needed for the evening and the next day. Including more beer...

After that, I turned North on the salt road (the C34 and headed towards the Ugab gate of the Skeleton Coast National park.

Salt road driving is different. I had not deflated tyres, and I was running in 2H. The mist meant that the road was a little slippery, but it was a pleasure to drive. I was going slowly in any case. Headed up North, and turned into at Cape Cross to see the seal colony there... Very nice - lots of seals - but the place has a bit of a smell to it... :rolling:

After seeing the seals, I continued my journey up North. Passed several lichen fields in the dunes next to the road. A bit disappointing actually. Although several areas of lichens have been fenced off to prevent people from driving over them, large expanses of unfenced fields have random tyre tracks running through them. Damage which, from what I've read, will take several hundred years to fix itself.

Passed St Nowhere and eventually got to the Ugab Gate. Paid entry, drove a few kilometres into the park. Ultimately, I wanted to get a little further in to the SCNP, but I was running out of time. So I exited again at the Ugab gate, and started making my way South.

Stopped to look at a hill next to the road some place shortly North of St Nowhere, and spotted what I guess was Brown Hyena spoor. No idea, I did not see the animal that made it. But it was biggish and dog-like. So I guess it could be.

I stopped to have a beer at the iconic Skubbe Bar in Henties on the way. They have a bay to wash the salt off your car and I was strongly contemplating doing so. However, to my regret I decided against it as I still had quite a lot of salt roads to do. Woe is me. The salt road mud that builds up in your wheel arches sets like concrete after it has dried. So for those folk wanting to head up there one day, wash it off often...

Drove South towards Swakop and eventually checked in at Windpomp 14.

Windpomp 14 is the old Mile 14. Apparently it used to be very run down and similar, but it is now under private ownership and it is fantastic. There is a pub / restaurant, and a fairly large number of camp sites - each with their own private ablutions. Camp sites cost R230 for a sea view or R200 for one further back. The camp was empty, apart from one other group quite a way away, so I opted for a sea view camp site. Built camp, made a fire. Had several beers. Braaied and went to bed.
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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by iandvl »

2019/07/28 - Windpomp 14 to Windhoek via Walvisbaai

Distance: 413km
Moving Time: 5 hours, 19 minutes.
Stopped Time: 43 minutes.
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Sunday saw me taking a stroll on the beach at Windpom 14. Had two of the owners dogs come and visit me, and it was nice to have the company. After that, I broke camp and then started heading back to Windhoek. I decided to opt to go through Walvisbaai and adopt a circular route back to see a little of what went on in Swakop, Langstrand and Walvisbaai. So I headed down the C34 into Swakop, and then carrying on straight South with the B2 into Walvisbaai, where I refuelled. In Walvis, I then turned off East on the C14 towards the Namib Naukluft National Park for my trip back to Windhoek.

Shortly outside Walvisbaai, the mist cleared and the sun cooked my salt road mud into rock hard bits of concrete which ended up remaining attached to the vehicle for the rest of my trip (although I did have the chassis sprayed down in Windhoek).

The C14 undulates through the Namib park for quite a way until it reaches the Kuiseb pass - which is pretty spectacular. After the Kuiseb pass, most traffic seems to continue straight along the C14 to Solitaire. However, I still had several days' worth of work to do, so I turned East onto the C26. Lovely drive. Climbed the Gamsberg pass (I would do this the other way on my way back South) as well as the Kupferburger pass just outside Windhoek.

Got back to Windhoek, unpacked and hate a few beers with lunch.

A note about Namibian roads. I've travelled a reasonable chunk of Namibia - normally on the dirt roads. This was the first time I had experienced them in the state that they were in. Very corrugated. Very run out. I heard rumours of a labour dispute between the road works crews, but I'm unsure as to whether this is accurate. However, I saw only two road work crews operating in my reasonably considerable drive on this trip, so perhaps they are accurate...
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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by iandvl »

2019/08/01 - Windhoek to Camp Gecko

Distance: 305km
Moving Time: 4 hours, 23 minutes.
Stopped Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes.
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Monday to Wednesday, I finished work. Had dinner at Joes Beerhouse on the Wednesday evening. Fantastic place, but main... It is busy.... Best oysters (bar the ones I had later on in Luderitz) ever.

Thursday morning, early AM, I started making my way South again. First stop was fuel (die voertuig se alleweige dors... :rolling: :rolling: :rolling: ) which I put in in Windhoek.

The route was similar to the one I took back from Walvis - except in the opposite direction. C26 over the Kupferberg pass, and down the Gamsberg pass. Interestingly enough, although you see the Gamsberg pass looming ahead of you when driving the other way, in this case you do not see it at all until you see the sign for it and realise it is mountain pass time... Anyways, carried on along the C26. Somewhere near the Rooisand Ranch I spotted a sign which cracked me up. Don't know if one sees it coming the other way, but at reads "Speed Limit 85. LandRovers do what you can".

Anyways, reached the T-junction with the C14 and turned left - ie: South - towards Solitaire. Shortly thereafter, I went down the Gaub Pass, after which I stopped to take a photo at the "Tropic of Capricorn" sign.

I was going to stay at Gecko Camp which is on the D1275 just before Spreetshoogte pass, but I needed to get firewood and other necessities (beer), so I drove past the D1275 turn-off to Solitaire. In Solitaire, I bought what I needed and had a beer at the restaurant there. I then headed back North up the C14, turned east onto the D1275 and was at my overnight stop about 20km later.

I'd originally wanted to camp at Gecko Camp (they have the most beautiful private camp-sites), but the dates for the project I had done in Windhoek had shifted around so much that by the time I booked my accommodation, there were apparently no camp sites left. As such, I had to make do with a sort of safari tent type thing. Was fantastic though. Braaied for supper, watched the old white wild horse drink at the fountain.
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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by iandvl »

2019/08/02 - Camp Gecko to Sossusvlei and Sesriem

Distance: 277km
Moving Time: 4 hours, 52 minutes.
Stopped Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes.
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Had a weird encounter in the middle of the night at Camp Gecko. Woke up. Decided to go and drink water etc. Whilst I was outside, I thought I may as well have a cigarette (yes, I have bad habits - several in fact... :rolling: :rolling: ). This was all around 3am... Anyways, had half my cigarette whereafter I just got totally creeped out. Shone my torch all over the place. Saw nothing. Decided to rather kill my smoke in the ashtray and turn in... The next morning, there were cat paw prints all over the place. Big freaking cat paw prints... Guess probably a leopard or something. But the prints were around the campfire. Between my truck and the "safari tent" I was staying in, and then right down the side of the tent passing a few metres where I was sitting smoking... Didn't get fantastic photos. But they were big freaking prints.

The wild horse was also feeling considerably more photogenic this morning, so I ambled up to the water pool and took a photo.

Fired up the donkey geyser and had coffee whilst waiting for the water to warm. And then I packed up and hit the road. The objective for the day was Sossusvlei, but since I was only about 15km away when leaving Camp Gecko, I headed East to Spreetshoogte pass, and not West back to Solitaire... Got to Spreetshoogte. Drove up. Took a few photos. Drove down and headed to Solitaire, where thankfully my road support vehicle had just finished replenishing their stock of 95 octane... :rolling: :rolling:

Refuelled, and headed out towards the Namib Naukluft National Park again. Made coffee at a picnic stop just inside the park somewhere and continued my journey.

At Sesriem, I stopped to get some cooldrinks and similar and take a leg break, and then I paid the princely price of ZAR70 for my permit to enter Sossusvlei.

For those not in the know, Sesriem is the "base camp" for visitors visiting Sossusvlei. The pans themselves are along a good tar road about 60km from Sesriem. And since I'd had my tyres deflated a bit for the dirt roads, I sat driving slowly along the 60km on tar until I finally reached the end of it and needed to engage 4H for my drive down to the pans themselves. Great fun.

Saw both Sossusvlei and the "Dead Vlei". The latter being a heck of a lot more picturesque, but also a little further away. And then I started my drive back. Also on the itinerary for either this day or the next, was to see the Sesriem Canyon - which is just South from the Sesriem reception. However, having spent a long time driving the day and having walked around quite a lot in the dunes, I decided to check in where I was staying and get ready for dinner.

I stayed at Sossusvlei Lodge. Once again - by the time my trip realised, all the camping was booked. It was very expensive, but it included both buffet dinner and breakfast. So I cleaned myself up, and had a fantastic evening eating "wildsvleis" and drinking beer. Very nice. After this I turned in.
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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by JohnBoyZA »

Stunning pics Ian :coolphotos:
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Re: Skeleton Coast, Several Dirt Passes and More Southern Namibia

Post by iandvl »

2019/08/03 - Sesriem to Duwisib

Distance: 169km
Moving Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.
Stopped Time: 1 hours, 28 minutes.
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Got up early. Watched the hordes of tourists arriving at Sesriem gates to get their early morning photos of the vleis in. Then packed up and, had breakfast and checked out. After this, I headed back into Sesriem to see the canyon. One needs a permit again (princely sum of ZAR70) which one gets at Sesriem reception - same as for Sossusvlei.

Just before reaching the tar road, one turns South (the road is marked) and one drives about 4km along a dirt road - round the back of the hill sitting South of the Sesriem campsite. The parking place is clearly marked. What an absolutely fantastic spot. With all the buitelanders hungry for the early morning pan photographs, it was absolutely deserted. I reckon I was virtually the only person there.

There are several routes down into the canyon. None are really marked, but the easiest one is a bit off to the right from the parking lot - and it is conspicuous by the stairs they have built in the steeper spots.

Enjoyed the canyon on my own, after which, it was time to hit the road to Duwisib. But first, fuel. Refuelled at Sesriem, purchased a couple of cold-drinks and then hit the road.

I followed the C27 South. Just after some massive castle-like spa thing on the right, the C27 turns off to the right. This was very, very badly corrugated. After a short while, one enters the Namibrand Nature Reserve. I headed down along this road for quite a way before deciding to take a break from the corrugations and have some coffee. Another very weird experience the day. Sitting on my FrontRunner Expander camping chair, I heard the weirdest ever vibrating noise coming from what seemed to be my feet.... I shot up, almost spilling coffee all over the place. Looked everywhere. Could find no sign of what the noise came from. Thought there might be scorpions (some stridulate when threatened), so I kicked over a few rocks that were near the source of the noise. Nothing. This remained a mystery for the most of the day... But I did eventually figure out what it was... :rolling: :rolling: :rolling:

Anyways, hit the road again. Carried on South with the C26, past Wereldend and then exiting the NamibRand NR again. Shortly thereafter, I got to the mega settlement of Betta, where I bought firewood... For what it is worth, they sell awesome firewood at Betta. In nice biiiig bags. Maak 'n Brits inwoner se hartjie sommer baie bly...

After buying several bags of firewood at Betta, I hit the road again for the last 20-odd kilometres of the day - arriving at Duwisib Castle nice and early.

Duwisib is great. Castle built at the behest of an American heiress by her husband. They have a guesthouse (it appears as if they use some of the rooms of the castle for this purpose), as well as a camp site with basic amenities. It's not to be confused with the Duwisib Guest Farm (which is next door). Duwisib is run by Namibian Wildlife Resorts and you can book directly with them.

After checking out the castle, which is absolutely amazing and a must see if you are in the area, I checked into my campsite, set up camp and got the fire going.

A note: whilst sitting at the camp fire, the wind came up. It seems as if the "label" on the Front Runner chair gives off a very metal / metallic sound when it waves in the wind. This was the reason for the mystery sound that had bothered me so much earlier the day.
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