Saturday 8th August To Namibia
Leaving the campsite at Springbok I fuel up and we head North to cross into Namibia. It is again beautiful to see the flowers which bloom at the side of the road here in Namaqualand. At the border post all goes smoothly and we are in Namibia which I hope will be one of the highlights of my trip. At the border the landscape changes to a more arid semi-desert feel. We aim for Ai-Ais which is a hot spring resort site in the Fish River canyon. Unfortunately we have no swimming costumes and cannot take advantage of the hot pool. Three young lads make a bee-line for us as they are driving a Series 3 Landrover albeit with a 4.1l Chevy engine in it. They ask a few questions and it becomes clear they aren’t too clued up mechanically so I hope they are okay. I’m sure they will have a great adventure anyway. Stephanie goes to the shop for braai wood but there is none in the shop. I use my resourcefulness and try asking at the filling station. They have just taken bags to the shop but are prepared to give me a bigger bag from their own supply for the same money. It is the way of things here. The night is clear and it is great to see the milky way again.
Sunday 9th August 09 Ai-Ais to Bethanie
Leaving Ai-Ais we head up to fish river canyon. The viewpoints are marked on the GPS and it is incredible. The scale is huge and I try my best to capture it on camera but I am sure I have not done it justice. We head on and call in at a couple of possible places for accommodation including a motel which has no rooms having suffered a lot of damage in a storm. There is also no fuel which is a bit of a surprise so we head on to Bethanie which is the next town as I like to keep ahead on range and we are told they have fuel. Surprise, they don’t have diesel but apparently the next town does. It is too late to continue so we pull into the Bethanie hotel which has camping. I set up camp and get on with the cooking. They let us use one of the rooms for washing and Stephanie seems quite pleased at this. The hotel has quite nice facilities but is typically run down. In one of the lounges there is a surprise lurking… a Steinway Baby Grand piano! I send Stephanie to have a go while I play pool with one of the 2 guys working there. What a shame, it sounds dreadful. The chap listening to Stephanie calls the owner but she is out of town. He wanted her to hear the piano being played and encourage her to get it tuned. All in all it was quite a surreal visit.
Monday 10th August 09 Bethanie to Sessriem
Once again it is up early and we get a goodish start. We fuel up in the next town and head out across on the road to Sessriem. We travel to Duiseb Castle which is a small traditional castle built at the beginning of the 20th Century by a German and which is now a small museum. It stands out as being unusual but this is Africa so you are perhaps not so surprised by strange sights. The entry fee was on a sliding scale depending on which country you were from. The regular foreigners fee was ridiculous and I wasn’t going to pay it and so the lady charged us the Namibian rate which I thought was a fair price. Further down the road we pulled into a halt called Betta for some provisions and it appeared that I had a puncture. There was a man there who did repairs but it took him 3 attempts and even then I wasn’t so sure it would hold up but we needed to get on our way if I was going to get Stephanie to all the places I wanted her to see. We got to the Gate for Sessriem and they wanted stupid money to camp about 600N$ which is around £50. We met some other people in a landrover and together we drove 3 miles down the road to a roadside halt and camped there. I offered them some wine which went down well and we were all able to see the Milky Way.
Tuesday 11th August 09 Sessriem to Solitaire
Up at 5.30 am as the gates open quite early. We go and join the queue of vehicles waiting outside and I meet a motorcyclist who left UK with 4 others and is the only one left on the route. We get our tickets and head along the tar road towards Sossussvlei taking photos of the dunes at various stages. It is magnificent even if anyone can drive this way and my vehicle looks a bit over-prepared for this simple trip. We see Ostrich, Impala and Gemsbok on the way. After a good many kilometres we get to the point where only 4wd vehicles are allowed through. I drop the tyre pressures and head off into the sand. We sail through with ease. Arriving at the end of the trail we climb a dune called Big Mama. It is hard work but quite spectacular. I lent Stephanie my hat and the wind blows it part way down the side of the dune. There is a family climbing the dune at the same time and their son Luke does a crab impersonation as he goes and retrieves it for her. We get to meet this family again later in the trip.
We then hike out to the Dead Vlei before it is too hot. A decision is made to leave here and press on with the trip as the temperature is a bit oppressive for Stephanie. We head on the dirt road to Solitaire for the ‘famous’ Apple Pie. I don’t find it that good as I think he has burnt the crumble on the top. Oh well at least it is somewhere to stay and to fuel up. There is a Dutch couple driving a Unimog. They have wheel bearing problems which they have had fixed but the guy they paid hasn’t lined the hub and the stub axle up correctly so the brake disc won’t go on. They need a 30mm socket which I lend him and give a little help. Everything goes back well this time and they are quite pleased. They have had many mechanical problems including needing a new engine in Morocco. They have had to get all parts sent by air and it sounds like it is costing them a fortune.
Stephanie is suffering and has a bit of a migraine which gets worse into the evening. I finish doing the evening meal and clearing up then plan to backup my pictures for the last few weeks but the computer battery is down so leave it to charge and don’t get round to this task. This proves a costly error!