The intrigue and wildness of Botswana had infected us during our first visit to this beautiful country in 2012. Thus, we planned a follow-up trip, again starting our adventure in Windhoek, Namibia. A few days of downtime were planned, which gave time to acclimatise, do some bird watching, and plan and shop for our trip. The care was checked, a rooftop tent fitted, tools packed along with a satellite phone, extra fuel and water.
Day 1 of the Botswana trip entailed a approximately 500 km trip to Ghanze, where we would stay overnight at the Thakadu Bush Camp before heading into the Central Kalahari game reserve. Once we had arrived at the camp site, I switched off the car and then could not get it restarted. After a “jump start” we found our camp site and settled in for the night. However, the next morning we needed another “jump” to get going and we headed to a car mechanic in Ghanze; A faulty battery was diagnosed and replaced.
The road to New Xade was 100 km of good gravel and then we had about 60 km of deep sand to get to Xade, the latter taking us about 3 hours of “rock & roll”. A wonderful night was spent in the Xade camp (see sunrise above), unfortunately we had trouble starting the car the next morning requiring help from the local wardens and a tractor to get going, thus we decided to head back to Xade. After about 40 km on the sand road we had two further breakdowns, lost our fan belt and eventually we were towed for 100 km by some good samaritans from Cape Town (they were on their way home after a 3 month safari through Botswana and Zambia) before a breakdown truck took us the rest of the way to Ghanze. We had seized a bearing on the fan belt/alternator and spare parts were problematic, thus we decided to take another 500 km on the back of the truck back to Windhoek. Fortunately, we had not “cooked” the engine and the care was fine after some electrics were sorted out. However, we had missed a pride of lions loitering at our next camp site, as our samaritans let us know, having spent the previous night there. All’s well that ends well, nobody was injured and we got back to Windhoek safely.
Some re-planning was advised and we decided to stay in Namibia, heading south towards Keetmanshoop, then west to Aus. The road is straight for kilometer after kilometer, which makes for speedy driving until one gets to the turn-off to the canyon, heading south again from Aus. The 137 km of gravel road is slower, with nice views and animals crossing the road (springbok, oryx, ostrich, kudu). The camp site was about 10 km from the canyon viewpoint, but a touristy sunset was not out of the question. What a view! I had read about the canyon and seen pictures, the real-deal was better than expected. We headed back to the camp site for a braai, beer and a good night’s sleep before heading towards the canyon again the next day to spend several hours driving along the canyon’s ridge. On one side beautiful geology, on the other side desert landscape with aloes and quiver trees. Walking down into the canyon is not allowed, except for paying hikers, but this does not distract from the wonderful experience.
Two nights in the Fish River canyon were not quite enough, so beautiful, but Luderitz called and we drove back to Aus, then east into diamond country and the Sperrgebiet. Luderitz is a foggy fishing town with interesting German architecture; the most interesting attraction is the ghost town of Kolmanskopp (Kolmanskuppe), which was established at the height of the diamond rush and no longer occupied. The tour guides tell interesting stories (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2302018/Kolmanskop-Stunning-pictures-Namibias-ghost-town-abandoned-sand-wind-50-years-ago.html) and the houses filled with creeping sand are a bit surreal.
Luderitz itself is a commercial fishing town, as well as servicing the diamond industry, that has a German flavour to it in terms of architecture; the Felskirche is a good example. A nearby lagoon has the fabulous pink flamingoes. One day was enough and we headed back to Windhoek.