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Journeys are about exploring and discovering. They are crammed with surprises: interesting people, fascinating stories and intriguing places. Instead of racing to your destination, consider slowing down and spicing up your trip with some colourful stops.
“You said you and me was gonna get outta town and, for once, just really let our hair down. Well, darlin’, look out, ’cause my hair is comin’ down!” – Thelma and Louise
Two girls, one car and one chance to get out of town and have an adventure. Sound familiar? Wheels on the road, the sky a wide arc above us and only the black line of the road stretched out in front of us. Our destination? The Waterberg Plateau National Park. Just two hours from Namibia’s capital, the Waterberg is easy to get to, fun to explore and great for families. For two chicks though? Well, we’re not unfamiliar with “roughing it” and, in fact, that’s our usual setting. Turning off the B1 that runs like a bloodline through Namibia from its southern border to the north-eastern tip, we waved at traffic officers on duty, who smiled cheerfully and waved us through, after curiously glancing into our car looking for the men that they guessed must be hidden somewhere. Nope, no guys, just us two girls.
Endless stretches of both asphalt and gravel dissect and are scattered across, over and through the vast plains, hills and valleys of this beautiful country. So often the greatest Namibian adventures lie just around the next bend or just beyond the next turn-of. For the avid traveller, the adventurer at heart, nothing quite beats the freedom and wonder of a self-drive safari through this spectacular corner of Africa. But what if staying in lodges isn’t quite your thing? Do you prefer the rugged appeal of camping, minus the hassle? Well, what if we told you that there’s a middle ground? The term is ‘glamping’. A combination of the luxuries and style of lodge-living and the freedom and often unparalleled immersion in nature by camping.
In the middle of Kigali, on the car park of a hotel, we had to replace the clutch of our camper. It took longer than anticipated, because replacing the clutch meant the engine had to be removed, which is slightly more time consuming when the contraption with which to lift the engine out, arrives in the back of a taxi. Up to that point, there had been some other mechanical challenges along our 14,000 km road trip, which – I want to add for the record – did not involve our Land Rover only. Just before we entered Burundi one of the Cruisers needed to get a gearbox fixed and we spent 24 hours playing cards in the yard of the mechanic shop while waiting for parts to be bussed in from Dar es Salaam. Then came the big problem, which actually brings me to the beginning of my story. The alternator packed up. With my limited knowledge of what goes on under the hood, to me, this only meant no air-conditioning in the truck, in mid-summer on the equator. What happened then seemed like magic to me. In the sprawling capital of Uganda, we typed in “Landrover Dealer Kampala” on the iPad app and there it was – a pinpoint in a maze on the screen. We were certainly not the first travellers looking for this place because if we were it would not have been on this amazing app. As the left-seat passenger, I never bothered to find out why we always arrived at our precise destination.
If your vision of vacationers in Africa is confined to young, fit, twenty-year-olds with state-of-the-art rucksacks, think again. Namibia is the land for all ages, even prehistoric creatures like me and my friends.
During a drive down to Windhoek, Nina van Schalkwyk stopped in the dusty little town of Kamanjab, where she was charmed by its surprising creativity, cheerful inhabitants and a sheep that can’t keep its pants on.
We’ve just returned to South Camp and it’s almost dark. Stretching our stiff limbs, the place is silent tonight since we are the only campers. And then we hear it, a soft swishing sound in the grass. Moving cautiously to the edge of the tree line in the deep twilight, we can just make out a solid mass of elephants mere metres away from us.
On a recent adventure to Nambwa Tented Lodge, I discovered a new sense of recognition for what makes a place such as this truly special. What makes it stay with you, ingrained deep in the fabric of your soul long after you’ve made your journey home?
April is a reflection. A reflection of a good rainy season. A reflection of tall, slender makalani palm trees in the crystal-clear surfaces of oshanas (meaning pans in Oshiwambo) brimming with fresh rainwater and lined with lilies. This year is no exception. And the Owambo Region in the north becomes one of the most scenic and inviting parts of the country. It beckons you to delve into its colours, flavours and vibrant liveliness. Immerse yourself in a heart-warming culture with which about half of Namibia’s population identifies. Linger off the beaten track by linking your Etosha trip with Owambo and make the most of the last days of summer.
The Nyae Nyae Pans in the east of Namibia were filled up after good autumn rains. Stories abounded of lions that roamed the open grasslands. Of a massive flock of flamingos that had descended on the water. One word: paradise.
Road-trips are the best, aren’t they? Perhaps it’s because of film culture, where we’ve been fed with the romance of road trips, of getting out, hitting the road, with the wide-open skies overhead and just a vague destination in our minds. In Namibia, the first half of the year has two great opportunities for road trips, the first being the Independence holiday and the second the Easter long weekend. All you have to do is put in one or two days leave and take a trip. But where to, you ask? The most famous park in Namibia, of course. Take a road trip to Etosha and make it a trip to remember. Here’s how:
Small towns tend to have loads more character than cities, not even to mention the actual characters who call these towns home. When travelling, we often drive through these tiny places without giving them a second glance, because we are in such a rush to get to our destination.