Text and Photographs Sean McCulloch
Text and Photographs Sean McCulloch
M y good friend Theuns was managing a farm called Simplon near Alte Kalkoefen lodge in the south of Namibia. His contract had come to an end and he asked me to fetch him and his belongings and transport them back to Windhoek where he lived. This did not sound exceedingly appealing to me… In an attempt to convince me he sweetened the deal, adding: “Oh and while you are here we will take a 1980 model U1100-416 6×2×2×3 Mercedes Benz Unimog truck into the Fish River Canyon and down Donkerkloof Gorge!” Suddenly, what seemed a very mundane and ordinary trip turned into an amazing adventure – an ultimate Namibian adventure!
One week later our beast of a Unimog truck, or “Moggie”, as we later nicknamed it, was packed full of camping equipment, wood and of course a couple of Namibia’s finest Tafel Lagers. I was happily seated in the passenger seat with Chester the Jack Russel on my lap, while Theuns drove the beast, which had 20 forward gears and 3 gear levers for different terrains.
A mere 15km into our trip we came upon our first problem. One of the massive tyres had a puncture. There we were, two 19 year-old guys trying to change a huge tyre using a 2 ton jack under a 5 ton truck with the temperature exceeding 45 degrees Celsius.
Somehow, after about 2 hours of struggling, we managed to change the tyre and off we went. It was so hot and dry in the area that even driving straight up to a huge Kudu bull with our ‘Moggie’ wasn’t enough to frighten it from the shade of the only tree in sight. We were suffering the unbearable heat too, since there was no such thing as air conditioning in the old Moggie…
After driving for what seemed like forever through the breathtaking landscapes, now literally in the middle of nowhere, far from civilisation, the dreaded hissing sound of a rapidly deflating tyre broke the silence, AGAIN! Having already used the only spare, we were now in big trouble.
Theuns left Chester and I with the truck while he went in search of a farmer / farmhouse in the surrounding areas. There is something very eerie about sitting all alone with a dog in total silence for hours in the middle of nowhere. After 3 long hours of waiting, Theuns appeared with help and after a few more hours of hard labour the second tyre was repaired and we were back on the road.
The further we went the more the normal jeep tracks changed into impossible ascents and descents. Impossible maybe for normal off-road vehicles to traverse, but not our Unimog. We climbed up some of the scariest rocky hills, the descent on the other side always leaving us breathless. The word ‘breathless’ being used in two regards, as both the beautiful scenery surrounding us and the sheer fear of descending down the other side of the rocky hills stole the air from our lungs. Every time I remarked to Theuns, which happened quite often on this trip, “Surely we can’t get up/down here?” I was proved wrong by our remarkable piece of machinery. At one stage we were both walking next to the Unimog taking videos as she slowly crept up a very steep rocky incline all by herself with no driver!
We finally made it as far as any vehicle could possibly go, jumped out and hiked the last 200m or so down Donkerkloof, passing beautiful natural rock pools and eventually setting up camp with a backdrop of stunning rocky terrain. We spent only one night in the gorge and did some exploring, climbing rocks and rock faces and even managed to catch a fish in the Fish River. What an amazing experience.
I stand to be corrected, but to this day I have still not heard of anyone else who can say they drove a Unimog truck virtually into the Fish River Canyon!
This story is an account of events that took place in 2010. At that time the farms Simplon and Kesslersbrunn were under ownership of Mr Roelf Frederik Odendaal, the ownership has since changed.