by Ron Swilling
In the Marienfluss along the Kunene River bordering Angola, in the remote north-western Kunene Region of Namibia, the Okarohombo Campsite is situated under giant ana trees with the mountains of Angola looming across the river bank.
River vegetation and the Kunene River soften the mountainous terrain and the massive trees provide shade and shelter. Attractive new facilities have been constructed, with each of the six sites having its own kitchen counter with sink and railway sleeper counter tops placed under the trees, tap and barbecue area. Three of the sites have their own private ablution facilities with flush toilets, with the other three sharing a communal ablution block with hot water provided by solar panels. The Kunene River is crocodile territory, so refrain from the temptation of swimming and ask the staff for directions to a safe natural pool a few kilometres away. The campsite is part of the Marienfluss Conservancy run by the community, with proceeds returning to them.
The renowned Van Zyl’s pass, an extreme four-wheel-driving challenge, is not to be attempted by the faint of heart or those not well equipped and experienced. For those who are, it can only be traversed in an east-to-west direction, down the pass due to the steepness of the slopes. Although the alternate routes offer relatively easier access to the Marienfluss area, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is still necessary and parties must still be well-equipped and self-sufficient as there are no facilities in the area.
The route from Opuwo is via the Kaoko-Otavi road until a junction where you veer off from the road to Orupembe and head north past the red drum landmark. Although the route from Opuwo is roughly 300 km, the slow driving will take at least a day, possibly two to complete. A good overnight stop is the lovely Marble Campsite 200 km from Opuwo. The road north is stony, with low-range 4×4 needed for a few kilometres of very steep and rocky track 16 km before the red drum. After that it becomes a sandy track as the Marienfluss valley extends between two sets of mountains. Long grass blows in the wind, green trees are dotted around and springbok roam through the spectacular vistas. The wide expanse of unlimited beauty is unfenced and wild, with only a few Himba dwellings scattered about.
The isolation of this area means that it is best to travel in convoy, with a tour operator (practising responsible tourism) or to be completely self-reliant and experienced driving in 4×4 terrain. This is remote wilderness and all vehicles must be in good working order, carrying an adequate supply of essential spares. No amount of GPS co-ordinates will be able to rescue you if you get into trouble. The campsite makes an excellent destination for those travelling from Opuwo, Epupa Falls or northwards from Purros or Orupembe. Caution is needed in the rainy season when the rivers may be coming down in flood as the Kaoko-Otavi route crosses the Hoarusib River several times.
This area is one of the last vestiges of wilderness. Exploring this wild and wonderful route in the remote corner of Namibia is a privilege. Respect this unique opportunity by staying on established tracks and removing all litter. Travel responsibly and tread lightly.
Camping under the ana trees on the banks of the Kunene River with all the adventures and experiences of the trip is guaranteed to be exciting and worthwhile. Far away from the bustle of civilisation, the quiet and majestic beauty of the Marienfluss combined with all the necessary facilities is a rare, unusual and good experience.
This article was made possible by Cymot Namibia
This article appeared in the Aug/Sep ‘09 edition of Travel News Namibia.