Namibia: Lessons learnt

I have learnt a few lessons during our trip to Namibia that I would like to share with you. Mostly because certain things were new to me and no matter how many magazine articles you read (I didn’t miss a magazine in almost 5 months that mentioned Namibia on the cover page) they come short, they don’t tell you everything. Like my husband pointed out, they write their articles to sell magazines, not to be a travel guide. So here goes!

  1. Have decent maps. Especially of Kaokoland. I read a few articles where they recommended that you should have at least 2 maps to be able to cross reference between the 2. We had 2 and then a few articles with mini maps also. But even these were not sufficient for Kaokoland. Do not go without a Tracks4Africa foldout map! Our one map said the Van Zyls Pass is 52km from Onkangwati, the other said 55km, we turned off after 49km.
  2. Be prepared for anything, from getting lost or not knowing where you are to improvise on dinner when your food supplies run out before you reach a town again.
  3. If you don’t have a 4×4, there are many companies that you can rent one from. And they come fully kitted with rooftop tents and jerry cans the works. Some also comes with a solar panel on the roof of the rooftop tent. You will come far with a high clearance 4×2, but if your going to Kaokoland you better have a 4×4.
  4. Travel with at least an extra 20l of drinking water. Some places we stayed at get their water from the rivers and will even tell you to not drink the water from the taps. Spitzkoppe Community Camp don’t have running water, but there are hot showers and flush toilets at reception.
  5. Travel with extra diesel or petrol. We had 40l extra, but next time we will have 60l. We only had to use the jerry cans once, but you never know what you will find along the road.
  6. Make sure you have change. At Van Zyls Pass we ended up tipping an extra N$30  for our accommodation and fire wood because we didn’t have anything other than N$200 and N$50 banknotes.
  7. Also fill up with diesel/petrol every time you reach a town. A lot of people warned us that it is not unheard off to reach a fuel station without fuel. Especially in the more remote areas like Kaokoland.
  8. Take wetwipes. You will be surprised at how handy they can be! Especially if you find yourself camping where there are no water
  9. Peaceful sleep will be your new best friend if mosquito’s find your blood as appetizing as they do mine (citronella candles and mosquito bands is also a good idea and malaria medication if needed).
  10. Don’t drive more than 200km per day in Kaokoland. You will end up driving the whole day if you do more than that. We drove the one day 9 hours on 200km (including driving through riverbeds a few times) and another day we drove 12 hours on 350km, and we didn’t eve stop and have lunch.
  11. If you ask for directions you will most likely get comments like ‘you will see where to turn’. I mean really? Let me tell you, you don’t see and end up guessing and then wonder for the next 100km until you find a painted rock or a road sign if you’re lucky, confirming that you are indeed where you should be. So you do see, but you are never sure until you find that rock.
  12. Flipflops and tekkies are the only shoes you need. And maybe a pair of nice sandals if you go to a restaurant. Anything else will probably break or not be comfortable enough.
  13. Pack a washing line, laundry powder and some pegs. You will need it. A lot of the tourists have washing lines out during the day and wash their few items of clothing in the evening. Unlike us, who did a whole weeks laundry in one go and ended up getting soaked in the rain again.
  14. Himba kids will ask you for sweeties when you drive past them. The lady at a lodge told other tourists (booking a Himba village tour) that they should take a bag of sweets along for the kids and ‘mielie meel’ for the woman. I don’t know about this, other people tell you to not give the kids sweets. I mean, they don’t brush their teeth twice a day or visit the dentist. And sugar is not good for anyone anyway. So we never gave them anything. The one actually immediately asked for money when we said we don’t have sweets.
  15. Make sure you have a flask of coffee and snacks in the vehicle, every day. Even if it is a bag of chips or last nights’ left over braaivleis. You are not guaranteed to find a place along the road where you can buy lunch or even coffee. And the towns are few and far between.
  16. If you have a GPS or can borrow one, take it along! We do have one, but haven’t used it in 4 years so the maps are outdated and didn’t take it with. Halfway through the trip we met someone that also comes from the winelands and he actually had a second one as backup that he lent to us. You also get a nifty app (Maps Me) that you can download maps and use offline to view maps and zoom in. Which we learnt along the way.
  17. If you are tackling Van Zyls Pass, start at Kunene River Lodge or Epupa Falls then once you’re over Van Zyls Pass make your way though Marienfluss then back south to Orupembe, to Puros and exit at Sesfontein. Or if you want to you can even exit through Palmwag Conservancy. If you see the roads between Orupembe and Opuwu you will understand why all the travel agencies does it this way round. The roads are really bad and you travel at 10-15km/h (D3703). We ended up spending an extra day driving because we did it in reverse.
  18. South Africans, you can leave your ‘South African mentality’ at home. Don’t expect to be robbed around every corner. Don’t be irresponsible, but you don’t need to wake up and look out of your tent for every sound you hear during the night.
  19. Be friendly. You are welcomed into someone else’s country, the least you can do is be polite. We saw a lady at Etosha National Park that was leaning towards being a difficult customer because she wanted to book her safari drive and they don’t do that at the reception desk where you pay your daily park fees. She did not understand why not.
  20. Weg/Go Magazine has issued an annual special edition for Namibia over the last 3 years (we have all 3). This is a very handy guide and includes more than 200 places to stay and some nice articles about the country. Only criticism I have, is that Kaokoland is not covered as well and in such detail as the rest of Namibia. I felt slightly blind going into this region but that makes for a whole other adventure.

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And also pack the following:

  • Axe
  • Wheel pressure gauge
  • Small compressor for the tires
  • 2 spare wheels
  • Shovel
  • Rechargeable lights or gas lights
  • Doom
  • Basic first aid kit
  • A packet of cable ties (you will be surprised how handy they can be)
  • Binoculars
  • Sunscreen and hats are a must.
  • Camera, a cellphone camera is just not the same.
  • Extra batteries (rechargeable) and memory cards for your camera
  • Foil (for cooking vegetables in the fire)
  • Matches and firelighters
  • Braai grid and
  • A gas cooker

You can find a full list of all my blog posts of our trip, here.

Visited: April 2017

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