Namibian Odyssey – The Road to Etosha


Namibia in December is not for the feint-hearted. It’s literally as hot as hell, dry and very, very dusty – unless you are in the north of the country and caught in a sudden downpour that can turn cork-like land into mud in minutes.

I’ve just spent two weeks in this arid, desert country that shares northern land borders with Angola and Zambia, meets Botswana in the east, South Africa in the south and hugs the Altantic ocean to the west.

In 9 of the 14 days days spent there, we travelled almost 3000km in a circuitous route from Windhoek to Etosha pan in the north and then to the radiant, coppery dunes of Sossusvlei in the south via the coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, before heading back to the capital. It’s a land of extremes and excesses and seemingly endless gravel roads and it didn’t take long to realise that anyone in uniform has extreme attitude – even security guards at the ATM’s. My jaw still aches from gritting my teeth 🙂

Grab some comfortable walking shoes, a decent sun hat and liberal dollops of sunblock (factor 50!!) to share in my next few posts the highlights of my trip through a country often referred to as ‘The Land God Made in Anger’.

Directly north of Windhoek lies the town of Okahandja on the B1.  We stopped to stretch our legs and buy loads of water for the road.  It’s home to a large craft market, while at the service station vendors sell fresh produce in the heat of the day.

Traders - Okahandja

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It was heartbreaking to see all the insects trapped in the grille each time we stopped.  Here two African Monarch butterflies met their fate with an assortment of dragonflies and other bugs.

Insects on car grille

Our first real stop was the Waterberg plateau, a national park in central Namibia elevating high above the plains of the Kalahari.

The Waterberg Plateaux

The climb to the top was insantity in the heat, but well worth the view.

Waterberg plateau

Here, as with much of the Namibian countryside, plants grow in the most unusual of places often secured in fissures of rocky outcrops.

Trees growing in fissures

A common sight throughout this part of the country are hundreds of termite mounds – large columns of living activity reaching for the sky.

Termite mound

A close up view reveals the intricacy of these monoliths.

Close up of a termite mound

A sudden downpour. It did cool things down a bit.

A downpour near Otjiwarongo

Another typical sight across the Namibian landscape is the wind pump.

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We were never sure why this sign was erected along the B1.

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Flamboyant trees are a common sight in many Namibian towns like Grootfontein which was our next stop.

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The local department store!

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The 60 ton Hoba meteorite lies on a farm not far from Grootfontein.  I was more interested in the residents of the farm than this massive chunk of metal, so much so that I don’t even have a photo of the landmark, but I can prove I was there!

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The resident mother hen huddling around her brood in the shade of a plastic garden chair while a stressed looking (and rather bald) rooster strutted around the gardens.

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The local children couldn’t resist a photo opportunity.

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On to Tsumeb, a dreary town with an interesting but neglected Cultural Center on the outskirts.  It’s a joint project developed with support from Norway to showcase reconstructed homes from various parts of Namibia and the life of the various ethnic groups.  The heat is wicked in this town and the Center was deserted apart from a proprietress with Christmas carols as her mobile phone ringtone and this gorgeous lizard.

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I photographed all the huts from the Herero to the Bushmen but it was too hot to make notes.  In one particular section (I can’t remember which), I found this sign and couldn’t help noticing that the second wife’s hut was a lot bigger than the one for the First wife.  Not sure how that works!

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Lake Otjikoto near Tsumeb is more a big hole filled with water than a lake – although it has an interesting history.  Outside the ticket office the usual touristy crafts were on sale along with snakes in jars (I didn’t ask) and a collection of rocks.

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After two days on the road, the beautiful modern Kupferquelle Resort and a place to wash our laundry was a welcome respite before heading for Estosha game reserve.

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