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Travel to Namibia: Namib and the Fish River Canyon

The itinerary of the travel to Namibia and South Africa was designed and prepared several months before leaving. Being our first experience in Southern Africa, we decided to travel in peace by relying on an expert local guide. For the organization, booking and guide I did everything via the internet relying on mr. Erich Weilbacher, owner of E. Safari & Tours, Windhoek, Namibia. Erich was introduced to me by a friend who was in Namibia. Erich’s professionalism and passion for the nature of his country and his profession is the best you can ask for for an unforgettable trip.

Vehicle used for travel in Namibia and South Africa to Augrabies: Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4. Equipped with additional tank, 2 spare wheels, water tank, first aid equipment and refrigerator. Guide: Erich Weilbacher (E. Safari & Tours).

Vehicle used for the travel to South Africa starting from Augrabies: Volkswagen van. Guide: Sabine Rahn (Mosaic Tours and Services).

Organization of the entire itinerary of the travel to Namibia and South Africa curated by Erich Weilbacher of E. Safari & Tours, Windhoek, Namibia.

ITINERARY OF THE TRAVEL TO NAMIBIA

  • August 8 Flight Europe-Johannesburg-Windhoek
  • August 9 WINDHOEK (40 km) Arrival in Windhoek in the early morning. “City Tour”. Overnight at: Klein Windhoek Guesthouse
  • August 10 WINDHOEK-SPREETSHOOGTE PASS-SESRIEM-DESERT HOMESTEAD (310 km) Khomas Highlands, Spreetshoogte Pass, Naukluft Mountain, Sesriem Canyon. Overnight in: Desert Homestead
  • 11 August DESERT HOMESTEAD-SOSSUSVLEI-NAMIB RAND-AUS (340 km) Sossusvlei, Dune 45, Namib Rand, Tirasberge, Aus. Overnight in: Klein Aus Vista
  • August 12 AUS-KOLMANSKOP-LUDERITZ-AUS (250 km) Aus, Kolmanskop, Lüderitzbucht, Diaz Point, Garub (wild horses), Aus. Overnight in: Klein Aus Vista
  • August 13 AUS-FISH RIVER CANYON (290 km) Aus, Gondwana Cañon Park, Fish River Canyon. Overnight at: Canyon Roadhouse
  • August 14 FISH RIVER CANYON-KEETMANSHOOP-KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER PARK (440km) Fish River Canyon, Naute Dam, Ketmanshoop, Quiver Tree Forest, Giants Playground, Aroab, entry in South Africa to Rietfontein, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Overnight in: Bungalow 30 km from the park entrance.

TRAVEL DIARY IN NAMIBIA

TRAVEL TO NAMIBIA: August 8 Clear
EUROPE-JOHANNESBURG-WINDHOEK

We are finally leaving for Southern Africa! Our flight to Paris departed on time at 4.00 pm and after a little over an hour it landed at Charles de Gaulle airport, where we will take the Air France flight departing at 7.40 pm to Johannesburg.

TRAVEL TO NAMIBIA: August 9 Clear
WINDHOEK (40 km)

We arrive in South Africa at 06.00 in the morning where another plane awaits us. This time of Air Namibia, to finally reach Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

At 08.30 we arrive at our destination on time, we collect the luggage in less than ten minutes, probably too quickly, because once we leave the baggage check, not even the shadow of our guide. We were a little disconcerted so much that some Namibians notice it and advise us to call our companion with the loudspeaker at the information desk.

At the information desk a nice young lady makes the announcement and after a minute here comes Erich (E. Safari & Tours), a man in his fifties, grizzled, dressed as a self-respecting guide and who with very cordial apologizes for the delay due to a truck that had obstructed the roadway in the city, we get on a Volkswagen bus, load our suitcases and start our adventure.

WINDHOEK

We head towards Windhoek which is about 35 kilometers from the airport and along the way we make our first encounter with animals: the unusual baboons (and “dangerous”, as we will discover later, since they steal food directly from people’s hands, without fear they get into the car and break everything in looking for food).

What immediately struck us here in Namibia was the sky so clear and blue that allows you to see hundreds of kilometers away, we are in fact on a plateau about 1,650 meters high and beautiful mountains that reach almost 2,500 meters surround the city.

We arrive at the Klein Windohek Guesthouse, a nice and comfortable accommodation where we will stay only one night before starting the real journey. Meanwhile, we do not want to miss the visit to the city and after a short but abundant breakfast, around 11.30, we leave with Buddy, our driver for today, for the visit of Windhoek.

AROUND WINDHOEK

It is a beautiful day and the weather is very pleasant. Our first stop is where the symbol of the city is: the Lutheran church of Christuskirche, whose design and structure are very bizarre, built in 1907 is in German colonial style. We then visit the nearby German fort of Alte Feste, inside which there is a multipurpose museum dedicated to the history of Namibian independence, furniture, rock graffiti, music and ceramics.

We do not miss a visit to the government building (called Tintenpalast and built between 1910 and 1913) which we visit only from the outside, in the vicinity of which there is a beautiful green garden with fountain and beautiful coral trees. The market of wooden objects built by the Namibians themselves is very characteristic and they are very friendly and not so persistent in offering you their objects. Interesting was the visit to the old railway station, from 1912, still in operation, whose furniture inside makes you relive the atmosphere of a century ago.

A really exaggerated thing is the new parliament building. A large building under construction with brass railings that surround the entire building, inside which we could see statues of animals in natural height.

JOE’S BEERHOUSE

After resting in the room for a couple of hours, at 19.00 we go to Joe’s Beerhouse in Windohek where we have an appointment with a friend for dinner. The restaurant is the most characteristic of the city, decorated in a very particular style with strange objects, trophies of local animals show them on the walls. There is even a table that has toilet stools! The restaurant is renowned for African game and we don’t want to miss a little taste of every type of game, we taste Zebra, Springbok (Gazelle), Gemsbok (Oryx), Crocodile, Kudu. All dishes that have not disappointed us.

TRAVEL TO NAMIBIA: August 10 Clear
WINDHOEK-SESRIEM-DESERT HOMESTEAD (310 km)

Desert Homestead, 17.40.

We are in the veranda of our room and the view of the African sunset sweeps over the mountains of Naukluft. We have before us an expanse of yellow grass, the dark outline of the mountains and the red, pink and purple of the sky at sunset, all in a silence broken only by the song of the crickets. It is our second evening in Africa.

THE MOUNTAINS OF NAUKLUFT

This morning, after a stop at a shopping center where we changed a bit of Euro with the South African Rand (we preferred to change to Rand since they also have value here in Namibia, while Namibian dollars are not legal tender in South Africa).

The travel to Namibia begins. We left Windhoek at 9 in the morning and ventured into real Africa, between savanna-lined landscapes with acacias, barren mountains, alternating with plateaus covered with yellow grass.

After a few km from the city we were stopped at a checkpoint by a police officer, who checked the documents of our car and those of our guide. Then the road became unpaved, but always in excellent condition. We went first along the C26, then to the D1265 and D1261. Then we took the D1275 which climbs to almost 2,000 meters high at the Spreetshoogte Pass.

The landscape that can be seen from the pass leaves you breathless, dominates the great escarpment of the Namib desert from above, in the distance you can see the sandy sea of the desert, the mountains with the shadows caused by the position of the Sun are really beautiful.

THE DESERT OF NAMIB

We then begin the descent to the plain below, from both sides of the road you have spectacular views. In just 4 kilometers we go down almost 1,000 m! Along the way we see Ostriches and Baboons.

We stop in Solitaire, where there is a petrol station and a bar restaurant. Here we have lunch with an excellent and abundant apple strudel. Shortly afterwards we spot a flock of Springbok (Gazzelle), they are really beautiful and elegant. We skirt the beautiful Naukluft Mountains, in a landscape of rare beauty. We reach Sesriem, where our guide, Eric, buys tickets for the next day for the visit of Sossusvlei.

SESRIEM CANYON

We visit Sesriem Canyon, a small canyon dug by the Tsauchab river which then gets bogged down in Sossusvlei. The river is dry as for most of the year, so we can walk inside the canyon where on the rocks of the walls you can clearly see the alternating between wet and dry periods during the various geological eras. Really a beautiful and interesting day!

The place where we sleep, the Desert Homestead is really beautiful, we are in a suggestive scenario. Tomorrow we have a very early wake-up call, at 4.45 to see the Sossusvlei dunes shortly after sunrise, we hope for another beautiful day!

TRAVEL TO NAMIBIA: 11 August Clear
DESERT HOMESTEAD-SOSSUSVLEI-AUS (500 km)

This morning wake up at 4.45 and departure to visit the dunes of Sossusvlei. We arrive at the park entrance just before dawn and the gates are not yet open (the park in fact opens from dawn to dusk) we wait a bit and then we enter. After a few kilometers we see the first red dunes and also some animals (Gemsbok ( Oryx), Ostriches, Springbok (Gazzelle)). The dunes are truly beautiful and at dawn with the sun still low they have fabulous shadings and contrasts of light.

SOSSUSVLEI

We arrive at the end of the road and we travel the last kilometers of dirt road up to Sossusvlei. This is the point where the sand dunes block the pass to the water of the Tsauchab river.

From the point of view of rainfall, this year was a truly exceptional year. In fact, the river water has reached Sossusvlei without problems and even today, after several months from the rainy season, ponds and patches of greenery are present in the middle of the red desert. We go up on a dune, the undertaking is quite tiring but the panorama you can admire is really fantastic, around us there is a sea of red-orange dunes of all shapes and sizes. Some dunes are really huge like hills, then there are water ponds surrounded by an intense green of shrubs, a surreal scenery.

DUNE 45

We go back along the asphalt road and stop at different points then we visit the famous Dune 45, a huge dune in a landscape that is every photographer’s dream. There are dry trees in the background of the immense red-orange dunes of the Desert of Namib. This year thanks to the intense rains there is also a blanket of yellow grass that covers the entire plain below the dunes. The contrast of colors creates superlative scenarios: the intense blue of the sky, the red-orange of the dunes, the yellow of the grass. On one side of some dunes, green tufts of grass then grew, this is due to the effect of humidity coming from the Atlantic Ocean.

We then leave for Aus, after a stop at Desert Homestead to retrieve breakfast. We take the D845 road. In this area we see strange circles in the ground, a few meters in diameter, where the grass does not grow, they seem to have been due perhaps terrestrial magnetism. We follow the C27 and we enter the Namib Rand Nature Reserve, the largest private protected area in Africa. Here we see in the distance the Hartmann’s Zebras, the Springboks, the Ostriches and the Gemsboks.

THE NAMIB RAND

The landscape we go through is gorgeous. In hindsight in my opinion the most beautiful that we saw in our travel in Namibia together with what we will see on the same day along the D707. Dark rocky mountains, yellow grass that covers both the mountains and the plain, savannah with sparse trees: it is a prehistoric landscape.

After a stop along the road for the packed lunch we turn to the D707 road. Here too the landscapes are indescribable, sometimes the red dunes of the Namib appear, then the sea of yellow grass, then a white stretch which are the spores of the grass that looks like snow. Finally the peaks of the mountains of the Tiras Mountains that reach almost 2,000 meters complete the scenario. Along the way we also admire a beautiful specimen of Kokerboom (Quiver Tree). We then reach Aus where we will stay for two nights at Klein Aus Vista, an excellent place with beautiful and spacious rooms and with a view of beautiful African sunsets.

TRAVEL TO NAMIBIA: August 12 Clear
AUS-KOLMANSKOP-LUDERITZ-AUS (250 km)

This morning we wake up at 6.45 am. We are heading towards the Atlantic Ocean and the city of Luderitz. Along the way the desert gives way to the pink / yellow sand desert. After a little over an hour we arrive in Kolmanskop, an old (early 1900s) ghost mining town. The city developed thanks to the discovery of diamonds, had a very flourishing period, theater artists were hired from Europe to make shows in the local theater. The city then had between 2,000 and 3,000 inhabitants and had a hospital with 250 beds. Then diamonds were found further south and Kolmanskop was abandoned. Today there are remains of houses buried and invaded by sand, the theater, remains of the railway line that moved by mules served as a tramway network, the visit is interesting.

LUDERITZ

Another 10 kilometers and we reach the Atlantic Ocean in Luderitz, the first German settlement in Namibia. A truly unique town. It looks like a German village catapulted into the desert with the cold Atlantic Ocean that surrounds it.

Interesting the Lutheran church on the hill, which I had seen in my geography book as a child and which made me fantasize about Luderitz. The city also has beautiful German-style colonial houses and public buildings, is located in a beautiful bay. The fishing industry has been growing strongly here lately, thanks to Spanish investments. We have lunch at the Eagle Nest Hotel, located in a beautiful position on the sea.

We then try to reach Diaz Point, where Bartolomeu Diaz landed in 1487, and where in memory of his landing he placed a padrão, a stone monument with the symbol of Portugal carved. Because of the rains, the area is flooded with water. After a first ford that we cross almost without problems, apart from the fact of having left an open window from which the water entered splashing us all. We arrive a few hundred meters from Diaz Point, but here a lake of water blocks our way and prevents us from reaching our goal.

THE WILD HORSES OF AUS

On the way back we admired several species of plants and flowers that grew thanks to the surprising rains of this year. According to what our guide told us, it was more than 40 years that there was no such intense rainfall.

A few kilometers from Aus we stop to see the famous wild horses. A truly beautiful sight, hundreds of horses (perhaps 200) who grazed freely in a valley of yellow grass. It seems that the horses were left here during the First World War by the retreating German troops and that they managed to settle in this difficult desert climate.

TRAVEL TO NAMIBIA: August 13 Clear
AUS-FISH RIVER CANYON (300 km)

Today we start from Aus, where we spent two days, around 9 in the morning. We travel immense and monotonous expanses of undulating territory with flat mountains on the horizon similar to those of Arizona. Our destination is the Fish River Canyon. Along the road just before arriving at our new accommodation (the Canyon Roadhause), we saw very closely 4 Hartmann’s Zebras, who stopped for a moment to observe us and then set off at a gallop.

Around 12 midday, the best time to observe the bottom of the canyon illuminated, we arrived at the panoramic point on the canyon. The beauty of the landscape is breathtaking. This canyon is an immense gorge that was formed in 8 million years thanks to the tectonic force which formed a crack in the ground and then thanks to the excavation of the Fish River. The river still has water and it is clearly seen from the belvedere the ribbon of water reflecting the sun’s rays.

THE FISH RIVER CANYON

Fish River Canyon is similar to Arizona’s Grand Canyon, but has different colors. We stop in a panoramic point from where we see below the bend of the river that flows between the rocky walls of the canyon. Thanks to the recent rains part of the walls of the canyon are covered with yellow grass. We see the immensity of this masterpiece of nature from two very beautiful points of view.

Right was the choice of our guide Eric to arrive around noon to see the canyon fully illuminated. We have a quick snack on the edge of the canyon and then Eric shows us the vegetation of the place. We observe several plants and flowers, including the poisonous spurge (Euphorbia), very similar in shape to a cactus.

After lunch we go to our next hotel, the Canyon Roadhouse, a beautiful and very characteristic place, with old vintage cars. After a short nap, at 15.30 we leave again for the canyon, we see Springbok, Baboons and Ostriches and stop at other panoramic points admiring the changing light on the walls of the canyon. We stay until sunset. Truly an exciting experience!

TRAVEL TO NAMIBIA: August 14 Clear
FISH RIVER CANYON-KEETMANSHOOP-SOUTH AFRICA (430 km)

Today we leave at 7.30, our next destination is the Kalahari desert in South Africa. Along the way we stop at the dam on the Lowen River, where they have planted an experimental cultivation of vines and dates. We stop to stock up in Keetmanshoop, a town founded in 1860 as a mission of the Rhenish Mission Society, to convert the Nama population. At Keetmanshoop we observe the Namibian population wandering the streets. Interesting are some costumes that women have with the characteristic headdress knotted on the front.

THE QUIVER TREE FOREST

A few kilometers away we visit the Quiver Tree Forest and the Giants Playground, two natural attractions. The first a forest of Kokerboom trees. The second a desolate place made of huge boulders of stones that seem to have been put there by giants during their games.

We continue to Aroab and arrive at the border post with South Africa in Rietfontein. We reluctantly greet Namibia and we move on to South Africa. The road we follow is under construction, along the road there are some huts where the San (Bushmen) live. South Africa at first glance, yet to be verified in the next few days, it seems a dirtier and worse-kept country than Namibia. Of this however, in the following days we had no confirmation, it was probably just the situation in that remote corner of the country.

Tonight we have to stay in the bush in a little house all to ourselves, let’s grill a lamb and grilled sausages. We had to stay for three nights in the Twee Rivieren Lodge of the Kalagadi Park, but for this night we have not found a room available. We will try tomorrow morning to find a place in the Lodge for the next two nights that we will spend in the park.

The travel continues in SOUTH AFRICA >>>>

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