damaraland Drive: In search of ellies

So, where are you staying? It was the lady at passport control at the Hosea Kutako International Airport near Windhoek who wanted to know. “We haven’t the foggiest” sounded like the wrong answer, so knowing only that we will be heading towards Namibia’s Damaraland, we tried “Damara Lodge”.

Actually, it turned out to be the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, some 100km west of the town of Khorixas, Damaraland’s capital. Sorry, lady, but at least it was in the right direction.

The invitation from GMSA simply required us journos to report to the airport, where we would collect a couple of Isuzu KB’s and drive to where we would try to spot desert elephants.

Our dice fell on the new(ish) KB300 Extended Cab 4×4 and, duly ensconced, we headed towards Windhoek. But instead of going to the capital, the convoy turned north on the D2102 gravel road to Okahandja. Our off-road adventure was starting early.

As with most Namibian gravel roads the surface was good, with the occasional dip or dry river crossing to catch out the unwary. With the 4×4 high button engaged the vehicles maintained a brisk pace, and the KB again impressed with its comfortable ride and surefootedness on loose surfaces.

In LX trim it’s well equipped too, with leather trim, bucket seats, radio/CD with MP3 player, cruise control, power steering and windows, central locking, air conditioning, tinted glass, and two large storage bins behind the front seats.

After a looong lunch at Omaruru (mainly due to the pathetic service at what looked like a quite funky restaurant) it was back to gravel road again, this time to Uis and beyond. The dips were worse, and one particularly bad one launched all four wheels in the air. To its credit the Isuzu took the landing in its stride.

We arrived at the Twyfelfontein Lodge after dark, missing what must have been a magnificent sunset. But the following morning’s rising sun setting the mountains aglow more than made up for it.

An early breakfast, and then the Isuzus tackled the thick sand of the dry Huab River. Fresh tracks, uprooted trees and fresh dung were all signs of recent elephant activity, but alas, that was all we saw on the 45km river drive, apart from the magnificent, 30m high Ana trees. Again, the thick sand was no match for the KBs’ four-wheel-drive system (okay, we did lower the tyre pressures).

A swamp put paid to further river exploration, and we swung our noses south, following a tortuous and rocky track through the magnificent and aptly named Desolation Valley to Fly Camp, headquarters of the campaign to save the desert rhino.

It’s a pity there wasn’t more time, but the trip definitely whetted the appetite to return to Damaraland’s other attractions, like the Petrified Forest, Brandberg, the rock paintings and Doros Crater, to name a few.

It was also gratifying to hear that GMSA is here to stay, and that the woes of GM in the States won’t have an influence on how business is done here in South Africa.

Roll on, sunny skies…