Day one was quite a stretch, with 670km travelled from Pretoria to the Limpopo River Lodge, which comes highly recommended, by the way, as does the Platjan border post.
I always prefer supporting the community where camping is concerned, but have to say that the community campsite in Nata is not a great place in the wet season. It’s close to the road, so you hear trucks pass all night, and after rains when you can’t get to the pan to see the flamingos, there is nothing there to see or do. It is, however, cheap and the ablutions are acceptable and clean.
The Nxai Pan campsite looked much better than when we were there last in 2005, and there are new ablution facilities that have been made elephant-proof with sharp rocks on the ground.
We left Nxai Pan in the rain and saw more game on the access road out than in the park itself. There was a fresh lion kill, lots of antelope and lots of birdlife!
The road north to Savuti was not passable and we used the route through Moremi instead. We had to backtrack to the South Gate turn-off and were pleasantly surprised to find a smooth gravel road in great condition. By the time we reached South Gate we had seen elephants, giraffe, lots of antelope and birds and a leopard crossing the road.
We crossed the bridge over the river Khwai, passed through Khwai Village and went along the river towards Savuti. This was my first time on this road and I remember thinking that that must be the nicest road in Africa! There was wall-to-wall game with hundreds of birds and you could easily spend a few days just in that area!
When you turn north towards Mababe Gate the mud starts, but it wasn’t that bad. Taking the Sand Ridge Road we reached Savuti at 5pm. We found that they have nine campsites, but if you turn up without a booking, they will let you camp anywhere. The ablutions were fairly new, but quite dirty.
Day 6, Savuti to Ihaha. What a great drive! The road was easy because of the rain; The sand was compacted enough so there was need to deflate the tyres. Ihaha campsite has to be one of the best in Africa.
After a night at Chobe Safari Lodge we left for Livingstone, and our second country. We had no idea how this day was going to go. The ferry crossing was interesting. On the Botswana side we passed about 8km of queuing trucks and went straight to the front of the line. On the Zambia side it was another story.
This border reminded me of the old Beit Bridge chaos and there is no indication of where to go and what to do. On top of that there are millions of people who want to “help” you by trading money or selling advice for US dollars.
My advice is to figure it our by yourself. You need to: Do the immigration bit. Then you need to “import” your car, then carbon tax, then pay for the ferry and the police, and finally make sure you have the correct insurance. My insurance company gave me a letter stating that I had third party insurance for Zambia.
Livingstone town is pretty much what I expected. Everyone sees you as an opportunity to make money.
We stayed one night at Livingstone Safari Lodge and the second at Maramba River Lodge. The campsite is really nice, but the ablutions are a bit far away. Still my choice of campsite as no one can bother you there.
We went to the Falls twice. I have been to the Zim side before and found the Zambia side a lot more impressive. We also took a helicopter flight and it was one of the most impressive sights I have seen, and is highly recommended.
On day 10 we left for Namibia via Katima Mulilo, where we topped up on supplies and saw the famous toilet in a baobab. At the Popa Falls Community Camp we were pleasantly surprised by the quality and cleanliness of the site and facilities.
The next day it was off to Hippo Pools. This day was too long! The plan was to stop at Rundu for fuel and then ask the condition of the C45 dirt road to Oshakati. Some taxi drivers told us that the road was terrible and still had some landmines on it. We obviously decided to take the tar road to Grootfontein, then up past Tsumeb to Oshakati, then Ruacana and stay at Hippo Pools. This meant a distance of 980km for the day.
The next unpleasant surprise was that we got stopped at Mururane Vet Control gate between Rundu and Grootfontein, and all our meat was confiscated. We knew about the restrictions in Botswana, and had made sure not to cross borders with any meat, so this was quite an unpleasant surprise.
We re-stocked in Tsumeb at a Spar. On the up-side, the quality of meat was 10 times better than Katima’s and a bit cheaper too. We arrived at Hippo Pools Community campsite just after 7pm, very tired. As I said… the day was too long!
The campsite itself was incredible! We were the only people there and picked the prime spot on the banks of the river. They have nice facilities with environmental toilets and hot showers and the cost was very reasonable.
We left Hippo Pools around 9am. The drive to Kunene River Lodge is easy and scenic. It’s a narrow gravel road with spectacular views, but at the lodge, it basically stops.
You suddenly find yourself on a twin-spoor track, often using low range to go either up or down steep inclines. The rocky terrain is not that difficult to negotiate, just slow.
The first river crossing was quite challenging, and I had to deflate my tyres to one bar to be able to drive through the very loose sand.
Once there we camped under some big camel thorn trees. The only signs of life were some cows on the Angolan side of the Kunene River.
The Epupa Falls Community Camp was next on the agenda. The going was slow, but not too difficult, although the steep side slopes and a heavily loaded roofrack had us worried on occasion.
Epupa Falls was like an oasis. Again we used the community campsite, which is closest to the actual falls. We swam above the falls and chatted to the friendly locals.
We donated some money to the school in exchange for the right to photograph a Himba family and agreed to have our dishes washed by someone else in the camp. This we felt was the way to support the community without turning them into beggars.
Van Zyl’s Pass itself is mostly slow going, with interesting inclines. After the viewpoint of the Marienfluss, just when you think that the worst is over, the road suddenly stops and you have to find your way over the rocks.
From Rooidrom to Orupembe the road was also very rough going. You cross over numerous rocky hills and through many dry riverbeds. Very scenic and enjoyable, though.
The Orupembe-to-D3707 road on the way to Purros has to be the worst in Africa! The corrugations are unbearable and there is nothing to see! But the drive down the Purros Canyon! What an experience! We drove through lots and lots of water, saw lots of game, and even an elephant.
Past the end of the canyon you cross over some very large open spaces to get to the Hoanib River at Amspoort. Some parts are horribly corrugated and in some parts you can drive quite fast.
We left Amspoort fairly early in the rain. We reached Sesfontein at 11h30 and decided to go to Ongongo Hot Spring for lunch. It’s about 10km off the road, but very worthwhile. Then it was on to the Aba Huab campsite near Twyfelfontein. The following day, after looking at the rock engravings of Twyfelfontein, we went to the Burnt Mountain, which reminds one of a heap of coal at Witbank.
This was the end of the off-roading bit. We stopped at Spitzkoppe, and then left on the long drive home via Windhoek, Buitepos and Kang in Botswana.
My Hilux used some 1240 litres of fuel over the 6506km. The only damage to our vehicle was the loss of one spotlight on the horrible corrugations. The total cost of the trip for two was R15 550, which includes everything from the day we left Pretoria until the day we got home again. Fuel was more than half of that cost.