Text and photography: Pieter Oosthuizen
We were having the biggest and best slices of apple pie in Africa in the shade of a thorn tree at Café van der Lee in the touristy but tranquil little settlement of Solitaire when my travel partner, Gerhard Groenewald, said: “Man, this has been so-o-o good? a huge success.”
He was not referring to the crumbs on my plate, which the chirpy mossies were eyeing. No sir, he was talking about our eventful trip from the Western Cape to Walvis Bay, another 230km to the north-west.
We had arrived here in two of Toyota’s new Land Cruiser 4.0 V6 pickups from Namtib Lodge, a biosphere reserve farm in the Tiras Mountains, like Solitaire near the edge of the great red dunes. Before that we had travelled from the Goodyear Lifestyle Academy near Worcester to Luderitz, then to the ghost mining plant at Saddle Hill and from the coast eastwards through unchartered territory to the region’s main gravel road.
Gerhard was dead right about “the best apple pie that you’ll ever have”. He was wrong about this being merely a “good” trip. But then again, even “fantastic” would have sounded like a gross understatement. It was above all an eye-opener in an area where our reconnaissance uncovered more of the wonderful diversity of the Namib.
It had everything, and at that very moment the two of us, in an absolutely positive sense, were having our cake and eating it, too…
The fun had started at a “Road Closed” sign on the 160km-long gravel road that follows the Orange River from Noordoewer on the Namibian side past Aussenkehr to Rosh Pinah. We had ignored the sign, unsure whether it was just a washed away road or a damaged, uncrossable bridge across the Fish River that had prompted the sign.
We knew that the farther we went past the warning sign, the farther we would have to drive back to the main tar road if there was no way through.
We asked the driver of a grader for more information and were told: Yes, it is the bridge. And no, you cannot get through. He then looked us up and down and said: “I tell everybody to turn around, but hey, maybe these cars can get you through the river”.
When we got to the bridge, or rather what was left of it, we had a giggle when Gerhard said something about the fact that this could easily have been “a bridge too far”. Because on our side the whole ramp had been washed away.
He went in first and found a way across big boulders, then carefully negotiated submerged rocks – some of which he had to move by hand – and past dangerously deep streams. And that was that.
While enjoying the stark beauty of the Richtersveld Mountains across the Great Gariep on our left, I had my first taste of how well the new pickup was handling, thanks to the 16-inch rims shod with Goodyear Wrangler P265/70R16 tyres, originally produced for the Hummer.
At Rosh Pinah we turned north on to the beautiful, relatively new 170km tar road all the way to Aus, and then hit the last 130km on another straight and well built road westward to Luderitz.
We arrived late in the afternoon at one of the jewels of Luderitz. The Nest Hotel nestles on the rocky shore in the bay and this provides you with an opportunity to leave your stoep door open and fall asleep to the sound of the swell lapping only metres away from your room.