Text and photography: PG Jonker
It could be considered a strategic error to embark on a tour of Namibia the day after the Western Cape schools close for the winter holidays. This was our folly.
Our convoy of three vehicles arrived at the Vioolsdrift border only to join a queue of cars longer than a kilometre. After a considerable time of waiting for something to happen, and nothing actually happening, we figured out that you were supposed to walk to the office, along with your paperwork, and join another queue of pedestrians there.
In spite of it being midwinter, the sun started burning our exposed skins while we queued for more than an hour. Friend Frikkie lamented that he’d his bakkie serviced before our trip. If he’d known that he would have so much time on his hands, he would have come prepared and serviced his car while he waited! He does things like that. Really.
Finally, at the Noordoewer border post on the Namibian side, we were, of course, a lot wiser. After stopping the vehicles, we all hurried to the immigration offices, only to be “shooed” back by a Namibian official.
Huh? No, said the man, here you wait at your car until it is your turn. Right!
This border post doesn’t have a computer system to speed things up. Everything is done by hand. And it is a logistical nightmare – it took us two hours to clear the border post. But finally we were able to hit the road.
And we were actually in Namibia.
We arrived at Ai-Ais after dark. The campsite was chock-a-block. It was like déj? vu: all those who were fortunate enough to be at the border post before us also got to Ai-Ais before us and took all the good camping spots.
The next day it became clear that most people use Ai-Ais only as a stopover, since the park was considerably less populated by noon the next day. So, having the site mainly to ourselves, we decided to stay for two nights. In spite of the facilities still being repaired following flooding, we enjoyed our stay.
We left Ai-Ais and followed the route that would give us the best view of the Fish River Canyon to take those “been there? dunnit” pictures before we headed for Hardap.
At Keetmanshoop we stopped at a shop to replenish some stock and have a picnic. Two locals suddenly walked right into our circle and started checking out what we were having for lunch. Two car guards arrived virtually simultaneously and chased them away. Strange place, this Keetmanshoop.
At Hardap we were again unfortunate enough to arrive after all the campsites with lawn had been taken. We ended up in a dusty patch of the camp where we applied our West Coast-style roll-up lawn in the form of an anchovy net, and set up camp.
Back on the road the next day, we ended up at Daan Viljoen Resort, close to Windhoek. The facilities there were in tip-top shape. But the heat? Ai-ai!
We hardly slept, it was so hot!
To add insult to injury, our air mattress had picked up several ventilation holes, courtesy of the dusty and thorny camping spot at Hardap. We eventually gave up trying to inflate it, — and finally, after getting used to our uncomfortable abode, and after Klaas Vakie had won out over the searing heat, we fell asleep.
Waking up at dawn, we found ice on the tents. Everything left outside was frozen solid. It took us a while to thaw out before we could hit the road again. Next stop? a berg with a lot of water. Apparently.
The camping and ablution facilities at the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge outside Okakarara were exceptionally good, with warm water and electricity.
An incident which made this stop a particularly memorable one concerned the Herero lady who helped us at the reception desk. She quickly switched to Afrikaans after cringing in response to my Inglish-speaking endeavours. Amazingly, she was just as comfortable in English and German.
At a later stage during our stay our paths crossed again, and she volunteered to take us on a guided tour of the old buildings. She is a true ambassador – not only for the Parks authorities, but also for Namibia.