Some years ago PG Jonker and his family, after packing a Toyota Venture 2.4 GLE 4×2, embarked on an extensive trip to Namibia for their most memorable winter school holiday. Ever. Two other families joined them. This is their storySome years ago PG Jonker and his family, after packing a Toyota Venture 2.4 GLE 4×2, embarked on an extensive trip to Namibia for their most memorable winter school holiday. Ever. Two other families joined them. This is their story.
It could be considered a strategic error to embark on a tour of Namibia the day aft er 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. Aft er a considerable ti me of waiti ng for something to happen, and nothing actually happening, we fi gured out that you were supposed to walk to the offi ce, 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 had his bakkie serviced before our trip.
If he’d known that he would have so much ti me 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. Aft er stopping the vehicles, we all hurried to the immigrati on offi ces, only to be “shooed” back by a Namibian offi cial. Huh? No, said the man, here you wait at your car unti l 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 logisti cal nightmare – it took us two hours to clear the border post. But fi nally we were able to hit the road. And we were actually in Namibia.
We arrived at Ai-Ais aft er dark. The campsite was chock-a-block. It was like déjà 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 faciliti es sti ll being repaired following fl ooding, 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. Hardap Dam At Hardap we were again unfortunate enough to arrive aft er 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 faciliti es there were in ti p-top shape. But the heat… Ai-ai! We hardly slept, it was so hot! To add insult to injury, our air matt ress had picked up several venti lati on holes, courtesy of the dusty and thorny camping spot at Hardap. We eventually gave up trying to infl ate it – and fi nally, aft er getti ng used to our uncomfortable abode, and aft er 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.
Waterberg The camping and abluti on faciliti es at the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge outside Okakarara were excepti onally good, with warm water and electricity. An incident which made this stop a parti cularly memorable one concerned the Herero lady who helped us at the recepti on desk. She quickly switched to Afrikaans aft er cringing in response to my English-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 authoriti es, but also for Namibia. Etosha Within fi ve minutes of our entering Etosha – our next port of call – we stopped at a water hole where we saw a great many species of animals: gemsbok, springbok, vlakvark, giraff e, zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, blacknose impalas and jackal. A herd of elephants lingered on the side. Later they took over the water hole, chasing all the other animals out. Then a large bull came strolling along and chased all the other elephants away. Now he had the water hole to himself. Aft er reporti ng at Okaukujo Camp, we drove out to Halali rest camp and set up house. Lonely Planet’s book describes the campsite as a dust heap. And quite right they were – that was a while ago, and it may look diff erent now. That night at the water hole we watched in awe as three rhinos came in for a drink. Every so oft en one would hear a soft , appreciati ve “aaahh” from someone. The rhinos created a serene and almost spiritual atmosphere, unti l the silence was ripped apart by a fi veyear- old boy who, like Shrek, appeared to have been born under the star sign of the “Flatulent”. It was not loud enough to disturb the rhinos, but prett y much everyone else heard it. Nobody said a thing, but aft er the initi al shock, it appeared as though everyone was sitti ng in a bus driving on a corrugated road. Bodies shook and trembled with suppressed mirth as everyone tried not to laugh out loud unti l, eventually, everyone just let rip and cried with laughter. Except for the litt le boy and his mother, of course. Sacred moments, I’m telling you. Lion hunt On a game drive with the family, I inadvertently drove right into a lion hunt. We spott ed a large male lion just left of the road behind us. I reversed the Venture to get a bett er view. The next thing, the lion got up and started to run straight towards the Venture. I watched in shock, for the moment not sure what was happening. But as the lion ran past us, we noti ced a small herd of black-nose impalas (well, that’s what they looked like, judging from the manual). We could just make out a number of female lions on the far side of the antelope. The male lion had aimed for the nearest impala, but we thwarted his eff orts. It was clear that the antelope also realised that the lion was not going to make it, because they just trott ed away with no visible indicati on of alarm. Aft er everything had quietened down, I remembered that my camera was sti ll in the bag. Man! I grabbed the camera and took a picture of the lion. Or rather, of the lion’s rear-end, because by then it was all I could see. Man! Frikkie and his coil I had been talked into driving up to Epupa Falls by a colleague. Friend Colin decided to join us, but friend Frikkie and his family wanted to stay in Etosha a few days longer. We would meet up with them again at Long Beach, near Swakopmund. Our ways parted when the two families heading for Epupa swung west from Halali, while Frikkie and his family headed east for a game drive. Then, 4km later, Frikkie’s Toyota Hilux came to a seemingly permanent stop. Now, this was the kind of thing that would truly spoil my holiday. Frikkie, on the other hand, thrives on challenges of this nature. A friendly holidaymaker towed Frikkie back to Halali, where a mechanic joined him in his search for the gremlin. They jointly decided the off ending part was the coil. Just to make sure, they needed a similar coil to test on Frikkie’s bakkie. No problem, just fi nd another Toyota Hilux. Frikkie found a similar bakkie in the camp and traced the owner – one of the waiters in the restaurant. Taking the coil on a loan and testi ng it on the bakkie, Frikkie confi rmed the coil to be the problem. Frikkie off ered to buy the waiter’s item, but for obvious reasons this gentleman was disinclined to this transacti on. Eventually, they agreed that Frikkie would rent his coil for R100 to enable him to drive to the nearest town in search of a replacement.
As one of his kids was ill, Frikkie left alone for Tsumeb. At Tsumeb he found a scrapyard, and aft er some negoti ati ng he bought a coil off one of the stock cars and headed back to Halali. Problem solved! Epupa Aft er meeti ng up in the town of Kamanjab, friend Colin and I put foot for the guest farm, Rusti g (Restf ul), where we would camp. However, a few kilometres short of Rusti g I got my second fl at tyre of the day, in the same tyre. The tyre had been repaired at Halali, in a workshop. Now I needed to use my own jack to change tyres, only to fi nd that my jack was not working properly. By the ti me I was done I had a bent jack. My spare tyre, I noti ced, had been plugged before, and was not the same size as the rest of the tyres. Ai-ai-ai! It turned out that Jörgen Gotshe, the owner of Rusti g, had a Toyota Stallion that ran on the same size wheels and tyres as my Venture.
He suggested that I leave my fl at tyre with him for repair, and take two of his wheels on board. We were back in business! I repacked my Venture to fi t in the extra spare wheel. That night I couldn’t sleep. I was stressed out about tyres and jacks that were not working properly. Jörgen told me that he made regular trips to Epupa in his Kombi and that it was not unusual to get two fl at tyres on that road. We left Rusti g early the next morning in icy cold and windy conditi ons. The gravel road heading north to Ruacana was very good. It ran right next to the extreme western border of the Etosha Park.
We were now travelling from Damaraland into Kaokoland. We took the turn-off to Opuwa, heading for Epupa. From there it was a further 112km to Okongwati . The road was sti ll enjoyable, but a considerable number of drift s required you to slow down to fi rst and second gear to traverse safely. The secti on between Okongwati and Epupa is only 75km, but it took us more than three hours to complete. That secti on started with a sandy riverbed. I had my doubts whether to proceed or not, fearing that I might get bogged down, especially since I was driving a 4×2, and not a 4×4. However, Colin was already halfway through, so I followed suit. Some parts of the road showed no similariti es to what is known as a road in the classical sense of the word. You either choose the rocky part left or the rocky part right. We bounced onward. Good humour had – by this ti me – offi cially left the Venture. Unti l that stretch of “road” my wife had done a brilliant job of keeping the kids content. This no longer applied. The Lonely Planet book said the Epupa Falls “defi es descripti on”.
However, at that stage of the journey I was exceedingly close to reaching a point where I felt “sweet blue bôggerol” for the falls! And then, at last, when we looked down again, the main falls, with its series of smaller falls, suddenly appeared below us. And indeed, it defi ed descripti on. The falls stretch over 1,5km of cascades, with the fi rst thereof being a 37m drop. Breathtaking! We found a campsite right at the edge of the water, some 60m upstream of the main falls. The noise was what I would compare to white noise. Rather noisy white noise. The kids swam in some of the naturally sculpted Jacuzzis where the water is shallow and clear – probably so that one would be able to see a crocodile lurking in the lukewarm water before entering the pool for that much deserved cool-down.
The return trip was much more relaxed since we knew what to expect. We fi lled up again at Opuwa. At Rusti g I handed back Jörgen’s two spare wheels and took my (now repaired) wheel on board again. We headed for Khorixas. Aft er 11 hours on the road, having travelled 580km on the day, we reached Khorixas. West Coast The next day, approaching Henti es Bay and the Atlanti c Ocean, we realised that we – the Jonker family – indeed are sea people. Not anglers, fi shermen or swimmers. We just like the smell, the sight and the ambience of the sea. The sight of the Atlanti c extending into the west was just sublime. Aft er having split up with friend Colin at Khorixas, we drove on our own, but met up again at Lang Strand Caravan Park between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. The best thing about a holiday in these parts is the dunes. With hardboard obtained from a local store and a few candles, we made off to these hills of sand. We fi rst had to scrub the smooth side of the board with candlewax and rub the wax into the board to make it slippery. Then we tackled the dunes… and had hours of fun. We occasionally even allowed the children to have a go! The long drive home Aft er a quick stop at Solitaire (a place of the renowned apple strudel) we headed for Sesriem. At the turn-off to Sesriem we met a foreign tourist on a bicycle, with which he was touring southern Africa – all by himself. Our Venture 2.4 seemed extremely awesome aft er that encounter! When we fi lled up at Sesriem, we were told that there was water in Sossusvlei. This, I was told, happens about once a decade and is a must see. The eff ect of the dune surfi ng on my back (and my wife’s back) compelled us to give this a miss. So we headed for Maltehoë, while friend Colin and friend Frikkie and their families went on to Sossusvlei. On seeing their pictures aft erwards, of course, we regrett ed not hanging on for a while longer to see it for ourselves. Oh well.
We stayed over at Die Pappot (The Porridge Pot) at Maltehoë, where Mannetjies and his wife went out of their way to make things comfortable for us. By late evening Frikkie joined us, but Colin headed for Duwiseb and would be travelling home on his own. We departed early next morning. About 90km from the SA border we stopped to assist a family whose left -hand-drive Ford Explorer refused to start aft er losing a tyre. The Explorer had a safety mechanism that deacti vates the fuel pump if it detects a bang of some sort. A noti ce in the engine bay said the fuel pump just needed to be reset, for which purpose the manual should be consulted (something that Siegfried did not have). Now Frikkie, having had some practi ce on this trip, does not take kindly to encountering a mechanical problem that he cannot resolve. He towed the Explorer to Vioolsdrif. There we had cellphone recepti on for the fi rst ti me in many days. A call to a local dealer quickly led to Siegfried fi nding the reset butt on under the carpet of the passenger seat. The Explorer was up and running again. We left Vioolsdrif aft er 5pm. We bade Frikkie and family goodbye at Vanrhynsdorp. At midnight we bade Siegfried and his family farewell at the turn-off to Durbanville. Just before 1am we were home. By 1am the enti re Jonker family were snoring away in our own beds. Ah. Home sweet home.