The day had finally arrived that we were due to pick up our Leyland Daf overland truck, from the Port at Walvis Bay, Namibia. At 9.00am we sent an email to Zaskia at Coastal Imports, asking what time she wanted us at their office in Walvis Bay, as we were staying in a B&B in Swakopmund. As usual we got a prompt reply saying she would contact us in about an hour as her representative, Pandu, was currently at the port dealing with the Customs concerning the clearing of our truck and Ze Germans Toyota Hilux. So all was going swimmingly. Just over an hour later we got a phone call from Pandu who was quite animated and asked us to get to their office asap, but definitely within an hour as there was a problem with Colonel K’s chassis number. So after two taxi rides (Swakopmund taxis aren’t all allowed to drive out of town), we got to Walvis Bay and were promptly driven to the Customs area of the port.
On the way, Pandu explained that Customs refused entry for the truck, as the plate on the vehicle showing the chassis number, didn’t exactly match the chassis number on the registration document (an issue that first came to light a while back in Ghana), and so didn’t match the Carnet de Passage. So after about 40 minutes sitting with a high ranking customs officer, it was decided that as we would be shipping or driving back out of Namibia, they would release the truck as long as we obtained a declaration signed by a Police Official and also signed by us (explaining that we and the Police know about the problem). So back into Pandu’s car, and off to the Police Station in the Port area. Eventually after the Police Officer had been to visit the truck, and we had helped the other Officer with the spelling of the declaration, we left with our precious piece of paper. By this time though it was lunch time and no one wanted to know, so it was back to the town centre, and along with Andreas, and Mareike (Ze Germans) we went off and had lunch in a lovely cafe round the corner. We were all extremely apprehensive about what the afternoon would bring, but hopefully all would be good.
Just after 3.00pm, Pandu arrived back from the port and gave us the good news that all was good and we were clear to go and collect our vehicles. So after paying our Invoices for the very efficient Coastal Imports, we again jumped into Pandu’s little Toyota Yaris, and headed for the Port, this time having to stop and get a permit to enter properly. Then after quite a long drive through the Port we arrived at the compound where Colonel K was stored, it was fantastic to see the truck once more. On closer inspection it was immediately apparent that there was a problem, the tarpaulin that was covering the mountain bikes on the rear rack had obviously been taken off and retied down .
Then we realised that Jac’s prized Specialized Stumpjumper had beed stripped of its forks, and a few other parts (parts that didn’t have one of the many locks holding it down). Then when we got into the cab, we could see that someone had tried (and thankfully failed) to gain access into our living accommodation via the cut-through. There were also a few minor items (i.e. anything that wasn’t fixed down) taken from the cab. You could see that someone had tried to unlock the door into the living cabin with a much larger key (probably the ignition key as that was the only key left on the truck during shipping). These are the risks that you run shipping with a Ro-Ro vessel. It could have been a lot worse!
But we were so happy to have Colonel K back, so no more hotels, and B&B’s, we finally had our own place again, full of our own stuff. So we just had to drive back to Swakopmund, on the tarmac highway to collect our suitcases that we left at Pebble Stone House, and then head for Tiger Reef Campsite on the edge of town.
About 15km after pick up the Daf, we got pulled over by a Police speed trap, this confused me as the speed limit was 80kmph, and that is our maximum speed, but the police officer politely asked me to switch off the engine and exit the vehicle. The issue here was not speed but the fact that we did not have our headlights on (in broad daylight, on a dead straight road, and with many other vehicles not having their lights on). Eventually I paid the $700NAD fine (about £35.00), in cash at the road side, and got a lesson that on the tarmac (there’s not much of it in Namibia) alway have your headlights on!
Back at the campsite, we all celebrated being reunited with our campers with a beer or two.
And to assess the damage done to Jac’s bike.
The suspension forks had gone, the spokes in the front wheel had been snapped (trying to get it out), the seat was gone, as was the seat collar, and the rear wheel was slightly twisted. The next day we managed to find a cycle shop just outside town and after speaking to the owner, who was very helpful, we realised that to rebuild the bike was going to cost somewhere between £400 and £550, and this was using a second hand fork. So after thinking about it over night we decided to look at buying a new cheaper model bike, and in another shop we found a Scott hardtail, that was a 2015 model that they wanted to clear to make way for the new stock coming in. So after doing a deal we agreed the sum of $8,000NAD (£380.00), this same bike in the UK is currently being sold at the reduced price of £799.00! This is crazy when these products are identical and are imported into both countries.
Two days later, Phil and Angie pulled up next to us on the campsite, as we had arranged, in their Iveco 4×4 Camper, and a plan was hatched that we would all drive up the Swakop River bed, and wild camp overnight in the Namib Desert, This was something that Andreas had done on a previous trip to Namibia, so we felt quietly confident that it wasn’t going to be too tough. Wrong!
After a couple of aborted attempts to enter the dried up river bed in different places, we reduced our tyre pressures, and we went for it. Now within a couple of hundred metres we discovered a few things. 1) Riverbed sand is very fine, and in places very deep, 2) Overland trucks weighing 9.5 tonne do not mix well with riverbed sand, and 3) you should always carry sand ladders now matter how much your truck weighs.
After attempting to move forward (following the route of Andreas’s light and nimble Hilux), and us having a discussion as to what we were going to do, I decided that we need to get the truck out of the riverbed, and that the others should continue. So using four sand ladders/plates, we gradually edged Colonel K back to the harder track that we had come off of to get to the river bed. This took about an hour to cover a couple of hundred metres, in the midday heat, involving lots of digging and shifting of sand. We were very grateful once we got the Michelins on firmer ground. The others decided that we should all stick together and that we would find somewhere else to camp for the night, so while I re-inflated the truck tyres (using the onboard airline) they went to turn around and drive out. As soon as Phil attempted to turn the Iveco around it was obvious that he was also firmly stuck deep in the soft sand! Only the lighter Toyota was able to drive on the sand without sinking, and so with the help of a local guy and his kids (I think they thought we were mad going in the river bed here in these vehicles), sand ladders, and a pull from the Hilux, Andreas pulled Phil and Angie to firmer ground.
After stopping for coffee and cake at a farm/ lodge, we decided to drive into the Dorob National Park, and find a quiet spot to wild camp for the night, it wasn’t the riverbed, but it was a stunning spot miles from anywhere.
The intense heat of the day soon disappeared, and after lighting a campfire (and cooking our sausage and potato’s on it), we all wrapped up ready for the chilly desert night to come. It really did turn cold, with quite a stiff breeze funnelling between the rock faces. Even once in bed, and under our lightweight quilt, it still took ages to warm up.
The next morning I decided to get up early before sunrise, to get a few photo’s, and hopefully warm up in the early morning sun, so I went climbing up some rock formations, and up into the mist. It was beautiful in a different way, but still very cold.
When I got back to the Truck Jac had made a hot tea that was very welcome, and Phil was returning from his early morning walk, he was carrying a bag that he found out the desert , which he took into their Iveco camper and proudly presented it to Angie. A few minutes later Angie decided, quite sensibly, to bring the bag (full of freebies for travel agents), over to last nights camp fire and check its contents outside the vehicle. A quick glance into the bag, revealed all sorts of goodies, a baseball cap, a small rucksack, a variety of booklets and leaflets, a washbag, and a very angry Scorpion! Yup, Phil had taken a Scorpion into their camper. They were both very lucky not to have got a very nasty sting from the little sandy coloured fella.
After a long breakfast we said our goodbyes, (after spending over six fantastic weeks with Andreas and Mareike in both Ghana and Namibia), and Jac and I set off on a “very much take your time” journey up towards Etosha National Park (hopefully before it starts to get busy), with Ze Germans heading for the Skeleton Coast, and Phil and Angie taking a quicker route up to Etosha. So after a quick look on the map we decided to head for the Spitzkoppe range of mountains.
We arrived at the Park’s entrance gate and enquired about camping, and we were told that there were a number of widely spaced camping spots, all available, and to just drive around until you find one you like. We were also given a basic map showing the tracks around the park, and also indicated the camping spots in relation to the mountains peaks. The cost was £6.00 per person per night. The guy at the entrance gate indicated which were his favourite places to camp so we headed there, it was about 3-4km from the entrance to the place that we eventually settled on. And what a place! Complete silence, apart from a few birds singing (that were very friendly), and stunningly beautiful.
A quick climb up the rocks behind the truck, revealed that we weren’t on our own here, there was a colony of Rock Hyrax living in the granite boulders, its amazingly this extremely harsh landscape manages to support life.
After a bit of exploring on foot, we made up our camp fire and set about cooking dinner, this night we had chicken and vegetables stir fry, with baked banana in caramel sauce (done in foil) for desert.
Then it was off for a walk again, this time to see the sunsetting over the desert floor to the West. The first thing that you notice as the sun goes down is the change in the colour of the Granite rock.
And then the sunset!
We stayed at Spitzkoppe for 4 nights and every evening we had the most fantastic sunset.
You may have heard people talking about the African night sky, and indeed I’m sure that I’ve mentioned it while travelling through North and West Africa on this blog before, but I can honestly say that the crispness and clearness of the night sky at Spitzkoppe, is like nothing that we have experienced before, it was stunning (sadly my little camera is unable to show this in all its glory, so you will have to take my word for it).
As is usual when we travel in Africa (even if we aren’t moving that day), we tend to get up early and make the most of the day, and sunrise at Spitzkoppe can be just as rewarding as the evening. One morning the entire desert below us was blanketed in fog, with just the distant peaks protruding. The next day it was crystal clear.
At Spitzkoppe we have done quite a bit of walking and climbing up the granite boulders, and during these times we have come across quite a bit of wildlife, including, large and small lizards, ground squirrels, small antelope (Dik-Dik), many birds, and even a snake (there are lots in Namibia). It always amazes us how so many creatures can survive in such a harsh landscape, and even the odd scrub takes root in the tiniest crack in the granite. It seems that the only moisture here is the frequent mist and fog early in the morning. There were even a few horses grazing on the sparse dry grass.
Namibia is a fairly easy country to travel around and explore (especially when compared to Western African Countries), and the raw beauty, and harshness of its landscape mean that you have to respect the place or it will bite you. We saw Andreas and Mareike again while at Spitzkoppe, and the day after leaving them last time, Mareike spent half a day in bed suffering from sunstroke. The result of being outside without a hat. Drinking lots of fluid and covering your head here is so important. But saying that we love Namibia.
We have been away for just over 200 days and look forward to the rest of Namibia and beyond.
Thanks for reading.