When I last wrote we were stranded in Oppi-Koppi campsite in Kamanjab, Northern Namibia, waiting for some hydraulic hoses to be made up and then fitted by a local garage so we could once again lift the cab to access the engine on our truck. As agreed first thing Monday morning we drove to Falkenberg Garage to have the posh new hoses fitted and we hoped to be on our way within a couple of hours…..what could possibly go wrong? Its just a simple job isn’t it? Oh I forgot this is Africa!!!
First up the two “mechanics” got straight down to work and very quickly (well quickly for Namibia anyway) fitted the four new hoses. With the German owner away on a breakdown recovery (this is their main source of work due to the shocking roads up here), the blokes were under strict instructions not to start to try and tilt the cab until the owners wife was present and watching proceedings. But despite her instructions they started pumping the lever and pushing far too hard on the “locked out” system. Guess what? Yup they damaged yet another fitting/hose. The owners wife went even more mental than I did and after another couple of hours of trying to bodge the newly damaged hose up, I stepped in and told them that they will have to get another hose made up, and that I’d return on Wednesday, but I insisted that the garage owner was there and working on the truck instead of his fitters.
So Wednesday arrives and sure enough the owner is there and the new hose is ready to be fitted, I’m feeling far more confident this time…….Pipes all fitted, so slowly and carefully the cab is pumped up, it goes up about 10mm and then locks……An hour later after lots of scratching of heads and a few phone calls to the hydraulic specialist in Outjo, I raised the question “do you think your guys could have installed the four hoses on Monday incorrectly?”, obviously judging by the look on the garage owners face, I was talking utter crap. I even asked if he wanted the “exploded parts list” drawings that were relevant to the hydraulic system, “no, there is no need” was the reply.
After another couple of hours and with me starting to seriously lose my rag with everyone (this should be a simple job, it is a self bleeding system), and the worry of the actual rams being damaged, I was told that I would have to drive to Outjo to the specialist who made the hoses.
After speaking to the very friendly Russell, the owner of ‘The Hose Centre’, we arranged to drive to him in the morning and he seemed confident that he could sort the problem out. After driving 160km from Kamanjab to Outjo, we pulled into a scruffy yard behind a Charcoal factory, and met Russell and his wife. Unlike the German in Kamanjab, Russell welcomed the fact that I had a diagram of the hoses and fittings, and after a couple of minutes of laying under the truck, he pronounced that he had miraculously fixed it……mmmmmm I thought…….. But sure enough the cab was going up and down perfectly, guess what? Yup the idiots had connected the new hoses around the wrong way, and the rams were pushing and pulling at the same time!!!!! thankfully they hadn’t damaged anything else while trying to get the cab to lift. So another 160km back to Oppi-Koppi for another free nights camping and all was well in Daf land once more.
While we were at Oppi-Koppi we had a fantastic walk out into the bush behind the campsite, it is a set out trail, but it was quite obvious that not too many people walk it (as with most campsites in Namibia, the vast majority of visitors only stay one night before moving on).
We really enjoyed our extended time at Oppi-Koppi, and after having our photo taken with Colonel K (all longterm campers have their photo taken and put in the yearly “overlanders book” in reception) we set off for Palmwag.
The gravel road here takes you up over the Grootberg Pass, a very long and in places a steep climb or descent, but always a beautiful route.
By the way, the sky may look stormy in the above photo’s but it is because Jac took them through our heavily tinted windscreen.
And yes that is well over 5,000 feet above sea level.
We last stopped at Palmwag with our Dentist friends from England about 18 months ago, and then it was pouring with rain, the river was in flood and the water was washing through the reception. Now the river is dry, its very hot during the day, though cooler at night, but camped right at the end of the campsite on the very edge of the riverbed, under the palm trees, it felt very good.
We decided whilst here, we would engage in a Rhino Tracking trip, out into the mountains to hopefully see the rare Black Rhino in this amazing desert landscape, this did take a bit of thinking about as at £210.00 for the two of us, this was going to be an expensive trip. We have also seen desert Black Rhino before, and of course many Black and White Rhino on this trip, but this promised to be a little bit special.
So after meeting the “tracking team” consisting of the driver (we were in an open LandCruiser), co-pilot (the drivers wife), and two actual trackers, we set off at 06.15am. My god it was seriously cold with a major” chill factor” as demonstrated by Jac trying desperately to keep warm.
In the end we didn’t actually see any Black Rhino, though the two local trackers did follow a female and her calf, but by the time we caught up with them the Rhino had disappeared over the next hill. We did however have a very enjoyable morning in an area that you couldn’t visit on your own.
Part of the money that we paid does go towards Rhino Conservation and although this area is very hard to access, it still has a huge problem with poaching. In fact almost all the Rhino in this area (approx 100 animals in an area the size of Wales) have been tranquillised and had their horns cut off so there isn’t the temptation to poach them. Though incredibly the manager of the lodge told us that they recently found the dead carcass of a Black Rhino, that had previously had its horn removed by the rangers. It is thought that the poachers were so angry after tracking the rhino for so long and then finding that it had been de- horned, that they shot it anyway!!! We were also told that a local gang of poachers could expect to only get $200US to $300US per horn, obviously a huge sum of money to these guys, but someone somewhere is making a lot of money from these horns before they get sold in China etc.
Anyway, the Manager decided that as we weren’t “successful” in seeing the Rhino (though we fully understood theres a good chance that we wouldn’t) we could go on an afternoon game drive free of charge. This was a very generous offer that obviously we jumped at.
This game drive was very different to our morning tracking experience, and despite seeing quite a lot of animals, we were very glad that we hadn’t paid for it. We have had some amazing safari drives (mostly self driving) and this was really appealing to those that had maybe just arrived in Africa for the first time. The driver was also driving around the Reserve far to fast to be able to see much or experience the place really.
Leaving Palmwag you almost immediately hit the Veterinary Fence, this stretches right across Namibia, from the Skeleton Coast in the west to the Botswana border in the east. This is to check and stop the spread of various animal disease’s (mostly Foot and Mouth disease), and means that you cannot take uncooked Cloven Hoofed animal meat southwards through this physical barrier. It obviously feeds the local officials and their families quite well too.
So while at Palmwag we made sure we cooked all our beef mince (enough for three nights dinners), and this just left chicken in our fridge that was uncooked. Guess what, apparently chicken now have hoof’s!!!! Yup our chicken and uncooked eggs were to be taken away from us ,or we could cook it there at the police road block, so Jac took them and gave them to the Himba women that were selling jewellery next to the vet fence. When pressed, we were told that there is a disease called “Newcastle Disease” or something like that, so chicken products are now not allowed.
We had stopped at at least 2 other Vet fences in the previous two months and they hadn’t even bothered to spray our tyres, so you make up your own mind…….
We had been warned that the tracks around the Twyfelfontein area were also in a very bad state now (although last time we were here they were fine), and that to drive these gravel roads takes much longer.
To be fair though some sections were bad with corrugations and some deepish sand, but there was actually a grader driving up and down this area, and the worst bits were being done.
That night we stopped at a really nice community camp site, tucked between some high rocky outcrops and the dried up river bed of the Aba Huab, it really is a beautiful place, so quiet.The toilets and showers were a little to be desired. All were open air (really not a problem for us), but shower heads, and doors to the toilets were definitely optional in this case.
This place is HOT, VERY HOT, and we met a couple of German motorcyclists ,they had flown their KTM 990 Adventure’s into Windhoek airpor), and it was perhaps the first time I wasn’t envious of someone in Africa on a bike. They were covered in sweat under all their protective gear (all fully vented of course), and worst of all they were exhausted from all the constant corrugations in the gravel roads, and were keen to find out if it improved further north. We had bad news for them!
Check this out…… you don’t see a road sign for 100km and then theres four in 30 metres lol.
After an overnight stop at Brandberg Mountain, again camped next to a dried up riverbed, this time the Ugab, we stopped at the small town of Uis where there is a small local supermarket where we stocked up with essentials.
Next up we headed for an old favourite of ours, the campsite at Spitzkoppe. This place is as near to “bush camping” without actually “bush camping”, if you see what I mean. The so called camping sites are so far apart that you can’t see or hear anyone else, and the whole place is on the sand base between huge granite hills and rock formations, it really is a special place. We were lucky enough to get one of the most secluded spots at the very far end of the area.
This is Jac after an early morning scramble up over the granite boulders above our campsite, it gives you an idea of how big these rocks are.
Spitzkoppe is also a great place for walking as well as climbing (although one usually involves the other here), but it really needs to be early in the morning as the heat after say 9.30am is intense, and a hat and water are essentials.
The only showers at Spitzkoppe are at the reception (about 5km from where we were camped), and for this reason most people that stop here only stay for one night. Most sites have a long drop toilet, although during the heat of the day these aren’t a great place to be, and of course there is no provision for water away from the reception, and obviously no electric to run your little onboard fridge. This makes roof tent camping quite difficult for more than one night. We have no such issues in Colonel K, with solar panels, onboard shower and toilet and a 300 litre capacity of fresh water, so ended up staying in this special place for a few days, and it was wonderful.
In the photo below you can just make out the vehicle of our nearest neighbour, and that was after climbing over the boulders to be able to see them.
But at Spitzkoppe the really memorable thing is the sunset, as it descends down below the distant hills, and over the savannah type terrain, especially after a small climb up on the granite boulders. But what do you do while waiting for the sun to set? Well you dick around of course………..
While we were at Brandberg, I was walking round the back of the truck and sort of punched the spare wheel (punched in a friendly way obviously), and noticed that it moved slightly, so I punched it a bit harder, and sure enough something was wrong. Before we left the UK my nephew Glen very kindly did a few bits of welding for me, and one of those jobs was to fit the spare wheel carrier on the rear hoist (this was previously slung horizontally under the chassis, thereby cutting down ground clearance, and making it almost impossible for me and Jac to change a wheel in anything other that ideal conditions). I was concerned about the strength of the welding that Glen was doing knowing that the road conditions were going to be very bad in places in Africa, “no worries mate, that will definitely not break” Glen informed me. Well he was spot on, the wheel carrier was as solid as a rock, but the 32mm galvanised steel box section that it was welded to, had sheared through both above and below the wheel. This wheel and tyre combo weighs a total of 135kg, and the consequences of that coming adrift while driving along really don’t bear thinking about!!!
During one evening at Spitzkoppe we had just returned to the truck after watching a stunning sunset, and lit the campfire for our evening dinner, it was virtually dark and we were surprised to see a young couple in a small car driving slowly past us and looking at Colonel K, they drove once round the granite outcrop, and came past us again, and incredibly stopped about 30 metres from us and put up their ground tent!!! In all this massive place, that was in fact quite empty, this bloody couple had to pitch their tent right next to us. Hey, but that wasn’t an issue really, perhaps they just weren’t confident camping on their own…… But what was a problem was the noise they were making, they were in a tiny two person tent and were shouting at each other, and then they decided to use the long drop toilet, still shouting, after we were in bed, and by this time I think they had been on the “pop” for a bit. They really did spoil the “peace & tranquility” I was not amused…..
So after few days at Spitzkoppe we headed to the coastal town of Swakopmund to get the rear rack repaired, but on the way guess what? a spotlight bracket snapped off on the corrugated roads and almost went through the windscreen…… more welding!
We were lucky to find a first class guy that builds overland campers (he was recommended by the Norwegians that we met at Oppi-Koppi), Stefan did a fantastic job repairing and strengthening the rear rack and also strengthening all the stainless steel spotlight brackets on the front of the truck, a top guy.
We have also had a full service done on the truck at a garage that we have used a few times in Swakopmund.
We have decided to stay in Swakopmund for a while, and make full use of the coffee shops, restaurants and bars, and Jac has even had her hair done. Can any man explain why my hair takes 5 minutes and a woman had to be seated for 3 hours? one of life’s mysteries I guess. Of course after the massive heat of the North of Namibia and the desert of Damaraland, the cool coastal temperatures are very welcome, and walking can be enjoyed at any time of the day (though the sun is still very fierce).
Anyway thanks for reading