Our Namibia Dusty-Nation Guide continues with this Namibia Itinerary and Travel Blog.
72 Hours Driving,
and Only 1 Big Complaint
There’s only one thing that could’ve made our Namibia road trip itinerary better.
Other than this one thing, our itinerary was fantastic and we have no real regrets. Given our limited time and budget, we discovered as much of Namibia as we could have hoped. We saw more than our share of dunes, animals, cool plants, and unusual landscapes.
This one thing—our one BIG complaint—was the roads. They’re miserable, torturous, wretched, and evil.
Maybe by the time you read this the Namibian government will have gotten their act together and graded them. Either that or hovercrafts will have become affordable to rent.
The latter’s probably more likely.
Whatever the case, use this travel blog of our Namibian itinerary to plan yours as perfectly as possible.
Namibia Itinerary Outline
Skip Day 1 if you’re not coming from Cape Town like we did.
- Day 1: Cape Town to Vredendal (Day Rating: 7/10)
- Day 2: Orange River (6.5/10)
- Day 3: Fish River Canyon and Aus (8/10)
- Day 4: Namibrand (7.5/10)
- Day 5: Sossusvlei (6/10)
- Day 6: Camp Gecko (7.5/10)
- Day 7: Moon Landscape (5/10)
- Day 8: Swakopmund (6/10)
- Day 9: Spitzkoppe (7/10)
- Day 10: Kamanjab (5/10)
- Day 11: Etosha (the Good Day) (7.5/10)
- Day 12: Etosha (the Bad Day) (5/10)
- Day 13: Windhoek (5/10)
- Day 14: Departure (3/10)
Watch How It Really Went Down
Day 1: Cape Town to Vredendal
369 km in 5 hours.
So Naive, So Innocent
How sweetly naive we were when we complained that the dirt roads into and out of Lamberts Bay were rough.
By the end of our trip, we would’ve given our left thumbs for all the roads in Namibia to have been so good.
Our biggest highlight of the day was Fryers Cove, “the world’s only vineyard this close to the Atlantic Ocean.” The tasting room, on a fishing pier beside a lighthouse and an abalone farm, seemed better suited for a fish and chips restaurant, which made it so special.
So special that it easily made our list of the 10 Most Unique and Unforgettable Wine Tastings in South Africa.
Tasting at Teubes Family Wines’ at Lambert’s Bay surprised us in a couple ways too. First, the lady who led the tasting is studying to be a sommelier but… she doesn’t even drink! Second, Lambert’s Bay seemed like a funky, fun town with plenty of good restaurants—notably seaside Muisbosskerm.
If we return to Cape Town, we’ll come for a weekend.
- Highlights: Wine tasting at Friar’s Cove.
- Lowlights: Losing precious wine tasting time waiting for the rental car company to get our paperwork in order.
- Best Food: Chef Keith Burger for me and hake for Kim at Thi Art in Vredendal, which looks like a strip-mall restaurant but doesn’t act like it.
- Where We Stayed: Super friendly Airbnb in Vredendal
- Road Quality: About 150km of good-quality dirt road. The rest was paved.
- Day Rating: 7. If only we could’ve hit the road sooner.
Bonus Ideas if Coming from South Africa
We skipped a ton of huge highlights north of Cape Town because we’d done them previously and wanted to try new things. Strongly consider adding these to your itinerary:
- Darling for its brewery, sweet shop, wine farms, and, especially Pieter-Dirk Uys‘ satirical Evita Se Perron performances
- Cederberg, especially around the Sanddrif Resort, where there’s an awesome swimming hole, some fun hikes (Wolfberg cracks was much more of an adventure and challenge than we expected), and where they produce excellent wine and beer that’s perfect for late-day refreshments.
- West Coast National Park. Worth it for the wildlife, flamingos viewed from lagoon bird hides, easily-accessed hilltop viewpoints, and colorful lagoon.
- Paternoster. A few quirky shops, a nice beach, and a very famous restaurant, Wolfgat.
And definitely read our tips specifically for Cape Town to Namibia road trips.
Day 2: Orange River
426 km in 4.5 hours.
Goodbye South Africa
We felt nostalgic on this last day of our six “hectic” months in South Africa.
And it ended with a whimper.
There wasn’t much to see on the long highway between Vredendal and Springbok.
But the scenery stepped it up a notch and gave a glimpse of what was to come as we approached the South Africa-Namibia border at Noordoewer, which we crossed with surprisingly little fuss.
Orange River Kayaking and Chilling
After a quick check in at Felix Unite, change, and sunscreen lather, we followed our guide Beaumaris on a 3-kilometer paddle down the Orange River. There were a couple of rapids but nothing strong enough to flip our boat, even though we hit pretty much every rock along the way.
A van picked us up at Amanzi Trails, which had nicer campsites than Felix Unite but none of the amenities, and drove us back, where we chilled by the river and the pool, played some pool, enjoyed a sunset drink, and had a fairly-priced meal at the restaurant.
- Highlights: Kayaking on the Orange River. It didn’t live up to all the praise our friends had given it but was definitely a nice way to spend a couple of active hours.
- Lowlights: The lack of attractions on the long road between Vredendal and the South Africa-Namibia border. Unable to find an interesting restaurant, we resorted eating take-out supermarket lasagna at a highway-side rest stop.
- Best Food: Kim’s chicken caesar salad at Felix Unite. I had the “famous” peri-peri chicken, which wasn’t worth the extra wait.
- Where We Stayed: A bungalow at the Felix Unite Provenance Camp, whose pool, restaurant, bar, and riverside location were perfect for rinsing off and fueling up for the dusty deserts of Namibia.
- Road Quality: 100% paved roads.
- Day Rating: 6.5. Relaxing, almost too much so for our tastes.
Day 3: Fish River Canyon to Aus
513 km in 6.5 hours
A Great Start
Enhancing our eager anticipation as we ventured into Namibia’s desert for the first time was the fact that we couldn’t see anything but stars in the pitch-black early morning.
As we passed the gas-station-less settlement of Aussenkehr, the sun broke the horizon and we had to turn off our audiobook to fully embrace the awe-inspiring scenery that we had all to ourselves. Optimistically, we thought this was just the beginning and expected the rest of our Namibia road trip to get better and better.
This section of road ended up being the most pleasant of our entire trip, largely because we were all alone and the roads weren’t trashed by a steady stream of tourists in camper trucks.
Fish River Canyon
We arrived at Fish River Canyon three hours after setting off.
The view of the canyon didn’t take our breaths away, as the breathless blogs and guides claimed. But at least we had the opportunity to stretch our legs on the ridge trail and take photos of the canyon and the quiver tree beside it.
We stopped at Cañon Roadhouse, which is as kitschy as advertised and had better-than-expected homemade burgers, then at Naute Kristall Distillery, where the owner Katherine gave us samples of a variety of schnapps and the world’s only date cognac.
On Katherine’s suggestion, our next stop was Alte Kalkofen, home of the world’s only lithop sanctuary… which probably means as little to you as it did to us.
We’d never heard of these crazy little “living stones” before, either.
But as soon as the manager Marika led us into the nursery and explained lithops to us, we were enthralled. Some looked like hippos’ mouths, some like brains, others like rocks, and they were all so delightfully weird.
We had some apple pie at Alte Kalkofen’s restaurant, thinking the cabins there would be a good spot to spend a night if we ever returned, then drove on to the one-garage, one-shop, one-restaurant town of Aus, where we took advantage of each of those establishments.
The food at the restaurant, part of the Banhof Hotel, was good if a little overpriced.
- Highlights: The lithop sanctuary at Alte Kalkofen and the early morning drive from Orange River towards the canyon.
- Lowlights: The Fish River Canyon wasn’t a negative, but it didn’t impress us as much as the bad road into it from Hobas annoyed us.
- Best Food: The apple pie at Alte Kalkofen was the best of our Namibia road trip.
- Where We Stayed: Airbnb in Aus.
- Road Quality: Good quality dirt road with a big exception of the road between Hobas and Fish River Canyon. The last 180km to Aus on the B4 is paved.
- Day Rating: 8. Pleasant surprises and mostly good roads made for one of the best days of our entire Namibia road trip.
Day 4: NamibRand
275km in 6 hours.
Klein Aus Vista Hiking
Once again, we got up before the sun to go for an early-morning hike at Klein Aus Vista and get a head start on what we had been warned would be a long day of driving.
The 1-hour, 6-kilometer Mountain Trail hike at Klein Aus Vista wasn’t nearly as noteworthy as ones we were to do later in our trip at Spitzkoppe, Sossusvlei, and Goanikontes, but the setting of the cabins they have there is worth considering a night or two.
After showering back at our Airbnb and buying supplies for tonight’s braai (a.k.a. barbecue), we took off for a slow, empty, initially-interesting-but-soon-becoming-boring ride north.
The drive was made extra slow by Kim’s cautiousness (today was her turn to drive) more so than the quality of the dirt roads, which was fine.
Just over 100 km in, we hit Helmeringhausen, another middle-of-nowhere outpost like Canon Roadhouse and Solitaire that somehow was busy with a couple of busloads full of French and German tourists. We had another self-proclaimed “best apple pie in the world,” which wasn’t as good as yesterday’s from Alte Kalkofen, then hit the road.
And the road hit us back.
Namibian Desert Torture Begins
From Helmeringhausen, the road steadily deteriorated for four hours. We felt each and every one of those 14,400 seconds. Eventually, our speed (around 35 km/h) was lower than the temperature outside (around 40°C).
I coined it “Namibian desert torture,” a dry version of Chinese water torture that we were to face a lot of in the coming days of our Namibian road trip.
But in this case our destination, NamibRand Family Hideout, made it all worthwhile.
NamibRand Family Hideout
Our Venus campsite was in the middle of nowhere with a huge private bathroom area that we could’ve easily slept in and backed by our own private sand dunes.
At sunset, we brought a blanket and the bottle of Hectic Route wine we’d saved for a special occasion to the top of the dunes.
And man was this occasion, with the 360-degree views of the technicolor desert and not another human in sight, special.
This was our first night camping of our Namibia road trip and it showed.
Our biggest mistake was not bringing any fire starter. The bag of wood we bought only had big pieces that a match could never get aflame and, since we were in the middle of the desert, finding kindling was a major challenge. We resorted to using up almost all our matches and every piece of paper we could scrounge up to get it started.
Dinner Under the Stars
Once we got the fire going, Kim worked her magic and made us a magnificent meal that we ate under the stars.
We were all alone…
…aside from a bunch of fearless dune hairy-footed gerbils (mice with a fancy name) that at first were cute but soon became a nuisance for nibbling at our feet.
- Highlights: Dune-top sunset views and wine at NamibRand Family Hideout will likely remain our most lasting positive memory or our entire Namibia road trip.
- Lowlights: The frustration of trying to make a fire without fire starter.
- Best Food: The meat, veggies, and potatoes Kim made over the braai were worth the struggle to get the fire going.
- Where We Stayed: NamibRand Family Hideout’s Venus campsite.
- Road Quality: Ok to start then degrading down to really bad by the end.
- Day Rating: 7.5. The road took away from what would otherwise be an unforgettable day.
Day 5: Sossusvlei
279 km in 5.5 hours
Cornelius from NamibRand Family Hideout came over in the early morning to show us around the reserve. As the sun started to shine on the desert in a display that equaled last night’s performance, Cornelius also enlightened us. He taught the history of these, the oldest dunes in the world, and interesting facts about the plant and wildlife.
We would’ve loved to spend another day in paradise at NamibRand, but we had to pack up and leave for another looooong drive.
Following Cornelius’ advice, we took the longer route from NamibRand to Sesriem, the gateway to the famous sand dunes of Sossusvlei, along the D827 instead of the D27 (which a couple we met later confirmed was virtually impassable).
The D827 was in decent shape but the C19 and then the D826 into Sesriem was a different story.
What may one day have been a road had devolved into a sea of sharp gravel and stones with waves of corrugations that endlessly ate away at our good mood until we were at each others’ throats.
Even as the scenic dunes of Sossusvlei and the colorful Naukluft mountains came into view, we could barely appreciate them because we were too distracted by the road.
A Hard Truth in Sesriem
Once we finally arrived at Sesriem, we confronted a hard truth:
The gates only open at sunrise then it’s 60km from there to the dunes, so even if we got to the entrance ahead of the other 60 to 100 other cars who start lining up as early as 1.5 hours in advance, there was no way to truly see the dunes in the perfect light.
Well, no way other than staying inside the gates at the official NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) camp, whose spots had sold out months ago.
Sunset was out of the question too. Sesriem’s gates close before sunset, which at this time of year meant 6:30 pm.
So we swallowed this hard truth we made what turned out to be an excellent decision….
We went to the dunes in the middle of the day.
We were car number 146, but almost everyone before us had already come and went. There were only a few cars on the perfectly paved road to the dunes and only two others at the parking lot at the end of it, where we were all alone on the overpriced (170 each) but necessary shuttle to Sossusvlei.
From the shuttle drop-off point, it was a 1.1km walk in 39.5°C (103°F) heat through the sand to Deadvlei.
At least it was a dry heat and there was a bit of a breeze so I barely broke a sweat. Kim didn’t tolerate the heat as well, but not enough to affect her mood.
There was only another pair of friends when we got to Deadvlei. We took photos for each other then they left and we had the whole place, Namibia’s number one tourist attraction, to ourselves!
It’s like being alone in Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, or the Pyramids. We couldn’t believe it.
Unwinding in the Wind
On our drive back to Sesriem the breeze became a full-on sand storm and we could barely make out the dunes to the side of the highway.
It also made it impossible for us to start a fire back at our camp, Sossus Oasis, so we settled on buying some crappy bread and making sandwiches in front of the gas station.
On the table beside us was a group of cyclists who’d come all the way from Egypt on a Cairo to Cape Town tour. They told us the road they’d just cycled—the same as we had come in on—were easily the worst they’d encountered.
Way to go Namibia!
Congrats on the ignominious title of having worst roads in Africa.
- Highlights: Having Deadvlei all to ourselves at 3 p.m. in the afternoon.
- Lowlights: The C19 “highway” didn’t break our car but certainly broke our spirits.
- Best Food: Macadamia nuts we brought with us from Cape Town.
- Where We Stayed: Sossus Oasis. Nothing special, but the best alternative to the NWR Campsite inside the gates.
- Road Quality: The worst. Like driving in a gravel pit.
- Day Rating: 6. The undeniable highlight of Sossusvlei couldn’t overcome the lows of the bad roads.
Day 6: Camp Gecko
178 km in 4.5 hours
As we left Sesriem after sunset and just as the Sossusvlei gates opened, we counted 56 trucks in line, waiting to race each other and the sun for photos. This reinforced our happiness for deciding to go yesterday afternoon instead.
The shitty roads quickly stole that happiness from us.
She crushed our dreams.
Even with her top-notch off-road truck she told us she avoids that road, which is the direct route to Windhoek, to takes another that’s twice as long and still no good but not as bad.
No Olive Trail for us. We took her advice and abandoned our plans.
Three hours later, we got to Solitaire. As the only pit-stop between Sossusvlei and Swakopmund, it may be in the middle of nowhere, but there was nothing solitary about it. Fellow road-shaken travelers were everywhere.
We had a snack at McGregor’s Bakery. The game meat pies (only NA$30 each) were much better than the chalky-crusted but once-renowned apple pie (NA$35).
And at the gas station ATM machine was broken. “Maybe later,” said the employee we asked if it would be fixed anytime soon.
The roads improved after we turned off towards Camp Gecko, where we were spending the night.
Since we missed out on our hike, we did the fly-infested but entertainingly-interactive 3km Adventure Walk loop at the camp. The trail ended by the beautiful campsites on the other side of the hill that looked over a wild, 20 kilometer mountain-backed plain.
Our campsite was not nearly as beautiful but was close to the natural swimming pool, where we cooled off with the tadpoles.
With time to kill before dinner, we did the unthinkable:
We went for a drive.
But the roads turned out to be fine on the 25-minute drive to and up the pass. The pass itself was even paved. And the late-afternoon views from up top were spectacular.
Back at the camp, we joined Camp Gecko’s Swiss owners, Renee and Heidi, and an Austrian couple for a sunset drink then dinner in the spectacularly-situated lapa atop the hill.
It was a bit pricy (NA$250 each), but easily worth it for the chance to get to know Heidi and Renee, hear stories about their zaniest guests, and get the inside scoop on the struggles of trying to run a business in corrupt, inefficient Namibia.
- Highlights: Dinner and conversation at Camp Gecko. Honorable mention to Spreetshoogte Pass.
- Lowlights: Having to abandon our initial plans because of bad roads.
- Best Food: The meat pies at Solitaire.
- Where We Stayed: Camp Gecko campsite.
- Road Quality: More horribleness, but at least less time on it.
- Day Rating: 7.5
Day 7: Moon Landscape
334 km in 7 hours
Have you ever noticed that many places are named after animals you never actually see?
For example, we didn’t see any geckos at Camp Gecko.
But Zebra Mountain, where we did a 3-hour morning hike, lived up to it’s name.
There was no missing the zebras. It was so quiet out in the middle of desert scrub and rocks we could hear their footsteps and snorts from hundreds of meters away.
The quiet, the sunset, the animals, and the exercise was all magical.
After four hours of miserable driving and one hour of regular paved road driving later, everything changed.
As we hit the coast, the weather went from dry and hellaciously hot to foggy and freezing. Relatively freezing. 15°C (60°F).
And we hit civilization.
Houses! Grass! People not in camping apparel! Other small sedans like ours! Traffic signals!
There was nothing appealing about the suburban spread of the Walvis Bay / Swakopmund area, but it was quite the contrast. We had pizzas at recently-opened Godenfang in Walvis Bay to mark the occasion.
Dunes and the Moon
We passed two underrated landscapes after lunch.
First was the ocean-side dunes between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. We’d heard about sandboarding and ATVing the dunes, but their proximity to the ocean and scope impressed us more than we’d expected.
Second, was the moon landscape. Before coming to Namibia we’d heard all about its unique landscapes, but not a peep about this one. To us, it was among the most unique as we’d seen, especially with the late-afternoon shadows.
In the middle of the moon landscape, and only 30 minutes from Swakopmund on atypically well-maintained dirt roads, was Goanikontes Oasis. We were excited to spend a couple nights in one of its A-frame cabins there.
The friendly staff seemed excited to have us too. They welcomed us warmly and we had the pleasure of having a long chat with René, the matriarch of the family that recently purchased and refurbished the property.
It was actually more of a listen than a chat.
She entertained and impressed us with more tales of Namibian incompetence and her ability to work around it to get Goanikontes up and running so fast.
- Highlights: Hiking and zebras on Zebra Mountain
- Lowlights: Not having enough time to look around Walvis Bay because of bad roads.
- Best Food: Pizza at Godenfang in Walvis Bay
- Where We Stayed: A-framed cabin at Goanikontes Oasis
- Road Quality: Just as bad as the previous two days up until 100km before Walvis Bay, when the roads flattened. From then on, the roads were good.
- Day Rating: 5. Nice hiking but too much driving.
Day 8: Swakopmund
100 km in 1.5 hours
For the first time in Namibia, we weren’t rewarded with a sunset for waking up early. The fog from the coast beat the sun to Goanikontes.
On the bright side, it made for a uniquely eerie atmosphere during our easy, 1.5-hour, early-morning hike on the moon landscape’s Weitzenberg Trail.
From Fears to Reality
The inevitable happened.
Our car, which so valiantly survived the dozens of hours of painfully corrugated roads it wasn’t made for, had a flat tire. Two of them actually.
One was ok to drive on into town. The other, we replaced with our spare and the help of two well-intentioned but poor-planning Goanikontes employees. They broke our jack by using it upside down.
Luckily we had time to spare, René was around to lend us her jack, and at TyreRack in town they had true professionals who made our wheels good as new for just NA$100 each.
Enough of Swakop
Any concerns we had about the time we wasted fixing our tires dissolved when we got into central Swakopmund and found little to do.
Swakop may be nice compared to other Namibian towns. But not compared to anywhere else in the world.
We found very little to do. We wandered around, stopped in some souvenir shops in the pedestrian mall by the Brauhaus, the Kristall Galerie, and Peter’s Antiques, but couldn’t find the appeal of the place.
Equally enjoyable was getting a day off from driving, as spent a second night at Goanikontes.
- Highlights: Taking photos in the abandoned buildings towards the end of our moon walk.
- Lowlights: Seeing our car’s flat tires for the first time.
- Best Food: Calamari from Tiger Reef and the solid-sized serving of stir-fried veggies it came with.
- Where We Stayed: Second night at Goanikontes
- Road Quality: Great!
- Day Rating: 6.
Day 9: Spitzkoppe
323 kilometers in 5 hours
As we approached Spitzkoppe, two hours from Goanikontes, its unnatural-looking big boulders and giant-pointy mound looked like an amusement park.
And, fitting of an amusement park, people outside tried selling us trinkets and souvenirs. Except it was kids (pushed forward by their parents) trying to sell to adults, not the other way around.
Inside, was a lot of fun. For us, more fun than an amusement park.
Scrambling up, down, around, and sometimes under the grippy rocks was the most fun activity of our whole Namibia road trip. And, contrary to many other reports we’d read, we didn’t need a guide to scramble along the mountains. You only need guides to see the rock art.
The vines were ragged and sparse and the surrounding farms were suffering from drought but somehow this sparkling new facility’s cellars were full of wine.
We heard quite a few conspiracy theories about where it all came from.
The wine itself was unexceptional, but Boppie, who led our tasting did an excellent job and the other drinks we tasted like the Gravino, brandy, and cream liquor were nice to try.
Camp Mara had easily the nicest room of our entire Namibia road trip.
The person who designed them obviously put a lot of thought into the details, like the little lights and switches built into the live edge bathroom mirrors. And the kitchen was better stocked than ours back home!
That designer turned out to be Ecki, Camp Mara’s very-German but born-and-raised-in-Namibia owner. During our pleasant candle-lit dinner with him and the camp’s two other German guests we tried to loosen him up, but could barely crack him. He was probably thinking of the next addition to his rooms.
- Highlights: Climbing around Spitzkoppe.
- Lowlights: The unanticipated 45-minute wait for our sandwiches at Namib Oasis when we were in a hurry to make our appointed tasting at Erongo.
- Best Food: It’s too bad the wait ruined our experience and we had to scarf it down too fast to fully appreciate it, but Namib Oasis’s food was good.
- Where We Stayed: Camp Mara
- Road Quality: All good and mostly paved, with the exception of the 30 kilometers from the B2 highway to Spitzkoppe and back, which was in rough condition.
- Day Rating: 7
Day 10: Kamanjab
490 km in 6 hours
Boring’s Better than Bad
With a large distance to cover we made a depressing decision: to take the long route on boring paved roads rather than risk a shorter, potentially more exciting route on bad dirt roads.
The other way would’ve taken us by Brandberg Mountain, but some fellow bloggers said it was the biggest disappointment of their own Namibia road trip itinerary and other attractions in the area like the Organ Pipes had especially bad reviews.
After seven hours of driving, we made it to our destination, Kamanjab Rest Camp.
There, we were happy to have the chance to stretch our legs with a 3-kilometer loop around Kamanjab Rest Camp’s reserve. The first two-and-a-half kilometers were nearly as uninspiring as our drive until…
Kim spotted the giraffes.
They were so still at first that Kim thought they were fake, but as we moved in for a closer look, they moved away.
All’s Well that End’s Well
We booked at Kamanjab Rest Camp first because of its convenient location en route to Etosha game reserve but second because of the good reviews of its food.
The dinner delivered.
I had a three-course meal with zebra (my second zebra steak of the day!) and Kim had a two course with oryx. Both steaks were superbly seasoned and topped with a tasty pepper sauce, and accompanied by a nice salad and fresh fries.
After dinner, we chatted with Elodie and M.D. the younger-than-us Belgian-Namibian couple who’d taken over Kamanjab Rest Camp in August.
Elodie shared her experiences of settling into Nambia and M.D. outlined his own perfect Namibia road trip itinerary. It didn’t overlap with ours at all. It centered around the rarely-visited far-northwest of the country and required serious off-roading expertise.
- Highlights: Spotting giraffes on our walk around Kamanjab Rest Camp.
- Lowlights: “Giving up” on adventure and staying on paved roads.
- Best Food: Belgian-cooked zebra and oryx food at Kamanjab Rest Camp.
- Where We Stayed: Kamanjab Rest Camp
- Road Quality: All paved roads except the detour to Vingerklip, which was in ok condition.
- Day Rating: 5. At least we weren’t home on our computers.
Day 11: Etosha (The Good Day)
225 km in 7.5 hours
We didn’t see many animals for the first hour-and-a-half in the remote western edge of the park…
By 3 p.m., we’d seen every animal we had extra tentatively, because we were visiting off peak season, included on our wishlist!
Around 11 a.m., we stopped at the Olifantrus Camp where we lost track of time watching wildebeest, oryx, zebra, and red hartebeest jostle over drinking spots from the two-story animal hide.
Aside from the hide the camp was basic and had “sold out” of all its firewood and meat, so we regretted having reserved a night there. Luckily, the manager managed to change our reservation and get us the last campsite in Okaukeujo instead.
Unbelievably, the road from Olifantrus to Okaukeujo was worse than any we’d experienced on our Namibia road trip.
When we finally made it to Okaukeujo camp, we found and fixed two punctures in our back left tire. Thank goodness we purchased the tire repair kit in Swakopmund. Without it we would have had to abandon our next day in Etosha and drive 117km to Outjo to get it fixed.
Okaukeujo is more of a village than a camp with shops, various types of accommodation, a big tower in the middle, and, most importantly, an animal viewing area.
Sitting on benches semi-encircling a waterhole, we watched oryx and elephants drink at sunset and, after a braai with some new Spanish photographer friends where an opportunistic jackal circled for our scraps, returned at night to watch more elephants, giraffes, and black and white rhino under the floodlights.
What a show!
- Highlights: Watching three female lions saunter into Jackalswater waterhole as all the other animals there lost their shit and fled.
- Lowlights: The long, featureless, animal-less, and miserable road from Olifantrus to Okaukeujo, especially from Ozonjuiti on.
- Best Food: We grilled our own food rather than pay a premium for whatever uninspired food was available at the camp restaurants.
- Where We Stayed: Okaukeujo (o-ka-koy-yo). Dirty, crowded, and overpriced, but worth it for the animal viewing at sunset, sunrise, and at night.
- Road Quality: Until Olifantrus, the roads were OK, but the roads from there to Okaukeujo almost gave us and our car a K.O.
- Day Rating: 7.5. Four hours of bad driving was worth it for animals.
Day 12: Etosha (The Bad Day)
271 km, 8.5 hours
Fewer Animals, Too Many Bad Roads
We saw plenty of animals—elephants, a honey badger, lions, and all the other common game—but made even more mistakes on our second day in Etosha.
- Starting our day driving to Pan’s Edge, a “viewpoint” at the edge of Etosha’s salt pan that, from our point of view, was a complete waste of time.
- Forgetting to download and bring the guide to Etosha waterholes our friends had sent us the link to. We should have gone through it and carefully planned our route.
- Electing to drive a loop to Halali Camp and back. The bad roads were too much for us. We would’ve enjoyed our time more had we picked a couple waterholes near Okaukeujo and stayed there.
In the mid-day heat, we took a break at Etosha’s Halali Camp.
The camp itself isn’t much more than a big dusty parking lot of campsites, basic cabins, and a restaurant but we relished the opportunity to cool off in the swimming pool then watch a big group of elephants do the same at the waterhole while bullying away the oryx and zebra who wanted to join.
- Highlights: The elephants at Halali Camp’s waterhole.
- Lowlights: Realizing our mistake of not planning our day better before we set out.
- Best Food: Vegetarian braai at our campsite to finish off everything we’d bought.
- Where We Stayed: Taleni Etosha Village, just outside Etosha’s Anderson’s Gate on the road to Outjo. So much nicer in every way than the campsites in Etosha… except for the all-important waterholes.
- Road Quality: Rock bottom.
- Day Rating: 5
Day 13: Windhoek
443 km in 5 hours
Driving from Etosha to Windhoek
We looked hard for things to do in the 400 kilometers between Etosha and Windhoek, but found little.
Waterberg Plateau Park is the biggest attraction, but we’d heard mixed reviews and that you can’t go on unguided hikes there, so we skipped it.
Discouraged, we sped straight to Windhoek. The roads are great and straight so it took us only 4.5 hours including stops for gas in Outjo, for food at Bohemia Books & Coffee, and for some biltong and dried fruit in Okahandja.
We had low expectations for Windhoek, Namibia’s capital and most populous (around 350,000 people) city.
And Windhoek failed to live up to them.
We found it to be a character-less sprawl of traffic, strip malls, walled homes, and a ratty downtown center.
For one evening, though, it was fine.
- Highlights: Watching and experiencing a rare Namibian thunderstorm while enjoying a fantastic sunset and cheap beers at Hotel Thule.
- Lowlights: The lack of attractions between Etosha and Windhoek.
- Best Food: My oryx schnitzel from Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek.
- Where We Stayed: An Airbnb that wasn’t as well-located as advertised.
- Road Quality: Perfect and paved the whole way.
- Day Rating: 6.
Day 14: Departure
48 kilometers in 1 hour
Windhoek Craft Centre and Cafe
Unlike similar shopping centers in other cities, Windhoek’s Craft Centre didn’t sell junky, made-in-China stuff. Each of the 38-or-so stalls sold what looked to be high-quality, original products.
So even though we had no space in our bags, Kim felt compelled to buy a couple things.
Our Airbnb host highly recommended the café there too. The upstairs patio seating was a plus, but everything was 20-40% more expensive than it should be.
Annoyingly, Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport is 45 kilometers outside of town.
Much more annoyingly, nobody told us that rental car companies don’t accept patched tires. Even though we’d gotten our tire professionally patched and it survived a further 2,000 km on Namibia’s horrible roads, the agent told us they’d have to replace it. We were charged accordingly: NA$1,100 for the tire and NA$500 for “administration.”
One last bump in the road for our very bumpy but undeniably scenic Namibia road trip.
- Highlights: The Craft Center actually had some nice stuff.
- Lowlights: Dealing with rental car issues.
- Best Food: The 25 foods we ate during our 24-hour layover in Taiwan on the way back to Canada.
- Where We Stayed: Seat 52F and 52E of the airplane.
- Road Quality: 100% paved.
- Day Rating: 3. Who likes airports and traveling?