Namibia - Botswana - Zimbabwe
A friends couple I went to Ethiopia with, asked me to share a one month trip to visit spots and game parks of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
The program sent to me, was very well thought out and was given significant time to finalize.
The trip spent with rented 4x4, and we were staying in lodge at the beginning and the end of the journey, in campingsites the rest of the time.
We were 8 : my friends, a couple met in Ethiopia, 2 single women found in a chat room, a buddy met in Costa-Rica and myself.
In August we have had a meeting in Béziers at the couple's home, to define the part of each of us in campingsite.
Afterwards, I did the roadbook and proceeded change in south-african money (Zar) for 6 of us.
On going, from Paris Roissy with Ethiopian Airlines : Paris-Addis Abeba then Addis Abeba-Windhoek.
Flight back from Zimbabwe : Victoria Falls-Addis Abeba with a 45 minutes stopover in Gaborone (Capital ofZimbabwe), then Addis Abeba-Paris.
After taking off, the flight attendants offered 2 champagne bottles to celebrate the birthday of one of us. A great moment.
I should point out that they refused the bottles bought at the airport before boarding. Very nice of them !
The 4x4 have been rented by Namvic in Windhoek and returned in Kasane (Botswana).
They were Nissan pickups with camping gears, a fridge and a second spare wheel.
Initially we had to get 2 4x4 year 2015 (prices depending of the year model) but the planned ones were damaged so we got a 4x4 year 2014 and a 4x4 year 2018.
We got a rebate because of this issue.
Yet we lost one afternoon by Namvic with the procedures and I found some discrepancy between french correspondent and Namvic Windhoek agency.
Because of some misadventures we got, Namvic offered a reduction at the end of the trip.
Being the only man with offroad driving skill (I own aToyota HDJ80VX) I noticed the blade springs which are very awkward.
Moreover, comprehensive insurance don't exist, so 2 of us stand surety with a credit card, which is a huge financial risk because we have to pay if a 4x4 is damaged !
We were 2 drivers in a 4x4 and sometimes I had to remind this rule to the others watching their driving spirit.
Most of the roads in Namibia are gravel roads (sometimes very bad rugged dirt tracks), and soft sand, asphalt less often. When driving on rugged dirt track there is a minimum speed to avoid huge vibrations, but Namvic's policy laid down 80 km/h maximum.
In Etosha game park, the speed limit is 60km/h and 40km/h in another game park.
But the ideal speed is about 90 km/h (and more) on rugged dirt track knowing that driving then is not very easy.
Speed limit is 120km/h on asphalted roads but there are wild animals crossing.
Day 1 : Windhoek
After landing in Windhoek, we go to Namvic agency for papers and get vouchers for campsites. Then going to Heja Game Lodge.
Day 2 : Windhoek - Solitaire - Namib Naukluft - Sesriem - Sossusviei (321km)
We drive 100km on B1 asphalted road towards Rehoboth then C24 gravel road. After 204km, taking D1261 then D1275, we arrive at Spreetshoogte Pass, a border between Khomas plateau, where Windhoek stands, and Namib desert. We join the C14 towards Solitaire where we stop to eat "apple strudels" by McGregor's bakery. It looks like Bagdad coffee movie.
After that we take C19 to end in Sesriem Campsite in Namib Naukluft park.
Riding in the park for the bravest of us.
Day 3 : Sesriem-Camp Gecko (113km)
At dawn we go to Namib desert to see and climb Sossusvlei dunes. We met some oryx and springboks.
All the way to parking 2x4 it's asphalted road. Then, to get to Deadvlei basin, a 4x4 is requested: 5km with deep sand.
No need to deflate because the tyre pressure was set to 1.8 bars and they have been filled with anti-puncture liquid. (see Events)
I enjoyed very much driving in soft sand. The other 4x4 driver, inexperienced, was hazed.
After parking in Deadvlei basin, a 1km hike during hot sun was needed to watching fossilized locust trees amongst withishes rocky plates.
During afternoon, we leave Sesriem going North towards Swakopmund by C19 through Solitaire then C14 and D1275 to get to Camp Gecko.
Day 4 : Camp Gecko - Walvis Bay - Swakopmund (272km)
We take C14 to turn left towards Homeb then Gobabeb, just below tropic of Capricorn, and D1983 towards Walvis Bay.
We follow the ocean coast towards North to reach Swakopmund then Gecko Ridge.
We 'll stay 2 nights and the lodge is great, so we decided to take rooms instead setting up in campsite. 20 a night : we don't think twice about it !
We took dinners and breakfasts here.
Day 5 : Walvis Bay
An unforgettable day. At dawn we go to the Tour Guide Office at Walvis Bay waterfront. From there, 2 4x4 take us away in the sand towards Pelican Point where we find out a sea-lions community.
After kitting out, we go canoeing amid sea-lions swimming. Amazing.
Then getting back towards Walvis Bay to start off again towards little dunes along Kuiseb river before reaching the high dunes close to Sandwich Harbour.
The drivers have a whale of a time to overawe us. (see my Youtube videos)
We get lunch with other groups (corean) and we have got a great time.
Back towards Walvis Bay driving along the shore.
Day 6 : Swakopmund - Moon Landscape Welwitschia - Wüstenquell (125km)
Early in the morning, 4 of us take a 4x4 towards Swakopmund for a Cessna flight over Namib desert; the 3 others and I gonna visit the city.
In the afternoon we drive towards Moon Landscape, then towards Welwitschias Plain to watch the oldest flower on earth (1500 years).
We have to open many gates before reaching Wüstenquell farm, a lodge in a nowhere land.
Beautiful lodge with a pool, wifi and a fridge full of fresh beverages.
Day 7 : Wüstenquell
Hiking in the property, then in an open-air 4x4.
Day 8 : Wüstenquell - Spitzkoppe (150km)
In Damaraland we find out an orange rocky massif, 700 millions years old : Spitzkoppe (1784m).
Bushmen found refuge in it during thousand years and left rock paintings.
Then we are seeking for a shady place in this large campsite with rustic conditions.
With a guide we gonna watch the rock paintings.
Day 9 : Spitzkoppe - Brandberg White Lady Camp - Twyfelfontein (257km)
Going North using D3716, D1930 towards Uis. Then C35, we turn off for D2359, to get to White Lady Loge Camp where we have lunch, then relaxing at the pool.
In the afternoon, we go with a 4x4 seeking for elephants along the Ugab river. We are so lucky to see an elephant herd drinking.
After that we take our 4x4s to get to Xaragu Camp Twyfelfontein at nightfall.
Day 10 : Twyfelfontein - Palmwag (108km)
Going North on C39, C43. Close to Palmwag, a gate closes the road : a sanitary barrier from East to the West to separate South farms of « the White » and common lands in the North.
We set up in the campsite part of Palmwag Lodge.
Day 11 : Palmwag - Sesfontein - Warmquelle - Camp Aussicht (154km)
Driving to spend 2 nights in Camp Aussicht, a very basic campsite close to an old coppermine.
Day 12 : Camp Aussicht - Village Himba
Marius, the manager, took us to visting a Himba village. Very instructive. We give him money to buy some food for the people who live there. Among them, we find out Herero women, easy to recognize with their headdresses.
In the evening, we have dinner at Marius's home and we saw a 6 porcupines family enticed with food.
Day 13 : Camp Aussicht - Opuwo - Epupa Falls (262km)
Going North using C43, stopping at Opuwo to buy some food.
We go through many Himbas villages before arriving Epupa falls.
We go uphill to get a panoramic view. It's a lovely spot. We meet Samuel, a free-lance guide.
Then we get to Epupa campsite along the Kunene River. On the other bank it's Angola.
With Samuel, we drive on crocodiles path following the Kunene river. We just saw Vervet monkeys.
The funny size was we saw crocodiles sunbathing very close to the campsite.
Day 14 : Epupa Falls
With Samuel again to visiting Himbas in their village. As usual, we buy food for the people. A very touching moment.
Some of them are « Western » dressed. These are people who have been to school and required to leave their traditions . They got back to the village because they never got a job.
It looks like Himbas are badly received when they are going downtown in their traditional clothes. Normalization attempt ? What a shame.
Then we go close to the falls to take some pictures.
Day 15 : Epupa Falls - Olifantsrus - Parc dEtosha (408km)
Driving on C43 (234 km) towards Opuwo then C41 (58km) and C35 towards Olifantsrus Camp.
This gravel road, W shape, is pretty difficult because very short descents follow steep hills all along the way and we must strike a balance between the throttle and the brakes.
We cross the Galton sanitary gate , entering in Etosha game park.
We set up in Olifantsrus camp which has built a spot near a waterhole to watch wild animals.
Day 16 : Etosha Okaukuejo - Halali (280km)
Touring Etosha game park with many detours towards waterholes.
We set up in Halali camp.
Day 17 : Etosha
Following the events the day before, and as I am the only one who speaks almost properly english, I spend the whole day waiting for a substitute 4x4.
This one, scheduled at 11h a.m., was delivered at 6h30 p.m. and I had to checking out the gears for the old then for the new 4x4 with a Namvic crew, and it was pitch dark.
We got a 2018 4x4, almost a brand new one, that makes all the difference with the 110 000km 4x4.
The other 4x4, with 4 passengers, took quietly advantage of the whole day to visiting Etosha game park. They got back at 7h30 p.m !
My 3 companions in misfortune, them, stayed at the lodge swimming pool.
Day 18 : Halali - Onguma (250km)
Going to the East of Etosha game park then at Onguma Bush Camp close to the East entrance over by Namutoni.
Many detours to watching animals.
Day 19 : Onguma - Roy s Rest Camp (3000km)
Driving B1 in the way of East towards Tsumeb, we pass through many traditional villages.
Stop at Otjikoto lake. In Grootfontein, we fill up the 4x4 tanks. (see events).
We set up at Roy's rest camp which is beautiful.
Day 20 : Roys Rest Camp - Ngepi (475km)
Driving on B8 we cross another sanitary barrier. This asphalted road is more than 200km straight line and the speedlimit is 120km/h.
It's very unpleasant and there ane many potholes as well as wild animals crossing.
Speedlimit when crossing villages is 80km/h but trucks don't worried about that and we have to overtake them many times.
In Rundu we turn in the way of East. In Bagani we turn right on C48 to reach le Ngepi Camp on the right side of Okavango river (Angola on the other side).
This campsite is very picturesque with a lively bar.
At 4 p.m. we hit a run on Okavango river mokoro. Many birds, hippos, and an elephant herd. We get back at dusk being careful about hippos bathing close to the landing stage.
Day 21 : Bwabwata National Park - Parc Mahongo
We gonna make a loop on tracks along the sides of Okavango river.
Day 22 : Ngepi - Kongola - Camp Kwando (250km)
Driving on B8 in the way of Kongola then on C49 in the way of de Camp Kwando.
We have a ride on Kwando river. Almost nothing to see.
The lodge is great as well as the female boss.
Day 23 : Mamili Park Linyanti swamp
Touring in Mamili Park and Linyanti swamp.
Day 24 : Kwando - Kongola - Ngoma - Senyati
Driving at dawn on C49 in the way of Kongola then on B8 towards Katima Mulilo then Ngoma to cross Botswana border.
We have to disinfect our shoes and the wheels of the 4x4.
We get to Senyati Camp in Lesoma valley, a private campsite, 20km from Chobe game park.
2 tracks to get to the campsite : one in deep and soft sand, one quite passable some kilometers further.
No fence, wild animals can get into the campsite. A monkey passed through beside me. So, I was more careful about my stuff.
There is something particular; underneath the bar, in front of a waterhole, a tunnel has been dig out with small openings.
During the evening, I took some pictures and movies, having the feeling to stay amid elephants.
Very impressive, especially when one of them has tried to get its trunk through an opening. I had to step back.
Day 25 : Chobe game park
Rough day waiting for me. Leaving campsite at dawn to make a round trip in Chobe game park.
Before returning, the other 4x4 decides to get back on asphalted road.
I let the wheel to the second driver and we get back along the same track. We met many animals : birds, hippos, elephants, monkeys, ....
We had to be very careful because of some elephants staying on the track.
We leave the park just before its closing (7 p.m.). We drive in the dark towards campsite but we don't find out the track where to turn. Fortunately, a nice guy, driving a pickup, show us the right way almost to the campsite entrance.
About 12h driving offroad to-day!
Day 26 : Chobe river
Unforgettable day : A boat ride until sunset from Kasane on Chobe river. Birds, crocodiles, buffalos, elephants, ...
It is a sight for sore eyes !
Day 27 : Kasane - Victoria Falls (80km)
This day we return the 4x4 to a Namvic crew which checks all the gears out.
2 vans drive us to Zimbabwe border.
A bus from Pamusha Lodge then drive us to our accommodation.
This lodge is great. I loved it.
During afternoon we get to Victoria falls craft market. Then we have to stand in line to buy tickets before seeing the falls. It's very crowdy.
Nobody wanted to have a tour using an helicopter ($150 / p !!!) because it's low water so less spectacular.
Day 28 : Back to Paris
Everything comes to an end. It's ime to get back.
→ The 1st 4x4 (2018) got 2 punctures and a breaking of a rooftent setting.
In Wüstenquell farm, it has been fixed up by welding.
The tyre pressure has been set to 1.8bars by Namvic (with anti-puncture liquid) so I have suggested to raise it to 2.5bars because of sharp little stones on gravel roads.
It turned out great since that time.
A couple of days before the end of our trip, I swapped the 4x4 with another driver.
Have a look at what happens then to the 4x4 I was driving before. Guess who is the black cat !
→ When I was standing in an open-air 4x4 visiting Wüstenquell property, I heard a thud noise. Some time later I realize that my Lumix camera wasn't in my pocket anymore. When we stop, I notify the driver but we continue until sunset. Meanwhile, he asks his crew to seek for it, following my indications. Bingo! They found it out and it works !
→ On rugged dirt track in Etosha game park, I was driving the 2014 4x4, and I was about to turn left to get to a waterhole.
No brake! The pedal brake was touching the bottom. I had to shift down very quickly.
A brake pipe was broken just after the setting of the master cylinder.
I drove then 150km without brake, just playing with the throttle, hoping that no animal 'll cross. I met some rangers and I made signs, then I step out to join them.
I was first told that I wasn't allowed to get out of the 4x4 because of animal hazard (there are some lions around).
I explain what happens and they help me to give a makeshift repair. It seems to work out even though the lack of liquid brake.
We phone to Namvic, having an emergency number. In the next village we wait for the mechanic and he fixes it up. (supposed to !)
I let the wheel to the other 4x4 driver and I was getting to relax .... not a long time because we get the same issue, this time the pipe breaks in the middle.
And a couple of minutes before we have had a big braking following the 1st 4x4. We were lucky the pipe didn't break up at this time.
When in the campsite we phone again to Namvic, insisting to get a substitute 4x4 invoking the insurance policy from Namvic.
→ At Grootfontein, we stop to fill up the 4x4 tanks. It's swarming with people. As usual when I am not the driver, I stay on the other side to keep an eye on the vehicles.
At a certain point, the driver of the other 4x4 calls me because I speak english, to ask for an information. About 3 minutes later, I turn back and I see the back door of my seat half-open. Suspecting something, I open the door and I see my Nikon+Tamron telephotolens camera were missing.
Noticing a CCTV, I rush to the staff, telling what has happened.
We watch the record all together and notice the footage you can see below :
A police officer, who has joined us, see the footage and record it. Straight after, he says :"I know this guy. I'm gonna pick him up". Then he asks me to get to the police office to take a case.
So we go to the office.
I tell again what happens, then I wait.
30 minutes later, A police officer comes and tells me that the guy and the camera have been found. (the guy has changed clothes).
The camera was fine. I'm very very lucky. I congratulate the officers for their speed of reaction and their efficiency.
The guy could get 5 years in jail because police has got all evidences.
This is a big lesson I have learn. It only takes a moment's inattention to be stolen.
A human experience
In a group that must manage its operation, it is clear that everyone must participate and that everything must happen in a good mood.
It was not at all the case and I returned sorely afflicted by the situations that I lived and undergone.
Group life presupposes that everyone puts theirs on because we all have different personalities.
I used to stand back and observe the behavior of people and I rarely express my point of view, not wanting to hurt anyone.
Unfortunately, and in my opinion, 2 people had a negative or even disruptive influence.
One (a man) had a very authoritarian behavior by allowing himself to give orders to many of us.
From the start, while I was scheduled in a 4x4 as co-driver with the couple of friends (written on the contract), this person forces me to go to the other vehicle.
As I am conciliatory in nature, and that driving this or that 4x4 was indifferent to me, I went in the second vehicle.
But as later this authoritarian behavior was repeated, I took the person aside to tell him to stop.
The other (a woman in her fifties) sought to divide the group by her behavior and her very aggressive remarks. On arrival in a camp, her immediate concern was to learn about the existence of wifi and often she was only seen to sit down to table.
She was constantly mislaying her things and spreading them everywhere.
As she was in the first 4x4 with the person mentioned above, inevitably the clash is very quickly arrived, especially the fourth day with another woman.
One member of the group considered her narcissistic and was ready willing to pay a plane ticket for her to leave us. It seems that this person is known as dividing the groups according to a travel forum.
At one point, it was mentioned that the 2 4x4 have to be separating. which, from the point of view of safety, would have been very damaging.
I then agreed to take this person in the second 4x4 by exchanging with one of the members, thinking to soften the group life. But the fly has changed donkey. It became quickly painful in the vehicle and, at one point, exceeded, I said my way of thinking, which caused a great moment of silence.
Towards the end of the trip, my friends asked me to come with them in the first 4x4, swapping with another (the authoritarian). I then found a little serenity.
I'll not telling in detail all the altercations that have appeared with verbal escalation and insults between some members. Being a witness to all this has deeply affected me, especially since my friends have very strongly reproached me for saying nothing.
And to cap it all, the evening before our departure, when the person (the authoritarian) launched the idea that everyone expresses his opinion, the woman in her fifties was praised by my friends. Nice example of a successful manipulation.
I said that the adventure was deplorable from the human point of view and that I will not repeat this experience.
Fortunately, I was able to make friends with a woman of the group, a great traveler, whose discretion was exemplary although she suffered the full impact of some altercations.
We were often together during visits and by boat.
We arrived in the early spring of the southern hemisphere and it is already very hot.
Air conditioning in 4x4s turned out essential.
Namibia is a desert country, twice as big as France and populated by 2.8 million inhabitants. The welcome in the villages Himbas was cordial without being warm. But we have to realize that we are white tourists and these people have been persecuted well before.Visits
The entrances to the parks are all paying. And of course, all the boat rides.
It should be noted that in Zimbabwe, a country with a financially thriving economy, everything is expensive for the tourist and it is necessary to pay in US $ starting with the visa.
In a tourist country where the standard of living is low, giving a tip to the attendant, the porter, the bus driver is essential.Food
When we ate at the restaurant (rarely), the local meat was very good. No health problems encountered.
The prices are for tourists !
If there had not been this deleterious atmosphere in the group, the trip would have been superb.
The pace was very strong and the recovery was more and more difficult. Get up at dawn, retreat the tents, ... then drive on the track to arrive at nightfall and then unfold the tents, ...
Picnic summary every lunch. I lost 5% of body mass and yet I am not a big eater.
Strenuous routine. Fortunately, a few of us were able to relax a few afternoons.
I could see that it is better to go to the discovery of animals in the late afternoon.
The lodges we stayed were very picturesque and left me an excellent memory.
I particularly enjoyed the kayaking and the dunes on the side of Walvis Bay, as well as the visits to the parks of Etosha and Chobe, not to mention Victoria falls.