21st - 22nd October 2008 - Namib Naukluft Park

After Jerry finishes up at Walvis Bay port (ie hands over large bundles of cash) we head off into the Namib-Naukluft desert full of anticipation and clutching our permit.  At last we are on our way.  After about 20km we realise we haven’t got a) water in the on-board tank and b) petrol for the stove so it’s back to Swakopmund.

It’s hot and dusty driving across the desert but the scenery is spectacular.

We reach our campsite at Bloodkopje at about 4pm and set up camp.  We are the only vehicle there.  We open a bottle of wine and watch the surrounding rock glow red.  Our first real night on the road...

20th October 2008

Ollie from Windhoek (who is collecting the spares that have traveled from the UK in our container for Foley's) turned up around 9am.  The ship carrying our Land Rover has docked but he doesn't think we'll be done with the paperwork etc until early evening so we have scratched round our plans to go and camp out in the Namib - Naukluft desert this evening.

The plan is to head off tomorrow, spend the day expolring - Welwitschia plants up to 1500 years old, ancient ox cart tracks and spectacular moonscape scenery.  Plus spendid isolation as you have to get a permit to drive/camp here and not that many people bother.

Then it's east to the South African border at Mata Mata and into the Kgalagadi on the 23rd.

19th October 2008

Finished off the website. At last we're live!!


18th October 2008

We treated ourselves today to a 4x4 guided tour of Sandwich Harbour with Turnstone Tours – billed as “one of the most spectacular and inaccessible destinations in Namibia”.

It was a glorious day with clear blue skies and no sign of the mist for which Swakopmund is renowned.

En route we passed through salt pans (apparently retained on a 99 year lease by South Africa when Walvis Bay itself was returned to Namibia and controversial in terms of the environmental damage being caused by the incursion of the salt water into the water table). Some pans are covered in crystallised salt ready for harvest, others are pink which is down to the salt loving algae which grows there  (this algae is what makes the flamingos which flock to the area to feed their traditional colour!).

We drove over the dunes to Sandwich harbour stopping to watch a lone jackal and several basking seals.


We had the harbour to ourselves and kicked off our shoes and walked along the beach for an hour or so.  The scenery is spectacular with the dunes sloping to meet the surf.   The sand was hot underfoot but we thought twice about paddling when we spotted several 5ft sharks in the surf.

Our guide Ernest showed us how the sand was made up of tiny particles of different minerals and semi-precious stones; pink garnets and black uranium being particularly evident.

The harbour is only accessible at low tide and returning a little later than planned (mainly due to a fantastic lunch of lasagne and greek salad with homemade bread and pate) we had to drive through the surf.  Apparently vehicles are lost here regularly.


17th October 2008 – Swakopmund

Over breakfast this morning we heard the unmistakeable sounds of a marching band.   We stepped outside to find a parade in full flow.  It turns out they were practising for the Naval Day celebrations which are to take place tomorrow.

From what we saw they looked like they could do with another couple of days ...

Today was also our first encounter with the notorious bureaucracy of the Namibian Wildlife Authority who administer the national parks.  Reading other people’s experiences with making (or usually failing to make) bookings didn’t inspire optimism but the reality was relatively pain free and following a few false starts at the wrong windows and doors, I emerged with a permit to enter the Namib Naukluft Park and camp there.  This should be our first experience of camping out of the Land Rover so let’s hope  a) the car turns up and b) does so in one piece.  On that note the tracking software on the shipping companies site is showing that the container is loaded and the ship is due to dock at midday on the 19th.

It's still quite cool and the sky is grey.


16th October 2008 – Swakopmund

We spent almost the whole day today working on the website.  I think the staff at the internet cafe are embarrassed to charge us full per hour rates so we’ve been getting away with a few free hours here and there.

Having made good progress we celebrated with a couple of drinks at the Lighthouse Bar overlooking the ocean. 


15th October 2008 – Swakopmund

A day of admin and familiarisation, changing money, checking out what’s in the supermarkets (beer and wine are cheap so no worries there).  In fact at times you could imagine being in your local Waitrose.  Except for the aisle with the sacks of maize ....  I suspect once we leave Namibia/South Africa that will cease to be the case. 


14th October 2008 – Swakopmund

We were supposed to be leaving Swakopmund today.  The cottage we have been staying with is booked up but Margaret the owner has very kindly let us move into a nearby self catering apartment at the same price.  We now have a bathroom each and three bedrooms!  Plus we can cook for ourselves and do some washing.  An even bigger bonus – for me at least – is a satellite TV with non-stop Masterchef and Grand Designs. 

13th October 2008 – Swakopmund

As soon as they opened I was on the phone to the super-efficient SAN Parks central reservations office to try and rearrange the Kgalagadi booking.  We’ve managed to reschedule starting on the 23rd and whilst the new route means covering more miles in the park and doubling back on ourselves it’s a relief to know we won’t be missing out altogether (assuming the car gets here on the 19th the agents at Walvis Bay are saying this is the current schedule but there are no guarantees).

On the plus side we’ve found a great little internet cafe and are using the time to catch up on emails and do some online research.

We have a fabulous meal of oysters and fish at the Tug restaurant (pre-booked from the UK in anticipation of this being our last night before setting off into the desert).  Strangely it’s almost a year to the day since we last ate here.


12th October 2008 – Swakopmund

A  frustrating day.  We can’t do anything about the car as everything, both here and in the UK, is shut today and without knowing when it will arrive  it’s difficult to make any plans.

Swakopmund is very quiet.  It has the air of an out of season seaside town.  The architecture is very Germanic and the beach is more crashing surf than bucket and spade.  It has a nice feel to it though.  In the afternoon we visit the local aquarium for the weekly feeding of the big fish and sharks by scuba divers.    

Having to stay in Swakopmund for 10 days will make a big hole in our budget so we made a nod towards economising by dining on beans on toast tonight.


11th October 2008 – Desert Express

I woke when the train started up at about 4am and opened the blind to watch the sun rise over the desert.


Having learnt our lesson about competing with the Germans for the limited tables we were there early and had an indulgent breakfast as the scenery sped by followed by a walk up the dunes to get our first glimpse of the Atlantic ocean.  It’s hard work walking up dunes (the phrase one step forward, two steps back springs to mind) but the view was worth it.  About an hour later the train pulled into Swakopmund and we were settling into our cottage at Brigadoon B & B.





10th October2008 – Windhoek

Today we’re due to board the Desert Express (Namibia’s answer to the Orient Express) for some unadulterated luxury on an overnight journey across the Namib Desert to Swakopmund.

However, just before we left for the station Jerry checked the website of the shipping company transporting the Land Rover and all our worldly belongings to Walvis Bay.  Despite having paid extra for a guaranteed arrival date of two days either side of 11th October, the tracking software showed a delivery date of 25th October.  This would mean missing most of our much anticipated trip into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park due to start on the 20th and two days drive across the desert from Walvis Bay.

A few frantic but fruitless phone calls followed and we left for the train and tried to put it out of our minds.


The Desert Express was everything we’d hoped for and we sat in our compact and bijou compartment (ensuite no less) with a drink and watched the desert go by. 


We disembarked for a game drive as the sun set and saw rhino and giraffe.  Or rather I did - Jerry spent most of it surreptitiously texting to try and sort the car out.

We ended the day with a lovely,if rather late, 3 course dinner sharing our table with Elaine, an Irish lady ending a trip following the Irish cricket team around Namibia.

We were the last to leave the dining car and stepped off the train to check out the night sky before climbing into our bunks.


9th October 2008 – Windhoek

We flew into Windhoek and went straight to the Olive Grove Guesthouse.  A lovely place with a fantastic stone bathroom with double sinks and exotic lanterns.



The evening brought a fantastic meal of fillet steak and with wi-fi on tap.