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Brandberg, Damaraland

Uis Travel Blog

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Omaruru River crossing at Ottmund Farm

John is now based in Namibia and has been exploring the central part of the country trying to find a way to travel along a North-South axis off the mapped roads. He had already explored a few times on his own a section North of Spitzkoppe, each time a bit further along farm tracks, and saw a good opportunity in the 2 of us teaming up together to attempt going all the way from Spitzkoppe to Uis, these 2 locations being about 70km apart.

That sounded good to me. It is safer to travel with 2 vehicles, we could always go back if conditions became too difficult, and I also had a satellite phone if anything went wrong.

So on Saturday we headed North directly from the campsite.

The Omaruru River channel where my vehicle got stuck
It was quite easy until we arrived nearby a first farm where there was a dry river crossing and on the opposite bank a steep slope to climb. A small group of workers, who had seen us arriving from a distance, came to the top of this steep section, to see how we'd cope with it, and probably to have a good laugh... But we both proudly managed to go through. Just I nearly lost my back registration plate after hitting the ground while negotiating the start of that steep bank.

The workers pointed us the direction we had to follow for the next section of our journey. We were surprised when they mentioned none of them had actually gone this way...

The track now wasn't so good but it was still OK. We reached a second farm and once again asked for directions. The track was now going West towards Ottmund farm next to the Omaruru river. Along the way we could see markers positioned by an Australian mining company to materialise the locations of their planned drillholes.

Ottmund Farm
When we arrived at Ottmund there was no one around. We could see the river in the distance, pretty wide and with lots of water after the rains from the recent storms. It didn't look good and we were already thinking of going back. But then someone arrived and assured us that we could go through the river, and that even a 2x4 would be able to make it...

Gustaf finally convinced us and even offered to come with us to show the exact way across. He came in my vehicle and off we went. The river was split into 3 channels. First channel everything went fine, the sand in the river bed was quite hard.  Second channel, the widest, at first everything was fine but then it got deeper and the sand softer. I could feel the 4x4 was struggling and I did not manage to keep the pace. We lost momentum and the vehicle stopped. That's the last thing you want to happen... I tried to move forward, to reverse, but the wheels were spinning in the sand and the situation was getting worse.

Old VW Beetle at Ottmund Farm
We were stuck in the middle of the river! Gustaf and I stepped out into the water to assess the situation. John who was following us in his Landover had stopped on that dry section between the 2 river branches. He also came out to join us in the water. It didn't look good at all. Three of the wheels were deeply buried, and the base of the vehicle was resting on the river bed. None of us actually believed that we would be able to get the vehicle out, even with the help of the Landover. John had a rope but he would have to drive into the river to try to pull me out. In the wet sand and with the effort his wheels would probably start spinning and then he also could get stuck!

Gustaf was just an employee at the farm and did not have a vehicle. His boss was away in Windhoek.

I started thinking of what might happen next.

In red: what the journey should have been. In blue: what our itinerary ended up to be
We were in a very remote area, with absolutely no traffic around. If I called for help with the satellite phone, we'd have to give our exact location from the GPS, explain which way we got there and it would probably take at least 24h before anyone could come to the rescue. We'd have to camp by the river. What if there was another serious storm and the current became much stronger?... All these thoughts came to my mind. It is actually a bad situation to be in!

We had to do something. We reckoned the best option was to try getting the vehicle to go backwards since the sand in front of the vehicle was so much softer than in the back. We started digging around and behind the wheels but the water current kept bringing back the sand. So we started digging under the vehicle and building a dam, to try and divert the current. It wasn't an easy task because the current was also destroying our dam... Gustaf was also helping and put all his energy into this.

Ugab River
We went looking for branches which we carefully placed behind the back wheels.

John took the decision he was going to try to pull me out with his Landover. He reversed into the river, tied 2 ropes together to have more length and we connected the 2 vehicles.

First attempt was unsuccessful. For the second we made sure that we better synchronised our efforts, his pulling and my reversing acceleration. This time it was successful!  After a couple of hours of hard work under the Namibian sun, we were able to get the vehicle out. That was such a relief!!!  As Gustaf had mentioned before we started crossing the river, God would be looking over us! And he did!

Now of course I regret not having taken a picture of the vehicle stuck in the middle of the river, next to the dam we had built.

Ugab River
.. It would have been such a great shot, and a good souvenir!  I had thought about it, but under these circumstances it felt inappropriate.

That was yet another lesson... Even when a local person tells you that it is fine to go across, you should still assess the situation by walking through the river. Had we done this we would have realised that the sand was too soft in that particular section and we would have decided not to go through.

After buying from Gustaf some of his artwork and giving him some food, we went back and reached the gravel road between Usakos and Uis.

On the way to Ugab Camp
When we arrived at that same Omaruru River, we were warned by men working on the road that someone had got stuck earlier in the day and that they had to intervene to get them out. Once again we had to go back and look for another passing point.

Our third attempt was made quite a long way east from there, in the village of Okombahe. The villagers told us there was no problem there. But this time at least we were able to observe a donkey cart going across which was an indication we could go ahead. Finally we were on the other side of the Omaruru river! What should have been a short 80km drive between Spitzkoppe and Uis turned out to be a 200km itinerary which took us the entire day to complete! Conditions in winter are definitely much easier...

We spent the night at the Brandberg Rest Camp.

On Sunday we drove along the Ugab River, first to the Ugab Camp where the Desert Elephants have done some damage not so long ago, then to the Brandberg White Lady Lodge.

The donkey cart

Early in the afternoon, John had to leave to return home in Okahanja. I decided to stay for the night at the Lodge where I was the only guest!

The next morning I visited the White Lady Rock Paintings in the Brandberg Mountains before heading north to Twyfelfontein.

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Omaruru River crossing at Ottmund …
Omaruru River crossing at Ottmund…
The Omaruru River channel where my…
The Omaruru River channel where m…
Ottmund Farm
Ottmund Farm
Old VW Beetle at Ottmund Farm
Old VW Beetle at Ottmund Farm
In red: what the journey should ha…
In red: what the journey should h…
Ugab River
Ugab River
Ugab River
Ugab River
On the way to Ugab Camp
On the way to Ugab Camp
The donkey cart
The donkey cart
Brandberg area
Brandberg area
Brandberg area
Brandberg area
Ugab Camp
Ugab Camp
Ugab Camp
Ugab Camp
Ugab Camp
Ugab Camp
Looking for a way through along th…
Looking for a way through along t…
The welcoming committee at the Bra…
The welcoming committee at the Br…
Meerkat
Meerkat
The gardens of Brandberg White Lad…
The gardens of Brandberg White La…
Sunset and storm at Brandberg Whit…
Sunset and storm at Brandberg Whi…
Brandberg White Lady Lodge
Brandberg White Lady Lodge
On the way to White Lady rock pain…
On the way to White Lady rock pai…
The road to White Lady rock painti…
The road to White Lady rock paint…
The walk to White Lady rock painti…
The walk to White Lady rock paint…
White Lady rock paintings
White Lady rock paintings
White Lady rock paintings
White Lady rock paintings
White Lady rock paintings
White Lady rock paintings
Aerial view of Brandberg Mountain,…
Aerial view of Brandberg Mountain…
Uis Hotels & Accommodations review
Lodge at the foot of the Brandberg Mountains
"Tranquility is the name of the game". That's how this location is described on the lodge's web site and it certainly suits the place really well. Oka… read entire review
Uis
photo by: WorldXplorer