Off road and crossing the desert to the east coast

Swakopmund Travel Blog

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Quiver tree

I had bought a 4x4 offroad magazine that listed various routes in southern Africa and in Namibia.  There was one on route I wanted to go to in Isabis.  Leaving the canyon area in the National Park the area had very little grass or trees, there was a strange looking tree called the Quiver Tree.

Isabis 4x4 was run by Jacob, a farmer who has opened up tracks and trails on his 70,000 acre farm for the general public to come and play with their 4x4.  It is an extra source of income and his camping spots had free fire wood for the braii (BBQ), running cold showers (one of the showers was nicely set into the cliff) and a open air sit down toilet, I found that very pleasant, sat on the throne taking in the surroundings in the mornings.

Paulina enjoying offroad
  The ground here was very rocky and uneven, not like the large sandy plains we had left the day before.  This was a chance to see what the Land Rover could do. 

Having grown up on a farm I could read the track more easily than most but there were parts that made me wander if the Landy could make it!  Paulina was worried as this was all new for her and I also let her get her feet wet by sharing the driving, giving her my wealth of advice (that she seemed not to need! Or maybe want??? hehehee).  She told me that she found the experience “terrible!” but the next day who was asking to drive again!  Despite the worry she enjoyed it and she was a good driver for a girl! (Hehehehee, I’ll get a smack for that one!).

  We found the Land Rover very capable and in low range she could climb everything, with a little bit of jumping or having a different approach if the wheels couldn’t grip.  We had the whole farm to ourselves and we really enjoyed it. At night the wood from the bush TV kept us warm and cooked on it.  Here away from all the light pollution and people you could really appreciate the huge African night sky, which was filled with stars from horizon to horizon, amazing…! Specially the second night camping.

Speaking with Jacob when leaving I was curious about farming here.  He had 70,000acres at 50acres per head for cattle, compared to home in Northern Ireland with about 90 acres for maybe 120max of milking cattle in the summer months, that’s 0.

Water pump
75 acres per head.  The biggest problem for Jacob is supplying water, for this you need bore holes plus lots and lots of kms of plastic piping to maintain, small wild animals would sometimes eat through causing the reservoir to run dry leaving his animals without water, serious problems if you don’t notice!  For 3000GBP you can pay a geologist who analysis’s the land for stone reefs that might contain water channels, then using electric coils to bounce signals into earth and reading the return signals they can give their best guesstimate.  Out of six bore holes he struck water five times.  Once “X” marks the spot it costs another 6000GBP to bore down and build a wind mill pump.  As the windmill turns it drives a metal rod moving up and down about 40cm with the pump at the bottom of the bore hole pushing water to the surface, a bit like the way a bicycle pump works but instead of air its water (you learn something new every day!).
Shower time!

Driving to cross the Nimbi desert first took us across a beautiful mountain range on wide gravel roads.  These gravel roads seemed to be better maintained than others we’ve been on and once past the mountains you could put the foot down more, kicking up a huge plume of dust behind the silver Landy.  The route started to get corrugations and the best method for this was speed!  At speed you had less vibrations through the vehicle but it gave the feeling like ice as the Landy drifted, sometimes more than others but I had my on board warning system in operation and fully functioning, Paulina let me know when I should slow down (hehehe).  The Nimbi desert required a permit if you wanted to camp or just take a side route to go exploring off the main route.

  We didn’t have one so planed to be at Wavlas Bay on the coast that night.  The Namib Desert covered an area of about 32, 500 square kilometers.  The dunes keep on growing at the rate of 20 meters each year. The Walvis Bay dunes are guarded with wooden poles to prevent it from growing further.  There wasn’t much traffic crossing the desert but as we got closer to the coast we saw more vehicles, each with the dusty tail behind them.  It was hot and our aircon was a real bonus.  We stopped a couple of times and investigated some rocky outcrops off the main route (nobody asked to see our permit out here).  Namibia is also home to the biggest dunes in the world (370m), the sand is called “Roar Sand” because of the noise it males as you walk on it.  It is also home to HUGE areas of highly restricted diamond areas along the coast, protected by cameras, motion sensors, aircraft and armed guards.  We didn’t go into those places so Paulina didn’t get a HUGE rock for her finger!

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Quiver tree
Quiver tree
Paulina enjoying offroad
Paulina enjoying offroad
Water pump
Water pump
Shower time!
Shower time!
Namib Desert
Namib Desert
The Namib Desert
The Namib Desert
Swakopmund
photo by: Chelsea