We probably haven't met yet but I'm one of the nomads on the TripZapp team. My name is Davide Rasconi and by now I have been to more than 50 countries in my life and counting. You'll be reading more from me about travelling Africa but let's go back to one YOLO-ish trip to Namibia.
That year I was living in Cape Town as I was doing my master at the University there. I had about a week off for Easter and I wanted to see some place out of South Africa. As I usually do, I took out a map and spent a few days looking at it, going through its different black, red, white and blue lines indicating roads, highways, rivers and borders, imagining which route was the most adventurous and with the greatest promise for memories. Usually I first come up with a super cool plan which is totally unrealizable, and then I tone it down to the most I can do of it.
The plan: to drive North all the way to Namibia, then up North in the endless and deserted roads of the country almost to the Angolan border. More than 5,000km in 7 days, a road trip in the real sense of the term.
Means of transport: a yellow city car, totally unsuitable for the trip but that was what we could afford. The fact that it was a small car would mean that we would drive very fast in the all- straight endless roads of Namibia, overtaking all the 4 wheelers and jeeps we met on our way. We would later come to know that for a week all along the B1, the main highway, everyone knew of ‘that crazy bunch driving like hell’ on a tiny yellow city car.
The crew: myself, Antonia from Angola and Francesca from italy, and a tent.
The drive from Cape Town to the border is quite long, almost 700 km, getting very close to the Western boundaries of the Kalahari desert. At the border crossing we had our first stop at the Orange River. There are plenty of very beautiful camping sites along the river, great for fishing, swimming and braaing (the south african barbeque). If you like wild game, you can get crazy around here: zebras, antelopes of every kind, and top quality beef steaks.
On the road to the border
Namibia reminded me a lot of Australia where I have lived for several years. They both are very sparsely populated countries, with these endless roads that get lost into the nowhere of the blue skies constantly above you.
The main highways were all in good conditions, which as I said allowed us to drive very fast. We also took some dirty roads, around 300km in total, to reach Walvis Bay, on the Atlantic Coast. Walvis has a very unique vibe: it’s a decent sized town in the middle of nowhere and an important port. The city is made of german-style buildings as the Germans colonized the land now called Namibia, also committing a large amount of massacres against the local population at the beginning of last century.
Walvis Bay is basically a dot on endless strip of beaches that cover all of the country’s coastline. Very wild and somewhat melancholic, they go on forever. Unfortunately It was way too cold to enjoy a swim.
Wild Namibian Sunset
One of the most famous pictures of Namibia is Sossusvlei, with its gigantic red sand dunes and the solitary trees, making it one of the most recognizable landscapes in the world.The place really is breathtaking. All around there are enormous sand dunes, and we promised ourselves we would hike one of the highest ones the morning after to see the sunrise.
Of course we woke up late, and to make it in time we ran at 150km/h the few miles to the dune, at the tune of Hans Zimmer epic music at the maximum volume that I had prepared for the occasion. Hiking was tough, but we made it in time to greet the sun.
In Sossusvlei itself, where the dead trees now stand, there used to be a small lake, with plants coming out of the water in an explosion of life. Now only the skeletons of those past times are left, crowded by tourists from every corner of the world armed with selfie sticks and reflex cameras.
We briefly passed through Windhoek. The capital has 300.000 of the country’s 2 million population, and it’s a modern and relatively vibrant city, although there is not that much to do.
As excited as we were of the adventures we were living, we were getting a little weary of all that moving around but we still had to reach the zenith of our trip. Etosha National Park, in the far North of the country and next to the Angolan border, one of the most famous parks in all of Africa.
Time was running out so we went for a drive around the Etosha pan, the main pond that occupies most of the park. This is actually dry for most of the year, except during rainy season when the huge lake gets filled by a thin layer of water, attracting large herds of animals. But we were at the end of the dry season, and everything seemed exhausted, motionless, the many animals almost static trying to defend themselves from the harsh sun in a land with no trees. This is the other face of nature, not the blossomed and plentiful one. The return trip was a lot of driving although very often we seemed to be in the same place for hours on end, so deceptive the landscape is. But one major prize was awaiting for us on the way back.
Fish River Canyon is just magestic, no other way to describe it. It's the second biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon, and you wonder what giants may have carved such a path in the hard stone. Nature, once again, the mighty.
Fish River Canyon
The last day we had the most classic of setbacks on a road trip: a punctured tire. It was the very last bit of dirt road, and of course it had to happen. We put on the spare wheel and drove to the nearest village. We managed to wake the mechanic who was able to fix the Wheel. Then it was just driving and driving, from light to night, until in the darkness we saw the lights of Cape Town once more.