I was still buzzing after coming face to face with a wild lioness in Etosha National Park. I honestly didn’t know how my road-trip would get any better. Seeing a wild lion has been on my bucket-list since I was a small child. Oh, and it was everything as fantastic as I thought it would be! But, I mean, I was due a little bit of luck after the first few days I’d had in Namibia. I’d nearly died the day before we visited Etosha. Hah, that sounds so dramatic but a gas canister bursting into flames is pretty terrifying. Gas is highly flammable and has the capability to explode so yes, I’m running with my story. I totally nearly died.
I woke up in our roof-top tent, feeling refreshed and raring to start the day. We were doing a pretty good job now of consistently waking up at 7am each morning. I devoured breakfast before saying goodbye to some kitties. I’m not even kidding, I’m like the Pied Piper of cats. Wherever I go, they seem to seek me out. Well, maybe I seek them out actually. But who can resist cats?
Although things had looked-up for us when we got our new, replacement car, there was still one issue with it. The car was inhabited by a rather large rodent. Two campsites ago (at the Ombo rest camp on our second night, to be exact), I opened up one of the draws in the back of the car to see the largest mouse I had ever seen nibbling casually on our bag of rice. We both stared at each other in horror for a moment before it frantically scuttled off.
From then on, we had kept all food items in a sealed container but still, nothing was safe. At our last stop in a town, (in the creepy town where we were harassed), we’d purchased 2 rolls of bread which has mysteriously disappeared. In fact, there were lots of strange disappearances! Our first dirty washing bag completely vanished into thin air. I’m not pointing my finger at the mouse here. It’s possible we either left it in our last car or it fell out of the car at some point. I still mourn my Victoria’s Secret underwear to this day. They were my favourite pair!
Today, as were packing away, I noticed a dead baby mouse in one of our draws. Oh, no. That could only mean one thing. resident mouse had babies! Our paper-roll had also vanished – perhaps, to make a nice cosy nest. In fact, where were the sleeves to our microfibre towels?! We never did see them again.
We were on the road again. No sooner had we begun our drive did the first ‘incident’ take place. Well, it’s not exactly an incident but it was a little traumatic. I noticed something in the road ahead. A rock perhaps? I didn’t think too much of it and wasn’t able to identify what it was until I was practically on top of it. It was a tortoise just casually strolling across the road! I was so close to it by the time I realised it was a tortoise that I had to think incredibly fast. I have a poor sense of how big cars are but it seemed my only option was to try and ensure the tortoise passed underneath our car, between the two sets of wheels. I bit my lip and hoped I’d judged the wheel position accurately.
We drove smoothly. There was no bump. I risked glancing in my mirrors and with a sigh of relief the little guy was still crawling across the road. Thank goodness! I still felt concerned though as although cars aren’t frequently travelling along Namibian roads, the tortoise was moving incredibly slowly. I really hoped he would make it to the other side.
Today’s drive was by far the most relaxing we had experienced so far. Due to rearranging our campsites, I had managed to decrease driving time so that we only had to travel 3 hours today. It meant we could travel at our own pace and really soak up the landscape around us. Boy was there a lot to soak up!
The greenery around us began to vanish and instead be replaced with sandy ground. The flat land became dotted with frequent hills and the road began to slope up and down.
We made a short stop-off at a town to get some petrol and risk getting some food. Our last experience in a town had been in Ojiwarongo and it was a terribly frightening experience. People harassed us with goods and others offered to ‘guard our car’ which filled me with a great deal of anxiety. As we pulled into the Spar in the town of Outjo, I couldn’t see any people hanging around so deemed it was safe. Plus there were several pick-up trucks with roof-top tents parked in the carpark. Safety in numbers, eh?
If only, it had been that simple. The local street-sellers seem to hide so you think it’s safe and then as soon as you pull-up, they pounce. There were only 2 surrounding us this time but I was already feeling overwhelmed. I guess I felt a little different this time. I decided I was going to be assertive and act like I knew what I was doing. I briskly told them we were not interested and one smiled and told me to ‘have a nice day’. They seemed a lot friendlier than the sellers at Ojiwarongo. This time, as we shopped, I felt more relaxed. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t just told someone not to guard my car so I didn’t think it was as in much danger here.
Laden with supplies, we were pleased to see our car was safe and no one was hanging around it. We continued our journey towards our next campsite in Damaraland.
I hadn’t heard that much about Damaraland so I didn’t know what to expect. We were actually only stopping here as a halfway stop off point between Etosha and the Skeleton Coast. However, I’m so glad we did stop here as it was a wonderful, magical place.
I watched the landscape around me transform into harsh desert. Yellow sand, littered the vast terrain and spindly trees with few leaves stood valiantly in carpets of dust. We must have been entering the Namib desert – the oldest desert in the world and home to the largest sand-dunes on earth.
I had yet another near-miss on the road. A flock of goats deemed it fun to cross in front of me as I was travelling 100km down a tarred road. They gave no indication they were going to cross and I was forced to slam my brakes on. Luckily, no goats were harmed and we too were unscathed, narrowly escaping whip-lash.
Just before the town of Khorixas, we turned off the main-road onto our first gravel road. Excitement was flowing wildly through my veins. To top it all off, there was a road-sign that had a picture of an elephant on. Elephants were around here! Desert elephants like to travel through Damaraland and the prospect of bumping into one almost made me squeal with delight. But for now, I was more than content with driving on gravel! My, it’s so much fun!
It felt like we were entering ‘the real Namibia now’. Fences that had remained parallel to the road for the entirety of our journey so far (excluding Etosha), abruptly vanished and quaint settlements beside the road became frequent. They were largely made of either sticks, bricks or tin – very simple but beautiful at the same time. Rusted cars with missing wheels and windows were often sat beside these small houses, sometimes in clusters of 2 or 3. It was like we had stepped back in time. I wondered how people would get to their nearest towns which were a few hundred kilometres away. Very few houses had cars. Perhaps they lived off their own land?
The sun-scorched landscape changed again. Even more sand began to roll in but the most awe-inspiring part of this land were the rocky sculptures that dotted the desert. Tall structures of weathered orange rock stood eerily, at frequent intervals. They were everywhere! I had never seen anything like it. My first thought was how they came to be. The most obvious answer was that they had been weathered, perhaps by the desert sands and wind. The rocks looked perfectly smooth, carved into various shapes and standing precariously atop one another. How did they not fall down? It really felt like being on another planet.
We drove down gravel roads for a while until we finally reached our campsite – the Madissa Desert Campsite. There hadn’t been too much information online about what it was going to be like and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be like this. The turn to the campsite took us across sand, just beside a large hill of smooth boulders. My jaw fell open as we wove in between massive boulder-structures all beautiful and weird. It really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
Of course, there was no WiFi, no restaurant and no shop. This campsite was far too remote for any of that. There was also practically no electricity. The electricity only came on for 2 hours each evening. Was there hot water? Not exactly. To get hot water for your shower, you had to start a fire. The heat from the fire warmed up the water. I wasn’t sure I felt up for that and decided to brave a ‘cold’ shower. Although, it was so hot in the day, the water was far from cold!
Our camp spot itself was beautiful. It was a very large, private space nestled under a large tree. There was a low brick wall surrounding it. We had our own private shower and toiler which was located right beside the tree, up some wooden steps. It was the first ‘outdoor’ shower and toilet we had come across. It had walls made of sticks surrounding it but no roof. It was just us and beautiful nature.
The Madisa campsite was definitely my favourite campsite so far. the landscape around the campsite was completely unrivalled. I had never seen scenery like it and will probably never see anything like it again. The best way to describe it is ‘over-worldly’. I didn’t feel like I was on planet Earth anymore.
Even the animals seemed ‘other-worldly’. We cooked dinner and prepared the tent for bed. At 7pm the lights in the tree came on but I was blissfully unaware of the havoc they would cause. As darkness fell, the loudest buzzing I had ever heard in my life erupted and several giant beetles appeared, fluttering frantically. These beetles were unlike anything I had ever seen before. They were white and very, very fluffy. They vaguely resembled flying white mice. Our white car was parked just under the tree. I guess the light from the tree was reflecting tantalisingly on the shiny bonnet and these beetles began throwing themselves at it in what looked like a suicide mission. Some strange muffled buzzing began to fill our ears as several got stuck under the bonnet and in the wheels. It was terrifying! I had to duck down to avoid being slammed into as these crazy creatures dive-bombed the car from all angles.
After my shower, which was somehow peaceful considering there was a light on in there, I was quick to turn off the lights, hoping it would deter the crazy insects. I cannot tell you how many times I was awoken in the night by a crazy beetle head-butting the side of our tent. Its profuse buzzing filled my head, almost drowning out the roaring of lions outside and the howling of hyenas – almost. Did I mention, this campsite is not fenced in at all? Any animal can casually stroll into it. But, as it so happens, the lions and hyenas were the least of our worries. As I went on my nightly toilet visit, a bloody mosquito somehow got into the tent and I spent most of the night covering my ears to drown out the persistent buzzing. It was going to be a long night!