We spent 11 days driving through Namibia, starting in the south and working our way north. The bleakness and stark simplicity of Namibia is gorgeous. I started this journey in Bali, where the fruitfulness of the land and effortlessness of life was amazing to me, I’d never seen such a bountiful place. Namibia is the complete opposite. The landscapes is dominated by the Namib Desert, which formed close to 80 million years ago. The land feels ancient and it’s easy to imagine it having been around since the days of the dinosaurs.
Bali is like the good times in life, when things come easy and the fruits of life are sweet and effortless. Namibia is like the times when you have to struggle, face hardships, and the amazing triumphs of overcoming those obstacles. What life that does exist here is miraculous and awe inspiring.
Fish River Canyon
Our first stop was Fish River Canyon, a massive gorge in the earth and the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon.
After camping for a night at the southern end of the canyon, we went up to the north end. Hiking was prohibited due to the extreme heat (it was well over 100 degrees during the day), but we both grew up in Texas and aren’t scared away by a little bit of hot weather, so we hiked in to get a look from the bottom.
During the heat of the day we went to the Fish River Canyon Lodge, a luxury lodge with a beautiful swimming pool. We didn’t actually stay here of course, but we did crash their pool, join in on their sunset walk (meant for guests), and have dinner there. We met an awesome German guy who’s been guiding in Namibia and Botswana for the past 25 years and he helped up sketch out an itinerary for the rest of our trip.
From Fish River Canyon we drove up to Sossusvlei, the most famous sand dunes in Namibia. It was here that we first got our truck stuck in the sand after making the rookie mistake of not deflating our tires. Luckily someone helped get us out and we still made it to the dunes for sunrise. The scale of the dunes was amazing, it was like a giant mountain range made of sand.
After some extremely intense heat in the desert we headed to Swakopmund, a coastal resort town that has weather more similar to California than Arizona. Namibia was Germany’s sole colony in Africa and there is still a strong German influence, especially here in Swakopmund where there are lots of German speakers and tourists. Our camp site was super nice, but didn’t have many trees, so this was the first spot we didn’t camp in hammocks and busted out the rooftops. They’re actually a lot more comfortable than I expected and super easy to setup.
This was a pretty chill stop, but we did make one trip to the local dunes from some sand boarding (basically snowboarding on the sand).
We drove from Swakopmund up the Skelton Coast, a desolate desert coastline famous for ship wrecks. There was nothing at all there but we had a beautiful campsite on the beach and caught a phenomenal sunset. I also got my last surf in before we headed inland for the rest of the trip.
This was a one night stopover between the Skeleton Coast. They had a couple attractions, a traditional village that was really cool and some ancient rock carvings that were actually really disappointing. We crashed another nice lodge pool and then camped out and made friends with some locals.
One of the local guys told us he knew how to find a pack of desert elephants, a rare and elusive type of elephant that has adapted to live in the Namib Desert. In the morning he jumped in our car and guided us for about an hour on 4×4 trails through the bush. Just as we were starting to lose faith we found a pack of about 25 massive elephants. They were tearing down massive trees and eating the wood and all, apparently a major source of moisture for them. We were the only ones there and they let us get extremely close. It was incredible.
Etosha is the most famous national park and safari destination in Namibia. We spent a couple nights here camping and doing game drives. It was really hot during the day, so most of the animals were taking cover, but we did get lucky and see a pride of 6 lions as well as all of the usual suspects; giraffe, zebra, springbok, kudu, ostrich, warthog, etc.
The coolest feature of Etosha was that each campsite has a waterhole that is lit up at night with seating to watch the action. The second night we sat down with a bottle of wine and watched two male Black Rhinos fight over a female. These are seriously mean and powerful animals.
Our last morning in Etosha we woke up to two honey badgers, which are probably my favorite animal, going from campsite to campsite, tossing over the trash cans, and feasting on the contents.
Our last stop in Namibia was just before the Botswana border on the Caprivi Strip, the part of the Okavango river just before it expands out in to the delta. We were actually planning on going from Etosha straight to Botswana, but we got to the crossing too late and had to camp out at a local backpackers called Ngepi. It turned out to be awesome and we ended up spending two nights there. We met some Americans who were doing Peace Corp in local villages as well as some other really cool travelers. We also hired a guide and boat to go fishing for tiger fish on the Okavango, and though we didn’t get any fish, we saw tons of hippo and the river was beautiful.
Next stop Botswana!