Solveig and I planned a trip to Namaqualand for spring and include parts of Namibia and explore more of the Gariep river area. We mentioned our plans to Haldane and Dani who excitedly asked how far north we planned to go. Haldane had delivered a large order of his new furniture range to a sculpture garden gallery in Omaruru and wanted insitu photographs of his product.
We had never stayed in this area, only travelled through the Erongo region many years before. Sue and Pieter had been there on a birding trip a few years ago and raved about the mountains and nature of the area.
Once again, Solveig was to take the bulk of the photographs while I was left to concentrate on the driving so as not be distracted. We left home at 9 am on the 20th August and arrived at van Rhynsdorp at around 3:30pm.
We found accommodation at the van Rhynsdorp Caravan Park on the road to Gifberg just out of town. It had a farm like feel but what really sold us was LM Radio, our favourite radio station playing in the reception area. So, the owners must be cool! At R200.00 for the night, it was reasonable for the facilities offered. Lots of other campers must have thought that too as it was relatively full. There were spring flowers in the fields around the caravan site too adding to the country feel. I’ll be including prices of our accommodation in this blog as a guide for any others that maybe passing this way!
We re-organised our camper before leaving at around midday and headed inland to the Matjiesfontein farm stall, 15 km beyond Nieuwoudtville. There were 4 campsites, only used during the flower season. We found a lovely site under some huge trees amongst the sandstone ruins of old farm buildings. Only two sites had electricity for a few hours around sunset from a generator. We were lucky to get one. Ablutions were in an old stable, one of the ruins. Our campsite beneath the trees was also beneath swarms of weaver nests whose occupants provided us with their happy song. At R180.00 for the night, which included a drive through the farm on their flower route, was a bargain.
The next day we followed a route of about 10 kilometers which twisted over the farm to observe the amazing wild flowers of the region. We were able to leave our vehicle and view the flowers close.
After a light lunch we left for Loeriesfontein where the Fred Turner Windmill Museum is to be found. The museum is also dedicated to the culture and historical way of life of the old Trek Boers. Unfortunately the museum can only be visited by prior appointment.
We visited a general store next-door to a filling station and ordered coffee and cake. The owner, Josias van der Westhuizen, joined us at out table and wanted to know more about Twiga. After telling him of our trips, and where were going this time, we realised that it was getting late and we had nowhere to stay. When Josias asked us where we planned to stay we answered we would wild camp at a road cutting we’d seen on our way up. He advised us that it wasn’t safe as many truckers stopped there overnight and that it’s also a disgusting mess. He offered us a safe place to camp on a farm of his, Jobplaaskraal, about 10 kilometers south of Loeriesfontein and gave us directions.
We thanked him profusely. Wherever we go, the people we meet are all so special. Thank you, Josias, we found a magnificent spot next to a windmill and dam!
The next day we stopped at the Kokerwoud on our way back to Nieuwoudtville. The trees always face the sun on the north facing slope of the hills.
We had to return to van Rhynsdorp to continue northwards on the N7. We stopped at the Bagdad Cafe on the way for coffee and cake!
We also dropped in at Garies to order a Kokerboom for Amanda, our Gordon’s Bay neighbour. And more coffee and cake!!!
We asked that they keep the tree for us to pick up on our return trip. While enjoying our stop, the local folk entertained us to a Rieldans. What a treat.
Continuing our journey northwards, we spent the night at the Kamieskroon Hotel at R220.00 which included electricity. The campsite was covered with beautiful veldblomme and cacti. Before booking in we went up the pass to the plateau above and checked out a “Wild camp” site. The sites were small and expensive without facilities, hence Wild Camp!
We returned to the Kamieskroon Hotel. Unfortunately we were close to the N7 highway which was extremely noisy with large trucks passing most of the night. Maybe the Wild Camp would have been the better choice.
Before leaving Kamieskroon we had coffee at KuierVreugde Tearoom the next morning where I found a Geocache. We were introduced to this pastime by Shane, our nephew.
We stayed at Springbok Caravan park and visited Checkers to stock up before entering Namibia the next day.
Creatures of habit that we are, we stayed at our favourite wild camping venue, Gamchab Canyon! Wonderful as always. During breakfast we had a visitor who had stayed at Ai-Ais the night before. He had an overseas guest with him and they were heading for Aussenkehr. His guest, actually a customer from Italy, needed to introduce his own packaging on the export grapes his company had purchased.
We chatted for awhile and got a number of tips about routes and camping destinations from Frans who knew southern Namibia area well. We learned of an alternative route to Keetmanshoop which shortened our journey by a few hours!
It gave us time to stop at the Canyon Lodge near the Fish River Canyon where we’d stayed with Dukken and Rolf many years before.
We got to Keetmanshoop too late to get to Mesasaurus campsite which was about 50 kilometers further, on a gravel road we hadn’t been on before. So we camped at the municipal caravan park instead. It was rundown with faulty ablutions but at least it was safe. We thought that the asking price of R215.00 was too much though.
As it was relatively close by we decided check out Mesasaurus anyway for future reference. It was located beyond Giant’s Playground and the road was reasonable. We chatted to the owner and he gave us the whole story about the fossils on his property. We’d missed the guided tour, which was included in the price if you camped. Good value for R230.00 for everything. He knew Gordon’s Bay well as he had a daughter staying in the Helderberg area.
We went to look at the campsite, located in a dry river bed between two ridges full of kokerboom trees, just a few kilometers from the office. The location was as picturesque as the Kokerwoud Campsite near the Giants playground. We explored the place which included a short 4×4 trail and solar ablutions. There were many sites, mostly located beneath trees in the river bed.
We stopped next to one that had a very active Sociable Weaver nest and had lunch. The birds swarmed around us enjoying the hand-outs.
We were relaxed and enjoying the birds. Before we knew, it was too late to continue, so we decided to spend the night there after all. We drove back to the office to book in. The office was closed! We had no choice but to stay, we found a lady who wasn’t sure where the owner was. We told her we’d changed our minds and wanted to stay. She said we could pay the next day, and she’d let the owner know, so we returned to the campsite and set up camp.
The next day we got as far as Mariental and camped at Koha, a farm near to the Hardup Dam, with excellent facilities for R200. A lovely overnight stop. Creatures of habit, we skipped Windhoek and continued to Okahanja to purchase meat, droewors and biltong from Closwa, a very good butcher chain in Namibia. We stayed overnight at the Ombonde Campsite, one of our favourites just out of town.
The campsite is very special with plenty birds and wildlife and also outdoor showers with water heated by Donkey boilers like this one for couples!
On our way to Omaruru we passed this huge termite mound and Solveig just had to embrace it!
Omaruru has become an artist retreat and the town has many artists, scupturers and photographers living there. We were in for a treat the weekend we’d chosen, Omaruru was hosting an Arts festival! There were the usual food and drink stalls and many of the old houses had been turned into artist galleries which were open to the public and displaying amazing mounted photographs and landscape paintings. All highlighting the natural beauty of Namibia.
Haldane’s furniture was featured in the Sculpture Garden Gallery along with works of local artists.
We spent the weekend in Omaruru photographing the furniture. It took the whole weekend as we had to wait for optimal lighting conditions lighting the furniture. We also explored the area as we’d not been there before.
Across the road from the campsite was the Franke Tower. The tower was built to commemorate a battle between the Hereros and the German colonisers and is used today as a Museum.
The campsite in the town was better than we’d expected with many facilities, a playground and farm animals for children, a swimming pool and local trees and plants well cared for. The shaded site located on the banks of the dry Omaruru river.
On the Monday we left Omaruru to explore the Erongo mountains. In the mountains were several private game farms that offered various types of accommodation. Sue and Pieter van Oudtshoorn recommended The Three Elephants campsite at Omandumba Guest Farm.
We were shocked when we arrived and discovered that it was fully booked….until January 2020! The receptionist, Thelma, was wonderful. After explaining to her that we were totally self contained and didn’t require any facilities but only a safe place to wildcamp she said she had a place for us. Once again, I repeat, the world is full of wonderful people and you get what you deserve by your attitude.
Thelma jumped into a bakkie and asked us to follow her. She showed us to a picnic spot behind a group of rocks, completely out of sight.
Solveig joked about the guardian angel sitting on the chair alongside me.
Our site was beautifully secluded amoungst the most amazing rock formations.
We were near a proper camp that had a flush loo and an outdoor shower heated by a donkey boiler. Thelma suggested that we look out for the occupants and use the facilities once they’d left the following day.
Our next destination was the Spitzkoppe mountains community campsite. We’d previously visited there about 10 years ago when there were only six camps with long drops. The road between the Erongo mountains and Spitzkoppe is gravel and was not in the usual high standard expected in Namibia.
We passed a few settlements along the way. The road became more corrugate the closer we got to Spitzkoppe.
There must be about at least thirty campsites now but each one is hidden behind rocks and is very private.
We went via Henties Bay after leaving Spitzkoppe where we spent the night and then continued towards Swakopmund, making coffee and photo stops along the way.
Just south of Henties Bay one of the the Skeleton Coast’s victims is the wreck of the Zeila.
Next, we pulled in at the small resort town of Wlotzkasbaken. Nearly every house in the town was brightly painted. It added a touch of colour to what otherwise would have been a bleak place.
At Windpomp 14 we stopped for coffee only. The campsite didn’t offer much unless you were a fisherman and it was expensive….
So, we carried on to Swakopmund to the “graveyard”. We knew what to expect and it was affordable even though it was one of the ugliest places we’d ever stayed at!
There were a few changes…. A permanent resident had set up a vegetable garden! He sold his produce to people from the nearby township.
While in Swakopmund we visited the NWR offices to obtain a permit to enter the Namib/ Nauklauft Game Reserve and spend the night wildcamping at the Vogelfedderberg. We had tried on a previous occation but advised that a permit was required.
But first, we wanted to visit the lagoon in Walvis Bay to photograph Flamingos and Pelicans. We stayed at the Lagoon Caravan site.
We could have spent days here, there were so many photo opertunities!! After a light lunch we headed out into the desert as a mist was coming in from the sea.
About a hour later we arrived at our destination and climbed the picturesque mountain. We were all alone, how wonderful!
We noted the direction of the light desert winds and drove around the mountain in search of a sheltered spot.
We found a great level and sheltered spot facing the setting sun under an overhang up the side of the mountain.
Solveig was happy too!
We slept so well in the fresh mountain air with not a sound to disturb us. There is something to be said for wildcamping in Nature.
We felt that we were on our way home again now that we had left the coast, but still without a schedule. We planned to continue in a leisurely fashion and see how things turned out. So after a propper breakfast we set off again towards the Tiras valley where we hadn’t been for a few years. But our plans were to change; we got a puncture! The Tiras valley was out of the question without a spare. We’d already passed the turnoff via Sossus. Our next best route was to head for Maltahohe where we could expect assistance. We were in a beautiful mountainous area, so our detour turned out to be a new experience for us,
We hadn’t been this way for at least 10 years as it wasn’t on one of our favoured routes. We arrived after dark. The caravan park was closed! We drove around the town looking for an alternative and found a guest house. They couldn’t help us as they were fully booked and suggested that we wildcamp behind their guest house in the next street. The owner assured us that we would be safe.
It was on a piece of ground at the edge of town which looked as if it had become a bit of a dumping ground with building rubble all over. There were also a few cows wandering around but it was really too dark to see properly.
In the morning, while I was having the tyre repaired, Solveig took a walk through town. She phoned to say that the caravan park and restuarant was now open and that I should join her there for coffee. We checked out our options and chose Aus as our next stopover. We could then exit Namibia through the border at Alexander Bay using the recently tarred road between Rosh Pinah and Oranjemund.
The road to Oranjemund lies virtually on the edge of the Gariep river. We overlooked farms popping out of the desert on the South African side.
It was nearly the end of September and there were still wild flowers and succulents growing in the harsh desert terrain.
Once we reached the coast we carried on to Port Nolloth. The camp site was another 10 kilometers further south at McDougalls Bay.
The municipal camp was right on the shore, terribly run down, and had several dubious looking characters staying in beach cottages. A wonderful location. Such a pity!
The were a number of other campers staying over the weekend, but when they left on Monday we did too.
We drove a futher 75 kilometers down the coast to Kleinzee, through a diamond consession area previously run by De Beers Consolidated. Kleinzee had been a town of about 2000 people where the miners had lived until mining operations ceased around 2009. The town got its name from the lagoon at the mouth of the Buffels river. There is a shopping centre, caravan park a few restaurants and a petrol station. The town was in a surprisingly good condition considering the lack of work in the area for the small population. Probably funded from the “klippies” that were still to be found in the abandoned sandunes.
Springbok was about 100 kilometers to the east over a good gravel road. We stayed at the Springbok Caravan park as usual. We had planned to travel home along the coast, stopping at various resorts along the way, but changed our minds when confronted by cold weather. We would return home earlier.
We spent a cold night at the Clanwilliam Dam resort which was soon to be closed as the dam wall was being raised to increase capacity and would flood the existing facilities.
A familiar sight welcomed us home after an amazing trip with so many new experiences from a country we just love visiting.