Days 116-135 - Friday 15/02/08 to Wednesday 05/03/08

Etosha Etosha

Change of diary format as we're in holiday mode now. First stop: Oshakati, where a very helpful ARB dealer ordered us some new OME shocks to pick up on Monday. In the meantime, we nipped off to Etosha National Park for Robin's birthday (duly celebrated with copious amounts of 33 Export and a braai) and spent a couple of days gawping at animals. Highlights included a black rhino and a pride of lion munching on a zebra. It's the wet season and we've had some almighty thunderstorms with lightning striking within feet of the car - pretty scary (does the Faraday cage really work?), but felt more sorry for the giraffe weathering the storm outside our window.

track from Rucana to Epopa too lazy to let our tyres down

Collected our shocks from Oshakati and headed off to explore remote Kaokoland. A flooded road meant we had to detour back towards the Angolan border (noooo!), but led us to a lovely campsite at Hippo Pools. It took two days to travel 100 km along the 4WD-only track along the river to Epupa Falls. The only other car we saw was stuck in a river - the local policemen as it turned out. We towed him out, but got thoroughly stuck ourselves a couple of times. The Himba tribes out here are amazing: still semi-nomadic, the men wear loin clothes while the women are topless and have braided hair covered in butter, ash and ochre.

Epopa falls - very full after lots of rain rock art at Twyfelfontein

Namibia is five times bigger than Britain but with only 1.8 million people - that's about one person for every 150 at home. Long, empty gravel roads define much of the country. There's plenty of scope for bushcamping but also some lovely commuinity-run campsites, including one at Warmquelle with a beautiful natural pool (complete with turtles).

Warmquelle pool Warmquelle

Damaraland gravel roads Damaraland

Cruised on down through Damaraland (where the locals speak in a brilliant clicking language) towards the Skeleton Coast. Not as dramatic as it sounds, it's actually one of the bleakest landscapes we've seen. Settled for a chilly few days in Swakopmund to recharge our batteries and over-indulge in the delights of shops, restaurants and washing machines. Amazing how exciting that can seem. The landie also had a trip to the garage to retap one of the rocker shaft securing bolts, which Robin discovered just in time before it did any serious damage. Apparently crime is a problem here: all the houses here have big dogs and high electric fences, and even the shops have security gates that you have to be buzzed into.

Cape Cross Cape Cross

Seeing as we're mising the Alpine winter, we just had to try duneboarding. So much fun, sand everywhere and some spectacular wipe-outs. It doesn't hurt... until the next day.

Top of Dune 7 long way down

Robin the pro Robin the pro

Nic the pro Nic the pro

On our way south towards the famous red dunes at Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert, it transpired that the brand new brake pump we'd purchased in Swakopmund was faulty. The parts come from Windhoek so we decided to go straight there, over the beautiful Gamsberg Pass. It's frustrating but we're thanking our lucky stars that all this is happening in Namibia not in Angola (or most of the other countries we've travelled through) where we could have been held up for weeks waiting for delivered parts to clear customs.

break pumps

There were no pumps in stock in Windhoek so we ordered one and headed off on a loop to the south. The Sossusvlei dunes, part of one of the oldest and driest ecosystems on earth, are just as big and red as they look, rising up to 325 m. The Namibian national parks have this cunning system whereby unless you stay in the expensive park accommodation then you miss sunrise and sunset. We stayed a little late and risked a fine, but nobody asked any questions.

Sossusvlei Deadvlei

Headed cross-country via Dwuisib castle (which wasn't worth a detour but has some historical relevance) to the Brukkaros volcano. A fairly tricky stone track led us to a stunning campsite on the side of the volcano. No-one else had attempted the track, so it was just us and the baboons. Spent a relaxing couple of days exploring, before heading back up to Windhoek.

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