Desert Adventure – Day 1

Our directions for today read like something out of a fantasy novel:

(These are literally the directions)

Drive north on the Great Salt Road passed St. Nowhere

Take a right turn into the mouth of the Ugab river (if you get to the Skeleton Coast you’ve gone 7km too far)

Drive 70km up the river bed and try not to get stuck by any of the treacherous obstacles: deep sand, mud flats, sharp rocks which can shred tires, to name just a few.

Oh, also try not to get eaten by a desert lion, trampled by a desert elephant or gorged by a desert rhino (While in the riverbed our GPS literally said: take a right turn onto “Elephants”)

Eventually you should end up at the Save the Rhino Trust campsite

We were only able to leave Swakopmund just after 11AM. Our errands took longer than expected but we made north with haste up the Great Salt Road along the coast. Yes, salt road. Namibia is world-renowned for its unpaved roads and this one is a beauty. It is made out of a mixture of salt and dirt, forming a smooth, hardy surface which almost appears tar-like at times. We’d been warned that although it seems great, it can get slippery when it was wet and foggy out. It was wet and foggy today. We didn’t test the limits of its traction.

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The road looks like tar but it’s actually salt and dirt.

Following the rest of our directions we got past St. Nowhere without issue but that’s just about the only thing we did right. We drove right past the Ugab river and got to the Skeleton Coast so we turned around. We turned down a road that was in relatively good condition and thought “We’ll get to Save the Rhino Trust Campsite in no time!” We were wrong.

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Our first road was easy to drive but the landscape was spectacular.  It looked like we were driving on the moon!

We turned off the road down a steep embankment into the riverbed. It was mostly dry but for the odd muddy bit. Not too many people had come this way but there were clear tracks to follow so we charged forward fearlessly (though with a bit of tingly nerves for good measure.)

The riverbed started out smoothly and I proudly proclaimed to Cheryl “we’ve only got to average 20km / hour and we’ll make it to camp before sunset. We’re golden!”

We were not golden.

We did not average 20km per hour.

We did NOT follow the directions.

We got stuck. After 5 attempts and 45 minutes we extracted ourselves.

We got stuck again. (This time we got out our first try, mostly because we listened to Cheryl’s advice.)

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The first time we got stuck.  You can tell it’s the first time because I’ve got a big smile on my face.  All part of the adventure right?

Still stuck.  Less smiling.  We did eventually get out and continue on our way.  Then the smiles came back big time.

We were still 30+kms from the camp when the light was starting to fade. Instead of pushing on we stopped at a relatively flat spot on somewhat high ground and set up camp. That’s the beauty about having everything you need with you at all times.

We lit a fire, cooked some delicious chicken a la Sweet Baby Ray over an open fire and settled in for a relaxing evening trying desperately to follow the rest of the directions about not getting eaten, trampled or gorged.

Our camp set-up that night.  Nobody around in any direction.  It is the best part about driving around with everything you need with you all the time.  Just set up and you’ve got your own piece of paradise.

Luckily, we were able to follow those and we had a great night to ourselves. We think the closest people to us were around 35km away. That said, we also realized that meant absolutely nobody knew where we were so we decided to send a quick SMS via our sat phone to Cheryl’s dad so somebody knew where to start the search party in case things turned out poorly.

They didn’t turn out poorly. It was awesome!

4 thoughts on “Desert Adventure – Day 1

  1. Hi Josh and Cheryl
    I am totally envious.
    Isn’t that part of Namibia just so totally awesome, the privacy, the landscape, the escape from civilisation.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip in that part of this wonderful world
    Lloyd (holed up in Jhb)


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