Namibia: Dream or reality?



Thu, 10 Aug 2017 - 09:41 GMT


Thu, 10 Aug 2017 - 09:41 GMT

I really wanted to visit Deadvlei! It’s a dry marsh where the burnt camel thorn trees remain for 900 years. Their trunks do not decompose due to the excessive aridity!

I really wanted to visit Deadvlei! It’s a dry marsh where the burnt camel thorn trees remain for 900 years. Their trunks do not decompose due to the excessive aridity!

CAIRO -10- August 2017:- Before I even started travelling in Africa, whenever I was reading about Namibia, I could not stop dreaming of exploring its endless, vast and wild landscapes.

I already knew that it was the second most sparsely populated country in the world, coming right after Mongolia. I love countries like that, since I can explore off-road trails all day long and at night I can wild camp wherever I want to!

Namibia’s roads consist of 5,450 km (3,386 miles) of asphalt roads and 37,000 km (22,991 miles) of dirt roads! Those numbers were very promising for me! By Madnomad

For almost a week, I was heading west, right next to the Angola borderline, a country I did not visit, since the visa for it is the most difficult to get in the entire Africa (not counting the countries in war, of course).

It was time to install the off-road tires on my motorcycle, the ones I was carrying from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was looking forward to hitting the dirt and forgetting about the boring asphalt!

I was aware that the route between Ruacana and the Epupa Falls is rough but it was also the most beautiful I rode in Namibia! The unstable stones and the deep ruts made the “road” impossible to cross on anything but an enduro bike.

In some places there was not even enough space for a four wheeler. As excepted, I did not meet a single vehicle those two days on that route. My motorcycle fell over five times, mostly on steep slopes full of rolling stones and also in the sand.

Riding from Ruacana to the Epupa Falls was the hardest and yet the most beautiful riding experience I had in Namibia!

I was mostly riding right next to the river that separates Namibia from Angola. The landscape was so beautiful, I decided to pitch my tent there. While cooking my dinner, I was gazing at the numerous stars that were filling up the sky all the way down to the horizon.

The Southern Hemisphere’s sky is a brand new thing to me. I could not even recognize a single asterism. That made me feel I am far away from home, in someplace beyond everything I’ve ever taken for granted.

Camping next to the river that separates Angola from Namibia…by Madnomad

Next morning, I woke up far more relaxed and as soon as I opened my eyes, I took off for a ride. I was riding standing up on my motorcycle and I was letting it jump up and down on the rocks! That was amazing…

That small engine was making a sweet sound that was like music to my ears… The gearbox was constantly working, so that I would shift up when the path had less rocks and shift down on steep slopes. How lovely did the suspension manage…

I built this motorcycle for occasions exactly like that: never ending enduro all day long on wild, deserted landscapes and camping at nightfall at the most beautiful places!

I couldn’t wait to reach the Epupa Falls and refresh in the river, wash away all my sweat from that rough enduro ride! I found some eddies that the crocodiles don’t reach, since the river turns shallow and rocky there. Some Himbas were washing in the river.

The only people I was meeting in that area were of the nomadic pastoralist tribe of the Himbas. The exciting thing is that up until today they live in the same way they used to live for centuries…

They build small settlements consisting of huts made out of sticks, hay and mud. They graze their goats in the area and they periodically move while searching for green pastures.

Planning my route on the map in order to avoid touching the asphalt…by Madnomad

They have a unique culture with interesting traditions. What makes them distinguish is their appearance. All of their body is brown! They cover themselves with a mixture of mud, ash and butter.

Some women even apply this mixture to their hair, right after they put their hair into plaits. They wear unrefined leather, brown capes, as well as tons of jewelry: necklaces, bracelets, belts… The materials they use vary: leather, bones, various metal, nuts and many more.

Through endless dirt roads I headed south. I saw petroglyphs dating from 6,000 years ago and also the 260-million-year-old Petrified Forest.

The southern I got the sparser became the vegetation. The scenery started to look more and more like a desert. So, after a few quite enjoyable days at the eerie Namibian landscape, I managed to reach the glorious Skeleton Coast. I had not seen the sea since Cameroon, six months ago!

One of the many shipwrecks at the Skeleton Coast…by Madnomad

The Skeleton Coast got its name because of its inhospitality. Many ships were wrecked there from the era the Portuguese were exploring Africa, up until the 20th century. If the sailors were not drowned in the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean, they had an even worse death in the desert that lies right next to the coastline.

Swakopmund is one of the few towns I visited in Namibia. The country’s past as a German colony is obvious in the architecture and also in the city’s vibe. There, I had the chance to play with my motorcycle on the sand dunes of Namib, the oldest desert in the world!

It was time to visit Sossusvlei, probably the most touristy sight in Namibia. I am not enthusiastic about visiting such crowded places but most of the times it is worth the trouble and the cost.

I knew that motorcycles are prohibited at the last 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the asphalt road leading to the famous reddish sand dunes in the desert. Yeap, that’s right…

The entire country might be full of dirt roads but there, in the middle of the desert, there is a 60-km-long asphalt road, since the buses never stop carrying tourists from and to the sand dunes. So, I hitchhiked.

I reached the sand dunes with some Japanese guys, I walked around and then I went back with a couple from France.

The truth is I am still wondering what’s so special about those sand dunes and thousands of people go there from all around the world to admire them! It is a “sterilized” place with no vibe, where nobody is allowed to stay after the sun sets, without any Bedouins or settlement.

One can only visit and see the dunes in the same way he would visit a museum. I have seen hundreds of sand dunes all around the world, I have walked among them, I have ridden them on my motorbike, I slept between them…

Sorry but I was much more touched by Sahara, which not only could I visit and see, but I could also feel and experience for many days and nights.

I visited the oldest desert in the world, Namib! Would I miss the chance to play among the dunes? (Photo: Jonathan Blackburn)…by Madnomad

The reason, though, I visited Sossusvlei (and did not regret it) was something else: the impressive Deadvlei! After I had walked a bit more than a kilometer, I reached a dried marsh that had been created centuries ago, when the Tsauchab river had flooded after heavy rainfalls.

This led some camel thorn trees to grow. When the marsh gave its place back to the desert, the camel thorn trees were burnt by the sun. Their trunks are preserved for the last nine hundred years, since the extreme aridity of the place protects them from decomposing.

The white bottom of an ancient marsh, the black, burnt trunks, the reddish sand dunes as a background and the light blue sky that always surrounds the desert compound a unique scenery…

This article was originally published by Madnomad



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