I thought it was about time I added another instalment to our Southern Africa trip – after Cape Town the next stage was a big road trip from Cape Town to Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city. Our plan was to meet up with my parents in Windhoek, hire a second car, and then continue the rest of our holiday within Namibia. Consequently we couldn’t spend too long on the drive north, the main places we wanted to visit were all beyond Windhoek, but the total distance between the two cities is around 800 miles and so it was a fairly major undertaking with four young children. We decided to split the drive into two full days plus a couple of shorter ones – it wasn’t hugely easy to find good spots to stop at appropriate mileages, there’s a lot of very unvisited and uninhabited country in this part of Southern Africa.
In the end we stopped at Springbok, which is not far short of the South Africa – Namibia border, for the first night. It feels like a real frontier town which is in fact the case, it started out as a centre for copper mining operations. The main tourist attraction in the Springbok area is viewing the Namaqua when it is in flower – the area’s flora explodes into colour after the winter rains* – which we would most definitely have detoured to visit properly if the arid region plants had been in bloom, but our timing was a handful of weeks too early.
The following day we drove a shorter distance into Namibia and stopped at a camp on the Namibian side of the Orange River (photos above). The border crossing at Noordoewer was uneventful and fairly quick although we did have to produce a mind-boggling array of paperwork and documents but thanks to my parents’ efficiency there wasn’t any trouble even with bringing a car we didn’t own out of South Africa and into Namibia. There was a noticeable difference in administrative technological development between the two countries, with Namibia having much less up to date equipment and systems.
The camp had a very student/backpacker feel to it and perfectly suited what we needed – we spent two nights there, walking, relaxing and having a day off from driving (and doing some all important clothes washing!). The big three children and John also spent a morning canoeing on the river. They had a lot of fun but as we had hit a very cold patch of weather the day-time temperature was unusually cold and they were all quite chilled by the time they finished….even with wearing pretty much every available piece of clothing they each had! We had expected night-time temperatures to be very low, down to freezing at times, but hadn’t anticipated day-time ones as cold as they were. At times the day temperatures barely lifted above the low teens centigrade, but they did hit the low 30s for a few days too, which felt wonderful in contrast! I think the weather during our stay wasn’t entirely typical of Namibian winter temperatures but it wasn’t wholly unusual either – if you go in winter bring your thermals, especially for night!
At around this stage I became a little concerned how I would manage a further 2 1/2 weeks travelling if the scenery carried on as it was in southern Namibia (and had been for the last couple of hours in South Africa too). John was in heaven, he loves desert and semi desert but it really doesn’t suit me – I like to have some signs of life even if it isn’t very green. From my photos of the river perhaps you can see just how dry and barren the landscape was, greenery didn’t extend more than a few metres from the water’s edge, or beyond the reach of a hose within the camp.
Leaving the Orange River we set off north for Keetmanshoop, a colonial town built up on the site of a spring and the main town between the border and Windhoek. The scenery gradually changed as we drove north to Keetmans (the local name for the town) with a little more vegetation making up the landscape. It was still desert and arid but the presence of a few signs of life made me feel much more comfortable. Keetmanshoop is a large town by Namibian standards and we made the main tourist trip of the area to view the Quiver Tree Forest, a national monument. The forest has around 250 individual Quiver Trees (actually an Aloe rather than a tree) and the name comes from the indigenous San bushman who use the branches as quivers for their arrows. The Forest is special for having such a high concentration of Quiver Trees in one place, elsewhere they are very scattered across the landscape.
We enjoyed Keetmanshoop – we found a lovely colonial hotel to spend the night in (the only time we stayed in a hotel) which had great food and lovely staff, the Quiver Trees were beautiful and it was a hot day for a change!
Next day we set off on the last stretch to Windhoek. We travelled through more mostly unpopulated country which became gradually more rolling and slightly more vegetated as we moved north to the capital……and I’ll catch-up on our travels beyond Windhoek next time! Thank you for staying with me. I’ll try to intersperse the last couple of holiday posts with some sewing!
*Namaqualand is home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world, and more than 1000 of the estimated 3000 plant species are found nowhere else on earth