Miles and miles of nothingness in the Namib desert - the best breakaway ever
When people said there is nothing in Namibia, I didn’t realize what nothing actually means. We’re used to traveling to underpopulated places in South Africa, but never have I seen such vast distances between civilizations. When you look on the map, it seems that there are a lot going on. In actual fact, what seemed to me to be towns, were only very small settlements with vast distances in between. For some people the landscapes of Namibia are “ugly” or “nothing” (words quoted from people we know), but for us the diverse and rapidly changing landscapes of Namibia are breathtaking and means freedom. I stood in awe of how fast the landscapes changed and how different the landscapes of Namibia looked. It’s no wonder Namibia is known as “The Land of Endless Horizons”.
Both Shaun and I like to enjoy our time off in deserted places and Namibia is perfect for that. You can drive for hours without seeing another car or human being. Now, how is that for isolation? Did you know that Namibia is the 5th least densely populated country in the world with only 2.9 people per sq km? Furthermore, there are only a few tourists visiting (and we visited during high season - September), except for Sesriem and Sossusvlei, which strangely enough was our best part of the trip. I think it’s because when you think about Namibia, you think about the rich red dunes of the desert. Going to Deadvlei and Sossusvlei was in the top 10 of both Shaun and my bucket lists and we weren’t let down at all. Because I am a big dreamer, I get disappointed easily, but the Namib desert surpassed my wildest expectations. When we go to Namibia again, we’ll definitely visit Sesriem again, but for a longer period - 4 to 5 nights, to climb a different dune every morning with sunrise. For some people one day to Sossusvlei will be enough, but for us, well, we will never get enough of that magnificent place.
To test our relationship even further, we did our road trip on a motorcycle, so packing lightly was essential. Even though we are experienced campers, we had to buy everything from scratch, because the items we had weren’t small and light enough. We did most of our shopping for this trip at Cape Union Mart.
Travel tip 2: Do not think you’ll be able to drive to Sossusvlei on your motorcycle - it’s not allowed. Luckily we met the friendliest people along the way (a couple and their two kids also from Cape Town) and we could visit Sossusvlei with them in their Landy. The second time around we rented a 4x4.
Here is a list of camping essentials for survival and moto camping - click here for the list without descriptions:
The tent is very light (on a motorcycle every gram counts) and packs up very small and doesn’t need a ground cover (but a ground cover is advisable though). We’ve chosen a 3 person tent, because it fits 2 inflating mats easily with a little bit of packing space for a few things.
2. K-Way Insulated Inflating Mat (times 2)
These mattresses are surprisingly small and compact (when rolled up and in its bag) and inflates with approximately 15 blows. We opt for the smallest mattresses we could find and therefore did not choose the self inflating ones. Sleeping on this mattress is actually very comfortable, but you do need to be very careful not to get a puncture. Luckily it comes with its own patch and solution kit (to my and Shaun’s surprize). Throughout the trip Shaun didn’t get one puncture, because he is precise and knows what he’s doing. Me on the other hand, let’s just say I am very hard on things and got, well, quite a few punctures (I did sleep on the mattress upside down the one night - thus not advisable). After Shaun patched it up with the kit provided, it’s like brand new and still provides a good night’s sleep.
3. Repair kit for mattresses - the above mattresses came with their own repair kits.
Like I mentioned, inflating mattresses get punctures easily, especially if you’re like me. If your mattress doesn’t come with its own repair kit, get one before you go on your trip. If you’ve used the kit on a previous trip, replace it with a new one.
4. K-Way Zermatt 950 Eco Sleeping bag (times 2)
We wanted a sleeping bag that we could use in summer and in winter. Even though you won’t be able to use this in extreme cold conditions, you will be able to use this sleeping bag in winter, with a sleeping bag liner and thermal sleepwear. Namibia gets quite cold at night and we did survive the cold nights with this sleeping bag and our thermal wear.
5. Pillow cases - we used clothes as pillows.
We don’t like inflatable pillows, but maybe next time, we’ll take two with. Even though the clothes in a pillow case worked, it did “sleep out” during the night and we had to puff it up in the middle of the night. This looks like great option - K-Way Self inflating pillow.
6. Thermal wear - K-Way Men's Thermalator Elite Long John, K-Way Men's Thermalator Elite Long Sleeve Vest, K-Way Women's Thermalator Elite Slaxliner, K-Way Thermalator Elite Cami (Lds) and K-Way Women's Thermalator Elite Spencer.
Now, you’re probably thinking “You were in the desert, why the heck do you need thermal?” Yes, during day time it’s extremely hot, but interesting fact about the desert - hot deserts usually feature high temperatures in the daytime and cold temperatures at night. We were so thankful we took the thermal wear along, because without it and the Zermatt sleeping bag, we wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night - it was freezing cold. When we climbed the dune at Sossusvlei during sunrise, I tried walking barefoot, but my feet were freezing - it’s way worse than Clifton’s water temperature.
Travel tip 3: DON’T think - “I’m going to the desert - I don’t need warm clothes.” It gets very cold, pack enough warm clothes and preferably thermal.
This is probably one of the best closet investments you can make. These jackets are warm, but don’t take up a lot of space and as a added bonus it’s aesthetically pleasing - aka pretty. Shaun bought his jacket last year this time and has been using it almost everyday since then (even in summer, because the aircon in their office is so cold). It works with everything and is an easy go-to jacket in your closet. I bought mine just before we left and I am loving it as well. I can see myself wearing it a lot this year.
As we couldn’t take a lot of clothes with, we decided to take a few of our favourite things - mostly Old Khaki casual wear. Both Shaun and I also got a few K-Way shirts. I did pack too much and it made the bike too heavy. You don’t need much - 2 shorts and 3 shirts and swimwear, 2 pairs of socks and 5 pieces of underwear will be sufficient, not forgetting the thermal wear and jacket. You easily make time to wash a few things and it dries so quickly in the heat.
9. Shoes: comfortable motorcycle boots - hiking/walking shoes (times 2), tekkies and Old Khaki Flip Flops (times 2) for the campsite.
We bought the Forma Adventure boots before our trip and they’re very comfortable. We walked with them for the greater part of the day and only used the tekkies and flip flops at the campsite.
10. Hats (times 2)
Sun-safety first - I always use a SPF 50 sunscreen. The sun is one of your skin’s worst enemies. When you’re older, you’ll be so thankful for protecting your skin against the sun at a young age. Too much exposure to the sun definitely causes your skin to age more quickly.
12. Insect repellant
13. First-aid kit
14. Prescription medications
15. Toothbrush, toiletries
16. K-Way Trek Towel Large (times 2)
These guys are so nifty. They pack up so small and absorb the water better than a normal towel does. They do take a while to dry, but if you have to, you can pack it away wet and hang to dry at your next destination, because the microfibre retains the moisture and won’t make the surrounding things or stuff wet.
This setup packs up small and the stove has its own container so the sharp edges won’t damage your other stuff.
18.Stanley cook set (comes with two cups - we used it as bowls as well)
We bought this set at Cape Union Mart, but can’t seem to find it online. This is a perfect setup for coffee and cooking. It packs up small and is versatile. We used the cups as bowls.
19. Two spoons
20. Sharp knife
21. Food and water for 2 to 3 days.
We bought food daily along the road, but as you are travelling in a deserted area, it is important to be prepared and have food and water supplies to get you through 2 or 3 days in case of an emergency. We had protein shake, peanut- and other nut butters, baked beans and canned vegetables. Take food that is high in protein and energy.
23. Deluxe Coffeeworks beans
25. Energizer Headlamps (times 2)
The headlamps packed up small and ensured that we both had light wherever we went at night.
26. Biodegradable soap
27. Sponge, dishcloth, dish towel
28. Trash bags
Always ensures you discard of all your waste and don’t leave a trace behind. Please care for the environment.
Capturing memories is one of the most important things for me. I feel I didn’t take enough photos on our trip. However, in retrospect I realize that we should always remember to live in the moment and not to be obsessed with taking photos the whole time, as this can be draining and stressful and definitely not what you need on your holiday.
30. Maps, area information
If you don’t have a GPS, a map of the area works great. We didn’t have a problem doing it old school and using a map. Also don’t be afraid to ask recommendations from locals or other tourists.
31. Tyre repair kit
The condition of the roads is very bad and you can expect a wheel puncture or two. Expect (majorly het ander betekenis) gravel roads that are very sandy and rocky for the most part - thus a bumpy ride. Please go prepared with a tyre repair kit and if you are travelling by car/ 4x4 make sure you have a spare wheel or two.
32. Very important - Emergency numbers
Travel tip 4: VERY IMPORTANT!!! Make a list of all the emergency numbers you might need for the place you’re traveling to.
Namibia is the perfect destination for an epic road trip, but please allow enough travel time between destinations. The scenery are beyond describable beautiful and you’ll want to stop along the road a lot. We didn’t have time to stop everywhere we would have liked to, but next time we’ll definitely consider longer travel times. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the roads are very bad - gravel, sandy and rocky and travelling is long long and bumpy - you can definitely expect to get a puncture here and there - you will be very lucky if you don’t.
What made our experience even more special is that many of the locals speak Afrikaans (our mother-tongue) and they are very friendly and hospitable. English, Afrikaans and German are widely spoken by the Namibians.
What is also great, the Namibian Dollar is connected to the South African Rand and we could use our Rands to pay for goods and accommodation. The Namibian Dollar, however, is not accepted in South Africa.
We didn’t plan our trip in advance and we booked accommodation on a daily basis. If you are camping, it is not that big a problem, but if you are staying in lodges, it is advisable to book in advance. Furthermore, at Sesriem it is advisable to book ahead, but you will normally get a spot in the overflow area (without shade, electricity and running water). We did however manage to secure us a spot with shade, electricity and running water for two nights.
Another thing to keep in mind, I did buy myself a sim card, but could rarely use it to access the internet. We hardly had signal and if we did, we only had EDGE signal that meant we were only able to call and sms, but we could not use the internet at all. Now, thinking back, it was a much needed internet break, but don’t expect to be doing work that requires the internet. Rather manage expectations of clients and/or colleagues beforehand, so that you don’t stress and freak out like I did.
Travel tip 5: Namibia’s night sky is breathtaking. Please take a moment to experience and enjoy it.
Travel tip 6: If you travel on a motorcycle in Namibia, we would advise traveling in a group and not to do it alone. The roads are very bad and quite. If something happens, it might be too late when someone arrives.
We cannot wait to do our next trip to Namibia. If we travel alone, next time, we’ll take a 4x4.
I hope these tips are useful and insightful. I would love to know if you have been to Namibia and if so, please feel free to share any additional tips with us. Please comment on the thread below.