April 25th, 2011 (February 2011) – From Luderitz our goal was to reach the village of Sesriem, situated on the edge of the Namib Desert. Again, our ambitions were a bit grandiose. In a typical year the rainfall would be minimal/manageable for the time of year. This was not a typical year. As such roads that are normally suitable for a 2wd were sometimes questionable at best. For the most part they were actually pretty good but certain areas were washed out a smidge and covered in a layer of not so forgiving sand. Eventually, the sand got us. Damn the sand.
The road ahead had more of the same ‘edge of the earth’ feel we had encountered thus far and had a unique undercurrent of vitality punctuated by what we learned was an unusually verdant natural scene (courtesy of the rainfall). The only indications of human presence were the road itself and the seemingly endless fence line running along both sides of it. Driving along, one often feels like the whole of Namibia is fenced off for farming. These were the only reminders that we were not alone….probably.
We found ourselves mesmerized by the forlorn expansiveness of the region all the while crossing our fingers and hoping Sparky possessed the constitution to surmount any and all obstacles ahead. For the most part it performed admirably considering the terrain but even Superman has his kryptonite. There were areas that had obviously become temporary streams in the recent past and had deposited a not insignificant amount of sand in the road. One particularly large deposit proved too much for Sparky. We became entrenched….big time.
I was forced to access my bottomless database of off-roading experience to extricate Sparky from the quagmire. If ensuring the Spark would never escape the sand under its own power was my aim then my efforts were an overwhelming success. There was a game farm very nearby and we had seen a 4wd vehicle enter the premises just before getting stuck. We decided that Leslie would go for a stroll while I continued my futile effort to release Sparky. It was either leave Leslie alone by the vehicle while I went for help or force Leslie to walk solo into foreign territory. That ‘foreign territory’ turned out to be a game farm populated with a variety of dangerous animals. I am happy to report that she reached the house without being trampled by a rhino. Hindsight being what it was perhaps we should have locked up the car and both made our way to the house. I am nothing if not chivalrous.
So Leslie returned with two burly, knaggy Namibian gentlemen and their 4x4. They were kind enough to connect a rope and pull Sparky to freedom. They also gave me sound advice that basically amounted to ‘don’t drive like a pussy’ and assured us that if we were to have another problem we would most likely encounter their father along the way who would be happy to free us. Thankfully, his services were unnecessary.
Game farm? What the hell is a game farm? As near as I can tell these farms raise animals for one of three purposes: 1) to sell as exotic food; 2) to supply hunting reserves with fresh game; and 3) to furnish animals for public or private game reserves. My gut told me the Burly Boys were involved in the second option but I cannot be certain.
We soldiered on through another long day. In the afternoon we found ourselves in another isolated Namibian town with that familiar frontier aura by the name of Maltahohe. There was not much to it. We took a look at the Maltahohe Hotel and were thoroughly unimpressed. The owner was friendly in that crotchety I-don’t-give-a-shit-if-you-stay-here-or-not sort of way. There was another place in town but we decided to chance it and try to make it to the village of Solitare. Our intended destination was Sesriem but a tourist bus driver informed us that the more indirect route through Solitare was in much better shape.
Thankfully, we never made it. While on our way we spotted a sign for Tsauchab River Camp located near the Naukluft Mountains, a place we’d read about in the book. It sounded lovely. Was it a good idea to try and get there? Negative. The sun was setting, it was even less of a ‘main’ route then the one we were on, and the chances of not having to turn around seemed slim. So we decided to go for it. Who wouldn’t?
We encountered a considerable number of obstacles (i.e. more than one) along the way. There were many areas that had been affected by the rains but somehow we managed to make our way through each one. We even forded a stream or two (the natural vehicle lavations were welcome). Go Sparky go. I’d have to admit that stress levels were elevated and the voice in the back of my head may have been advocating retreat on more than one occasion. However, we made it to our destination and were happy that we persevered. It was a remarkable site. The campsites were spread out along the Tsauchab Riverbed and each had its own shower block, sink, and barbecue facilities. It was sublime and exactly what we needed after a long stressful day in ‘the bush’ (I’m allowed to use the phrase now that I’m a bona fide badass).
The next morning a young Namibian guy showed up to say hello. He had been working there for the summer and was curious about us. He was more than a little surprised to see our vehicle and had assumed we had a 4wd. Nuuh-uh. We like a challenge. Apparently, if we had been in the area a couple weeks previously we never would have had a chance. The water was so high and furious in some places a 4wd drive had been washed away by the torrent. Thankfully, the passengers escaped. Seeing as we had the non-amphibious version of the Spark we were grateful for our timing.
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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim