- Crossing the borders between Botswana and Namibia was almost like crossing the borders of two European countries. Everything neat and clean. Everything under control. Not even one “fixer” who wants to “help” you, no time-consuming procedures: just a stamp on the documents and off you go!
- I left Botswana driving on a very good quality tar road and when I entered Namibia I stepped on a dirt road. The poor quality of the road was the first thing I saw in Namibia…if only I knew what was next!
- I had been told that 80% of the people of Namibia live in the north of the country. It was true! I was trying in vain to find a remote place to pitch my tent and spend the night but it was impossible. There were people all around me and I didn’t have any more strength even to talk to anyone. It wouldn’t be polite to pitch my tent in a village next to other people without a word (let alone all the children who would definitely gather around me). So, I took the decision to continue to Rundu.
- I got to Rundu at 21:00 and spent the night at a very cheap lodge (well, it’s better to write “lodge”) for 3.5euro pitching my tent in their yard. The yard was a nice place but inside the building, it was like a prison. Those who were staying at that “lodge”, had probably been there for a while.
- The last few days, I feel the need to travel for as many kilometers as possible per day. In only 3 days, I covered a distance of 1,000km. This is definitely something I don’t do often, but I think I know why I’m doing it: it’s the lack of company…
- The road to Tsumeb, my next destination, was very good. Of course, for once more it was difficult to find a place to pitch my tent. Now, the vast areas on both sides of the road were fenced with wire fences. I could open one of the gates and enter but either I had to ask for permission to stay there or I would be kicked out. I didn’t even think to do any of those…
- I stayed at Tsuneb for 4 days. I had found a small paradise called “Mousebird Backpackers” (a real lodge, for 4.95euro), and I spent the first 3 days there all alone. Only the last day, a group of Czechs and a South African I had first met in Botswana, came to visit me
- I was trying to think if and how I would visit the Etosha National Park, especially after listening to the story of the Czechs who had been left with no choice but to spend too much money and stay at a campsite inside the Park. I gathered all the positive energy I could and after a closer look at the map, I saw that on the road to the southern part of the Park, there were plenty of campsites. I thought that I could find something within my budget.
- It proved that I had many choices. On the road to Etosha, there were many campsites, especially as I was approaching to the Park. The prices though, were twice or three times more expensive than those I had been used to, until now. I was stopping to ask for the prices of the campsites and I was also trying to figure out how I would enter the Park – maybe by finding some travelers with an empty seat in their car – because I already knew that it is forbidden to enter the car on a motorcycle. Unfortunately, the high season had ended so I didn’t manage to find anyone to visit the Park with and in addition to that, I ended up in the most expensive campsite until that moment, right next to Etosha (10.60euros).
- The next day, I woke up really early and went to a safari. Like a tourist I was(!), I took my camera and jumped on a 4×4 for a 6-hour tour (and for 35euros)…I’m still wondering why I did it! It was like visiting a very big zoo. All the rare animals and birds I saw, I could have seen them anywhere else around. The safari was not for me…
- From Etosha and to the south, the road was awful. In Namibia there is only one way to avoid the dirt roads: by not visiting any tourist attractions and going directly to Windhoek and from there to South Africa. Even the tourists have to pay in order to drive on the roads of Namibia, but tar roads are still a luxury. If you are wondering why I chose to moan now for the condition of the roads and I haven’t said a word about all the dirt-kilometers in the rest of Africa, just try to ride a vespa in Namibia! All the tourists come to the country by 4x4s and the roads to the most touristic parts are victims of thousands of heavy vehicles, with holes and stones. Imagine the suffering of my 10-inch wheels…
- In Cape Cross, I visited the seals’ colony and ignoring all the forbidding signs, I pitched my tent next to the road. I fell asleep with the sound of the wind and the waves of the ocean, wrapped in my sleeping-bag, as the temperature falls dramatically during the night.
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- Swakopmund is a beautiful town but it’s not “Africa”. It’s more like a German town. I spent there about 15 days because at the “Youth Hostel” I stayed, it cost only 1.4euro per night to pitch the tent. There, I grabbed the opportunity to make a small break and a huge haircut (my beard had become too hard to handle)!
- From here, the capital was really close. I covered the 300-something km distance the fastest I could, without any thought of the consumption of petrol or any environmental sensitivities…I was alone and bored, so I had to travel fast.
- The last few weeks, I was talking with Ruan through the internet. He was a couchsurfer who had agreed to host me and give me some guitar lessons, too. I don’t think I told you: I bought a guitar! The guy had been waiting for me for many days as I was postponing my arrival due to several reasons.
- He and his roommate, Ashir, Hosted me for 4 days on their living-room’s floor. There were some couches also available, but after so many months sleeping on my yoga-mat, I felt really comfortable. If I was offered a king-size bed with silk sheets and feather-stuffed pillows, I would have given it a second thought, of course…
- Both Ruan and Ashir were born and raised in Namibia. They have well-paid jobs (compared to the Greek standards) and from what I understood from our talks, they are very optimistic about the future of their country. Only Ruan is a bit tired by the everyday routine and his stress to cope up with everything. He told me that one of the reasons he wanted to meet me, was because he has been thinking about doing a big trip with his car.
- Windhoek was another surprise for me: a well-organized city, clean and beautiful. Europe! I would gladly spend some more days here but, as I already took a big break in Swakopmund, I don’t have much time before my visa expires. So, off to the Namib desert!
- Sossusvlei was a big disappointment! Steven, with whom I had met once again in Windhoek, complained about the prices in Namibia and about the fact that every tourist attraction he decided to visit was really overpriced (eg the seals or Spitzkoppe which you can’t see even from a distance without paying first). He had decided not to spend more time in the country and to drive quickly to South Africa. Additionally to this, he told me that according to his research, the southern part of the country was even more beyond our budget but I didn’t listen to him. This wasn’t only my fault: for Steven, complaining is not unusual, so I thought that he may be exaggerating a bit.
- I was now in the desert and not only myself, but also the vespa, were both exhausted! The roads were in terrible condition, my back hurt and I couldn’t stop thinking about the money I had paid to be able to drive legally on the awful roads of this country. The next big disappointment was the rudeness of the people who worked in the hostels and campsites of the area. I don’t expect to be treated as a king, but at least some courtesy is needed in the tourist sector! The truth is that there are many tourists in the country and the people may feel that they don’t need one more, but I don’t think that a simple greeting is “too much”! Playing with your cell-phone while a visitor is trying to ask you something is way too rude.
- There is another thing that made my disappointment bigger: It’s not only the rudeness of the employees or the owners of the hotels, it’s the fact that they really don’t care at all. After driving for 13 hours in difficult road conditions, I was now near to Sossusvlei and I was trying to find a place to spend the night. It wouldn’t be a good idea to continue driving because it was already dark and the vespa hasn’t strong lights. Also, I was very tired, which would make it more difficult to continue driving. So, when I saw a sign “xxx Campsite” (unfortunately I don’t remember the name), I felt relieved that my ride was over for the night. The employee’s (or the owner’s) reaction was incredible! Without even turning his face towards me, he just denied to help me and didn’t allow me to pitch my tent (I would pay, of course) for the night, no matter how I tried to explain that my situation was difficult and that it would be dangerous to continue in the dark. The only answer I got was that I should drive for 18km and try to stay in a campsite which I might find open if I’m lucky. I’ve been working on the tourism sector for more than 10 years and I strongly believe that this was unacceptable!
- I had no other choice but to travel for 18 more kilometers and get to that campsite. Luckily, I found the guard and he opened the door (it was 22:00 and everything was closed) so I managed to pitch my tent in a remote corner of the campsite and slept.
- The big surprise came the next morning, when I was informed on some details regarding the desert of Namibia and the rules for visiting it. First of all, I was informed that I had to stay in the most remote place of the “campsite” because I hadn’t made any reservation in advance (the campsite was completely empty!). I stayed 2km away from the building where the bathrooms were and 3-4km away from the main building. The funniest part was that I had to pay the same amount of money even if I stayed that far and I couldn’t enjoy any of the “amenities” of the campsite (the price was 10.63euro, one of the most expensive places I had stayed…only in Abuja I had payed more – 13euro – but for a luxurious room in a hotel). The other unpleasant surprise was that no-one without a 4×4 could enter Sossusvlei and that, with no specific reason as the road was not that difficult. The only solution was to pay 25euros and enter with a car and a driver provided by the administration and only for a limited time – some photos and out again! The other fact I forgot to mention is that the interesting part of Sossusvlei is at a distance of 70km from the gate, so it is impossible to see anything from outside!
- After being informed about all these important details, I asked for the bill. “Won’t you visit the sand dunes?”, the employee at the reception asked. “With this price I’m sure I can buy my own sand and make some dunes back at my hometown!”, I replied, and after paying for my 6hour nap in the middle of nowhere, I was about to go. But the voice of another employee stopped me! It was the voice of an overweight lady dressed in khaki and with a sign, writing “permits”, handing from her neck. She immediately asked me to pay a fee for entering Sossusvlei. “Err…but I’m not going to visit it”, I replied. Her answer came as another surprise for me: “You know sir, yesterday you didn’t enter only the campsite, but you also passed through the entrance to the dunes! You’re already inside Sossusvlei and you have to pay for this!”, she answered me without even giving a glance towards me as she was absorbed by playing with her cellphone!
To sum up:
- In Namibia, you pay fees so that you have the right to drive on awful dirt roads.
- In Sossusvlei, if you have not made a reservation (even in an empty campsite), you are only allowed to pitch you tent 2km away from the campsite installations.
- In Sossusvlei, if you don’t drive a 4×4, or if you don’t want to pay an extra fee for hiring one along with the driver for a few hours, you don’t get to see the dunes.
- Also, if you just pass through the entrance, you have to pay a full entrance fee, despite that the dunes are 70km away from that point.
- After I got the correct information from the internet, I decided to leave (not only from Sossusvlei), but from the country as well. I chose the quickest way out and set the “race mode” on my vespa, so I would soon be in South Africa!
PS In Maltahohe, I met Jakub and Dasha, two travelers who started their journey from Cape Town and their goal is to get to Russia. They are married but Dasha cannot renew her South African visa due to the complicated legislation and the huge bureaucracy. So, they decided to go to Russia to renew Dasha’s visa…on foot! They also told me the “best” about Namibia and its fees and that the entrance to the Fish River Canyon at the southern part of the country costs 28euro per person! You can follow their trip here: http://bearfoodtravels.blogspot.com
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- Back to the famous Carretera Austral, at least for a while 24/03/2021
- Argentina: Parks, rivers, lakes and a sudden u-turn 13/02/2021
- The most surreal day of our journey! (Chile) 24/01/2021