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Published: August 3rd 2010
I checked in to a backpackers in Windhoek, I had about 9 days to fill before I started an overland tour in Botswana. After 2 days I realized that there was not much to see or do. Windhoek is the capital, but it is a small city. I decided to hire a car for 4 days and drive south to Sossusvlei in the Namib Naukluft Park, I ended up with a small Hyundai, it was fairly new and only had about 7,500 kilometres on the clock. After studying a map I decided to take the recommended scenic route, but about 2 kilometres outside Windhoek, the road turned to dirt ( I find it hard to even call it a road). It was a nightmare, I had driven on dirt roads, but nothing like this, there were corrogations, pot holes, deep sand, rocks etc, and I saw hardly any other vehicles, it took all my concentration to keep the car from sliding and going into a ditch. The route took me over some mountain passes and scenery was spectacular, it occured to me that some people would not like it, there are certainly no lush green rolling hills, this land is strong and powerful with a wild beauty, it is hot but also cool, and there is always a hint of danger, if these were the attributes of a man, the women would be queing around the block.
After about 41/2 hours & nearly 300 kilometres I arrived at the out gate of the park. the outer gate is locked at 6am and does not open until 7am the next morning, the inner gate is also locked at 6pm and everybody must be out by then, but this gate opens at 6am before sunrise. In between the gates is the office, a shop, a cafe, a bar and the camp site, this is where I spent the night. I do not have a tent, so rolled out my mattress and sleeping bag next to the car and went to sleep with the sound of Black Backed Jackels in the near distance.
The next morning I was up at 5am and at the gate before it opened along with a few other vehicles. I was relieved to see that the 50+ kilometres to Sossusvlei would be on a sealed road. We drove across an open plain that had short stubbley grass which looked like someone had given it a no 2. In the predawn light, I could see that the plain was surrounded by large hills, it was only when it got lighter that I could see that they were not hills but large sand dunes. Many people stop off to climb what is called Dune 45 to watch the sun come up, but I chose to carry on the the end of the road to a car park, at this point it is still 5 kilometres to sossusvlei and there are 3 choices to get there; in a 4x4 (which I didn't have), on a shuttle vehicle, or walk, I decided to walk. The reasons why I decided to walk are firstly that sun was just coming up and it looked amazing, secondly; I had sit in a car for hours the day before and needed some exercise, thirdly; I wanted to get a closer experience, and lastly; I'm on a very tight budget and did not want to pay for the shuutle. The walk was a bit hard going as it is through thick sand, but i was the only person walking at that time and it was great. When I got to Sossusvlei (which is an area of massive sand dune and salt flats - nothing else there at all), I climbed a large dune (it nearly killed me) then sat on the top with the sun on my back just watching the changing light, colours and shape of the dune, it was very peaceful. After that I ran all the way down again, by the time i got to the bottom I felt invigorated and happy.
After getting back to the camp site, I had breakfast, a shower and then got on the road back towards Windhoek. I did'nt fancy another 4+ hours on a dirt road so decided to go a different way back; about 140 kilometres and I would be back on tar all the way back to Windhoek. I was about 40 kllometres away when the car started feeling odd and I suspected I had a flat, so pulled over to check. I put the car in nutral and the handbrake on, but left the car running just to jump out to check, sure enough I had a flat so went back to the drivers side to turn the car off and start changing the wheel, only to discover the car door had swung shut and activated the central locking system. I was outside in the midday sun, in the middle of a desert, in the middle of nowwhere, on my own, with the car running, and all my belongings inside. My first reaction was to burst out laughing and the crazy situation i was now in, then I got mad at the stupid car with such a stupid system. After calcutating my options, I decided I must smash a window, so got a rock but after about 6 attempts all I managed to do was cut my hand, the rock were to soft and just crumbled. At this point I had a small panic attack!!!!! but then decided to walk away and sit on a rock as looseing it was not helping. I had seen only 6 caes in about 100 kilometres so calulated that the odds were that another would pass in the next hour or so. I was right, after about half hour I saw a distant dust cloud approaching, I waved it down, and a very nice man managed to smash the window, then went on to change the wheel, now I am very capable of changing a wheel myself, but at this time I was not going to argue.
I eventually arrived on tar and could have got out and kissed it. I then stopped at the first town i came to and got the tyre repaired, by this time it was getting late so only drove a short distance further and found a camp site to stay in over night. It was on the outskirts of a large town and very noisey, there were also lots of people walking around and although the camp had sercurity fences on lights which were on all night, I felt vunerable, so ended up sleeping in the back of the car. I couldn't believe I had started the day on such a high and ended it with a headache, feeling frustrated, and very alone.
Dispite contorting myself into various positions in the car, I did sleep quite well, and the next morning I was up early, had a shower & breackfast, and made a plan, I was back in good spirits.
I ended up checking back into the backpackers in Windhoek, and spent the next few days just chilling next to the pool etc, I got the car repaired and took it back, I did not feel like chancing any more experiences on Namibian roads.
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