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Published: November 20th 2008
We had all rather been looking forward to today’s drive - with mixed feelings! Van Zyl’s Pass
is about 12 kms long and descends some 1000 ft from the plateau area we have been on, down to the lower planes of western Namibia. What we drove through yesterday was the nursery school for today’s challenge of the Pass. No vehicles are allowed to travel this route west to east, only westwards. The steepness in parts is horrendous, the track - if one can call it that - is narrow and the boulders and rocks the cars had to traverse are huge.. It wasn’t all very bad, there were sections which were less bad, otherwise the route was very, very bad!
Camilla and Chris both got out of the cars at times because they felt it was safer to walk, and they had the photo opportunities as well. Ian and I thought of the chaps at Frogsisland 4x4 a lot - we felt that Eddie and “JJ” would have been in their element on this route. We did most of the trip in low ratio, and at times I found it useful to have the handbrake on and to power
against it, just to keep moving at the slowest pace over the obstacles. I don’t know if this is a recognised technique, but it worked for me! The further we progressed the greater my respect grew for these cars of ours. Very rarely did we touch the rocks with our undersides but there were indeed occasions when one wheel would come off the ground altogether.
Half way along the route we met a couple of Namibians who had been out all night looking for some stray cattle. They asked for water, which we obliged them with, and some bread as they had nothing to eat. In thanking us one of them said, in the most perfect English, “Thank you, this is greatly appreciated.” - terminology I would not have expected from a local man as far out in the back of beyond as this. Namibia continues to amaze us.
Just before the final descent - which proved to be the most challenging of all, there was a view point from which we overlooked the great expanse of plains below us,. It was a stunning view, with the slopes just below us leading across the plain which was covered
in the most vivid, yet soft, yellow coloured grass, dotted with green leaved trees and bushes, to the far distance which was a range of ochre-red, flat topped mountains. The air was devoid of any haze, dust or smoke, and everything was clear cut and “softly intense”. It is hard to describe this beautiful view.
We made it to the bottom without incident - the pass taking us two and a half hours to get through. At the bottom we found a large pile of flat stones scattered around one of the small trees. On each was inscribed the date, names of passengers and drivers and the vehicles they had driven to transit the pass. There were a multitude of Toyotas of course, many Landrovers and we were amazed to see that one couple had done it in a 1969 VW Beetle!! I can’t think how! You won’t be surprised that we added a stone with our details on it - we certainly felt a large measure of satisfaction at having achieved what we had. I cannot envisage the problems we would have faced with any sort of breakdown on that pass - changing a wheel would have been
a challenging part even greater than the whole.
From there on it was easy, driving across this wonderful, grass covered plain with occasional bustards and oryx, but it was the ever changing views of the yellow grass and occasional green tree or shrub with the ochre hills as the background which enchanted us. Our guide book advertised a campsite at Orupembe
to which we made our way. By now the landscape was barren, rock-strewn and dusty in a steady wind.
Orupembe turned out to be a watering hole for cattle with a trough fed by a windmill pump. To the south, some 500 yards was a lone building which advertised itself as “Orupembe Shop No1” (we didn’t visit it) and at the top of the rise by the trough was a modern built single story police station. Officer Kwambe greeted us when we stopped to enquire where the campsite was and he told us that the man who ran it had died and it was now disused. But he said we could camp within the police station grounds and make use of their facilities. We opted to use the old campsite, to which he agreed, and we then
The road - behind and left of vehicle as you see it
drove a couple of miles down a dry river course, found the lea of a high bank, and camped there. The wind fortunately abated and we spent a comfortable - if a little chilly - night there.
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