Tag Archives: desert

Desert Road Trip: Namibia

On the road in Namibia, January 2012

Well here I am on the road yet again in glorious Namibia – an intriguing, vast and utterly remote country. And I’ve gotta say, I’m loving every moment of this challenging desert road trip.

Namibia’s gravel roads have proved – yet again – to be endless and unforgiving. I’ve already had a major tyre blowout crossing the Namib Desert. Thankfully I was able to limp the car on its three good wheels into a village about 15kms away called Bethanie, where a friendly white Namibian called Phillip spotted my problem and helped me change the mangled tyre in scorching 40-degree heat – watched by an ever-growing crowd of locals enjoying the ensuing excitement in their dusty, sleepy old town. It was a timely reminder that the desert needs respect at all times. I’d gotten confident driving on the gravel – picking up speed to lessen the shudder-effect of the corrugations – and one lapse of concentration combined with a moment of ill luck cost me dear this particular day.

Showing off my new set of wheels (!) at the Canon Roadhouse, Namib Desert

Back on the road, the desert’s charms have been captivating me just as they did on my first visit. Out here, it’s so quiet – apart from the sudden gusts of warm desert winds – and the remoteness is all the more striking for being out here on my own. It’s by turns exciting and terrifying to realise just how far from civilisation I am. Well worth a busted tyre any day of the week.

I could wax lyrical about the mighty Fish River Canyon, the sheer orange dunes of Sossuvlei, or the eerie, misty majesty of the Skeleton Coast, for they are indeed incredible natural wonders to behold. But in fact it’s the simple experience of crossing the desert – this raw land full of ever-changing colours and terrains – that is perhaps the most captivating of all. For sure, there are sights to see – albeit thousands of kilometres apart! – but more than anything I’m revelling in simply travelling across this remote desert wilderness, alone and unfettered. Just me and the mighty desert.

As usual, I’m hamstrung by time – the bane of all of us who must work to fund these sporadic adventures into the wilderness. After a few weeks on the road, it’s time for me to turn my wheels back towards South Africa to head back to Cape Town, and thence back to Australia. Till then, I’m going to savour these last days on the road – they’re what keep me alive when I’m office-bound once more.

Outback Adventure

Crossing the Canning by 4WD

Well they say the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia is one of the toughest 4WD routes you can do – and they’d be right, I reckon! My latest expedition saw me joining a convoy of eight 4x4s heading across four deserts – the Gibson, Little Sandy, Great Sandy, and Tanami – along 2,000kms of some of the remotest terrain in the world.

My trusty co-driver Greg and I were in an old aquamarine Holden Rodeo – a utility vehicle at best and definitely a bit crumbly compared with the flashier Nissan Patrols and Land Rovers that accompanied us. Still, the journey started well enough as we set out from remote Wiluna, about an hour’s flight from Perth, heading northwards into the remote and unforgiving Australian outback. We bumped along gravel roads, crossed mighty salt pans and traversed sand dunes around 10m high in places. The soft dunes gave us the biggest grief, sometimes taking several attempts to cross – hmm, what gear to use, how much acceleration…?

Each night, we bush-camped, pitching our tents or throwing down swags, building a campfire and cooking much-needed hearty dinners overlooked by a dark canopy of twinkling stars. Out here, there are no artificial lights to taint the skies and the view of the heavens is truly extraordinary, as anyone who’s camped in remote desert will tell you.

Our Rodeo took a real battering along the route. Our right hand shockie fell off earlier on but, using some amazing bush mechanics, Greg managed to do emergency repairs using a sawn-off log jammed in the rear suspension and held on with a chain. That lasted 1,500kms till the shockie gave on the other side, and the vehicle was at last deemed too unsafe to continue in. The last 500kms, I hitched a ride in one of the Nissans – luxury indeed compared with the old rattly Rodeo!

Passing through a couple of Aboriginal villages en route, it was impossible to believe that any humans could survive in such remote, dry conditions – but this is their home and they’ve lived here for centuries. As we skimmed the last stretch of corrugated gravel into Hall’s Creek, 2000kms north of our starting-point, I longed to be back out in the desert again, sleeping under the stars, drinking in that incredible, untainted star-filled sky…