Perhaps the trademark or signature image of Namibia comes from the glorious orange colored dunes of of the Namib Desert — perhaps most famously are those of Sossusvlei. Tucked into the central Namib surrounded by vast arid plains dotted with acacia and quiver trees and various desert shrubs such as sage or some sort of succulents, Sossusvlei is a national park where the whipping sands creates spectacularly huge dunes and brushes endless arrays of geometric pattern into the red clay colored sands. I’d dreamed of seeing these dunes for years. And from Aus they’d be less than a days ride. So with a tank full of Aus petrol and armed with road intelligence I tackled my next dirt and gravel adventure of more than 400km — alone.
Taking a bit of a sandy track to get out of Aus, solo again I head into the Namib desert.
Leaving Aus I was hit immediately with about 20km of medium deep sand on a hard packed gravel surface. Not too problematic but the jittery front end and occasional swing of the rear wheel tends to play tricks with one’s mind while creating tension and therefore at times reducing the enjoyment of the ride. That’s not to say that sections of the road were almost as good as pavement allowing me to achieve speeds exceeding 100kph (60 mph). But about 90km of riding through a valley where dried up rivers or washes along with the deposits of larger rocks and loose sands consistently challenged me every 1500 meters. But sometimes bumpy theride through savannah, desert and over mountains and passes gave me a scenic overdose. Shapely acacias hung effortlessly over golden yellow brush and sometimes red clay or beautifully painted washes of white sand. I wanted to take photographs ever 10 minutes, but refrained. When the road turned further west, it’s condition deteriorated. For the next couple hours I saw only one vehicle — and it blew by me like I was standing still leaving me in a cloud of dust that left me without any visibility. The fine silty sand and loose rocks again taxed my patience and tenacity. I kept moving, stopping for a break when the tension and hammering became too much.
The road changed from gravely tracks to sand and hard-packed clay. These parts I could get up to speed. But good things don’t last forever. The owners of the lodge told me a couple guests, riders from South Africa , left yesterday and had enough of the roads and were headed for the tarred track to Windhoek. Thinking to myself that’s a bit excessive, I plan and ride the dirt, sand , gravel and clay.
Checking out the map during one of my several rest stops that day.
The dusty trail of the only car I saw that morning.
Elephants love the thorny Acacia trees. Those things are sharp!
The road goes on forever, seemingly. Here it’s a cruiser. Though the assistant at the lodge lamented, “Is there any such thing as a good gravel road?” I found this section to be rather pleasant – considering the alternative I’d experienced that day.
Arriving in Sesriem after battling my last wash and patch of deep marble sized gravel, I landed at the Sossusvlei Lodge, a five star resort just outside the gate of the park. I pulled into here as a last resort. The booking that Aus Vista Lodge had made for me turned out to be 70km north of the park, not south as they’d told me that morning. There was no way I’d travel another 40 miles north only to have to turnaround to come back to this park the following day. Why not stay right here? Then I was quoted the room rate. Suddenly 40 miles was looking like my best option. But they offered me Desert Camp, another property they manage just outside of town consisting of a series of self-catering bungalows that are actually tented structures with a solid foundation, large bathrooms, braii (bbq), huge bathrooms and tastefully decorated with first class furnishings. This would cost me about the same as my out of town booking. However with no food to BBQ, and no restaurant on premises the notion of riding to the main lodge for dinner at night over that gravel didn’t appeal to me. Plus I wanted to drink. Kindly the lodge offered to pick me up (about 4 miles away) for diner and 7pm and return me to my Desert Camp by 9:30. Sold.
Desert Camp in Sesriem – essentially a high-tech tent with a solid foundation. Beautiful desert views and stars a plenty.
Over dinner I watched oryx antelope graze under acacias while I was offered a fixed price buffet meal consisting of, among others, exotic meats such as zebra, impala, oryx, crocodile and ostrich. That topped with a ice cold Windhoek Lager and I was in Namib heaven.
There’s a set price buffet dinner that is offered at the Sossulvlei Lodge, about 3 miles from Desert Camp. Here the braii master offers a tasting of wild game including Zebra, Impala, Kudu, Eland, Ostrich and more. I enjoyed the Eland and Zebra. Yummy.
These Springbok grazing outside the lodge weren’t on that nights menu.