120 tyre carcasses in approximately 140km! That's the count of blown tyres lying on the side of the road, that I noticed - I'm sure I missed many - while traveling the gravel road from Sossusvlei towards Swakopmond in Namibia. The August issue of Go! Mag featured our family's year long adventure around Southern Africa. And what an incredible experience it has been. We are currently exploring the arid splendor of Namibia. However the start of our adventure here was tyre-ing!
Nearly 20,000km of traveling in South Africa, everything from the game reserves to the Richtersveld, and no problems. But just 80km of gravel road in Namibia and we get two punctures! Eish! We were left wondering how we would handle the thousands of kilometers of gravel roads we had planned ahead of us. And then we learned some vital tyre advice from experienced locals, for would-be gravel road travelers - whether driving on the diamonds of Namibia or the rough tracks of South Africa, advice I wish I'd known before we set out.
We've now driven thousands of happy kilometers on Namibia's diamond studded gravel roads with no problems. Of course this doesn't mean we won't have issues but I really wish I had known all of this tyre'fic advice earlier on. It would have saved us a lot of cost and worry. After all the places where adventure really lies are at the end of those 500km gravel roads. Next stop - Etosha, Caprivi, Botswana and beyond.
Farewell South Africa. We tasted Namibia on our “shortcut” through...and got the Namibian kiss - a flat tyre, but now we are returning for the real adventure. It’s time to see what the big deal is all about…is it just sand dunes and more sand dunes, or what? We whizz through the border with minimal pain and suffering, turn onto our first dirt road…and you guessed it! Pop goes the spare! Sigh. That’s two tyres in Namibia both within about 20km. What’s with their roads? Is it diamonds we’re driving on?
And so I'm lying in the dirt again getting the jack under Pajey on some random Nam road headed towards AiAis. Now the big decision - do we push on for 60km to AiAis on this gravel road without a spare or do 120km back and up to Granau and get the tyre repaired? After much debate we decide to go with the cautious route up to Granau.
It's a careful slow drive on the plugged Cooper - which we self-repaired at the Growcery...only to discover they can't fix the tyre. Well that was a waste. We've added miles to our journey. Sigh. We now take a route towards the Fish River Canyon. There is a silver lining on this adventure. If we are fast enough - yeah sure, on a suspect tyre and no spare - we can see the sunset over the canyon. As the light begins to fade we decide to throw caution to the wind and race to make the canyon before it's dark. Hurtling along the corrugated roads at filling-jarring speeds we arrive and screech to a halt in a cloud of dust as the last remnants of the sun cast an orange glow over everything. Like banshees we erupt from the car and race to the viewing platform. The canyon beckons. We must see it. It's been so long to get here. As we reach the viewing platform, feeling like contestants in the Amazing Race, we are greeted with a massive yawning canyon and a golden river painted by the setting sun, snaking it's way far below. “Wow, that is amazing,” I say as I look at this spectacular sight in the orange remnants of the day.
However our visit is brief. Before us is the next part of our Amazing Race and this may be the most trying. We have 75km of dirt road in the dark with a repaired tyre and no spare. We're in God's hands - but then we are always in His hands and everything that has happened has always worked out amazingly. The road is endless. It changes from a great condition to corrugations to passes to game crossing the road. It feels like the Comrades marathon. Endless.
“We must be getting close now,” I think. “How far is left?” I ask Nicky who is studying the Maps.me app. “We are nearly halfway,” she says in a perky voice like this is good news. To me it's like a Comrades supporter saying “You're nearly there!” when you have 40km still to go! “Eish!” I reply, “I thought we only had about 10km to go!”
Finally at 7pm local time we arrive. Nothing better than pitching tents in the dark while fellow campers sip beer and watch from around their crackling log fires. Note to self: Don’t arrive in the dark.
The sleeping is getting better as we get used to tent life, although campers often make a noise early or decide to leave at 4am. I'm not sure what the hurry is all about. So we are up by 6am and ready for the day. With the joy of electricity we can start the day in a civilized way - two espressos.
AiAis is famous for its steaming hot pools and so we pay the R10 fee for the day and are soon wallowing in them like content hippos. Returning to our campsite we decide we will make jaffels for breakfast. These have become a firm favorite in our camping as they are quick to make on the gas burner. The problem is we are not prepared for the baboon attack and the beast gets away with a whole tub of butter. Sigh. We needed that for our jaffels. The new regime is to have one person posted on baboon duty armed with the catapult. This is a serious full time job and requires acute concentration as these fellas sneak up and attack with lightening speed. The difficulties of life in Africa.
“The twins climbed that when they were five,” Dedda says pointing to the huge mountain below which we are pitched. Of course we don't need much encouragement to climb mountains and are soon bounding up with a few murmuring kids in tow. It's a deceiving fella as each time we get up a peak there's another. However in about an hour we are at the top enjoying the views of the Fish River Canyon - this marks the end point for hikers on the five day trail (another note to self - we must do this). We leap, selfie, footsie, and run - all the digital records we need and then scuttle back down.
The evening is celebrated with some tasty pasta, steak and campside fare. However there is a thick bank of clouds over us. We decide to have a final swim in the hot pool. Wow it's really hot now and we are well warmed up after a brief spell in the water. As we are leaving the pool lightening flickers across the sky as thunder rumbles in the distance. Hmm, this could be an interesting night. "Does it rain in the desert I wonder as I snuggle into my sleeping bag?".
"The answer," as the song says, "is blowing in the wind." I hear the first few drips on the tent. I hope this tent holds out. This will be its first test...