Off the Beaten Track

In Adventures, Articles by Eben DelportLeave a Comment

Namibia ranks amongst the top 10 Least Populated Countries in the world but on the other hand ranking up amongst the top tourist destinations. Namibia possesses some of the most stunning landscapes in Africa, and a trip through the country is one of the great road adventures. Namibia boasts an almost 7200 km long network of tarred roads allowing easy access to the ‘highlights’ of Namibia such as Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and the Fish River Canyon. As one of Africa’s largest game reserves, the Etosha National Park, with more than 114 mammal species and a variety of game and bird species the park is a popular destination The Sossusvlei dune landscape offers of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery and surely is one of the most photographed areas in the world. The Fish River Canyon is considered by many to be the second largest in the world. With challenging hiking trails, incredible scenery and fascinating geology it is a grand sight indeed. Swakopmund is a picturesque ‘old world’ town with beautifully crafted German architecture and quaint little shops. It is also a thrill seeker’s dream as it offers a wide range of activities amongst the most popular being quad biking and desert excursions.

38000 km of well maintained gravel road opens up the opportunity for the self drive style, 4×4 and SUV owners, as well as for overland trucks to venture off to some off the more remote destinations like Twyfelfontein, Damaraland and Kaokoland. Koaokland was till recently only accessable by a ‘true 4×4’ and even today places like Van Zyl’s pass and the river road from Swartbooisdrift to Epupa still require 4×4 with low-range. The highlight of Koakoland, Epupa, is easy accessible by smaller SUV’s and you would find that some brave tourist will pitch up at Epupa in a sedan (‘an Avis rental is the best 4×4 by far!)

But to the 4×4 community the good news is that there are ‘a lifetime’ of 4×4 tracks and destinations in the more remote and least populated parts of Namibia. Many of these well documented by authors such as the late Jan Joubert and Sakkie Rothman. Various other references exist and another Namibian author, Johan Snyman, has recently published comprehensive guidebooks on the routes and tracks in Kaokoland and Damaraland. There are for instance 12 Riverbed Tracks and close to 50 unproclaimed roads and tracks in the Damaraland area alone that have been documented by these and other publications

For me it is not only the rugged beauty but also in the amazing adaptation of animals that survive in this desert like environment. Amongst other the Desert Lions, Desert Elephant, Rhinos, Giraffes and a variety of antelope. These animals have adapted their lifestyles to survive the harshness of the sun-blistered, waterless desert spaces. Venturing into these remote areas, ‘off the beaten track’, one could literally travel for days without experiencing other vehicles and see maybe a few people living in these areas as subsistence and/or nomadic farmers

Some time ago I took visitors down one of the river tracks in the Kaokland region and when we came across some of the Desert Elephants they remarked that “this is real animals”. This in contrast to animals on game farms and even the larger game parks where animals are to a greater or lesser extend still fenced in.

The same goes for the 4×4 tracks in these regions. These are ‘real 4×4 tracks’! Made by prospecters, hunters, wildlife officials and hawkers trading with the nomadic tribes. They ‘just happened’ and are not your typical commercial 4×4 tracks as one would find in some more developed areas. The Kaokoland is home to the remarkable Himba people. Many of the Himba tribes still live strictly according to their traditional ways and beliefs. With geologically rich hills and amazing scenery. Damaraland is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia, a huge, untamed, ruggedly beautiful region that offers the traveller a more adventurous challenge. Here you’ll also find small, but wide-ranging, populations of desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, ostrich and springbok.

To the East at the opposite side of the country lies Bushmanland, the home of the last true San communities. Bushmanland is a collection of incredible scenery, dune belts, thorny veld and splendour. Testimony to this region’s harshness is the fact that only an estimated 10 000 people currently live here, in an area half the size of Holland. From the administrative centre Tsumkwe, various tracks will take you past massive baobabs and to some off the Namibian wetlands such as the Nyae Nyae pan, the largest of these pans which attracts up to 11 000 wetland birds. The Khaudum Game Park comprises two very different types of landscapes, to the south an open savannah, while the north has a type of tall, dry woodland. From an off-roading perspective the “roads” north towards Katere are challenging. They are mainly sand-ridge roads where the centre middelmannetjie makes it difficult to negotiate. One can never build up speed because of the short sections of deep corrugations that need to be negotiated slowly. So we could go on and on, the opportunities to enjoy your 4×4 in a variety of landscapes and conditions that are almost ‘endless’! It’s a big country with so much to see and do!

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