Across the Namibian Border to the Gariep/Orange River Hotel (Felix Unite)

We had a nice buffet breakfast at the orange grove resort and purchased some of the farm’s homegrown 20 rooibos teabags for R10 (US$1). Rooibos tea only grows in that part of the world there in South Africa due to the soil and the elevation.

Today, and as it turned out, like most of our days, was a driving day. We crossed the “Great Karoo of Nothingness” on our way to Springbok. Since I’ve crossed large swaths of nothingness in the US, Mexico and Argentina, it didn’t seem so bad to me.

We saw a dam but very little water in the reservoir behind it. The scenery looked a lot like Southern California scrub and Mt. Woodson in particular.

The truck was a bit bouncy but as we were still on paved roads, not too bad. I had left my laptop behind at the Galloways, so I was journaling in a notebook. We had my Kindle, coloring, magazines, music, travel guides and sleeping to keep us occupied.

Nomad Tours had their travel bus/trucks built to order. They have special shocks and tires to cover a lot of ground without having to change to specialty vehicles. We didn’t see any luxury coaches on our trip, presumably because they cannot traverse the terrain that our truck could. There were times when we needed to drive on very loose sand so we were transferred to two smaller safari-style 4-wheel drive vehicles.

The seats in Chuck were pretty comfortable. We buckled up and occasionally hit bumps and potholes in the road that might have knocked us out of our seats without the lap belts on. There was ample storage above the seats, where most of us learned to keep our snacks and other smaller supplies.

The trucks hold big tents, mattresses, food, tables and camp chairs, as well as having the special panel doors fold down to create a kitchen. We stored our duffel bags in lockers at the back end inside the truck. We were told to bring combination locks. Jenni lost hers in her backpack and I got mine stuck open a few days into the trip. Good thing I had little keyed locks too and they worked better than the hard-to-read combination locks. I made it my first priority to not lose the keys and I didn’t but one of them proved impossible to open one day and we had to cut it off.

We were traveling with a sister truck named, “Amy”. That truck was basically on the same tour as us but they were camping, instead of hotels, so sometimes we were with Amy and sometimes we didn’t see them at all. We were told to introduce ourselves to the people on that truck, but we didn’t ever make much of a connection. They looked mostly younger than us and a number of them were from South Korea and didn’t speak much English. I did speak several times with Randy from Sacramento. He had a big smile and waved as we passed them.

Occasionally we were stopped at construction work on the roads. This was actually a bit of a relief from the bouncing around. We used the spare minutes to grab snacks or waters from the cooler at the back.

Today was our big day to cross into Namibia. First we stopped in Springbok, which actually has no Springbok antelopes and no one knows why it is named so.

We stopped at Spar Market and got water, fruit, chocolate and some cookies. We saw Nama people for the first time. They are an old African tribe with light skin and very coarse nobby hair. Some people were dressed in very traditional burlap clothing.

At the border we had to give our passports to the South African authorities. They checked to make sure we hadn’t committed a crime in SA. We got our passports back and then we stopped at the Namibian border checkpoint. We all had to exit the vehicle and get our passport stamped. Some adorable little girls came up and talked with us while we waited for one of the Argentinian gals to get a visa or something. It was hot and there wasn’t a lick of A/C in the building where the immigration people worked.

We crossed over the Orange River that forms the border and we were in Namibia, my 39th country. It looked a lot like Arizona with sand, rocks, and distant mountains.

We drove on to our hotel while the sun set. Some of us had buggy shacks with a nice view of the river and others, like us had much nicer rooms, through the mud, past the swampy pond with lots and lots of noisy frogs.

The crew served us diner of beef stew with rice and veggies. I shared my wine from the Spice Route winery. It was a nice evening.

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