22-Sep-2012 -- Namibia is a place of serious beauty. True sand deserts and savannah deserts of vast remoteness, stunning views, thundering silence, and lots of space to breathe. Reasons enough for a desert team of 4 lost Dutchmen to pack up their GPSes and sand ladders and travel from Norway and Azerbaijan (Caspian Sea) all the way to Namibia.
This team’s sand ladders have been well worn in the deserts of Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, and Australia. They know how to get properly stuck in a piece of soft sand. Various confluence points were visited before, and the common theme of all these confluences – like this one – was: they all were in the absolute middle of nowhere.
We had 3 weeks of holiday to spent, and on our wish list were the Namib Desert and the Kaokoveld area in NW Namibia. In Windhoek we picked up our 2 rental vehicles from Africa 4x4 Rentals.They were Toyota HiLux pick-ups, complete with canopies and fold-out roof top tent. Our family is well used to petrol driven Pajeros. These HiLuxes were turbo diesels. Their consumption was quite impressive, 10 km/l on-road, 6.5 km/l desert off-road. Pajeros do about 7 km/l on-road, 3.5 km/l desert off-road. Together with the 150-liter fuel tank (Pajero 90 liter) this gives the HiLux an impressive action radius. Namibia is a place where minimum distance between two petrol stations can be indeed that 150 liter!
The rental cars came fully equipped with camping gear, 2 spare wheels, and a 12 V air compressor that we have used intensively. ‘Pièce de la résistance’ definitely were the two Engel fridges. We had heard of these vaguely before, but never realized they were that good…! In our desert life, we have used all sorts of fridges and cool boxes, and none of them really impressed. The Engels have a small high efficiency compressor, that not only is able to achieve sub-zero temperatures to keep meat frozen for many days, but also doing that at negligible energy cost. The rental HiLux had two batteries separated by a relay, allowing one to keep its full charge for a good engine start early in the morning, while the other can be completely discharged. I measured how much charge was lost during one night of Engel operation with a multimeter and found still 80% of charge was still left, which is really impressive!
Desert navigation was through our usual concept: Asus Tablet (Android) with the Androzic app, loaded with satellite images downloaded from Google Earth, which allows us to have a resolution up to 8 m/pixel. Next to the tablet we have several back-up GPS devices, as you never know!
From Windhoek we drove to the north of the Namib Desert, and crossed the dry Kuiseb river at Homeb. Here a track south started into the desert following the north-south oriented valleys in the direction of the confluence point. At first still grass and shrubs could be seen, but gradually the environment became dryer and dryer. The track circumnavigated a large open area bringing us to more dune rows at its west side. The further we progressed, the more frequent we got stuck in soft sand. The sand ladders were well used! Just before dark we arrived at a last dune row that separated us from the confluence point. We camped on the other side of the dune, about 200 m away from the confluence point.
So early in the morning the ‘official’ visit was made. The obligatory pictures were taken, after the ‘zeros dancing’ with the GPS. The Confluence lies in the desert at the point were the first green shrubs start to grow. To the West, there are only desert dunes with nice dune castles of several levels high. To the East savannah grass was increasing. A very remote place. Only one lonely and lost spiesbok (oryx) passed by. We left our message-in-a-bottle half buried. Considered the remoteness of the place and the amount of digging you need to do to get there, it is highly unlikely anyone ever will pass by again!
So after all official celebrations completed, we left the beautiful place to its silence, heading eastwards over a track towards the Tsondab valley. We noticed some of our tracks from the day before had already been swept away by one night of wind only. Camp was setup at the end of this valley, another impressive place of beauty. The next day we made it back to the motorway. This whole exercise took us 4 days, during which we saw no other car or person. Just before we entered the Tsondab valley, we may have been spotted by a small Cessna plane with tourists, but that was all. Highly motivated by this trip through the Namib desert, we set off in the direction of Kaokoveld, with high expectations of more Namibian remote and beautiful scenery.