I hate driving. I’m a mediocre driver and long distances make me nervous and I find my angriest self appears behind the wheel of a vehicle. Despite my despise for driving, I have been on numerous road trips throughout my life (I could drive from Springfield, MO to St. Louis with my eyes closed) and have now gone on two international road trips. Thankfully, each of the trips has been wonderful; they’ve definitely have had the Crossroads vibe with plenty of car singing and interesting stops along the way.
At the end of March, we had our first term school break and we headed to Namibia for 10 days in the desert. On top of not enjoying driving, I somehow have a slightly higher normal body temp and so as a result I’m hot all. the. time. So a road trip in a desert sounds like a disaster for someone like me right??? It was beautifully relaxing, full of adventure, and gave way to lots of reflection under the hot desert sun. Besides, road trips are never about driving anyway. Its about the experiences you have along the way and the friends that are with you.
Since we only had limited time, we had to narrow our list to four stops which made us miss the famous Fish Canyon and Etosha park. We went to Windhoek, Spitzkoppe, Swakopmund, Sossusvlei. We saw a little bit of all the landscapes from the city, mountain, beach, and sand dunes.
The capital city of Namibia is small and quaint and has cute cafes and markets which were all closed when we arrived because all of Namibia shuts down for Easter and we arrived on Good Friday. We still walked around the honeycomb shaped sidewalks and explored what we could of the little town.
On the way to Spitzkoppe, on a dirt road, we were belting “Unwritten” with the windows rolled down. We could see the mountain in the distance and we were beyond excited. We arrived to our campsite and discovered we would be without wifi for our two-day stay. The reprieve from our digital lives added to the already reflective nature of the desert. We spent our time there lounging by the pool, snacking, and talking for hours.
One of the days we went on a 7 hour hike up one of the mountains. Technically, we didn’t hike Spitzkoppe as one of tented camp employees told us we would probably die. So we decided to hike the mountain that was a bit smaller. We hiked with 5 strangers, the trail was marked by piles of rocks, and there was intense (well what I consider intense) rock climbing involved. At on point, I was trying to get down this slab of rock, I kept freaking out thinking I was going to tumble to my death, but my Fulbright girls were there to encourage me. I ended scooting my way down the rock and ripped my leggings but I’m alive so all is good.
Since I live in a landlocked region of SA, I was pumped to spend a few days in the coastal town of Swakopmund. As luck would have it, it rained the entire three days there. So the beach was cold, but that forced us to explore more of the town. We went to a crystal museum and saw the biggest quartz rock in the world. We went to a book store, took long naps, ate ice cream, stumbled upon a gin/chocolate tasting, ate at restaurants right on the water, we ordered dessert at every meal, wondered around town even in the ran, and all in all enjoyed our stay at the beach despite the gloomy weather.
The grand finale of trip. The famous sand dunes.
We hit a rough road on the way to our Airbnb near the dunes. 90% of Namibia’s roads are dirt roads (according to the Avis car rental man who gave us a safety training at the airport) and it had rained so the road was mud. Of course, we had a 2WD, so we were swerving all over the place. We tried to make it work, but 5 hours of terror driving on a mud was not a challenge we wanted to take on. So, we had to find another route which ended up taking us about 3 hours longer than expected. We arrived to the road our Airbnb was on in the pitch black darkness. There were no lights and our gps did not lead us to the right location. None of our phones were getting service and I was shaking in my Tevas. We stopped at one camp site to ask for help but were only greeted by growling dogs. Back on the road, we searched the area again hoping to see a sign or anything. No luck. We stopped at a lodge. Fancy fancy fancy. Guests were in the middle of eating dinner. Zebra heads were hung on the wall. We were in distress, looking raggedy, and clearly out of place. Praise on high because the employees knew were are Bnb was and gave us accurate directions.
We arrived to the Barking Gecko Bnb, hours after we were expected to arrive. Our hosts were gracious and had vegetarian lasgna for us. Wins all arounds.
The next morning, we headed to the dunes. We got to the dunes around 10am and it was already steaming. We were dressed up real nice to take some fancy photos but I regretted that choice with every step in the sweltering sun. Much to my dismay, we didn’t finish the hike up the Big Daddy sand dune. Our water turned boiling hot, we were all miserable, and it probably wasn’t safe for us to finish so we had to turn back. The dunes are still magical. Just make sure you get there earrrrrrrlllllyyy like as early as possible.
If you are thinking about going to Namibia, GO! Especially if you are into adventure, hiking, outdoors, Namibia is a country you have to explore.
- Klara’s Market in Windhoek– The food was wonderful and you can find alllllll the healthy goods of your dreams.
- McGregor’s Bakery in Soltaire- There are seriously articles written about the apple pie here. Its incredible. Its on the drive between Sossusvlei and Windhoek so its easy to add into your road trip.
- Spitzkoppe Tented Camp- Essentially for some good, quality, challenging, hiking. Bring lots of food tho; the onsite restaurant is overpriced and options are limited.
- Barking Gecko Bnb- About an hour outside of Sossusvlei and the couple that runs it is incredible. Harvey is super knowledgeable about the area and Jacquie is an amazing cook (breakfast and dinner included score!)
- If you want to go sandboarding, do it on Dune 7, which is close to Walvis Bay.
- Crystal Museum in Swakopmund- Go go go it was so cool and beautiful.