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Namibia

With a population of 2.5 million, Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, however, it is three times bigger than the UK. Riding in Namibia has two extremes, the longest, straightest most boring roads in Africa, and some of the best dirt-roads.

Like Zambia and Botswana, the campsites in Northern Namibia were invariably alongside rivers, first the Zambezi River Camp and then Ngepi Camp on the banks of the Okavango river. Ngepi Camp was without doubt the hardest camp to get to, I turned off the main road and had 4km of deep sand to negotiate. I didn’t drop the bike, but it did challenge me. The camp was great, but again signs warning of the crocodiles and hippos!

The following morning, before sunrise I was woken by a noise outside my tent. I could hear a hippo grazing on the grass, it was so close I could hear it sniffing and snorting! Having been told hippos are the biggest killer of people in Africa, I wasn’t feeling great about the situation. I was the only camper in a small tent. I was alone. It must have been about 4.30 / 5.00am and as time rolled by I became more aware of the situation I was in, whilst I didn’t think I was about to die, I felt it was a serious situation. Other than the hippo grazing and snorting, there was silence. I didn’t want to move in case I made any noise, I lay still for 40 minutes! The hippo was so close, at sunrise I could see it’s shadow against my tent, I was not happy. Then there was silence, I very slowly opened the zip on my tent, peaked outside and couldn’t see it! So, I tentatively left the tent and breathed a sigh of relief. I sat and watched the sunrise, feeling relieved the hippo experience was over.

I left Ngepi Camp, back through the sand and onwards to Rundu. Half way I met Juan, another biker, from Spain. We swopped information and stories and went on our way. As I continued south. It got hotter and hotter, rising to above 40°C.

I will remember Namibia as being home to warthogs, I must have seen hundreds of them!

Namibia is dry, it has drought conditions, as the usual rainy season has been poor in recent years. This means crops are not growing as expected and cattle are dying. The ramifications are widespread, affecting the whole country. Whether this has affected tourism I’m not sure, although I was aware of empty roads and near empty campsites. I stayed the night in Otjiwa Lodge which was great, although the waterhole I was camped next to was dry! With no towns and cities about there was no light pollution. The stars, wow so many, so bright!!!

I stayed in Windhoek, the capital city with a friend, Rian, for a few days. I wasn’t expecting a western city, it was so modern, I could have been in any European city. 

For the first time on this trip, I left my motorbike behind, and we took Rian’s 4WD 250 miles west into the Namib Desert. We ventured into the Namib-Naukluft National Park and hiked to Dead Vlei, a white clay pan surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world. The vlei once had a river running through it, but over 600 years ago the encroaching sand dunes blocked it. Today there are many dead trees, black due to the intense heat which don’t rot as it’s too dry.

After the luxury of staying with Rian, it was time to hit the road again.  I continued south along perfect roads for a few hours, and then along dirt roads as I headed for ‘Fish River Canyon’, the largest canyon in Africa. Keeping on dirt roads was great, as they went straight through the semi-arid desert and then twisted up and around the odd mountain.

I really enjoyed my time in Namibia. Africa certainly is diverse, and the dry deserts, dirt roads and emptiness was great to experience.

Rian, thanks for showing me around the places inaccessible to me and my motorbike (deep sand!). Come and stay the next time you’re in the UK.

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