The rocky road to Twyfelfontein
We had a great big driving day ahead of us once the sun rose over Palmwag. An uneventful game drive delivered us back to our vehicle, parked at Palmwag Lodge reception where we packed up our cars and drove out of the concession.
Pro tip #1: You can fill up on petrol and diesel at the bowser inside Palmwag, which is run by the lodge but payment is only accepted in cash. This area was where cash-only payments were most prevalent and change not available. Make sure you are carrying enough for your needs and in small denominations.
About an hour along fairly bumpy roads, we reached a police roadblock. The lady officer leant in and asked if we knew we had a flat tyre. Hell, no! The car had been bouncing so hard I had absolutely no idea.
This development put a dampener on our plans which were to stop in at the World Heritage-listed rock art galleries at Twyfelfontein, the Organ Pipes and Petrified Forest. All of these lay off a “D” road, which turned out to be horrendous. The road was so corrugated that on many stretches, unofficial slip lanes had been created on the side but even these were fraught with hazards such as holes and rocks.
Pro tip #2: Know basic automobile maintenance and be aware of where you can seek help. Our car company Britz/Kea provided us with a list of reputable mechanics round Namibia, with phone numbers.
Our nearest tyre repair shop was at Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, some 40km away. This was probably 90minutes of drive time so being extra careful, we made our way there. On arrival at this architecturally stunning building, we were directed to the workshop. However, we were told when we got there that there was no glue to patch up our tyre. So we had to carry on.
By now the sun was blazing, so we decided the 150NAD buffet lunch at the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge would be a good idea. It was, with the icy Rock Shandy (basically a Namibian version of lemon, lime and bitters) going down a treat.
Then we got back onto the bumpy gravel road to Twfelfontein.
Pro tip #3: Twyfelfontein requires a guide to visit. You pay for entry at the gate, get assigned an available guide then go walking into the hills.
Problem was that it was 2pm when we arrived thanks to the issues we’d experienced with the car, and it was a sweltering 35 degrees. The lady at the park office advised us that there were two circuits: one which took 45mins return, and a shorter at half an hour. There were some interesting displays in the office explaining the rock engravings so we had a good look around and chickened out of the walk!
My suggestion is to head out super early from wherever youre coming from to do this excursion. Else base yourself nearby. There are plenty of lodges and campsites. August is the tail end of winter – which was already warm – so don’t expect the heat to be any less intense most other months of the year.
Uis: A sight for sore eyes (and bodies)
Due to our lack of a spare tyre and general weariness travelling over corrugated road, we chose to make a beeline to Uis, where our motel awaited.
Pro tip #4: Do yourself a favour and stay at Brandberg Restcamp. It’s truly unique and its owner, Basil Calitz, is something of a legend.
A low-slung, nondescript place we would describe as a “motel” in Australia, Brandberg Restcamp is like nowhere else. Inside are fixtures from the past, from an old wall phone and maps to a vintage jukebox and a courtyard pool. The rooms are clean, large and very adequate, with modern ensuite bathrooms that look like they were installed very recently.
The reception staff here were also interesting. When told we needed a new tyre, they promptly donned blue jumpsuits and got to work. A new tyre cost NAD3300. Installation: NAD200. All in all, they took 20 minutes. Very professional.
When we got the car back, we proceeded to open the boot to see what survived the epic drive. Turns out, not even canned food. Our mates had their water canisters spill all over their luggage, while we had rice all over the cab.
Pro tip #5: Everything in the boot/cab will get covered in dust from the moment you leave the B1 tarred road from Windhoek. It just becomes a matter of how much dust as you go further out. Place anything you value in the passenger area or secure carefully. Even sealed cans of chickpeas broke open rattling about in the back.
Brandberg Restcamp had a great atmospheric bar and restaurant, where cold beer, ice cream, steak, chips and toasties could be had. Like in so many other places in Namibia, salt and vinegar were provided for your hot chips – awesome! Being mostly vegetarian is tricky in Namibia but we got accustomed to cheese, onion and tomato toasties available almost everywhere – delicious! The fish is also of high quality.
Pro tip #6: Bring Basil a beer from your country. He has a huge collection of bottles from all over the world!
A generous cooked breakfast the next morning was included and we enjoyed being greeted by the cats and two chatty African grey parrots.
Expect a buffet counter of toast, cheese, cold cuts and spreads (including Marmite and peanut butter) as well as eggs cooked how you like, served with bacon, sausage and tomato.
Then we hit the road again, hoping to get a good look at the craggy monolith next to Uis known as Mount Brandberg.
Aside from photo stops on our way to the coast, we browsed gemstone stalls set up by locals by the road and traded food for soft pink rose quartz and shiny black tourmaline. The rice we had remaining and dented cans of veg that survived the journey went to a lady who gave us a big lump of quartz, while our friends promised to mail men and children’s clothing to another woman down the road who provided a PO Box address.
Then we were on our way to the foggy Atlantic coast to see the smelly seals of Cape Cross. Read about this section of our trip here.
If you’re nervous about driving in Namibia, don’t be! I’ve compiled a list of handy tips here:
To read about our trip, the entire three week self-drive safari is chronicled on these pages: