Namibia Part I – /Ai-/Ais to Mariental

Arriving in Namibia

On Monday 2 March 2015, our 25th day, we arrived in Namibia in the early evening and drove straight to Rosh Pinah, the nearest town with a supermarket. We were out of the basics and the SANPARKS personnel told us that there is a decent sized Spar. The previous night in the Richtersveld the children were pleasantly surprised that I can make stokbrood (bread on a stick, roasted on the fire) just like their grandmother on the farm.

It even tasted the same! Nevertheless, I am not baking bread every day, so we bought some shop bread as well.

On the recommendation of a 2012 Weg (Go!) Magazine Guide, we stayed in the Amica Guest House in Rosh Pinah. We were not disappointed; clean, friendly service, Wi-Fi, decent breakfast and they served an edible dinner. Yesterday morning we were awakened by a troop of baboons coming past our tent, on the way to their feeding place for the day. The sound they made was hair-raising. If you make huh-huh-huh with a very low baritone voice while running on the spot – that’s what it sounded like. Like something from “The Walking Dead” TV programme. Luckily they didn’t stop for a look-see. Anyway, in Amica Guesthouse we woke up peacefully and all was well until Hugo realised Petronella is a bit unwell. She was leaking oil from somewhere around the left rear wheel.

Hugo took her to a mechanic in town and they said it was a leaking hub-seal on the left rear differential. They didn’t have the seal in stock but suggested we go to Keetmanshoop, they should have it. They also said it is not that bad, we should be okay. We finally left Rosh Pinah at 1:00 and drove to /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs, a Namibia Wildlife Resort. The GPS showed that it is about 260km from Rosh Pinah to the hot springs, I quickly changed the settings to Tracks4Africa (showing the off-road maps) and by taking a 4×4 road we could halve the distance and increase the adventure. On the way there we encountered an eminent thunderstorm and severe sandstorms in temperatures of about 40 degrees, sometimes more, again reminding us of the United Arab Emirates. It did look amazing and we stopped every few minutes to take photos. Getting out of the car to take photos was like sticking my face in an oven with a thermofan while getting sandblasted. For the following photos, we stopped every few meters to get the best angle, Hugo took these two (from the driver’s seat) of the same mountain a few minutes and kilometres apart.

Soon after we took these photos, the sandstorm we could see from afar for a while now, had arrived! It gave our Petronella a free microdermabrasion, lucky girl! I actually had to get out of the car to take the photo of the oncoming sand in 44 degrees Celsius with the wind in my face, I too got a lovely scrub, no need to wash my face tonight… Although, I did have sand between my teeth for hours. Tip of the day – don’t open your mouth in a sandstorm.

Late afternoon we finally arrived at /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs, a Namibia Wildlife Resort. The campsites looked very nice, but when we went to check in, they told us that for the whole month of March, all Resorts have 75% off on their accommodation as Namibia is celebrating its 25 years of Independence from South Africa. Guess who chose a luxury chalet?! Luxury in NWR and luxury anywhere else might not be the same thing, but it was clean, tidy, huge, and had real beds. Bliss! We stayed for two nights and had them do a bit of laundry for us taking back some of that discount we got on the chalet. We are on our last clean clothes, staying just one night everywhere or in places with no water, are running havoc on the laundry pile. Oh, and guess who will search out all Resorts and stay in chalets the rest of the month?

On Thursday 5 March we left the hot springs for the Fish River Canyon.

With a length of 650 kilometres the Fish River is the longest river in Namibia. Its source lies in the eastern Naukluft Mountains. South-west of Ai-Ais it flows into the Oranje.

The Fish River Canyon, situated along the lower reaches of the Fish River, is one of the most impressive natural beauties in the southern part of Namibia. With a depth of 550 metres, the Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon. The enormous gorge meanders along a distance of approximately 160 kilometres through the fissured Koubis massif all the way down to Ai-Ais.

The canyon probably formed about 500 million years ago during the pluvial times – a rainy climatic epoch – many millions of years ago. However, the gorge was not only created by water erosion, but also through the collapse of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth’s crust.”

– Source:

“The Fish River is the longest interior river in Namibia. It cuts deep into the plateau which is today dry, stony and sparsely covered with hardy drought-resistant plants. The river flows intermittently, usually flooding in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow pools. At the lower end of the Fish River Canyon, the hot springs resort of Ai-Ais is situated.”

– Source: Wikipedia

What an amazing sight! For lunch we went to Cañon Roadhouse. Some people say it is very tacky, but we loved it. Especially their Amarula Cheesecake that they are famous for. The roadhouse is full of old vehicles and other equipment and memorabilia. Plus they had Wi-Fi which I could use to do some work.

When we reached Keetmanshoop, we found out that there is no Toyota dealership who can fix the Landcruiser, thus we would have to go to Mariental. It was already too late to go further so we went in search of a guesthouse. The second one we found (Central Lodge) was semi-decent and we checked in for the night.

Early the next morning after breakfast we got going again. Our aim was to go to Luderitz from Keetmanshoop but we just have to get Petronella fixed before it turns into something big. This is almost a 400 kilometre detour which ended taking up two nights as well.

Mariental Toyota deserves a mention, they gave us outstanding service on a Friday afternoon. Although they were very busy, they squeezed us in and even allowed Hugo to watch to learn how to do it himself. However even after intense study of the procedure suffice to say we would be looking up a mechanic again should the other side also spring a leak. Big complicated job! In the meantime, the children and I waited at River Chalets where we set up camp – all the guesthouses and lodges in the area were full due to a fishing competition at Hardap dam.

By now, our laundry situation is becoming a crisis – at least we all have a lot of clean underwear! No laundromats in town, River Chalets doesn’t do laundry and it is weekend. One more set of clean clothes for Hugo, two for me with extra tops and a few more for the children. Now I am happy I didn’t listen to some other overlanders and only packed five sets each, that would have been a disaster of smelly proportions!

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