4x4 Namibia trip - itinerary advice needed
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Aug 20, 2012 11:07 AM Last Post By: charlotter02
Aug 14, 2012 1:47 PM
4x4 Namibia trip - itinerary advice neededHello!
This is my first forum post as I have previously always been able to find the answer to my questions in previous threads.. until now!
This September my husband and I are flying to Windhoek, Namibia and hiring a 4x4 with roof tent for two weeks.
I have an itinerary in mind but would love some advice on how achievable this is. We are in our late 20s - we like to stay away from the big crowds (hence Namibia!), are very active and so don't want to spend all day-everyday driving but leaving time for some activities.
We have very little 4x4 experience and so I am particularly interested in comments on day 7 and 8 of the trip, which will be an off-road section. Is this route easy to navigate? Do we need full gps systems or will a good map do? I have heard people say Tracks 4 Africa is the best system but is seems we can't get that from our car hire people - is a standard GPS just as useful?
Day 1 - arrive windhoek 6am and drive to Etosha (stay at Okaukujo)
Day 2 - Etosha - slow drive across to Onguma camp
Day 3 - Etosha - stay another night in Onguma camp
Day 4 - drive towards Kunene River - stay somewhere on route depending on how far we get (e.g. Ruacana?)
Day 5 - Kunene River Lodge (plan to do wild water rafting or canoeing and sun-downer trips)
Day 6 - Kunene River Lodge (full day to do activities as above)
Day 7 - Drive towards Orupembe (via Opuwo) - this is mostly off-road driving. Possibly wild camping?
Day 8 - Drive to Puros camp - via Amspoort - again, mostly off road driving.
Day 9 - Palmwag Lodge campsite
Day 10 - Twyfelfontein (Aabadi camp) - planning on hiring mountainbikes and hiking
Day 11 - Twyfelfontein (Aabadi camp or other)
Day 12 - Brandberg or Swakopmund (Is it worth going to Swakopmund for a day or are we better off staying inland and properly explore the Damaraland area? If Swakopmund, do you recommend the Skeleton Coast route or inland route?)
Day 13 - Spitzkoppe (keen to stay here as we have heard fantastic things about the campsite and walking around the area - also a reasonable distance back to Windhoek)
Day 14 - Spitzkoppe
Day 15 - back to Windhoek for 9pm flight
So - main question, is it reasonable for us to try the Opuwo to Puros off-road route? If not, we can probably save a day to visit another area - in that case should we visit Epupa Falls (given it's September and the end of the dry season) or perhaps an extra day in Swakopmund?
We plan to camp but if anyone does have a particular recommendation for a good standard but not unbelievable expensive lodge, we would definitely consider that as a treat (say no more than £150-200/night)
Any other advice and comments on the above obviously more than welcome!
Thanks very much,
Aug 14, 2012 2:36 PM
1It is many years since we did our trip through the Kaokoveld and plenty must have changed since then. I would not attempt it in only one vehicle - one must have company in case of problems. Don't underestimate the time you will require for the trip. Also don't underestimate the equipment that you will need. Drinking water, food, medical supplies, recovery equipment, spares (not only 2 spare tyres, but also spare parts), fuel (make sure you have enough fuel containers full in addition to a full fuel tank), camping equipment. This area is the back of beyond and you dare not get caught short. Reckon on an average speed of something between 10 and 20 kilometers per hour for much of the route between Ruacana via Puros to Sesfontein.
Day 5 - Ruacana to Kunene River Lodge - the route along the river will take you a good 4 hours for the 40 odd kilometres (assuming no breakdowns or flat tyres).
Day 7 - Fill up all your fuel containers at Opuwo. I dont know if the track between Opuwo and Orupembe even exists, let alone whether it is feasable to drive that route. (We took the more northern route down Van Zyl's pass)
Day 8 - Should be a doddle after the previous day (or two)
Day 9 - The road from Puros to Sesfontein was absolutely horrible. A proper road if I remember correctly (we did much of it in the dark), but the worst one could imagine - a real boneshaker. I would plan on stopping at Sesfontein and relaxing for a night. That is also where you will be able to refuel for the first time since leaving Opuwo.
Day 10 - You should be able to get through from Sesfontein to Twyfelfontein in a day, stopping at Palmwag for some refreshment on the way.
We spent a couple of nights camping at Puros - still one of my favourite places anywhere. Beware of the elephants that sometimes come into the camp ground, I seem to recall hearing of a nasty incident that happened there not too long ago.
I wish you luck - it would be a wonderful adventure, but please dont go alone. This is a serious 4x4 trip that you are planning.
I hope someone else, who has been in that area more recently than I, also responds to your post so that you can get more up to date advice.
The rest of your trip seems pretty straightforward.
Epupa falls is a must if you are in that area anyway. But the river road/track between Kunene River Lodge and Epupa Falls (70 km) took us 7 hours. You could however, do a long detour by going south from Swartbooisdrift to join the main Opuwo - Epupa "highway", in so doing possibly saving time. Take advice from the Lodge management. Spend at the very least 2 nights at Epupa - the falls are really lovely.
As far as fuel is concerned - a diesel engine would be far better than a petrol engine because the fuel consumption is lower and as a result you will need to carry less extra fuel. To the best of my knowledge, fuel is only obtainable at Ruacana, Puros and Sesfontein. Make sure you know the range of your vehicle under very testing conditions.
"Enjoy" might be the wrong word - "experience" may be more appropriate.
Aug 14, 2012 3:01 PM
Thank you very much for your response - much appreciated.
I know the area is very isolated, that's part of the appeal to be honest. I think things must have changes somewhat since you were last there as most of the places we plan to visit appear to be accessible by 2WD. I think there are a lot of gravel roads up there now, even though some of those won't be in the best state..
Thanks for the tip on Epupa - I might see if we can fit that in and perhaps skip a day later on in the itinerary. I am aware of the river route to Epupa which apparently is very tough going - we'll be avoiding that one!
We will be well prepared with our vehicle and I have done some research in places to stop for fuel to make sure we don't get caught out. With regards to travelling with two cars - from many trip reports I am reading people are travelling on their own. I guess the only part of the route I am worried about is the 'off road section' around Puros - as you say, that will be very slow going and with no real roads the risk of something happening is that much greater... perhaps we should reconsider this and take your advice on going to Sesfontein instead.
We have booked the first few days of accommodation so perhaps we just have to speak to the people at the campsites to find out what the roads are like and decide on that basis..
Aug 15, 2012 11:09 PM
3We've just come off a self drive through Namibia and did not hit the 4wd routes you mention althought we did the road to Twyfellfontein (HORRIBLE) and the Skeleton Coast (not nearly as bad). Just the same, we had four flat tires and two total blow outs where the tires just exploded on us. So the roads can be VERY hard on tires and there are few places to fix them - no places on the backroad routes. So please take Rudi's advice very seriously. He's a local who knows of what he speaks.
Aug 16, 2012 7:47 AM
4Listen to Rudi's comment. In addition...double-check that your rental company at all allows to to travel on some on these roads. I'm renting vehicles for a yearly excursion and have several time experienced that rental companies 'forbid' clients to take their cars into certain areas (e.g. parts of Kaoko).
Ehem...also, I'd suggest maybe staying a night in Halali or Namutoni instead of Onguma. Nothing wrong with Onguma, it's actually a really nice place, but being inside the park certainly has its advantages.
Personally I'd skip Swakopmund, but it depends you what you want to see. If you're in the area I'd opt for a night at Erongo Plateau Camp ( http://www.erongo.iway.na/camp/main.html ), or at Blutkuppe in the Namib Naukluft National Park instead. You could fit one or both of them with a bit of shifting and juggling.
Aug 20, 2012 6:18 AM
I hope this won't come too late...
I was in Namibia in July hiring a 4x4 (we were four persons) for a 3-week trip. As we really wanted to reach some more isolated areas we planned to do the Opuwo - Orupembe - Purros route.
When we arrived to the rental agency we discover that the road between Opuwo and Orupembe is "forbidden" (as some other roads in the remote areas), meaning that you can take it only on your own risk. So paying yourself for the towing or (god forbid) a helicopter to bring you to the closest town. As we travelled quite a lot before and we are more of a adventurous character and the locals who told us that the chosen itinerary is completely ok ...we hit the road! So one car only with no other equipment then what was supplied by the rental agency.
We did Opuwo - Marble Camp (highly recommended community led campsite) near Orupembe in 4 hours without stopping (200 km). This included quite a lot of stress as we aren't experienced 4x4 drivers and neither especially good in mechanics. The road is bad, especially if you're not used to it. It doesn't mean that you will get stuck in sand or in mud but that it's highly tiresome, bumping all the time (except for a few km in the beginning and maybe 40 km in the second half, I don't remember exactly), the driver needs to be 100 % concentrated all the time. Once in the Marble Camp we felt like winning a lottery :) And no, it's definitely not a 2WD road!!!
After 1 day in Marble Camp (great) we continued to Orupembe and then towards Purros. The road is really good in the beginning (you can easily go 70km per hour) but then it becomes very frustrating. The road is straight, the terrain is not uneven like from Opuwo to Orupembe, this time are the car tracks that drive you crazy. I don't know how to explain... It feels like a caterpillar machine has just past in front of you and left deep tracks. This means you will drive around 30km per hour feeling the car suffering and jumping all the time. Sometimes there's an alternative road just by the old one and this makes your life easier for a while but this is not always the case. And you should never go off-road because the vegetation is highly vulnerable and it takes decades to recover from the 4x4 tracks. We arrived to Purros 5 hours later.
We finally didn't encounter any problems in these two days. Which was mostly lucky as we didn't meet any car at all from Marble camp to Purros and only a few of them from Opuwo to Marble Camp. From Purros on we had our insurance back!!!
The road from Purros to Twifelfontain is more or less the same as the last part from Orupembe to Purros = really tiresome and bumpy because of the "caterpillar tracks". But somebody already mentioned it before me.
Our problems came later as these three days of bad roads seriously damaged our shock breaker and the clutch liquid system. We got also seriously stuck in the sand when all of a sudden there was no more road in Purros, only numerous deep-sand tracks. But hey, I saw some desert elephants passing 200 m away when we tried to pull out the car!
All this said, the views on this road are stunning. Marble Camp-Purros is just amazing. You feel being in a different dimension. And Capacity who takes care of the Marble Camp is really nice. So if you ask me if it was worth the risk, I would say YES. But if you ask me if I would do it the same way (with only one car and without any real knowledge about 4x4) I would say probably no. Anything can go well, the road is not impassable, but something can go wrong and I don't want to imagine what happens when the car gets stuck in Orupembe.
Concerning your other questions, I agree with "denafrikanskefarmen" - I wouldn't opt for an additional day in Swakopmund. Actually, I didn't like it at all. I also loved the Namib Naukluft National Park (we did two hikes in two days) the same as the community run "Khowarib campsite" (80km north from Palmweg) in a beautiful setting with great people running it. And yes, Spitzkoppe is simply magical. In Brandberg, there is the "White Lady Lodge", a joint venture with the community, we camped there and it's really nice. Don't expect too much though from the visit of the "White Lady" painting (which is not a white lady at all), our guide was a real disappointment to me even though I was excited about supporting this community based activity. But the painting itself is worth the visit, personally I found it wonderful.
Don't hesitate to ask more questions, I'm a bit lost in this long post of mine:)
Aug 20, 2012 11:07 AM
Thank you so much for your responses...
That is definitely a bit of a reality check :)
Petra, your description is exactly as I expected to be - tough going, but possible. I was not aware of the restrictions which may be in place by the rental company.
To be honest, all the information you guys have provided have made me rethink our plan for those two days... it sounds like it is a magical route (which is why we were keen to do it) but probably not worth the risks. Plus - everywhere in Namibia sounds magical, so I'm sure we'll still have a fab trip!
Thanks for the opinions on Swakopmund - we'll definitely skip it.
So now I have two new options.. any comments on which is better?
Option 1 - head straight to Damaraland from Kunene. Does this mean we'll be doing very long distances most days or are these manageable drive times? We'd prefer to have time to relax/do activities and not drive too far every day.
Day 7 - Kunene to Khowarib Camp
Day 8 - Khowarib to Twyfelfontein (Aabadi camp) - planning on hiring mountainbikes and hiking
Day 9 - Twyfelfontein (Aabadi camp or other)
Day 10 - Brandberg
Day 11 - Spitzkoppe
Day 12 - Spitzkoppe
Day 13 - Drive to Sesriem/Sossusvlei
Day 14 - Morning visit to dunes (Sesriem/Sossusvlei)
Day 15 - other morning activity? then back to Windhoek for 9pm flight
Option 2 - spend a day at Epupa Falls and then miss out on Sesriem/Sossusvlei. It just seems that Sossusvlei is a long way out the way so this allows us to spend more time in the North? Is Epupa Falls worth staying at after two nights at Kunene? especially given it's the end of the dry season..
Day 7 - Kunene to Epupa Falls (not via the river route but the 'long way round')
Day 8 - Epupa Falls
Day 9 - Khowarib
Day 10 - Twyfelfontein (Aabadi camp or other)
Day 11 - Twyfelfontein
Day 12 - Brandberg
Day 13 - Spitzkoppe
Day 14 - Spitzkoppe
Day 15 - back to Windhoek for 9pm flight
Thank you also for the tip on where to stay in Etosha. We have already booked the accommodation but we are staying one night within the actual park, so hopefully we won't regret Onguma!
Thanks again to all of you - it just shows the value to asking fellow travellers about their experiences before making any big mistakes :)
(4 star Hotel)
From US$150.80 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$149.00 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$162.03 per night