We arrived at the Matswere gate of the Central Kalahari about 15 minutes before gate closure. Our plan was to camp at the gate and enter early in the morning, but the ranger said he had a free campsite not too far away and if we were fast, we could use it free of charge.
It took about 40 minutes to reach the campsite by which time it was completely dark. The campsites in the national parks in Botswana are basic to say the least. Usually just a clearing in the bush and if you’re lucky there will be a pit toilet and a bucket in a tree to use as a shower.
As it was dark, we decided not to go out and put up our tent with dangerous animals lurking in the shadows. Instead we made the best bed we could in the back of the 90 and slept inside. As you can imagine, it was not the most comfortable night’s sleep, but what a surprise we were in for in the morning.
“Jan, Jan, Jan”….. Vale was trying her hardest to wake me up. “look there’s a lioness”. Less than 2 meters away, was a huge lion staring in at us through the window. It walked a few circles around the Defender and trailer before quickly losing interest and going on to hunt the jackals that had also been watching from a distance.
This is one memory we will never forget, waking up looking into the eyes of a lion standing less than 2 meters away.
We had planned our fuel perfectly for the time we spent in the Central Kalahari. After nearly 700km of driving in mud and sand we pulled into the fuel station on the way to the Namibian border just as the fuel light illuminated. We carry 130L of fuel with us, which should get us close to 1200km however, when the ground is soft, it can drastically reduce your range. Something to take into consideration when fuel stations are hundreds of kilometres apart.
Our first night in Namibia we spent in Windhoek. We needed a few supplies so we were up early and into the city to get what we needed. It’s amazing how friendly the people here are. With a few pointers from the locals, we had what we needed and it was time to get back on the road and start our journey North West towards the Skeleton coast.
We stopped off on the way to visit to the Hoba Meteorite. The meteorite fell more than 80,000 years ago and is still intact. It’s thought to be the largest naturally occurring piece of iron known on earth weighing in at 60 tons. It was quite impressive.
Continuing onto the Skeleton Coast we were hoping to get a glimpse of the New Defender. This is where they have been conducting the recent reviews and we can tell you, the terrain is really as rough as it looks.
We didn’t get to see the New Defender, but we did get to experience the challenging terrain first hand. In the 22,000km since leaving home, it’s the first time we have been stuck. I don’t have much experience driving in sand, other than reducing tyre pressure and keeping some momentum, so when we chose a spot on the beach to stop for lunch, I knew it was going to be a challenge. As soon as the sand got soft and the magic box of traction wizardry sensed some wheel slip, it cut all power to the engine to try and regain traction. Of course this meant we lost all our momentum and when towing 1000kg on very soft sand, that is bad news.
Using our 2 sand tracks we managed a meter at a time before making it to some much harder sand where we could drive out and finally stop for our lunch in front of the sea.
From the challenging terrain in the north we started heading south towards the Fish River Canyon. We stopped off at a café in the middle of the desert for a break and just before paying the bill, the owner came to us with a phone and said, it’s your embassy, they are asking for you. This came at a bit of a surprise as we hadn’t notified any embassy of our whereabouts or our travel plans. Big brother is always watching. This was the first time we heard about the seriousness of the Corona Virus back in Europe and it came at a bit of a shock.
After a quick visit to the canyon, and the discussion with the embassy on our minds, we headed to the border of South Africa. Before getting stamped out of Namibia, we paid a visit to the South African immigrations office to see if they would let us in. You would have thought we were from another planet, when we pulled out European passports, the officials leapt out of their seats to hide as far away from us as possible. We explained that we hadn’t been in Europe since November. However, as it transpires that morning they had received a memo from the government, banning anyone traveling on a European passport from entering South Africa.
With our plans out the window, we had to think on our feet before an inevitable lock down in Namibia would begin. To keep our options open, we chose to head North 1200km to the coastal city of Walvis Bay. Here there is a large port which gives us the option of returning the car to Europe if we are unable to continue our journey to Capetown.
So at this very moment we don’t know what we will be able to bring you next month. Will it be our final farewell as we end our journey early, or will the world manage to fight this virus and we can make it through to Capetown…..