Tuesday, May 9, 2018 | Namibia – Kunene Region, Opuwo | Petra
HARTMANN VALLEY AND MARIENFLUSS VALLEY
KAOKOLAND ON THE SECOND ATTEMPT
Postponed is not abandoned – according to this motto, after a delay of two or three weeks, we are now making our second attempt to visit Kaokoland together with Conny & Tommy. The lonely stretch of land in the north-west of Namibia towards the border with Angola is a special travel adventure for off-roaders and for us. Fully equipped with food, water and diesel and with a confident look at the rain-free weather forecast, we set off from Opuwo.
The Wild West of Namibia awaits us!
MIDWAY THROUGH HOARUSIB RIVER
We still can’t be sure that our planned route will work without problems. The rainy season has destroyed parts of the pads, and the rivers might be still too wet or the ground too soft to cross. Our extensive tour will take twelve days and more than thousand kilometres around one of the most natural areas of Namibia.
The recommended maximum speed of 60 km/h on pad D3707 seems to be very ambitious to us. Already 91 kilometres west of Opuwo we work on our first project of road construction. There is still quite a lot of water in Hoarusib River. The sandy ground is way too soft for our trucks weighing several tons each. With large stones lying around, we build a road through the ford, suitable for our track width.
Tommy is the first testing the stability of our do-it-yourself road. It looks dramatic when the big MAN leans low over into the ford.
Now it’s our turn … Win and I are not comfortable with this. What if we slip, get stuck or fall over?! We almost want to chicken out. Tommy manages to motivate Win through patient coaxing. And lo and behold, the crossing is quite easy after all.
After all we enjoy a bath in the river, the sun and the marvellous scenery at Hoarusib River.
THE DESERT IS ALIVE
In the Okondjombo region we marvel at the incredibly green and blooming landscape of the otherwise rather monotonous and arid region. Here the rainy season shows impressively how it brings nature to life with its power within a very short time. There is a lush scent of thyme and hyacinths.
At a small village pond somewhere on our way to Orupembe we meet children who have the task of fetching water to their homes. They take their time and prefer to play with each other.
THE BEAUTY OF HIMBA WOMEN
Here and there we come across small Himba settlements with rondavels made of branches, mud and dried cow dung. In front of them, Himba women sit in the shade with their children. Sometimes the huts are temporarily abandoned. As semi-nomads, the Himba let their cattle graze where there is just enough food.
© caroline75005 / Fotolia
The beautiful Himba women devote several hours in the morning to grooming and decorating their bodies and hair. To do this, they get up much earlier than the men. They rub their bodies with a reddish paste of butterfat, ochre and resin to protect them from the sun and loss of moisture. Their hair, which they twist into long plaits, is also thickly coated with ochre. They practice intimate hygiene by squatting over smoke.
© frag / Fotolia
The question of clothing, on the other hand, is quickly resolved. They cover their hips with a voluminous apron made of tanned goatskin. They dispense with a top altogether and wear lavish necklaces instead. That’s all they need to look stunning.
To protect travellers from getting lost, there are placed remarkable drums at four forks between Hartmann Valley and Marienfluss Valley. The Groendrom, Oranjedrom, Bloudrom and Rooidrom (green, orange, blue, red drum) are helpful landmarks in nowhere.
AT HARTMANN MOUNTAIN RANGE
Along the Hartmann Mountains, new landscapes open up to us every minute. From the mountain we can even see far into the fairytale dune landscape of Skeleton Coast Park.
THE LONE MAN
Suddenly in the middle of the deserted nowhere we we come across him sitting under a tree – the Lone Man.
There are many stories and fairy tales about him and the others of his kind. No one knows how many Lone Men there really are. Nine, ten or more?
The almost life-size sculptures made of stones and iron wire catch you by surprise in the vast landscape, in a sitting, standing or walking posture and always at rest.
Where exactly they are to be found is only revealed to those who discover them for themselves directly on site. I unfortunately missed two, while I was distracted by the beauty of the landscape. Who is the artist who created these extraordinary works of art and arranged it with great sensitivity in the loneliness of the Kaokoland? It probably will remain a secret forever.
One story says that the Lone Men are people who loved the desert landscape of the Kaokoland so much that they turned into stone and have been part of this magical landscape ever since. When I ask our Lone Man what is really true about the whole story, he just smiles silently. The rest is silence.
THE MONSTER DUNE
From the Hartmann Mountains, our route takes us eastwards to the Marienfluss Valley, downhill over a monster dune about 180 metres high. Our truck glides gently down the soft sandy dune. What an experience!
Image 1, 3, 4: Conny
And just a few kilometers later, we reach a spacious hill from which we can see all the way across to the mountains of Southern Angola. Fantastic!
On our way into the Marienfluss Valley we encounter countless herds of zebra, oryx antelope and springbok.
AT MARIENFLUSS VALLEY
The further we go into the valley, the more we are overwhelmed by the spring-like nature. The grasses sway gently in the wind over areas as far as the eye can see. We float through the landscape with our eleven tonnes and feel as if we are part of a gigantic painting.
We are incredibly lucky to be able to experience this spectacle of nature in this way. We have the abundant rain this year to thank for this splendour.
For hard-core off-roaders, Van Zyl’s Pass is a great challenge. It is only passable in the east-west direction, although even tougher off-roaders are now trying the opposite direction. Our truck is simply too big for this risky pass, but we want to take a look at the steepest part of the pass and go for a walk uphill.
Later we learn from Allgemeine Zeitung (oldest, German-speaking newspaper in Namibia) that just now a Southafrican tourist had an accident and finally completely lost his Land Cruiser there. Ouch!
THE LOST NUT
Every travel guide warns against a trip to the Kaokoland and insistently points out the necessity of special safety precautions. It is even not recommended to drive alone. In case of emergencies or breakdowns, help is not to be expected.
It is already enough luck, if there are water tanks somewhere, which have water (no drinking water!) and also still work.
In one of the most beautiful places in the very north of the Marian River Valley, the most unpleasant thing that can happen to a traveler happens – a vehicle breakdown! The leaf spring on Conny & Tommy’s truck loses a thick nut, the spring threatens to slip out of its suspension. Without immediate repair, further travel is impossible.
There is no automobile club here, and no telephone or internet either.
With combined forces and a robust, original African lifting construction made of thick stones and three truck jacks, it is finally possible to relax the leaf spring and bring it into position so that a replacement nut can be fitted.
Damage repaired, problem solved!
The very next day, fate strikes again mercilessly. Tommy tears a large hole in the flank of his new front tire on a sharp remnant of a mopane tree trunk. Conny & Tommy have changed the tire in no time at all – the two experienced truckers can do that easily. It is the financial damage that hurts.
A cozy campfire in the evening under a full moon gives comfort and the next morning the world looks much better.