The Skeleton Coast, Swakopmund and in the end Solitaire, Namibia
Journey through Wild Namibia
A story worth reading for those who want to hire a car and drive through the vast desert of Namibia;
“So what are we having for dinner then?” Was the only thing that was said after we inspected the broken hire car. How could we have crashed the car on this very wide, unoccupied gravel road? One minute I had been photographing the view of the dry, striated hills as we drove through the Kuiseb Pass and now we were stranded in the middle of nowhere, nothing but sand around as far as the eye could see. We had done a fair bit of wild camping through Namibia, it was now 4.30pm and soon it would be dark, maybe dinner and setting up the tent was the only sensible option.
We had no phone reception, no way of continuing to drive and no town in walking distance. We sat and contemplated our options, then like a mirage a pick-up came down the abandoned road. The hire company had to be contacted, so 2 of us decided to hitch a lift to the next village, leaving one behind expecting to camp alone that night. For another 80km we sat on random bags in the back of the pick-up truck wondering when we would see our other friend again.
An hour later we arrived at a village aptly named Solitaire. It consisted of only 6 families, a petrol station and a hotel/camp ground, the only reason tourists passed through here was to visit the countries infamous Sossus Vlei. The petrol station was surrounded by a grave yard of vehicles which I presumed had all experienced the same fate as us.
Two Israeli men and myself had been self-driving through Namibia, we had come down the remote Skeleton Coast, through Swakopmund and we were on our way to some of the world’s largest sand dunes in Sossus Vlei. The Skeleton Coast is named after the many ship wrecks along this coastline through the centuries due to the foggy, grey and bleak weather. This area had an energy that I could almost relate to the Pennines in England, wild, vast and unforgiving but strangely appealing.
Swakopmund is Namibia’s top destination for adventure activities, ranging from sky diving, quad biking, horse riding and sand boarding. For a mornings sand boarding, plus lunch including beer, it cost around $40, and u could board as much as you were willing to walk up the giant sand dunes. Within this activity we also body boarded the dunes head first at over 70km/h, an excellent adrenaline rush for the brave hearted. Our final destination was meant to be Sossus Vlei, renowned for magical sunsets and rises turning some of the world’s largest sand dunes abnormally bright red, we did eventually reach but we were a day later than expected.
Arriving in Solitaire the owner of the petrol station/guesthouse had obviously seen the stupid-tourist-broken-car situation many times and even rang Budget cars for us to explain the problem. Through good fortune the local priest had also been driving towards Solitaire and he had towed the broken car and our abandoned friend, reuniting our group once again. We spent the rest of the evening around the campfire laughing and thanking our luck we would be getting another car in the morning.
However, this adventure/mistake cost a fortune, as the towing charges and repairing ended totalling an amount of $3000! Even though we had the highest insurance possible; undercarriage and towing fee were not included. From this experience I recommend that you try use local tows and mechanics rather than going through your car rental company!
If you can drive a car responsibly seeing Namibia this way enables total independence, hours of never-ending roads in the desert and a true sense of isolation. My story is an exception, be brave hire a car and explore!