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Chapter 34 - Namibia, South Africa, and The Finale

By Neil and Nikki

sunny 25 °C
View Cape to Cape on capetocape2017's travel map.


What an amazing trip! There’s a desire to start talking about the trip in the past tense, but we’re still on it and we’re building up to the end! The next blog will talk about the trip in its entirety but, just to refresh, we’re on an overland truck trip from Nairobi, Kenya to Cape Town, South Africa.

Of course, the highlight of our final leg is the Finishing Line! The Cape of Good Hope!


However, before getting to the Cape of Good Hope, we had to get to Cape Town. Here is the map showing the overland route from Nairobi to Cape Town:

This chapter of our blog takes you from Spitzkoppe, Namibia (just below the Etosha National Park) to Cape Town, and then onto our time in Cape Town, our stay in Franschhoek, our visit to our end point (the Cape of Good Hope), and our return to Melbourne.


Southern Namibia – Spitzkoppe and the Himba

Spitzkoppe (meaning ‘pointed dome’) is a granite outcrop in the middle of the Namib desert.


The Namib Desert stretches 2,000 kilometres from Angola to South Africa. The Namib Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world, at about 55 to 80 million years old. Its rainfall is between 2 mm and 200 mm per year, which makes it about as dry as the Atacama desert in Chile, which we visited earlier on in the Big Trip.

The weather is interesting. Why is it so dry? On the west coast of South America there is a cold-water current that flows up from Antarctica called the Humboldt Current. On the west coast of Southern Africa there is a cold-water current that flows up from Antarctica called the Benguela Current. This, and the descent of dry air from 10 to 15 km up in the atmosphere (called the Hadley Cell), results in very arid conditions.

Spitzkoppe has some great San (the ‘Bushman’ referred to in the last blog) cave paintings that are between 2,000 and 4,000 years old. These paintings were like a notice board to other San people. Telling them how many people had been at the cave, what animals had been sighted and what to be wary of.

Rhino cave painting by the San people, indicating a rhino had been seen nearby recently.

The area was used for the filming of ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’. In the far distance near the rounded hill you can see our truck!

It was so nice to be off the truck and going for a walk. It was a little hot that day though and we underestimated the water! It is a desert after all!

Fortunately, we met up with Mark and Benny on the trip who allowed us to use some of Mark’s excellent photos with his posh camera…. (courtesy of Mark Small).

The Himba

The Himba are an indigenous people living in southern Namibia. They are trying to maintain their way of life and, whilst most of the tribe do not welcome the visit of tourists, they have set up one village to educate tourists.

Himba village.

It is always a difficult concept to visit these villages. As with the Masai village in Tanzania, it can feel like one is imposing or interfering with their lifestyle, or that the visit is being done to get money. On the other hand, one comes out with more knowledge at the end of the visit than at the beginning. It was incredibly interesting to visit this village but upon further questioning we found that it was set up by volunteers from a number of villages, each willing to move here in order to access the tourist market. Not exactly a bonefide experience. To visit, or not to visit? It’s up to you.

Mark Small did take this fantastic photo in the village though….


A Milestone! – The Atlantic Ocean!

Well, this was a bit of a “Bloody Hell!” moment. On 17th December 2017 we arrived at the Atlantic Ocean. Yeah, Yeah, I hear you say, BUT, as we looked out at the Atlantic Ocean, we were in fact looking back towards where we were on the 13 February 2017, Rio de Janeiro!

So, we were in Namibia (the orangey-red country towards to the bottom left hand side of Southern Africa), looking out towards Rio de Janeiro (which is at the same latitude as where we stood on the beach in the photo below. We were looking out at the same ocean as we’d looked out at from Rio, just on the other side. However, to get to Namibia, we’ve travelled all the up South, Central, and North America, through Russia, Eastern Europe, and Arabia, and down through Africa. Plus, we’d travelled from eastern side of Africa (the Indian Ocean) to the western side of Africa (the Atlantic) – By Land……

I also like this world map because it shows the difference in Latitude between Cape Horn (at 56 degrees south) and the Cape of Good Hope (at 34 degrees South).

Our first view of the Atlantic Ocean after 50 days on an overland truck….. Yes, that is a shipwreck on the coast…

The coast, by the way, is called the Skeleton Coast because if you were shipwrecked, the land was so dry that, well, your future did not look too good.



Swakopmund. It has a population of 25,000 and is the 3rd biggest metropolis in Namibia.


It’s, er, on the edge of the desert. We hung out, had lunch, and said goodbye to some of our fantastic truck travellers, and said hello a fabulous new addition from South Africa, who joined us on the way to Cape Town. It was a welcome relief from being on the truck constantly and had amazing thing like supermarkets, restaurants and traffic lights!


The Namib Naukluft National Park

From Swakopmund it was time to enter the biggest game park in Africa, the 49,768 km2 Namib Naukluft National Park.

View from the road of the Namib Naukluft National Park. It’s barren. It’s harsh. It’s between 55 and 80 million years old. And its spectacular.

It was also quite like Australia.

Ever had a throwing competition using your ‘non-dominant’ arm? What else are you going to do on a break from a 12-hour overland truck drive.

On the way to the wonderful Hammerstein Lodge we stopped off to see ‘Boesman’ (or Bushman), a bloke who gave talks on the desert. The land is desert but there is life. He taught us a he amount of information we didn’t know, including the damage caused to dune systems by rain (we thought rain would be a good thing!), how some animals survive without ever drinking a drop of liquid water (they get all of their hydration from plants) and that you can survive in the desert just be eating live lizards! If you see one throw your hat in the air, the lizard burrows into the sand, you can then dig it up and eat it (head first evidently)! Then there was the Gemsbok that were all over the place but you gotta watch out for those horns!

You can eat and drink lots of bits of the Gemsbok, but you’ve got to catch it first!

One of the most disturbing parts of the stories from the ‘Boesman’ concerned the Bushman of the Namib Desert. Until 1953 they were not considered human and hunting them was permitted! Imagine it was not only permitted, but encouraged to hunt and create trophies of these people. They were in fact permitted to live in the Etosha National Park until 1953, but when their ‘status’ changed, they were forced to move as only animals were allowed to live in the park.

Cactus trees at ‘Boesman’s’ place.

A view of the desert which has changed significantly since 2011 when it rained more than the 5 years average in one month. It changed the landscape completely and in the months afterwards this landscape was flowing with green grass. This rain has permanently altered the desert system, creating small plants (the black dots you can see on the sand), trapping the sand and making the ground hard, and changing the ecosystem for small animals such as lizards, spiders and scorpions which are now almost impossible to find.

Cactus in flower in the Namib Desert.


Namib Naukluft Park - Sossusvlei

The origin of the word ‘Sossusvlei’ is mixed. Vlei means ‘marsh’ in Afrikaans, and ‘sossus’ means ‘dead end’ in Nama. It is a salt and clay pan surrounded by massive dunes. The marsh reference to the water that would flow between the major path between the dunes creating an oasis of greenery and trees at the end.

It is absolutely spectacular.

The shadow of the overland truck as the sun rose.

The 325 metre ‘Dune 5’ (courtesy Mark Small)

The startling colours of the dunes at sunrise (courtesy of Mark Small)

Yeah. Climbing up soft sand. That’ll make ya puff…


And coming down!


And it’s done!

It is was pretty hard work but we made it – up at sunrise and a hike up the dunes to see the spectacular scenery….


The Deadvlei

When it rains trees grow in the marshy grounds of Sossosvlei. However, as the dune ecosystem changes and the dunes grow, the water was blocked from the marsh and moves back behind the last dune. This creates a “dead” vlei where the trees slowly die. However as there is no moisture they don’t rot and a white salt pans with the stark skeletons of trees remain. This repeated process produces numerous graveyards of trees and salt.

The effect of the red dunes, the salt pan, the dead trees, and the blue sky is a photographers paradise.

The trees in Deadvlei are about 900 years old and extraordinarily well preserved!

Beautiful preserved wood in Deadvlei.

The sand dunes can grow to over 800m in height, quite something to climb up.

But even more fun to run down!

And a couple of amazing photos courtesy of Mark Small…

Courtesy of Mark Small

Courtesy of Mark Small


The Post-Apocalyptic World

Ah! The Mad Max franchise! The story of Mad Max is that the nuclear apocalypse has happened and the world in virtually uninhabitable. The first three films were filmed outside of Broken Hill in Australia. When the fourth film in the franchise was due to be filmed, it rained in Broken Hill. The desert bloomed. So, the filming went off to the Namib Naukluft National Park….


It won lots of praise….

Charlize Theron with a truck.


Heading down to Fish Canyon via the Namibian Outback

The characters you get in both the Australian Outback and the Namibian Outback are amazing. These are pictures from a stop we made between Sossusvlei and Fish Canyon.

An old, very old Austin… (courtesy of Mark Small).

Need a planter box?

That’ll be the Namibian Outback.. (courtesy of Mark Small).

We also passed the Tropic of Capricorn, the southern most point where the sun is directly overhead at the summer solstice (23.5 degrees south).

The last time we passed the Tropic of Capricorn was in Brazil travelling by bus from Barra de Lagoa to Rio de Janeiro!


Fish River Canyon and the Ai Ais Hot Springs

When is a valley a canyon? When it’s bloody big!

The Fish River Canyon is 160 km’s long up to 27 km’s wide and 550 metres deep. It’s the second biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the US. It’s rather spectacular.

View into the Fish River Canyon, Nambia

That’ll be our cook, J.P. on the edge then…

And the obligatory shot to prove we were there!

My view is that to fully understand the scale of the canyon, one should do the 5 day walk through the canyon. Maybe at another time.

Then again there is the 100 km ultra-marathon which someone did in under 7 hours in 2016. Yeah, Nah!

The Ai Ais Hot Springs were our last stop in Namibia and it was all very civilised.

Ai Ais Hot Springs, Namibia.

It was a night of hot Springs, great food and dancing, well at least out guide, cooks and one South African fellow tourist showing us what dancing really looks like. Kind of embarrassing for us actually….

The following day we headed down to the border between Namibia and South Africa which is demarcated by the Orange River.

Looking out from Namibia across the Orange River to South Africa.

It was a beautiful spot where we took in some books and blogging while others decided to swim in the river and go canoeing. It was getting progressively hotter as we were heading south though and it harder and harder to spend much time out in the sun. A beer and shade appeared to be the only option!


Thoughts on Namibia

Namibia was a complete surprise. Before arriving it was just a place we had to travel through to get from Nairobi to Cape Town.

However, having spent 2 weeks in the country it has incredible parks (Etosha), striking deserts, great culture, and Fish River Canyon. All in all, we’d thoroughly recommend it!


South Africa – Country 49 – The last country!

Wow! Where to start? It has to be with arguably the greatest human being of the last 100 years, Nelson Mandela. Nik picked up from a hostel in Brazil, volume 1 of this book:

The brilliant, inspirational autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

She read it. I read it. We got to San Diego and Nik bought volume 2. She read it. I read it. Nik has now read over 60 books on the trip and I’ve read over 30, and for both of us, it is our favourite book of the Big Trip. Why?

Apartheid is an abhorrent concept. That it was the law in South Africa from 1948 to 1991 beggars belief. The story of Nelson Mandela’s life, the story told so eloquently in his autobiography, is the story of apartheid, and the battle against apartheid. Nelson Mandela to me embodies all of the best qualities of humankind that we, as a human race, should strive towards:

- Persistence. Mandela started the battle against apartheid in his 20’s. He intelligently worked within the African National Congress against apartheid for the rest of his life including his time in prison, mostly on Robben Island, an island off Cape Town.
- Respect. Mandela wrote “There is a universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status”.
- Communication/ Negotiation/ Intelligence. He said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. During his time in prison, he learnt Afrikaans, the language of his jailer and oppressor. When it came time to negotiate with the government, he could speak their language.
- Humble. He said “Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front”.
- Without bitterness and hate. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hate behind, I’d still be in prison”.
- And Equality: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all person live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

Mandela is particularly important to me because of the personal connection. He was imprisoned in the year I was born, 1964. On April 16th, 1990 I attended the ‘International Tribute for a Free South Africa’ charity concert at Wembley Stadium that Nelson Mandela attended 2 months after his release from prison after 26 years.

Nelson Mandela – April 16th, 1990 – 2 months after his release.

Wembley Stadium, London at the concert to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s freedom after 26 years in prison. At that stage, all of my life….


South Africa – first impressions
Archbishop Desmond Tutu called South Africa “the Rainbow Nation”. And it is. In Cameroon we saw 3 white faces in 10 days. In South Africa we saw 3 white faces in 10 minutes. South Africa is 1.2 million square km. 56 million people. 9% white. 9% coloured. 3% Asian. 80% black. But! There are 11 official languages, 9 of them from the black population. Everyone in South Africa speaks at least 4 or 5 languages.

Land. Particularly after what happened in Zimbabwe with the farms being taken from the white farmers, land tenure is a hot topic. However, whilst land tenure is an issue, the productivity of the land is extremely high. Large broad acre farms growing wheat, grapes, barley, etc look immaculately looked after. The best data I can find indicates that 67% of the land in South Africa is “white” controlled.


Opinion on Land

My view is that what happened in Zimbabwe was obviously not the right way to go. It can, however, be viewed as an extreme position – one end of the solutions, if you will.

The other side is the status quo, which can be taken as the other end of the spectrum.

These two positions can be marked as the ‘Black’ and ‘White’ views. My view is that the solutions to complex issues are never ‘Black’ or ‘White’, they are always in the grey area. Complicating factors are that some land has now been in the same white family for over 100 years. On the other side, the farm ownership skills of the black indigenous people needs to be improved (often the actual faming has been done by the black farm managers for decades).

I reckon that, as with most complex situations, there is not one solution that can be implemented immediately, but many solutions that can be implemented over a few decades.
1. Land Tenure Mechanism: Ensure that the land tenure laws and offices are incorrupt and are working. If white people can get (and have) land tenure to land and blacks can’t, then that is wrong. The situation in Cameroon where someone can work but does not have land tenure because the land tenure office doesn’t work or is corrupt, is untenable.
2. Agricultural Skills and Farm ownership skills training: Running a successful business is not solely about how hard one works, or the education one has, or the opportunities one has. It is often about the training one has. Earning money. Steadily building wealth. Managing the risk. Using debt wisely. In the UK, if one considers the movement from massive income inequality in, say, the 1880’s, to now, home ownership, security of land tenure have been extremely important factors.
3. Get state owned land back to the original owners. If there is land owned by the state that was appropriated from the indigenous owners, it should be returned, ie, if it is a national park, an area that is being held by the state and not used.
4. Discuss and implement a process whereby a proportion of productive land can become under black control: Life on the land can be hard. Physically hard. High risk during floods and droughts. The kids of farmers often don’t want to work on the land. Farms get sold. There could be a process of preferential purchase for blacks with the appropriate skills and expertise, maybe at preferential loan interest rates, with perhaps a sharing of the cost of the farm with a State Fund. But this process would need to be agreed with the white farmers and the land would need to remain productive.


The Rainbow Nation.

We were extremely fortunate that at Swakopmund, Namibia, the Fabulous Connie, a black South African from Johannesburg joined the overland truck. We also had J.P., a white South African bloke from Cape Town as our cook on the truck. The irrelevance of colour within their discussions and laughter, and yet their obvious pride in being South African was striking and heart-warming. But was not unique. Nowhere did we see animosity. We saw a nation pulling in the same direction. Where people were/ are just people.

On the safety side, we did the same as on all of our trip, we were careful, didn’t go to bad areas, didn’t stay out late at night, didn’t drink too much outside of the apartment, didn’t keep our passports/ cards in a knapsack, didn’t wear a bumbag outside of our clothes with everything in it. We were careful. But not as careful as Brazil!


Cape Town

We’d heard that Cape Town was a great city and it is. It also marked the end of our truck trip with this fantastic group.


The first view of Cape Town was a little emotional. After 364 days on the road, we’d made it to Cape Town and nearly to the Cape to Good Hope!

After 364 days we arrived in Cape Town. Looking towards Cape Town and the iconic Table Mountain. We’d made it!

We got an apartment in Bantry Bay, a suburb of Cape Town for 6 days of rest and recuperation.

Christmas was simple and quiet. After 57 days on the overland truck, we didn’t want to move.

Christmas Lunch….

Boxing Day at the Bungalow Restaurant to celebrate one whole year on the road.

Looking out towards the Bungalow restaurant.

365 days on the road….

And still holding hands….


Robben Island

Much of Nelson Mandela’s time in prison was spent in the Robben Island prison.

Of course, we wanted to visit and pay our respects.

The board at the entrance to Robben Island. ‘Freedom cannot be manacled”.

Nelson Mandela’s cell.

The Quarry on Robben Island where Mandela and other South African political prisoners had forced labour. The prison stayed open until 1995 when it was closed and there was a meeting of political prisoners following the fall of the Apartheid regime. Whilst only black men were imprisoned on Robben Island – women and white men were imprisoned elsewhere – the reunion in 1995 was for all political prisoners.

On visiting the Quarry, Mandela placed a rock at the entrance to show respect for those people who died during the struggle. Other formal political prisoners followed his example and you can see the pile of rocks in the middle of the entrance to the quarry.

Looking from Robben Island towards Cape Town and Table Mountain.


The Last Hurrah!

My mate Dave and I had been discussing that we wanted to be together for the Last Hurrah and Dave had found us a nice shack to rent for a week in Franschhoek, a town in the middle of the wine growing region outside of Cape Town.

Maybe a little geography to start…..

Cape Town is in the bottom left-hand corner of South Africa and Franschhoek is north-east of Cape Town, adjacent to Stellenbosch.

Nik’s parents, Jan and John made the long haul from Adelaide to Cape Town for the event.

Celebrating the arrival of mumsi and dadsi with oysters and champagne!

The Shack was quite nice….

The house Dave and I rented in Franschhoek!

We had a fantastic group of 13 for the week with people coming from near and far, including some intrepid travellers we met along the way on our trip!

New Years Eve went off like a frog in a sock, with a big cook up and of course a swim in the pool.

New Years Eve preparations

Franschhoek (meaning French Corner) has a selection of fantastic wineries and, with the mountainous backdrop, is very picturesque, and we had a delicious lunch at La Petite Ferme (the little farm) to celebrate our time with all our fabulous friends and family.



Nikki looking fabulous in a frock!

Love this photo of John and Jan!

And me and Davey!



There was also great hiking in the hills around Franschhoek. On one of the days John, Malcolm, Anne and I went for a great walk in the hills!


And saw a Large Protea


And more flowers!



We also explored the local wineries using the fabulous wine tram system! The tram took us to 8 different wineries of which we were able to choose 4 to get off at for tastings, nibbles and general revelry!


We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Mont Rochelle!


It was a great day and a wonderful last week to end our journey.



The End Of The Odyssey!

It all started with a chat on the Eurostar train from London to Paris in September 2009.

The original 2009 map of the trip. The aim? To travel from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope, By Land. Mostly….

And then over the next 8 yeas it turned into this reality:

The map of our actual trip!

And now it was time to go the last point of our trip, The Cape of Good Hope!

The final approach to the Cape of Good Hope in the far distance

And here we are! 376 days. 151,519 km’s in total. The next, and final, blog will have all of the statistics of the trip, but how do we feel? Pretty emotional. Sad to leave the adventure behind, balanced with happy to be going back to Australia to see our friends and family. So pleased to have met so many fantastic people and to have had so many amazing experiences. We have a lot of absorbing to do, and of course the adventure of settling back into Melbourne and our new life there! It will never be quite the same again - it will be better!

At the end of the Odyssey! Great to celebrate it with friends and family. Notice the hip flasks given to us by our lovely Melbourne neighbours, Trish and Dave. The flasks have made the whole trip. One with whisky in it. One with gin!

Lovely photo of Nikki, John, and Jan

And me young mate, Davey!

The final hoorah!

Thank you everyone for love and support!

It's been a blast!


Posted by capetocape2017 23:38 Archived in South Africa Tagged town south africa namibia nelson cape mandela spitzkoppe Comments (1)

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