Namibia - "Endless Horizons"

Namibia is a place where your spirit can be set free in a mind boggling expanse of space.  The country is large and it's people are few.  Which, no doubt, explains why it has some of the world's greatest wild animal reserves.

Our tour starts in Windhoek ("Vin-took"), the capital of 325,000 people, loops south towards the Namib desert and then on to Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, along the coast, before heading northwest to Etosha National Park and the Waterburg Plateau.  On this tour, you are guaranteed to see plenty of wildlife:  cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, zebras, giraffes, kudus, impalas and ostriches, just to name a few.  Lions and leopards are possible as well.  If you don't have a decent camera, now is the time to invest in one.  Also, please leave your zebra striped cycling jersey at home.  Lions like to eat zebras.

The distances in Namibia are great and we have a lot of distance to cover.  Therefore, vehicle transfers are built in to get us where we need to go.  Additionally, we are going to do what Namibians always do when they go on holiday and that is camp.  5 of our 12 nights are in campsites.  There is no need for concern.  It's safe, secure, deluxe camping.  We have spacious dome tents and everything is provided/done for you.  All you really need to do is sleep in a tent.  Given what we plan, sleeping will be easy.  There are showers/facilities at every campsite.  The other 7 nights in are in hotels and lodges.

Day 1 Windhoek

We meet in Windhoek . While Windhoek is not large, it is the social, economic and political center of Namibia and we stay in a place that allows you to check out the town.  In the evening, you should definitely head down the street to one of Windhoek's more colorful dining establishments:  Joe's Beerhouse.  Be sure to ask to see the game menu.  That way, you can start your Namibian adventure with smoked Kudu or Oryx Carpaccio.  Not your thing?  You can also have a salad. 

Day 2 - Rooisand

We'll take a short transfer out of town and then sort out our bikes on a quiet stretch of road.  We will bike over Kuferberg Pass at 2000 meters and then descend some 1200 meters before stopping for a picnic lunch.  After lunch, we will transfer to Gamsberg Pass.  From Gamsberg we can either bike all the way to Rooisand or we can call it a day early on and grab a lift.  Rooisand is a remote, but spectacular, desert ranch with ostriches, a tennis court and a swimming pool (it will probably be too cool to swim in June...it's "mid winter" in Namibia).  The ranch is completely off the grid, but that is no problem.  There is no lack of sun in Namibia and it is solar powered.

Day 3 - Sesriem

Today we cycle in a westerly direction from Rooisand  towards the Namib Desert Park.  We go over Gaub pass and then continue on undulating gravel roads.  The surrounding landscapes are austere, but colorful.  We will end up in the dry Kuiseb river bed. From there we transfer to the Solitaire area for lunch.  Solitaire is known for it's apple crumble which is claimed to be the best in the southern hemisphere.  After lunch, we transfer to Sesriem on the edge of Namib-Naukluft National Park.  Given that we all might be stuffed with apple crumble, the afternoon transfer is probably a good thing.

Day 4 - Sossusvlei

This is definitely a great day.  We get up early, well before the  crack of  dawn, and transfer deep into Namib-Naukluft park.  We are on a mission to watch the sun rise over the incredible red sand dunes in the park.  Having been dry for 55 million years, the Namib desert is believed to be the oldest desert on earth.   It makes you wonder how many of our ancestors might have also watched the sun rise over these dunes.   We'll have a chance to climb up a dune in our bare feet and then watch the sun come up in spectacular fashion.  Coffee and breakfast will be waiting for us at the bottom of the dune. 

After breakfast, we bike the 45k back to Sesriem.  While on our bikes, we can continue to watch the sun rise over the desert.  What is especially nice here, is that this section of  road is very well paved even though every other road, for miles around, is gravel.  That allows you to focus all your attention on the spectacular surroundings.

We will bike to the Solitaire Guest Farm Desert Ranch in Sesriem.   In the afternoon, you have the option to visit the adjacent Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre.  The Centre takes in some "bad cats";  i.e., cheetahs that are "problem animals".  The cheetahs all have radio collars so they are not too hard to find.  It is all very, very interesting.  If you ever want to get close to a cheetah with nothing between you and it, this is your chance.  No "tch tch tch, here kitty, here kitty" stuff either.  That irritates them, big time.

 

Day 5 and 6 - Swakopmund

We cycle 60km on a gravel road towards Kuiseb Pass.  Kuisab Pass is where two Germans, Henno Martin and Hermann Korn (as well as their dog) famously survived in the wild for two years during World War II  in order to avoid internment in a prison camp.  Herman subsequently documented their story in his book, The Sheltering Desert. 

We will Transfer to Walvis Bay and stop for a picnic lunch in a spot where we can admire the pink flamingos.  We then head up the coast to Swakopmund.  Many of the buildings in Swakopmund  date back to their German origins and the town retains its very wide salt roads.

We have a rest day in Swakopmund.  Swakopmund is the adventure capital of Namibia and there is plenty to do.  You can take your choice of Quad Biking, Sand Boarding, Sky diving, a Dolphin Cruise or riding a camel.  If you do not feel like that much adventure you can go shopping or visit the Crystal Gallery, the Museums or the Aquarium....or simply do nothing.

 

Day 7 - Brandberg

We cycle 70k directly up the coast on the very smooth salt road to Henties bay.  The first European to show up in these parts was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.  He named the area Praai das Sadhinas. which means "Coast of Fish".  Nothing much has happened here since his visit.  And there are still a lot of fish.   Which is why we stop at a great little fish shack restaurant for lunch.  Farther up the coast there is nothing but the skeleton coast.  We don't go there.  You will get a good idea of what it is like though.  It's a lot more of the same...only with no road. 

After eating some fish (or whatever you want) we will transfer in our trusty vehicle to Mt. Brandberg ("Burning Mountain") in the heart of Samaraland.  Mt. Brandberg is the highest mountain in Nambia at 2,573 meters.

 

Day 8 - Twyfelfontein

This morning we continue on to Twyfelfontein ("Uncertain Spring").  Twyfelfonten was named Namibia's first Unesco World Heritage site.  It is one of Africa's largest concentrations of petroglyphs.  The site has been inhabited for 6,000 years, first by hunter-gatherers and later by Khoikhoi herders. Both ethnic groups used it as a place of worship and a site to conduct shamanist rituals.  We have our own rituals, but they will be performed at the lodge watering hole.

 

Day 9 and 10 and 11 - Etosha National Park

After a short bike ride, we transfer further north to Etosha National Park, “the great white place of dry water”.  Etosha is named after a "pan", which is a salt flat.  During the dry season nothing grows in the pan.  During the wet season it springs to life.  Etosha Park is quite large, 8600 square miles.   Etosha is considered one of the two top parks in the world to see wildlife and it is well worth spending some time here.  Our 2 nights in Etosha will be either at Okaukuejo, Halali or Namutoni camps, where floodlit waterholes allow for 24-hour game viewing.  Elephants, black rhinos, white rhinos, giraffes, zebras, kudus, impalas, wildebeasts and many other wild animals are seen daily during the dry winter months.  Lions and leopards are also a possibility, but they are harder to spot.

 

Day 12 - Windhoek

We'll get a lift out of the confines of Etosha National Park and then ride our bikes as far as 95k to Outjo.  After lunch, we will  transfer back to Windhoek.  You can either book your flight out the next day or continue your African adventure on your own. 



 
Here are links to interesting articles on Namibia published in the Travel Section of the Washington Post on October 9th, 2014:
At a Namibian sanctuary, you don’t just see the wildlife — you care for them
Namibia photo essay: 2,500 miles, 21 days and countless amazing vistas

Included:
12 nites accommodations.  7 nights are in lodges and hotels.  5 nights are camping.
Dinners (except while in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Etosha).  Some dinners are at campsites, some in lodge restaurants)
Breakfasts included
Transport of baggage
Stocked vehicle with bike trailer.
Transfers during the bike tour.
Local guide, porter/tent service, sleeping bag, mat, pillow, etc.
National Park entrance fees

Excluded:
Airfare
Beer, wine, booze
Lunches: there are places to stop and eat along the way.  3 picnic lunches are included.
Dinners while in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Etosha
Immunizations from your doctor or travel clinic
Airport transfer to from airport - not hard - we will give you instructions (US$20 to 30 each way)
Elective tours and "rest day" activities of your choosing (e.g. Dolphin tour is approx US$45;  Cheetah tour(s) approx US$35 per tour)
Travel/trip insurance
Gratuities