Life on the road – the heat and the dust

We’ve been on the road for just over a month now and we’re really loving it. We’re covering ground when we need to but taking time to relax and enjoy things as we go. It’s not all easy going though. Having our accommodation on the roof means we have to pack it up every time we want to go somewhere, whether it’s a game drive in the national parks, a trip to the shops or our next destination. We’ve got pretty slick at putting the tent up and down now, and at planning things so we don’t need to move unnecessarily.

Our approach to camping has changed. We started looking for the prettiest pitch and then deciding which way to park the car – should we have a view of the mountain or of the sunrise from the tent in the morning? As the temperature has risen – they have been 40 degrees or more for days now – this has changed. The main factor now becomes shade and we’re slightly obsessed with it. And in parts of Namibia, where the biggest bush might be 3 ft tall, that becomes problematic! We drove round one large and completely empty camp site twice before deciding on which pitch had the best of the meagre amount of shade on offer, just pipping a Dutch couple to the post who arrived after us and apparently did exactly the same thing. The owner of the site had made a comment about “brave souls camping in this heat” and when she heard we were from the UK she said “the only place you probably get temperatures like this is in the oven”. Her swimming pool slightly compensated for the lack of shade and was no longer a luxury but almost a necessity.

Another site, described in the guide as “4 shaded plots, a bird watchers paradise and has a private ladies bar(!) – booking essential”. We had images of green lawns and a bit of camping luxury. What we found was somewhat different. The hotel / camp site lay on a cross roads in a sparse and dusty town and seemed to have been designed in he style of a prisoner of war camp. We drove under razor wire through the entrance gate to find a series of low buildings, standing in bare sand and surrounded by a 2 metre electric fence separating it from the adjacent dirt roads. The ablutions had corrugated tin roofs and doors. The reception building looked like a watch tower and one of the chalets like a commandant’s house. It really did look like a scene from Tenko. And the only wildlife was about three birds. But as far as we were concerned this was the best camp site IN THE WORLD. Why? It had a pair of large trees over one of the camps with a huge shadow underneath them. SHADE! At that particular moment it was probably better than winning the lottery. To be fair, the place was actually welcoming, clean and well run. It also had a couple of ridiculously small and pretty cute dogs

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Ori and Flori – camp dogs

The roads are generally pretty good. There are tar roads and gravel roads, and most of them are straight. Miles and miles and miles of poker-straight roads that stretch, seemingly forever, to the horizon. They could teach the Romans a thing or two. Easy to drive but, particularly through the flat farmland areas, boring as hell. Most of the tar roads are really good quality, especially in Namibia. The gravel roads have been variable. Some in South Africa, leading to one of their national parks, were appallingly badly corrugated and quite unpleasant to drive on, testing every joint, in us and the Land Rover, to near-destruction. Most of those in Namibia have been excellent so far. Some even feel close to driving on tar and it would be easy to let your speed build up as they feel so smooth. But they are not tar, the surface is loose and even the good ones have the occasional rough section that can catch you out, so we drive with care whilst making progress.

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Pic “The long and winding straight road….”

Whether good or bad, the gravel roads mean dust. Most of the camp sites are also on sand and that means dust too, especially when the wind picks up. And it gets everywhere. The car and its contents are covered in it, which means we are too. However careful we are, the bed sheets get a nice comfy dusting of sand each time we go up there which is sooo nice to sleep on. It gets in your hair and makes it thick and sort of sticky-dry and no matter what products you use you just can’t get it soft and silky, at least that’s what Gareth says. You can smell and taste it – hot, almost burnt. Dust, dust, dust.

But this just goes with territory and we’ve come to live with it. We are taking measures to reduce what gets into the car but we won’t get rid of it whatever we do. We might not be welcomed at the HIlton but for the local camps and lodges it doesn’t matter that we look like extras from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

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