It just had to be a nail-biter of a finish…

Of course at some point in our journey the luck had to run out and it most definitely did the day we left Swakopmund to head north again.

We weren’t really supposed to be in Swakopmund to be honest but with yet more bad advice from our Lonely Planet, we “had” to go there in order to obtain permits for the Skeleton Coast National Park. You don’t need to, that’s complete rubbish.

We spent a couple of nights there anyway, had a campsite with private bathroom (!!), found a great cafe and dressed in clothes without holes or stains for a fancy dinner out. All wonderful. Then we headed north.

No need for diesel in Swakopmund… We’ll fill up on the way. No we won’t, as we had 100km’s of range showing on the dash we realised the closest station was 100km’s behind us. A night in Henties Bay, a full tank + plus jerry can and we were off again.

Enter Skeleton Coast National Park (via a STINKY Cape Cross seal colony) and we were well on track… For 11 hours of being stuck in the sand. Brilliant.

After our night of “adventure” referred to in the previous post, we head for Palm as we need fuel, money and the mother of all car washes. We arrive, there is no fuel, ATM or car wash in Palm.

On to the delightful little Kamanjab and our favourite bar at Oppi Koppi Rest Camp… A terrible road (not helped by very wobbly steering due to wheels etc heavily laden with sand) and we find a familiar and sympathetic face at the other end. Thanks to Oppi Koppi for giving us 5 hours use of their cleaning equipment and the first meal and beverage we had had in 30 hours (beer and pizza of course).

Let’s head to Opuwo, we’d been told about a gorgeous hotel in the area with a great campsite and views… Tarmac road! Things really are looking up! A few drinks, a beautiful sunset and two long sighs of relief.

We are only hours away from the Van Zyls Pass, “let’s do it!” says Richard, “NO” says Jo, “YES” says Richard, “NO FLIPPIN’ WAY” says Jo. We do the Van Zyls Pass (A notorious one way/downhill 4×4 track.)

Our slightly bung tyre as a result of our night of terror in Moremi can’t really do much more rock climbing/descents and has frightening looking bulges exuding from every angle inside and out after reaching the bottom.

We catch the sunset in the Marienfluss (stunning) and then continue to Marble Community Camp only 50km’s away…

The road is actually a rock track and it takes hours. Excellent. We sleep, change the wheel, and hit the river bed tracks in search of the famed “desert” Elephants (the whole reason for heading north). There are none and in a desperate bid to justify all this chaos we start taking pictures of anything that moves, it’s “desert adapted” says Richard so the giraffes, impala and zebra suddenly become different in some way. No problem, let him have his moment.

Hours and hours of river beds behind us and we hit the first road we’ve seen in days, it’s horrendously rutted and corrugated and another tyre completely disintegrates. Two tyres in two days after 20,000 miles. Just perfect.

Oh and the spare wheel winch jams so the ruined wheel has to be wedged into the boot. Things get a little quiet in the car… Our tyres (MT-R 19″ etc etc) are exceptionally rare and we have to consider the possibility of continuing to Cape Town with no spare at all.

Windhoek! What a bloody wonderful place! The option of a brand new 19″ MT-R or slightly used for half the price, fitted in moments. The gorgeous sparkly Land Rover dealership has a replacement spare wheel winch and we find the best car wash in the whole of Africa to remove the 10 tonnes of sand we are carrying around in the underbody of the car. We’re back on track! Properly!

Since then we have had a fantastic time. Sossusvlei, got the last available campsite in the area, caught sunset and sunrise and didn’t pulverise the huge Oryx that bolted out in front of the car! We have had a really relaxing couple of days, lovely accommodation, beautiful sights and tonight we are only 180’s from the border with South Africa.

How heart-wrenching.

Life’s a beach and then you dig


The Skeleton Coast National Park. Referred to as the “sands of hell” by sailors. Famous for shipwrecks, whale bones and inhospitable terrain. Salt/Sand desert meets rough Atlantic Ocean. 1000’s of square miles of salt plains completely desolate and uninhabited. Perfect for some illegal off-roading right? ….wrong.

It all started out well. Let’s do a bit of shipwreck hunting, we’ve worn heaps of tread off our very grippy mud-terrain tyres.

Next, the wreck of the Montrose. It was 5kms off the road.

But 1km from the wreck…

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Not too bad, dig out a bit of sand? Simple. 30 mins later…Jubilant!

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Reverse 10 metres and end up like this…

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Hmm, not so simple. We made use of all our recovery equipment: air jack, spade, sand ladders and then some “desert adapted” rocks as Richard would put it (will explain later)… No joy. Everytime we try to move the car just digs deeper.

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At 4pm-ish Jo started to get a bit edgy and insisted we go for help and looking back that was a great idea (of course it was, Jo x). We walked an hour to the road and had precisely 20 minutes before we had to leave again to get back to the car before nightfall. Just as our 20 minutes had passed a car turned up (loving Murphy’s law!) We told the driver our situation and he kindly offered to drive to the next settlement (35kms away) and give them our GPS location.

The wind had picked up, the temperature was dropping rapidly, we could just see the roof tent in front of a (deceptive) wall of crashing Atlantic waves and we couldn’t be certain that anyone would come for us that night so we headed back to the car. (Oh and did we mention that the locals in Henties Bay had informed us of forecasted “extreme” sand storms for the next day?)

As we were about 1km away from the car we saw lights slowly moving along the road (searching). A dimly lit Sat-Nav at 3km’s with incoming fog really doesn’t suffice for signalling equipment so it was a mad dash for the car to illuminate the hazards. No good, the car is buried so deep you’d have to be two-foot-tall and a metre away to see them! LED head torches? No good. Headlights? No good, pointing in the opposite direction. Xenon roof-mounted spotlights? Yes, unbolting and waving them madly over the top of the roof tent works a treat, we’ve been seen! A confusing and unknown amount of time later reveals the shouting voices of a group of completely selfless individuals in the dead of night and not just one bright light in the distance but two headlights advancing slowly in our direction.

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After such a long blog post we really can’t be bothered going into much more detail! But MOST importantly… after three hours of these local road-worker heroes digging, pushing, reassuring us and accepting constant hugs from myself, they freed us and then let us camp next to their temporary road-worker accomodation.

Let’s just say that our New Zealand silver fern door magnets went to the most loving and deserving home we could have hoped for! They were completely crazy about the All Blacks and I don’t think we’ve ever been so grateful for our boys in Black as we were this night (other than the World Cup of course!)

The most enormous thanks goes to the road-workers of Torra Bay, Namibia. It was an adventure, no doubt! You have enriched our experience of Africa (and very grippy mud-terrain tyres!)

For the observant amongst you… there was a bottle in the sand near the car. I put a note in this bottle with the following: “If you are reading this note, you are probably stuck in the sand like we were.”

(post written by both Richard and Jo so you will need to read from both perspectives)

Richard and Jo (sand kings!)