When traveling, one learns valuable lessons. For example, the time we went to Jordan in January. We didn’t have the best weather and even experienced snow. I never thought to check the weather. Silly me, I thought that it was always warm in Jordan. After that trip, I made a note to myself to always check the weather of wherever we were thinking about traveling.
On this trip to Namibia, I have now come to realize that we need to check road conditions, especially in developing countries! We had a mid-size car similar to a Volkswagen Jetta in the states….this was a Volkswagen Polo. A basic car that is great on paved roads but gravel is another story.
I was trying to find out what percentage of roads were of gravel and what the percentage was for paved roads in Namibia when I came across an article on the internet that said their road network is regarded as one of the best in Africa! I will definitely file that away for the next adventure I have in Africa and remember to rent a 4×4.
What should have been about a 5 to 5 1/2 hour trip, turned out to be more like 7 1/2 hours. David drove the whole way….I offered several times to drive and he kept saying no. By the time we reached our destination…Kulala Desert Lodge in Sossusvlei (pronounced something like “so-so flay”) David was exhausted from the strain of driving on the gravel roads.
He stayed at about 50-55 mph (appx 80-88 kilometers). It was our greatest fear that we might experience a flat. There were stretches of road that we didn’t see anyone for an hour at a time. A couple of times, a rock would bounce under the car and hit it so hard, I thought for certain our oil pan would be punctured. It is just a very remote place that you didn’t want to experience any car trouble.
It was the home of Percy Cross “Moose” McGregor’s famous apple pie. Yes!!! Apple pie in the middle of the desert of Namibia from the family recipe of the Scotsman who arrived in Solitaire and never left!
Sadly, Moose passed away in 2014 but lucky for us, his apple pie legacy lives on. The piece of apple pie, which was so large we shared and a cup of coffee was enough to energize us to continue on our way.
This roadside stand had so much personality. It reminded me of something that one might encounter on the back roads in eastern California heading towards the town of Bishop, where they have the annual Mule Days every Memorial Day Weekend. Now, I am digressing….Solitaire is uniquely decorated with broken-down, antique, American cars, used like ornaments, among the cacti. The deserts answer to a “rock garden.”
It was another 45 miles (73 kilometers) from Solitaire to Sesriem, which was one of the entrance to the Namib Naukluft Park where we were heading. I was grateful when we started seeing the red sand as it meant that we were getting closer to our destination.
Having checked “google map” before we left, it appeared that the Kulala Desert Lodge was nearby Sesriem. We arrived to find another small roadside stand and the entrance to the park but no signs pointing the way to Kulala! I asked the gate attendant to the park and as he pointed the direction down yet, another gravel road, he said we had another 45 kilometers (27 miles)……OMGosh!!! What???? I honestly didn’t think I could possibly sit in the car for another 2 kilometers let alone 45!
As with any trip, that last few miles/kilometers went by so slowly! When we finally entered the gates to the lodge, the road became one lane and again, went on for miles….we were definitely going to spend Christmas in the true wilderness of Namibia!
We finally arrived! The car was filthy with the salt of the Atlantic ocean and the dust of the gravel roads. I had to laugh when we pulled into the parking area and so wished I had thought to take a picture…..there were about 10 large white, 4×4 SUV vehicles….and then our small car…the bronze colored, Volkswagen Polo. I jokingly told people that the “Americans” didn’t get the memo to rent a 4×4!!!
It was going to be a lovely Christmas Eve in the desert………..