The 4:30 a.m. alarm this morning was far from welcomed; in fact, it was one of those which is hard to tell whether it’s a dream or not. It wasn’t. And my taxi was outside waiting at 5 a.m.
Our 6:10 a.m. flight to Jo’burg was the first of the day and wheels were down about 1.5 hours later. My connection to Namibia departed at 9:40 a.m., enough time to grab a coffee and egg sandwich (bad bagel).
It was a 2-hour flight to Windhoek (the W is pronounced like a V) but we gained an hour on the way. The South African gentleman sitting next to me was interesting to chat with; he was well-traveled and gave me some good pointers for this leg of my trip. Peering out the window as we descended into Namibia, a question popped into my head: where was, well, everything?
The airport, my friend told me, was 40 kilometers from the city, the nearest piece of flat land in this mountainous area. He also mentioned that Namibia was the second least densely populated country in the world — a fact that I’m now able to confirm having been here for only 12 hours.
A basically brand new Honda Jazz was waiting for me at Budget. It wasn’t as sweet as my Mercedes but seemed to be in good shape. Looking at all of the 4×4 and SUVs being loaded up in the car rental lot made me nervous though. “Is it okay for the gravel roads?” I asked, gesturing at my small car. “Oh yeah, gravel, no problem,” the rep said.
And with that, I was off for Sesriem, a 5-hour drive south of the capital.
The tarred roads were in generally good shape; the highlight of my short time in Windhoek was seeing that they called stoplights, “robots.” As in a sign that read: “Slow! Robots ahead.” Weird.
Passing through a couple of police checkpoints beyond the city, the gravel began. And from here on out, essentially the next 9 days, this is what it would be. At best, the roads were in mediocre shape. Driving suddenly became an “active” sport that required my full attention as the two-wheel drive Jazz had a tendency to drift and swerve in the loosely compacted dirt.
The lousy ride was mitigated by the vast landscape, huge Namibian sky and jaw-dropping beauty. This might be the most scenic country in the world.
When the sign for Kulala Desert Lodge finally passed, the sun was starting to set on the horizon. The nice ladies met me with a refreshing drink and cool towel and then showed me around; it is nothing short of amazing what they have created here at Kulala, in Sesriem, several hundred kilometers from the nearest city.
To call the accommodation here “tents” would be a gross understatement; there’s electricity, hot water, comfortable beds. And then there are the views. Everywhere you turn. Stunning.
After showering twice to rid myself of all the road dust, it was time for dinner up at the lodge. This was followed be a nightcap at the bar and a beeline to my bed. Tomorrow would be yet another pre-dawn alarm.