Stuck in a river, moving on and renewed confidence

It has been a while since my last post. The YouTube channel is my current priority. It was a wise decision to demote this site to a personal blog, rather than a fully-fledged website. Since my last post I nearly drowned my Toyota Hilux in a river, crossed the wildest park in Namibia and currently I am at camp on the Okavango river. My schedule is hectic, but there are no regrets.

I nearly lost my Toyota Hilux in a river

How it started

Where do we start? I left Camp Cornie on the Kunene river early one morning on my way to Ruacana. It is a beautiful gravel road that follows the Kunene river all the way between these two places. About 10km after the camp I arrived at the Enyandi river. It was flowing strong. Abnormal amounts of rain fell in the area, as is the case for many parts of Namibia this year.

I expected there to be many delays throughout the day because of this. I stopped, assessed the river and prepared for a long day of waiting. At around lunchtime two Himba herders and their goats arrived. They stripped down, drank directly from the river and one by one escorted their goats across the river. It was a forceful affair, with the goats making their objections rather noisily. To my surprise the strong flowing river was not deeper than ones knees. I walked through the river a couple of times. Not convinced. Resumed my position and waited.

Stuck in a river

About an hour later two Toyota Landcruiser vehicles arrived from the opposite side. With little regard to the river they crossed one by one. I was not sure, but there is a “rule” among the off-roading fraternity “if you can walk it, you can drive it”. Also I’ve just seen two other vehicles cross. I took my turn and it ended disastrously. My hilux got stuck in the river and partially flooded. A phone call to my insurance, tow back by recovery vehicle, weeks in the repair shop and a dent in my credit card later, and the 5410Africa trip resumed. There is a more detailed video on YouTube about the entire affair.

Dinner with the locals after a long day recovering my Toyota Hilux

How did I feel? Seeing your vehicle, your livelihood stuck in the river under threat from the pouring rains further upstream is now easy feeling. Especially, if there are no assurances where help will come from. It ended up being the Namibian Police. Then there’s the disappointment about making such a bad decision. There was no need to take even the smallest risk. I have all the time in the world. It nearly ended my trip, before getting out of my own country. A few lessons we learned on thee day. It is not how hard you get hit, but how you react after getting hit.

Searching for confidence

With all of that behind us the trip had to carry on. My confidence was low and needed to be restored. For that I decided to take on, solo, the wildest park in Namibia. The Khaudum. The park is situated in the North-East of Namibia, north of Tsumkwe and shares a border with Botswana. Officially, there is a minimum of two vehicles required for entry due to its remoteness and challenging road conditions. You can expect overgrown tracks and trees pushed over by elephants blocking roads.

I ended up entering the park with the Petit family. A German dad and his son whom I met in the Tsumkwe lodge campsite. Both of us wanted to take on the Khaudum, but due to the aforementioned heavy rains wasn’t sure if we’d be allowed to enter solo.

Back on the road, taking on the Khaudum National Park in Namibia

Entering the camp at the south gate I initially could not understand the fuss. However, as you travel further north conditions gradually get worse. Around Khaudum camp and heading out the northern gate you will face the worse conditions. I spent three nights camping at the Khaudum camp, the northern most one. The first was with the Germans, which left on the second day.

Renewed confidence

Beautiful campsites with amazing views of the plains below. Surprisingly, the come with fire heated warm showers, flush toilets and decent cellphone signal. The highlight is the absence of a fence around the camp as well as the sites. You’ll have to bring your own light, water and food. Don’t forget extra fuel as most of your driving will be in 4×4.

The beautiful campsites at the Khaudum camp

It bothered me that the game is so skittish. For a park that has very few visitors annually this is highly unusual and extremely suspicious. Except for the massive herd of about 50 at the Tora Kari waterhole I did not manage to get a decent picture of any other animal. I was lucky to see Giraffe, Kudu, Oryx, Impala, Zebra, Ostrich, Sable, Warthog and a few more other animals. My stay here was amazing and did wonders for my mental wellbeing.

I exited the northern gate. It is a tough 46km drive from there to the B8 tar road that reconnects one with other humans. After the mishap with the river, my hilux behaved well on this most recent adventure. Some confidence have been regained and spirits much higher as I continue my travels north-east through Namibia and onto Zambia.  

My last days in Namibia will be spent first in the Kavango and then the Zambezi region. There are numerous lodges on the banks of these rivers, a few national parks and loads of activities. It’s both exciting and scary as I approach the end of my time in my home country and move onwards into Africa.

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