We leave the dunes of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei behind, exit Sesriem and find the road North towards Windhoek. The flat desert landscape starts to look more hilly in the distance. It’s still a vast beautiful expanse of mostly nothing. Sun-cracked ground and crumbling rocks.
Mark picked up a field guide to animals and animal tracks back at the little shop in Sesriem. He’s deduced that the tracks by the river where we camped in Richtersveld were most likely hyenas. There was also a ‘Scatalog’ book back at the shop I kind of wish we’d picked up now. It’s a field guide to animal droppings, a directory of shits, if you will.
The road starts to wind upwards towards a mountain range nearby. Suddenly the dirt has turned to cobblestones and the incline has raised dramatically. It’s probably the steepest road I’ve ever been on in my life. “Well this is an interesting design decision”, “Can we reach escape velocity on this ramp?”, “Far from it, my foot is to the floor.” So strange. Out in the middle of nowhere on the steepest cobblestone road in existence, Belinda just crawling upwards.
We pass a sign that says “Spreetshoogte Pass” and we all have a go at trying to pronounce it. We’re gaining serious elevation in a hurry with just a handful of switchbacks and mostly cobblestone bullshit going straight up. Near the top there is a rest area and we decide to take in the view before going down the backside of the Spreetshoogte.
One lone Spreetshoogtean home looks out over the expanse.
“Whoa! Check these things out!” Along the rocks in the pass are an orchestra of giant crickets. They are massive. The size of a baby fist. Holy shit. Are these armoured katydid? Crazy.
We leave the Spreetshoogte pass and wind our way through the hills towards the B1 ‘highway’ into Windhoek. “What’s that crossing the road?” There’s ten animals up ahead crossing one at a time. Probably goats. Nope they’re monkeys. “Oh, look more monkeys!”, hanging in the trees by the road are tons and tons of monkeys. Joining them in the road now are warthogs and plump pheasants of some variety. They’re helmeted guinea fowl. Ahh they look delicious!
Now off in the distance we can see Windhoek nestled into the mountains. Cool location. The city spreads along the neighboring hills and mountains like an unraveled baseball in a glove. We pass a nasty smelling dump and then more monkeys just hanging out on a bridge eating before the final stretch into town.
The place seems modern and clean and larger than I expected, probably a few hundred thousand people. A small downtown core of high rises with statues of animals and past prominent figures in the streets, murals on the building walls. It’s colorful and alive with people, we’ve come at a good time of day. It’s a stark difference to the vast emptiness of the Namib desert we’ve crossed getting here. Maneuvering the truck in a city of vehicles after that is no small adjustment either.
We look up an Avis on maps.me (which is an excellent offline mapping app btw). Our GPS is borderline useless and we’ve been using maps.me to navigate around instead. It’s been doing an admiral job but our truck is supposed to come equipped with something called Afritracks which most likely is way more up to date. There’s going to be a lot of off-road adventures from here on out so we’ll take all the help we can get.
We find the spot in an industrial section of town down some narrow streets. We almost get in trouble for hooting.
We go inside and meet the Avis rep and tell him our dilemma. He messes with the GPS unit for a good ten minutes before also giving up on it. “Yeah, fuck this thing. One minute.” He goes to the back and comes out with a new device and calls up someone on his mobile. Whoever is on the other line walks him through setting up Afritracks on the new, and far far better, GPS device. “There, you’re all set”, “Nice! This one is waaaaay better”, “Yeah, good trade with or with out the tracks.”
Avis Guy asks where we’re staying in Windhoek and we say maybe a place called Cardboard Box that we’d looked up. He suggests Urban Camp instead of Cardboard Box because it’s closer to Joe’s Beer House. We’d heard Joe’s was a top spot. We didn’t even tell him we were going there, guess it’s just assumed. “You can just park the truck up and camp there right inside the city”, “Rad, that sounds perfect. We’ll just use this new device and go find Urban Camp then”, “Cheers.”
Dial in Urban Camp and make our way across town. It isn’t too far. This ends up being an excellent suggestion from Avis Guy.