go! Namibia



Cruise past the Waterberg along miles and miles of nothingnes­s

If you’re driving the back roads between Grootfonte­in and Gobabis, you’ll encounter the C30 – one of the most desolate gravel roads in a country of desolate gravel roads…

Deon van Blerk warned me about the C30: Nothing grows there. Deon, one of the organisers of the Grootfonte­in Show, shook his head when I told him that I was planning to drive the C30 to Gobabis in my rented Nissan Almera.

Deon was right. There’s nothing here. It’s a Sunday afternoon in September and there’s still 323 km of gravel between me and Gobabis. I left Grootfonte­in yesterday, 227 km ago.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a romantic gravel road that goes all the way to the horizon. Maybe there’s a line of pink mountains there, and a donkey cart entering the frame at just the right moment, trailing golden dust. Problem is, the C30 is not a romantic gravel road. The landscape is flat and boring, broken only by the odd, dust-coloured shrub. Every now and then an anthill guards over a vision of pure nothingnes­s.

It’s just after 2 pm and I hope to be in Gobabis by 6 pm so I can attend the opening of the town’s annual agricultur­al show. The Grootfonte­in Show (see page 84) was so much fun I decided to go to another one.

My provisions are running low: a litre of water, a bottle of Fruitree juice, two packets of Simba chips and a Bar One. I have a strong feeling that the next time I see a shop I’ll already be in Gobabis…

The speed limit is 100 km/h, but I keep steady at 85 km/h. You could go faster though: The C30, like most gravel roads in Namibia, is in much better condition than many tarred roads in South Africa. The Spar in Grootfonte­in is the only supermarke­t I know with a taxidermy display next to the meat section. I stocked up yesterday and drove the D2859 through fields of dancing mielies. (The area between Grootfonte­in, Otavi and Tsumeb is known as Namibia’s mielie triangle.) My first stop was to see the Hoba meteorite – the largest of its kind on earth. Jacobus Hermanus Brits discovered this piece of space debris, which weighs 60 tonnes and fell to the earth about 80 000 years ago, in the 1920s. I’ve seen the meteorite before, but I still stood in awe in front of this “speck of cosmic dust”, as it’s described in the pamphlet.

Then I pushed on, past farms with names like Venus and Ruimte, probably inspired by the meteorite, towards the Waterberg Plateau Park. I arrived in the late afternoon and hiked up to the plateau to watch the sunset. The Waterberg is one of my favourite places in Namibia and the view from the top of the plateau is exceptiona­l. The park is managed by Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) and even though some of the infrastruc­ture at their other resorts needs attention, the facilities in the Waterberg are great. I ate delicious beef fillet and stayed in a clean, neat chalet, attended to by friendly staff. A tame Damara dik-dik grazed nearby.

This morning, before I ventured onto the gravel equivalent of the moon, I went on a guided game drive in the park and saw big herds of buffalo, kudu and roan antelope. The rhinos were MIA.

Those few roan antelope were the last living things I saw. I haven’t seen a single

With nothing else to look at, I focus on the anthills. Some look like a witch’s hat, others like a finger pointing at the sky. Many look like my failed primary school woodwork projects.

person or animal on the C30. Every now and then, I pull over to take a picture of a place name on a signboard: Hoëveld, Zulana Nguni’s, Ondiri…

With nothing else to look at, I focus on the anthills. Some look like a witch’s hat, others like a finger pointing at the sky. Many look like my failed primary school woodwork projects.

By the time I pull into the tiny settlement of Osire, the sum total of my roadside sightings amount to the remnants of a shredded tyre, a rusted wreck of a car and a warthog. An old advertisem­ent for Five Roses Tea is painted on the wall of Store Osire. I would pay quadruple for an ice-cold Stoney right now, but the shop is empty and deserted.

Osire is technicall­y a refugee camp, establishe­d in 1992 to accommodat­e refugees from various African countries plagued by conflict. In 1998 the camp had a population of 20 000. That number has decreased steadily: In 2014, there were barely 3 000 people remaining, mostly from Angola.

Imkerhof, 53 km down the road, is another speck of dust on the map. Its most prominent building is an orphanage and education centre.

All around are farms with evocative names: Hieromtren­t, Pieringklo­u, Friesland, Woltemade…

Between Imkerhof and Hochfeld I pick up a hitch-hiker: Uwoo Shibilewa. He’s on his way to visit someone called Heskia. Uwoo is not a big talker, but I manage to glean that he works with cattle, builds fences and lives on the farm Uitkoms. He enjoys the silence out here. “Windhoek is okay, but there are many tsotsis,” he says.

Uwoo climbs out in Hochfeld, which is nothing more than a filling station, a shop and a small lodge. He and Heskia chat under a tree.

The petrol pumps are unmanned, but there’s a cellphone number on the side of one. In Hochfeld you have to call the petrol attendant to come and help you.

The final 100 km to Gobabis are pure Kalahari. The road turns deep red. I’m now in cattle country – Gobabis is known as “Little Texas” and the “Wild East”. There’s also more wildlife: kudu, kamikaze warthogs crossing the road, guineafowl, francolin…

The C30 ends at the Black Nossob River close to Gobabis. I pull over at the Brahman bull statue in town, as the day’s last light glows on its flanks.

The C30 will never be a tourist route. I drove it on a Sunday, but I doubt the traffic picks up during the week. Still, a quiet gravel road is never a bad thing. And it’s good to know that there are roads like this: where you can hide out and take a breath in a place where nothingnes­s flourishes.

For accommodat­ion options in Grootfonte­in, see page 122; Waterberg page 123; Gobabis page 112.

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 ??  ?? EPIC VIEW. From the top of the plateau at the Waterberg Plateau Park it feels as if you can see the whole northern half of Namibia.
EPIC VIEW. From the top of the plateau at the Waterberg Plateau Park it feels as if you can see the whole northern half of Namibia.

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