Travels with Bathroom Buddy - Ai Ais to Rosh Pinah
During the July school holidays we decided to embark on an epic camping journey of Namibia. After 4 days of relaxation and unwinding in Ai-Ais., it was time to pack up our camping gear and head out towards our next destination; Lüderitz.
The town of Lüderitz is located on the western coast of Namibia and the only major ingress and egress from the town is via the national B4 road. We were departing from Ai-Ais (situated in the south of Namibia), and there were three routes which would bring us to our next destination. The first route would be via the main tarred roads: short drive along the C10 dirt road, then onto the tarred B1 and then left onto the tarred B4 via Aus to Lüderitz. The second would take us along the Fish River Canyon and Hobas: a pretty long drive on the C12 dirt road, and then left onto the tarred B4 via Aus. The third route was via the Orange River: small D316 dirt road and then onto the C37 dirt road and via the tarred C13 road to Rosh Pinah, Aus and Lüderitz.
The first option via the main tarred roads was decidedly longer and therefore not an option for us. We had already travelled on the second route via Hobas and the Fish River Canyon on our previous excursion to Namibia. Therefore, the third route, being an unknown route, a potentially very scenic route and according to Google Maps the shortest route, became our route of choice. I will not bore the reader too much about the minor road from Ai-Ais to the C37, bar to say that the road was in remarkably good condition and the vistas were breathtaking.
On reaching the C37, the road started to turn westwards at Auskehr, and we caught our first glances of the mighty Orange River meandering its way towards the coast. The road along the Orange River is a prime diamond mining area for both Namibia and South Africa and we were about to enter a restricted area. We were required to stop at a traffic control booth and had to sign a few documents and declare where we had come from and where we were on route to. The officer at the gate was very friendly and after engaging in a bit of chit-chat, we casually enquired from him what all these documents we were busy signing entailed. He giggled and said”:” You have just given me permission to hunt you down and arrest you, should you choose to leave the road and cross the Orange River into South Africa anywhere along the route.” Wow, that gave me some pause of thought. At least we knew that we had absolutely no plans on leaving Namibia at this point, so that should not become an issue.
Firstly, let me just say that the route is absolutely spectacular. The vistas of the Orange River as you travel along the twisted route are amazing. The mountains on the side tower high above you, giving you a sense of how infinitely small we are in comparison to such natural splendor. There are numerous active and dormant diamond mines dotted along the route, a testimony of the amazing natural wealth of this area. The road crosses over the calm and slow-flowing Fish River where it joins into the turbulent Orange River. The birdlife is abundant here and small game abound.
Secondly, this route provided the most hectic driving conditions I have ever experienced outside an organized 4x4 course. The road was incredibly rutted and bumpy. The potholes were numerous and it was a challenge to find a clear route through. Just when the road smoothed out and the bumps subsided, the road turned to thick dust and sand. The road rose and fell like a rollercoaster ride, with many a blind rise. On numerous occasions, once you crested the blind rise and hurtled into the adjacent dip, you were greeted with a bone jarring furrow or pothole. At some places the road was cut into the steep mountain on the one side with the deep drop down to the river on the other. Most often this cutting was narrow enough for only one vehicle at a time and on a blind rise. Scary to say the least, lest some poor hapless soul were to be approaching this piece of road from the opposite direction at the same time.
Thirdly, I was incredibly thankful that we were attempting this route in our trusted 4x4 Jeep Wrangler. The car made it through every single bump, hill, dip, pothole, sand, rock and rut. However, our camping trailer, not being of the 4x4 variety, did not survive the journey unscathed. The heavy bumps and ruts had caused our refrigerator to come loose on its slide-out drawer and violently bump into the outside door. This eventually resulted in the door becoming warped from the impact, the lock being forcibly extricated from the door and our refrigerator sliding all the way out. We were very fortunate to have spotted this small disaster and were able to stop and rectify the situation to the best of our abilities. Sadly however, the door was now warped, the lock missing and the sliders were stiff with dust and grit.
We eventually arrived at the guarded gate on the other side of the route, just as the road joined with the tarred C13. Here our vehicle was searched for any rocks and diamonds that we may have picked up on route(which of course we hadn't done), and we were allowed to continue on our merry way to Rosh Pinah.
The road along the Orange River will always remain in my memory as one of the most spectacular routes that we took on our travels through Namibia. If I am ever fortunate enough to return to this area, this route will definitely make it onto my list of places to see again. I would however recommend that this route be tackled with a proper 4x4. I have the feeling that a normal sedan might not make it through without some form of damage. A 4x4 trailer would also be advisable in my opinion, as most of the way I had visions of our trailer experiencing a broken axle …. Or worse!