The west-central part of Namibia has some of its most famous and iconic sites- Dune 45, Sesriem Canyon, etc. It also has an endless supply of overland trucks- not the cool private ones, but the massive tourist ones. They bring about 20-25 tourists to a place at once, so a couple of them will completely overwhelm a site (or campsite). They bill themselves as ‘adventure travel’, but except for the ones geared to an older crowd, they are really just a frat party on wheels and the bane of Southern Africa.
You know where this is going…
Yup, I hit dune 45 and it was surrounded by trucks and the dune itself looked like it was covered in 20-something hipster ants. On to the Sossusvlei area and… It was the same- the gate opens to the dunes just before sunrise and it’s a mad dash to get a shot of the dunes with the sun coming up over them before you get all the tourist tracks everywhere and people in your shots. I just turned around and decided to ride on to Windhoek. Sure, I was feeling smug- I’ve woken up in the deserts Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, etc… Do I really need to fight just to get another sunrise shot? The longer I’ve been on this trip the less I’ve been interested in seeing ‘the sights’. I can always come back as a normal tourist and see them, but I will never have this chance again. Yes, Dune 45 is huge and impressive, but the nameless dunes I’ve wandered around in the middle of nowhere have left me feeling like I’ve truly experienced their space and environment- something no ‘biggest dune in Africa’ will ever do.
So on to Windhoek! This was my last refit stop before heading north. I needed to get the bike serviced, buy tires (and get a spare rear to carry- bleck!), and just generally sort myself out in the last major city with easy access to what I need (try finding balsamic vinegar in a small town Africa!). Arriving at the backpackers was a treat since a rider I’d met a month or so ago was there getting himself sorted before heading off to Zambia.
Oh, and before I forget, no- the white VW camper wasn’t mobile, it was the ‘private cabin’ if you were looking to treat yourself!
After reading this I realised that my seemingly instant dislike for commercial overland trucks and their clients deserved a little explanation before I get some nasty comments (see I can learn my lesson!).
It’s not about people that don’t have time for a long trip, or money to pay for a rental or anything like that. It’s simply that, unlike individual travelers, they arrive in large, insulated groups and give nothing back to other travelers. I have nothing against the smaller tour groups, but these glorified Greyhound tours all ply the same routes and simply overwhelm an area. As well, since they do bring in so much traffic, proprietors generally welcome them and give a rather free reign in order to keep the business. So, all that, and my cousin and his girlfriend, the exact demographic for the overlanders, hit Africa with their backpacks and took it on with public transport. They left knowing Africa, the kids on the overland trucks leave knowing less than they could get from an average museum.