Getting off the Beaten Track
Ok, this is a joke…Namibia only has a few places which are ON the beaten track, Windhoek, Swakopmund and perhaps the Etosha National Park, but that’s only because of the animals, you can easily find some quiet places. This is not a country heaving with tourists, or locals for that matter, and if you choose to travel in low season, the Namibian summer, there’s even less.
Even if you’re travelling to some of the busier places, there are always the back roads which as they are not tarmaced, they’re certainly tracks. We’re not going to discuss the whole of the country however; we’ll stick to the rules and go for the more remote places, so only about 80 % of the country then!
The last real remaining wilderness, not just in Namibia, but also in the whole of Southern Africa, is an area called Kaokoland located in the north west of the country bordering Angola. This is the home to the Himba people, rare black rhino, and the desert elephant. To the south there are rugged mountains, with rivers and towards the coast the terrain becomes more arid and rather eerie when the sea mist comes in.
One of the reasons that Kaokoland has remained untouched is due to its infrastructure, unlike the neighbouring area of Damaraland; the area is quite difficult to access in an ‘ordinary’ vehicle and still not easy unless you have considerable 4x4 skills.
At the northern end, the Kunene River follows the boundary with Angola and is the area of the Baynes Mountains at 2039 meters. Its quiet strange that this area is arid, and yet there is a river running straight through it, there are also some pretty impressive waterfalls known as the Ruacana Falls and the Epupa Falls, which is a series of cascades. You can swim here but there are two things you need to watch out for, firstly the strong currents and secondly…..the crocodiles! This is where you can experience incredible sunrises and sunsets, and a great diversity of birdlife from kingfishers to fish eagles.
If off the beaten track for you means very few people or mixing with the locals then the Himba people will not disappoint you. The density of the population of Kaokoland is one person per two Km, and the Himba are nomadic pastoralists who travel in groups, so you won’t come across many people at all. Many of the Himba people still live in the traditional way and according to ancient traditions. The women of the tribes are particularly beautiful, with intricate hairstyles. They cover their bodies with red ochre and fat to protect their skin, a sort of sun cream.
This really is an off the beaten track to visit. To make the most of it hire a 4x4 motorhome rental or campervan hire vehicle, and you really will have a great experience here.