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Southern Namibian bleakness

Stage 80 (62) Cañon Roadhouse to Felix Unite

An early start this morning in an attempt to beat the predicted heat later in the day; we got on the road just before 6:25 in the pre-dawn light. Only a partial moon showing, but sort of enough to pick out a line in the gravel. Fortunately, the road is not bad for the first 10 km or so while the day gradually lightens.

This southern region of the Namibian desert will seem especially bleak in the mid-day glare but right now, as the sun starts to rise, it’s simply beautiful. The dawn light allows some magical colours, shapes and silhouettes. Rugged hills in the distance, stony barren plains on either side of the road, the atmosphere clear of dust or smog, and only a few plants such as quiver trees seem to be able to survive here. We ride in silence for quite a while, hearing only our tyres on the sand and our own breathing. It’s among the most impressive scenes I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.

The morning stays cool or at least cool-ish through the first 4 hours or so. There are some twists and bends, a few hills, but a lot of straight sections; it’s really difficult to gauge distances in this light, and it often seems that a very long time indeed is required to reach a particular ridge line. I lose the first bet we make, saying it’s 10 km to the skyline - David wins with his estimate of 6 km. I’ll have to buy the first round tonight.

We reach the lunch truck in late morning, now decidedly warm. Only anther 30+ km to the end of this gravel and sand in Namibia, and mostly downhill. Should be a piece of cake. The terrain grows progressively more rugged, the hills closing in on the road, the rock outcrops showing overturns and faulting in the metamorphosed strata. It’s getting hot, as well.

We finally hit the T-junction and swing onto tarmac. It take longer than it should to reach the settlement of Aussenkeur which seems to be the centre of local vineyards growing out of the sand and rock; large irrigation systems pumping out of the Orange River allow this incongruous scene. We go down to the local Spar (grocery shop) for cokes and snacks. Doug is just by the road as well, so we re-fill our water bottles, check the tire pressure and push on.

  • itinerant workers settlement, Aussenkeur

The remainder of the day is a slog, there’s not much left in the legs after that gravel, and we’ve now a strong crosswind blowing us about; that, however, changes into a full-on head wind for the last 15 km or so. We take a breather about 10-12 km from the end, and as we’re standing by the road, stretching a bit, and taking water, Doug passes, and pulls to a stop. I figure he’s offering a water refresh, but as he pops the boot, and rummages about in the cool box, I think maybe a coke? No .. it’s a couple of Windhoek lagers which he proffers with the comment ‘enjoy the moment.’ Well done, Douglas!

David pulls me into the end of the ride, thankfully.

Felix Unite is a lovely camp / resort right on the Orange River; I’d booked us a cabana upgrade for the two nights, so we don’t need to set up tents. There’s just time to lug bags to the room, shower, grab a beer and then enjoy dinner and the sunset. Easy as always to fall asleep tonight.


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