Our first look at the track running through the Khowarib Schlucht was quite intimidating. We had driven south from Ongongo Campsite, where we had spent the night, and entered the Schlucht at its Western end, turning off the C43. Within a very short time we were faced with a very rough stretch of track.
Jo and I parked the bakkies and walked forward to look at the road. It was tricky, but quite driveable; however the thought of twenty-three kilometers of that sort of track was daunting to say the least.
But, we had given ourselves most of the day to cover the 80 kilometres between the C43 and C35 that included the Khowarib Schlucht and without any sort of time pressure we would be able to enjoy the spectacular scenery that we believed lay ahead.
In fact the drive turned out to be very enjoyable and not nearly as difficult as we had anticipated. The most difficult part was the navigation as the track split up repeatedly with no indication as to which was the “correct” track to follow. In most cases it didn’t really matter, as the roads almost invariably linked up again, but sometimes the decision was an important one, as some of the threads deteriorated into an assortment of potholes, deeply worn tracks and eroded dongas that made driving more challenging or well nigh impossible.
Being cautious souls, we stopped the vehicles frequently to walk over the more challenging sections of the track. We didn’t relish the idea of falling off the track or getting stuck unnecessarily and this also gave us plenty of time to absorb the scenery. The rocky cliffs towering over the track are a golden-red and present a magnificent sight.
The track crosses the dry Hoanib River numerous times, sometimes following the river-bed for a short way before climbing up the bank again. On occasion there was water to cross, but most of the time the bed of the river is of thick, soft sand that demands low-range four-wheel drive and a fair amount of concentration to maintain forward momentum.
It was crossing this river, that we got stuck. We had crossed the soft sand of the river-bed and driven up the bank on the far side when we found that we were on the wrong route; the track was impassable due to massive erosion. A quick excursion on foot showed that we should not have crossed the river-bed directly, but should have turned left on entering the river-bed and driven along the river for a few hundred metres before exiting again onto the same bank. We turned the cars and dropped back down the bank onto the soft sand. Correction, not onto the sand, rather into the sand! The Toyota sank down and stopped. Nothing serious, though, we let the tyres down (which we should have done a lot earlier!) and removed some of the sand from in front of the wheels. In about thirty minutes we were on our way again.
An interesting feature of the drive through the Schlucht are the “dust holes” that occur without any real warning. These stretches of track are filled with the finest talcum-like dust that billows around the car like a thick, opaque mist. If there is the slightest tailwind, this cloud engulfs the car and reduces visibility to a few metres. Quite disconcerting. Even just walking through this talcum-sand raises puffs of dust around your feet and ankles.
The little village of Umumbaadjie marks the end of the Schlucht itself, but there is still about 55 km of track, passing through the Kamdescha Veterinary Control Point (and yes, they did check that we had no meat with us), before reaching the C35 It was still quite early in the day when we reached the C35 and so there was a quick change of plan and we headed south for 200 km to Outjo, where we camped just outside the town at a farm called Sophienhof. This was the first and only occasion on the entire trip that Jo, Des and Gwen were able to pitch their tents on grass!
After spending the night at this very comfortable spot, we had an easy drive back to Windhoek to end the trip.