Tag Archives: Toyota Hilux

150 / 66!

Rob and I don’t need any excuse to pack up our trusty Toyota Hilux and head off on a camping trip, even if it’s only for one night.  The beautiful weather in Namibia is perfect for spending time outdoors and in the five years that we’ve lived here we’ve seldom passed up an opportunity to take advantage of it.  This last weekend we celebrated having spent one hundred and fifty nights in our rooftop tent  at sixty-six different campsites in southern Africa.  Quite an achievement when you consider that this figure is mostly made up of weekend camping trips of one or two nights at a time.  Of course we’ve had our annual holidays too, that rack up an average of about fourteen to twenty nights at a stretch in the great outdoors.

Off of an adventure - Khowarib Schlucht

Milestones like this give us a chance to reflect on the places we’ve been to and the things we’ve been privileged to have seen on our various trips.  A few places have been revisited, but Rob’s meticulous records show that we have been to sixty-six different campsites over the last five years.  Some have been chosen for the birds that are endemic to the area, whilst others have been picked for their hiking opportunities, remoteness, beauty and convenience as stop-overs en route to exciting destinations.  The campsites in Namibia and Botswana never disappopint us and we come away from every camp-out with wonderful memories and great experiences.  Most campsites have resident birds and animals with their own peculiar quirks and they just make each place extra special!

Ombandumba campsite - dramatic backdrop

If anyone had to ask us which has been our favourite campsite, we would be hard-pressed to come up with an outright winner, although I’ve made it clear over the years that Ameib Ranch in the Erongo Mountains has a very special place in my heart.  Camping in the Central Kalahari and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana is an unparalleled experience, with entertainment put on every day by the wild animals and birds.  Where else can you watch a lion kill in solitude, or have lions walking past you as you sit around a campfire talking about the day’s events?

Lion kill at Passarge Valley Botswana

We’ve seen African sunsets, the Milky Way in magnificent starry splendour and heard the haunting cry of the Fish Eagle when we’ve camped on river banks and lakes.  And how about seeing the early morning sun hitting a hunting cheetah!  Magic stuff!

Cheetah at sunrise - Deception Valley Botswana

We stay in lodges sometimes – some luxurious and others very basic – and our consensus is always that they cannot compete with the outdoor experience.  Camping is still our absolute favourite form of accommodation!  Here’s looking forward to the next one hundred and fifty nights and all the wonderful nature experiences that await us!

Namibgrens - another stunning campsite

Try camping – it’s much cheaper

As you have no doubt gathered, Rob and I are inveterate travelers and will pack a suitcase at the drop of a hat.  We’ve been privileged to visit many overseas countries (at great expense because of our darned weak currency) and so whilst sipping cool beers on our front patio one evening, we decided it was time to pull in the reigns on all this travel spending and lower our sights a bit.  We would take to camping and explore Southern Africa instead.  This would have a twofold benefit – we would save a fortune and get to know our own and neighbouring countries much better.

Here’s what our first attempt at camping looked like:

A modest start

A modest start

After one or two these trips Rob got this faraway glint in his eyes and started dropping hints about how nice it would be to have a 4×4 so that we could visit Namibia.  “Not a new car”, he said, “we could perhaps get ourselves a good second-hand one.”

I think Rob must have worked for the CIA at some stage because he then started applying Chinese torture tactics and the hints fell like water dripping on a stone.  The clincher for the deal was when he insisted that we drive my little car (featured above) halfway up Sani Pass.  Anyone who knows Sani Pass knows that it isn’t a road, it is a rocky track designed to remove the bottom of one’s car and chew up tyres within eight kilometers.  After we finally managed to lever my car off a boulder and tie the exhaust back on with a piece of wire, I threw my hands up in despair and said: “Okay, you win, let’s go and find a 4×4!”

And so with great luck we managed to buy an almost new Toyota Hilux in mint condition.  The only snag was that it needed a canopy otherwise we couldn’t store any of our gear on the back.  Things were definitely looking up though.

Then Rob started buying the Getaway magazine which features all the mod cons that are a must for camping, and guess what!  The perfect accessory (according to him) was a rooftop tent.  “They don’t cost much,” he said “and make camping so much easier as they can be put up in minutes.  We’d have much more space in the car for all our gear and utilities.”  This sounded like a plan, but at this stage I had also been paging through the Getaway adverts and saw the ultimate camping accessory – a 40 litre Engel fridge.  Now I had some leverage.  “You get the rooftop tent if I get a fridge.”  We had battled in the heat with cooler boxes and the like, so a fridge, as far as I was concerned was a necessity, not a luxury.  I won!  Off we went to the Safari Centre to buy these TWO items.  What an ignoramus I must have been.

Two hours later we staggered out of the shop with a highlift jack, a compressor, a fridge, two folding chairs, numerous jerry cans, water bottles and an appointment to come back the following week to have the rooftop tent fitted – on roof tracks – next to a roof rack.  “What had happened back there”, I wondered.  “I thought we were getting ourselves a tent and a fridge.”

And we're off

And we're off

I must give Rob credit though – once we were kitted out, our camping became a delight.  We thought that as campers we had finally arrived!  But wait, what did the latest edition of Getaway come up with?  A drawer system for the bakkie (in Africa we call a truck a bakkie).  These are great because they come with a sliding section for the fridge to come right out of the vehicle and make it more accessible.  Yes, we definitely needed one of those.  No more utility boxes cluttering up the car – we could put all our food and clothing in the lock up drawers.  Perfect.

Anyone who visits Namibia or Botswana knows that there isn’t always a shady tree to camp under and when temperatures soar up in the 30C’s and 40C’s you definitely need some shade.  Getaway was advertising some wonderful canopies that attach to the side of your vehicle.  They pull out about three meters, giving you loads of shade.  Oh yes, we had to have one of those.

The full monty!

The full monty!

The latest acquisition was a GPS as we would be traveling in such remote areas that we could disappear off the planet without knowing which direction we were taking.

So now, let’s get back to those costly overseas trips that we were complaining about.  Let’s work out what this camping has saved us over the last five years:

Item Equivalent to
Toyota Hilux 4×4 & canopy Three round the world trips for two
Rooftop tent One week at the Paris Hilton Hotel
Compressor & highlift jack Five nights at Sun City with free  casino vouchers each night
Engel fridge Two week overland trip from Nairobi to Cape Town
Drawer system A luxury cruise on the Nile
Shade canopy Flight to Durban to see the grandchildren
GPS Elephant safari in Thailand
Repairs to the Toyota after heavy 4×4 trip A tour of 21 European countries in an air-conditioned coach, staying at 3 star hotels, including all meals
New tyres for the Toyota A visit to the gorillas of Rwanda for a party of eight.

When we decided to go through the Central Kalahari, Rob started talking about having a snorkel attached to the car because of the dust and deep sand.  Enough is enough.  If I have any say in the matter, the only snorkeling we’ll be doing will be in a shallow lagoon in the Seychelles.  Who are we kidding – this camping lark isn’t saving us a cent!!!    But it will from now on, as we have everything we need – if we stop buying Getaway.

Note to the kids:  If you give Rob a subscription to Getaway for Christmas you will be disinherited!