12 days, 5,453 km, 4 countries, 2 tents, and another VW: Part Two

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To read the first part of our African road trip click here

While we were in Maun we had some free time so decided to take advantage and plan our onward route. Louise had to be in Windhoek in a couple of days and was planning to take a bus from Maun, whereas myself and Céline were hoping to go to Kgalagadi National Park. Unfortunately that appeared impossible from the Botswana side without a 4×4. We’re gonna need some bigger tyres for the Polo!

We decided on a ‘slight’ change of plan. If we drove back to Namibia we could take Louise all the way to Windhoek, then head south and enter Kgalagadi from the easier South African side. We planned to leave after our Okavango Delta excursion and get as close to the border as possible, with an overnight stop in Ghanzi the most likely.

We didn’t leave Maun until around half past five, which meant we would be driving at night for the first time. It is not recommended to drive in the dark in that part of Africa, mainly because the roads are laden with potholes, not to mention the wildlife. There are no lights on the main road and we had to slam on several times as unintelligent horses, donkeys and cows stood in the middle of our path. We arrived in Ghanzi about 9pm and, to save ourselves a few hours the day after, decided to continue a little further. We crossed into Namibia, making the border barely 20 minutes before it closed, and spent the night at a campsite half an hour outside of Gobabis.

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So much of the scenery around this part of Africa is ridiculously stunning

There was no sign of anyone when we arrived, given it was already past midnight. So rather than continue we set up camp with the intention of sorting everything out in the morning. We woke early knowing this was going to be our longest day of driving yet and were gone again before half past 6. In our haste we may have forgotten to pay.

We arrived back in Windhoek midmorning (I just can’t avoid that place) and dropped Louise at her hostel. We’d only been together for just over a week but it was still difficult to say goodbye. I actually met her again some weeks later in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa. But for the time being it was just me and Céline.

We took turns driving in two hour stints as we headed south. This was my first time seeing this part of Namibia and it was just as stunning as I’d heard. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop and look around. We crossed into South Africa just as the sun was setting. In less than a day we had gone from Botswana to South Africa, passing through most of Namibia on the way. The passport officer in Namibia had given me a strange look when I asked for just one day on my entry visa. The South African border itself was a little strange, as we drove for around 15km without being in either country. Finally we stopped for the night in Upington. Over 1200km from where we started that morning.

The day after, myself and Céline travelled to Kgalagadi National Park. My second safari and a different experience to Etosha in Namibia. The scenery was more varied and we saw animals I hadn’t seen yet. The highlight of which were three cheetahs stalking a nervous impala.

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They were a little distance away, but there was no mistaking the typical cat strut as we watched the three cheetahs

We now had two days before Céline had to be in Cape Town so we decided to spend one night in Oudtshoorn in the south while seeing as much as possible in-between. We had no fixed route and just made it up along the way. There was a longer option with better roads, but we decided to go more direct and, with the road to ourselves, the sights were incredible. The highlights of the day however were Teekloof Pass and the unbelievable Swartberg Pass. The first was a fantastic, tight, twisting downhill driving experience but the second was as good, if not better than any mountain pass Europe has to offer.

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The remarkable Swartberg Pass. Photos cannot do this place justice

That was our last night on the road together, which left just one more day of driving. The Polo almost died on the way down Swartberg Pass, with Céline hoping it would survive until she had to return it in Cape Town. We drove along Route 62, the South African version of Route 66, and saw yet more amazing scenery, but compared to what we’d seen the few days before it was no more spectacular. With a stop off at Ronnie’s Sex Shop for a milkshake (it’s not what you think) we arrived in Cape Town to end our journey.

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Not everybody on South Africa’s famed Route 62 is going fast

And that was it. 5,500km, 4 countries and countless amazing memories. I left Céline the next morning, saying our goodbyes and going our separate ways. She was going back to Belgium in a few days, the end of her trip. I was continuing east. A few more months and several more experiences still to come.

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One last drink on the road with Celine

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