ADVENTURING | How to explore Namibia’s rustic splendour with BMW
BMW offers trips into a visually stunning wilderness while showcasing the abilities of its locally built X3 SUV
We’re going up a slight uphill on a wide, golden gravel road inside a lush Namibian reserve of bushy tress and majestic mountains.
We haven’t seen a car going in the opposite direction since entering the area about 45 minutes ago. A blind left bend beckons, and I tease out a safe, small sideways drift into the bend. Now we’re in the slide, and the walkie-talkie crackles to life. “Guys, five maybe six giraffes on the road!”
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With opposite lock on, the bend opens up to an incredible view of a massive forest valley. About 400m away, there they are, smack in the middle of the road, three or so full-grown adults and a couple of youngsters.
This and much more awaits any fan of driving holidays when they sign up for BMW’s pair of eight-day edutainment tours on offer. There’s a local leg where you will be given driving tips and a detailed history and taste of the Western Cape’s scenery. You explore the area at the wheels of a fleet of the latest BMW X3 xDrive30d provided to you.
Or you can opt for the Namibian leg which I’ve just attended.
The driving experience kicks off at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport. The procession then heads westwards, deep into scenic and rural Namibia using gravel back roads.
Part of our lucky lottery on the day was to experience Namibia’s erratic weather system. Despite the country being famed for its parched lands, we were treated to a surprise downpour which drenched our path so intensely that it created deep water crossings on a particular section.
This characterised our arrival at Erindi lodge, the first overnight stop into the journey. Visitors can relax on its pristine grounds and experience game drives, comfortable lodgings and wildlife activity from within its perimeter fencing.
Day two continues into more wildernesses towards the Okahandja district, an area known for its wood carving markets and a drive through the 71,000ha reserve where more than 15,000 head of game are said to roam.
This is where the earlier mentioned scene with giraffes played out. It’s also where you will first experience the start of Namibia’s undulations on roads that slice through the Erongo Mountains with their bewitching rock formations.
By now, even the initially panicky gravel road driving novice will have begun to enjoy the mountain roads with their impressive width and surface quality that leads to Ai-Aiba lodge.
This venue offered the perfect break point to counter the soaring heat with its premium and shaded facilities on the backdrop of an eerily quiet and scenic valley. This area also features dormant volcano activity and caves with prehistoric paintings.
After the midday meal the convoy takes a detour to a disused mine past spectacular granite mountains and onto the dry bed of the ephemeral Khan River: the main tributary of the Swakop River that’s said to carry surface water only in November and March.
Finally, on this day we reach the coastal city of Swakopmund that was established by German colonists in 1892. You dock into the Strand Hotel and disappear into its suitably comfortable rooms for the night.
The cold Atlantic greets you with a crispy morning chill on the penultimate morning and what BMW has in store for the group is sand driving of a different kind. The day unfolds with the deflation of the SUV’s tyres and the convoy first hits the coastline of Walvis Bay for a first-class early morning brunch on the beach then you hit the area dunes for the rest of the afternoon, on a high speed loop that’s created on the soft sand.
The last day, the longest drive of them all, begins early in the morning from the Strand Hotel because the convoy will effectively reverse the east to west travel of the past six days, but in one driving session.
It isn’t as laborious as you’d imagine. Only the 300km stretch between Windhoek and Swakopmund. Despite the long haul this drive is quite special. The highlight is a trip through the spectacular Bosua Pass. Then you drive down for lunch at a homely restaurant situated about 60km outside the airport where the eight-day sojourn concludes.
Considering that the majority of roads are gravel, the journey is surprisingly comfortable and leisurely. The only tweaks to the cars are tow hooks, off road tyres, underside protection and a slight 20mm increase to the ride height.
We didn’t encounter any surfaces that put the height to test, except perhaps the impromptu water crossing. Even with that, the 300mm wading depth rating of the X3 ensured a trouble free crossing. Drawbacks? None whatsoever but if you do suffer any medical condition where you shouldn’t inhale dust particles, then I’d suggest you give this one a skip.
Namibia Tour — R75,000 p/p
Western Cape — R105,000 p/p