The Flat Tires Incident
Our trip through Namibia started really well. But the first catastrophe was waiting for us on the next turn (although Namibian roads don’thave many turns…)
Let’s start from the beginning.
Since we were told that the only way to visit Namibia was by private vehicle, we rented a small car in Cape Town, with the intention of giving it back in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Even though returning it in another country entails paying an extra amount to the car rental company, renting a car in Windhoek with the same company was much more expensive than in Cape Town, so this was the cheapest way.
The first day we did around 600 km -about 370 miles- and slept at a camping site in Springbok, a little town on the northwestern part of South Africa, close to the border with Namibia. That’s where we started to notice the change of weather; the night was so cold that after a few hours trying to sleep I had to leave my tent and sleep inside the car. This was the first of many car-sleeping nights, sometimes because of the cold, sometimes because we didn’t want to spend more money.
After crossing the border the next day, we drove through the dirt roads to Fish River Canyon. It is the largest canyon in Africa and the second largest in the world after Grand Canyon. The view was spectacular, being in a place like that you feel really, really small.
We watched a great sunset having a Windhoek (Namibian beer, quite tasty), and I convinced my friend to forget the camping site, stay there and make a bivouac under the starry Namibian sky. I have never seen as many starts as I saw there, and I doubt that I ever will.The night wasn’t as cold as in Springbok, and the sunrise was beautiful, although not as impressive as the sunset.
We continued our journey towards the North through the dirt roads (forget about finding many paved roads in that country) and enjoying the deserted view. Namibia is a country of long, long roads without seeing anyone but a bunch of springboks, kudus or impalas jumping onto the road. The territory is theirs, after all, so we proceed cautiously.
Everything was going great, but when we got to a burning hot paved road after hours of driving through the dirt roads… oh no. Yes. Flat tire. In the middle of nowhere. Ooook no worries, we have a spare one in the trunk. So let’s change it and continue the trip, we will go to the nearest town and try to buy another one.
We found a ‘town’ called Aus, a super small town with just a few houses, but surprisingly there was a hotel, and a garage! So far, so good.
We asked if they had tires for our car, but they didn’t have them that small (then we realized why generally people don’t use small cars in Namibia, because you can’t go anywhere with those tires), so it would take a day to order it from another town. We didn’t want to lose a whole day in that little village so we decided to go and pick up the tire from the ‘city’ where they would send it from, and later continue to the dunes. So we left Aus without a spare tire. Big mistake. We took the road that we had taken to Aus, back towards the East, and after 35 km we got another flat tire. More or less at the same point where we had had the previous one.
I couldn’t help but to burst into laughter, but my friend didn’t find it that funny. We were really in the middle of nowhere; the nearest town was 35km away; the desert sun was hitting hard; and we probably didn’t have more than 2 litres of water. But I was super calmed down (I guess my time in Africa had already affected me), and I decided to check out the Lonely Planet to see if I could find anything. Bingo! The phone number of the garage we had just been to. Thank God! And thank you Lonely Planet. So we called them and it was more or less like this: “Hey… do you remember the Europeans that just stopped by looking for a tire? Well… we have a situation here, could you come and pick us up?” They said yes, but you know, African time… so after a quite long nap in the car they finally arrived with a 4×4 turned into a tow truck, and we headed back to Aus… again.
This time we accepted our destiny and stayed there until our tire came the next day, but everything happens for a reason… I was able to have my first shower in three days!