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Fail To Prepare...


By Jenifer NimPublished 24 days ago 5 min read
Photo by Jenifer Nim

Just because somebody says something confidently, it does not mean that they know what they are talking about. When it comes to my dad, I figured this out many, many years ago. And yet I didn’t question him when he assured me that Namibia was a very developed country with good roads, public transport, and lots of other tourists. I didn’t think to ask how he would know that, seeing as he had never been.

I arrived in Windhoek and headed straight for the Tourist Information Office. I was given a map of the country and the unwelcome news that there was no way of reaching any of the tourist sites via public transportation. I would later find out that there are only four proper motorways in the country, and the rest are gravel roads. And when I arrived at my hostel, I was the only person there. Thanks for the intel, Dad.

What on earth was I going to do now? I had two weeks before my flight home! I sat down in the hostel garden and spread the map out in front of me. Sites jumped out at me: national parks, hot springs, ancient rock art, meteorites… There was no way I was going to miss out on those. I looked up tour companies and gasped at the cost. Maybe not. I decided there was only one thing for it, a thing I really, really didn’t want to do…hire a car.

Once the decision was made, I felt better. What was I worried about?! I knew how to drive. I’d been driving for 10 years. I was a great driver. There was nothing to fear. (Remember, this was before I knew about the gravel roads. If I’d known about them then, sitting in the late afternoon sunshine plotting pitstops on the map, I’d never have been foolish enough to rent a car.)

I looked up the closest car hire agency and checked out my options. Maybe I should get a 4x4 with a tent that pops up on the roof? That looks cool. Oh, is that the price? I’m sure the Ford Fiesta will do just fine. (Again, I’d like to emphasise that this was before I knew about the gravel roads.) I made a reservation to pick up my little car in the morning and found a camping gear rental shop on Google Maps. Sorted.

In the morning, the hostel rang a taxi to take me to the car hire place. I inspected the car, signed some papers, checked the fuel, said a prayer, and off I went. First stop was the camping shop. A tent for one, please! One sleeping bag, one pillow, one chair, one torch, one plate, one knife, one fork, one spoon, one lamp, one cool box.

Next stop, the supermarket to buy groceries. Bizarrely, despite it being 30 degrees and a desert country, the mall was stuffed with Christmas decorations, fake snow, and German holiday treats. Although it was December, I’d never felt less Christmassy in my life. I bought some lebkuchen, because why not, and a lot of cold meats and bread rolls. Camping and driving was already much more work than I’d been anticipating, I wasn’t going to cook on top of that. Sandwiches for lunch and dinner for the next week would do just fine.

Finally, I was ready. Destination: the Quiver Tree Forest. What’s a quiver tree? I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out.

I headed out of the city and south on the main motorway, a long streak of tarmac slicing through the tangerine desert. I must have passed only three or four cars in as many hours. Bliss! The worst thing about driving is other drivers. This was going to be a lot easier than I had imagined.

And then, I turned off the motorway onto the C17 and that’s when it all fell apart. I discovered that not all the roads were like the nice, smooth tarmac motorway I had just been cruising down. In fact, most of them were barely even roads at all, just tracks made of gravel, ie. millions of sharp and spikey, tyre-puncturing stones. I slowed to a crawl, and it took about an hour of white-knuckle, bone-rattling driving to reach the Quiver Tree campsite. Bloody hell…maybe I wasn’t going to be able to do this road trip thing after all.

I paid to camp for the night and drove to the site. I chose a spot, parked up, and figured I’d better put my tent up as it would be dark soon. The camping hire guys had loaded everything into the car for me, so I hadn’t had a look at it all before now. I hauled the heavy, khaki, thick canvas tent out of the boot. I’d supposed they would give me one of those mini pop-up tents for just one person. This looked like a serious tent. One for people who had been camping before. I emptied out all the poles and the pegs and the various canvas sheets and told myself that I was an intelligent person. I could figure this out. After about 20 minutes of failed attempts, I had to admit that I wasn’t and I couldn’t. Shit. First the roads, now this.

Luckily, another car pulled into the campsite just then. Unluckily, they decided to park as far away as possible from me. I sat on my camping chair as I thought through my options. Sleep in the car? Drive back to the campsite reception and ask to stay in one of their extremely expensive bungalows? Sit in my camp chair and cry? No! I had the tent and I was bloody well going to sleep in it. Despite a lifelong fear of talking to strangers, I summoned all of my courage and trudged across the campsite to ask for help. As I approached, I heard their accents. Oh no. French…

To my shame, I had judged them too hastily, and the Frenchies were kind and friendly and agreed without hesitation to help me put up my tent. I think they were just so impressed that a British person spoke French that they would have given me theirs if that’s what I’d asked. They came to my camping spot and I admitted, embarrassed, that I had no idea how to put the damn thing up.

Part of me was very pleased when Pierre told me that that there was no way a person could put up this particular tent on their own and it needed at least two people. I wasn’t a complete idiot after all then. Another part of me was very annoyed. I had told the lady at the camping rental shop that I needed a tent FOR ONE PERSON. Also, this meant I was going to have to ask strangers for help every single night. Fantastic.

Ten minutes later, the tent was up, the sleeping bag unrolled, the Frenchies thanked with German gingerbread, and the sun was starting to set. I wandered over to the frankly bizarre landscape of the quiver tree forest. A beautiful sunset was unfolding over these strange, surreal trees, and the scent of adventure was in the air.

Photo by Jenifer Nim

solo travel

About the Creator

Jenifer Nim

I’ve got a head full of stories and a hard drive full of photos; I thought it was time to start putting them somewhere.

I haven’t written anything for many, many years. Please be kind! 🙏

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  • Esala Gunathilake19 days ago

    Such an amazing travelling experience form you!

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