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46 Travel Namibia " So it's quite straight- forward," I explained. " We'll leave Windhoek, head northwest towards the Skeleton Coast, turn right to traverse Etosha National Park, double- back south via Omaruru to Swakopmund, nip down to the dunes of Sossusvlei, then back home via Rehoboth. Just over 2750 kilometres. On gravel roads. In two weeks. Piece of cake." Our transport contact, Günter Dainat of African Car Hire, sighed, rolled his eyes and ordered extra tyres. What I needed, however, was a better map of Windhoek. It may be one of the world's smallest capital cities, but the road signs are a bit so- so, and after a pleasant tour we found ourselves sitting outside Namibia's Central Prison. It had to get better. And of course it did. Günter's indestructible Toyota 4WD truck was soon growling along the B1 and B2 towards Omaruru, accompanied by the driver's tuneless whistling and a game of " spot the other car". Self- drive ROUTEMASTER Namibia has 45,000 kilometres of open road that are crying out to be explored by anyone with just a little independent spirit. But with so much choice, where do you head on a fortnight- long trip? Iain Wallace put himself in the driving seat. STOP 1 ERONGO WILDERNESS LODGE ( 250KM) HERE'S AN INTERESTING FACT: Namibia has the second- lowest population density of any sovereign country - after Mongolia - with just 1.8 million souls scattered throughout 825,418 square kilometres. So you're defi nitely at one with nature when you visit Namibia, particularly at this tented chalet camp set amongst the massive granite boulders of a vast volcanic crater complex. The best way to experience the beauty of the Erongo Mountains is simply by walking. Get up early, and let a guide lead you on a two- to- three hour walk through the bush and to the top of an

Travel Namibia 47 ERONGO WILDERNESS LODGE STOP 2/ 3 TWYFELFONTEIN AND HUAB ( 400KM) We soon discovered the value of a proper 4WD vehicle. One hundred kilometres from Twyfelfontein our fi rst stranded travellers came into view: an elderly Swiss couple stuck up to the axles in a dry riverbed. Immobile for over two hours, they were visibly distressed, and more than relieved when a passing farmer pulled them free. Yet their predicament was self- infl icted. In the interests of economy they had hired a 2WD compact car, which is pretty well useless in this harsh environment, and their rescuer pretty well told them so too. The area is home to Namibia's elusive desert-adapted elephants and, true to form, they remained elusive. It was the same story at the wonderful Huab Lodge some 100 kms to the north, but visitors mainly come to this regenerated nature reserve for rest and relaxation in the thermal springs. The Huab had subsided just before our arrival, so there was no need to use the overhead pulley system that ferries man and material across the murky waters. Thank heavens. The gates to Etosha are locked at sunset, so give yourself plenty of time to escape. We left it rather tight, and the guide had no option but to put pedal to the metal and hurtle towards the exit screaming, " It's not a safari, it's a Ferrari!" imposing granite dome. Before we knew it we were experts on the local fauna, fl ora and birdlife, and ready to lord it over our lazy fellow guests back at the lodge. Be warned though, you'll need stamina, a decent pair of walking shoes, and plenty of water. To recover fully, we went in search of a little gem we'd heard about through the grapevine. Kristall Kellerei, on the outskirts of Omaruru is, would you believe, one of three vineyards in Namibia, and wine lovers drive huge distances to secure a few bottles of their Colombard or Ruby Cabernet. It's not half bad, and certainly compares with some of South Africa's top plonks. You can also sip - cautiously - some of their nappa ( grappa) brandy or prickly- pear schnapps. and just wait until the tequila comes on stream! The new owners were in residence when we arrived and the jovial Michael Weder kindly gave us a tour of the vines, bottling plant and cellar before his wife, Katrin, force- fed us with a huge platter of local meats and cheeses. It was a magical afternoon, and we eventually slunk off home to collapse like beached whales, and prepare for the road ahead. Erongo walk The Namib