My 1,000 mile road trip around Namibia in a Nissan pickup
Back in 2015, my family decided to embark on an exciting yet ambitious journey around Namibia. We knew we were up against what are known as the most dangerous roads in the world. It is said that 19,000 road accidents occur each year in Namibia, 700 of those resulting in death. So, I think it's pretty safe to say, we were sceptical.
Our journey began in the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek where we were greeted by our new home for the next two weeks, a Nissan NP300 pickup truck. I must admit, this was at a stage in my life where I was completely and utter in bewildered awe with anything vaguely Ford F-150 related. I don't know why, but I was only 15 years old afterall, so I also found Harry Hill funny and would eat almost anything put in front of me. So, when I found out that we were going to be spending the next two weeks in a truck which wasn't a Raptor, I was a little disappointed.
I spent the next 10 minutes walking around the vehicle and muttering harsh things about it and trying to point out any faults I could find. I seem to remember one of them being, 'It is too white'. At this point I had quite frankly lost the plot. Anyway, after a restless sleep dreaming about American pickup trucks, it was soon time to head off along the deadly roads across the vast Namibian landscape. I should also point out, this was a family safari trip. So, don't expect the same type of events to happen that occur on a Ford Ranger Raptor event on the beaches of Morocco or the Grand Tour buggy adventure.
Anyway, our first leg of the journey was from Windhoek to Swakopmund which is on the coast of Namibia. This journey was to take us 225 miles west of the capital and would take five hours of long sandy tracks to get there. We are used to doing long journeys as we often drive over to Germany from the UK to visit family so we thought this would be a doddle. It was a doddle, but it was also very bumpy indeed. However, the Nissan handled it all very well as you would expect from a 4x4 pickup truck.
As I was a child, I was 'politely' asked to sit in the back, despite being the tallest one in the car. I must say, the legroom in the back of these NP300's is truly appalling. I have no idea who would choose one of these to spend two weeks in... I must have been just short of six foot when we were on this trip so, I think it's safe to say I would have to be folded up in the boot for a round two. But, despite the pain, we made it to our destination in Swakopmund. I believe the place we stayed was called the 'Organic Square Guesthouse'. It sounds fancier than it was. Thankfully, I had the best tuna steak of my life that evening, so it was worth it.
I made sure to make the most of this night as I knew we were going to be camping for the rest of the trip in safari camps. Don't get me wrong, I was really excited to go camping but I also knew that I would miss my bed dearly. After we had spent a day or so in Swakopmund, we realised there wasn't actually much to do there apart from eat fish and kayak with seals, so we started up the beast and continued our journey up north to Etosha National Park.
This next leg of our journey north was a big one and also the longest single drive we did. It was a 382 mile drive on sandy tracks up to the park and it took around seven hours. I must say, my legs were so numb I even considered sawing them off with a twig I had found by the side of the road, just to ease the pain a little bit. Despite these troubling thoughts, we made it and so did the car. It was very good on diesel actually. We didn't have to fill up all that much as it came with an extended range fuel tank which was fortunate as I wouldn't have fancied being stranded in the middle of the desert with my little brother urinating everywhere (I will explain that part in a bit).
In the park, we were greeted with a wide range of animals. These ranged from Leopards to Elephants, Zebras, Rhinos, Lions and even a delighted little honey badger who thankfully did not go for my plums. Being the little car enthusiast I am, I took a keen interest in the other cars going around the park. These were mostly Land Rover Defenders and Toyota Fortuners which was actually nice to see. However, we also saw a Mercedes Unimog camper (with German licence plates) which made my day, until I was informed by my little brother that I had missed a cheetah due to my excitement over, let's be honest, a Mercedes.
Now, I'm sure you are all very keen to hear the urine story, especially you John Coleman. You like to hear my distressing stories. So, if you have ever been to a safari park before, whether that is Etosha or Longleat, you will know that you cannot get out of your car when in an area filled with animals. Now, my brother is the king of bad timing. To give you an insight into this, he always needs the toilet as soon as the seatbelt signs ping up on an airplane, he is late to everything, he also always manages to break his arm just as we have arrived or are about to go on holiday. So, that is Dom. Anyway, of course he needed a wee as soon as we entered the bloody LION part of the safari park.
I have never seen someone pull so many disturbing faces as he did. He was squealing like a pig in an abattoir. But the thing was, you can't get out the car unless you want to be eaten alive. Had we been near Zebras, that would be fine but we weren't, these were lions for crying out loud. So, the only thing he could do, was to open his door ever so slightly and pee into a bottle. Don't ask why he had to do it in a bottle and not on the sand, no one knows. Luckily he wasn't eaten, although I wish he had been as after hearing the trickle of water, I too needed to go too.
Apart from that slight intermission to our journey, we had a fantastic trip. After Etosha, we headed back on down to Windhoek after stopping off at a nature reserve called, Okonjima which was truly one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. It was blissful to have a bed again, especially since our view from the room was literally these little badger like creatures (no, I can't remember the name) roaming around.
The distance back down to Windhoek was a further 300 odd miles which brought our total up to just over 1,000 miles including the days we spent in Etosha. But we couldn't have done this trip if it wasn't for the mighty Nissan NP300. It never got stuck, it never broke down, it carried four people, two tents and everything we needed to survive for two weeks. It really was a great vehicle. So no, you don't need a massively lifted Nissan Patrol or Toyota Land Cruiser with £50,000 of extras to complete a mostly off the road journey around an African country. All you need, is a bog standard, sturdy pickup truck which preferably comes with a stack of plastic bottles.