• How will I cope with driving a huuuge 4×4 for the first time – including driving on the left, with the steering wheel on the opposite side of what I’m used to? And how will that feel in the busy traffic of Windhoek?
  • How will it work out to be solo camping in the Namibian desert… as a non-camper?
  • How do I pee when I’m sleeping in a roof tent and wake up in the middle of the night with “the urge”?
  • How will I manage to change a flat tire (Namibian national sport) when all alone on some lonesome road in the middle of nowhere, without any signal and any biceps?
  • How will I be able to get up before sunrise every morning when I already struggle to get out of bed around 9 am?




This Is Marie

“anxious like marie!”, more fittingly.

Those are some of the questions that keep me wide awake every night before my 8 day trip to southern Namibia. Yay for travel anxiety!

I have been a bit stressed-out-sleepless, anyway, so this just adds to my nightly “somersaulting monkey teams up with Duracell bunny” brain.

Thus I start the trip with a sleep deficit as big as Alphaville in Japan.

I usually like to travel without much planning, but in this case – sometimes a campsite being the only accommodation around for miles – it seemed wiser to book everything in advance.

This goes especially for Sesriem where you want to be inside the gate (only 2 campsites are). Why? Because you then get to go to the famous Sossusvlei/Deadvlei earlier than those in the cheap rows (i.e. outside the park).

On the unbright side, this means to rise and shine at 4 am, which is reeeeaaally stressing me out big time before the trip. The anxiety is real.

At least I am so lucky as to find the best car rental company ever, Classic Car Rental.

Peter is the most patient and nice rental owner of all times and gives me a thorough introduction to my future partner in crime, a Toyota Hilux (this one in the pics has just been returned, that’s why it’s still dirty.)

Climbing That Car
Demonstrating the Roof Top Tent

Peter in action. So I will have to climb on the tires to put up that tent? Mmmk.

Gas Cooker

A camping girl’s best friends.

After the intro and a little test drive I am not really less scared. It is a biiiig car, and I decide to baptize mine to the name of Betsy. Betsy the Beast. Or should I have gone with Betty Beep instead?

I only learn much later that Betsy is a TV star, driving her heart out in a German TV documentary. So one of us is famous already.

TV documentary with Betsy

Betsy earlier on TV and later with me.

During the test drive I nearly ram a curb stone edge because all I see is the hood – I cannot even see the street due to those monstrous dimensions.

Quite a Bigfoot

Betsy’s cousin. Adding to the size factor is the wheel on the other than my habitual side, which means that all levers and gears are mirror-inverted.

Betsy’s cousin. Adding to the size factor is the wheel on the other than my habitual side, which means that all levers and gears are mirror-inverted, from my German perspective.

Marie Somewhat Unsure

This is going to be quite a challenge. I love challenges. Bring’em on!

So finally the big day is here. Peter has arranged that I can pick up Betsy the night before, which means that I am able to avoid busybusy traffic. Phew.

I drive with utmost caution. The drivers behind me are so happy about this that they show their appreciation by honking wildly. Every time I want to set the turn signal, the windshield wipers start their shtick. The gears also being mirror-inverted make for some brain acrobatics but they are easier to get used to than the other “wrong side” levers.

When I get to my place safe and sound, I am already relieved and thinking, this is doable. So much for useless fears and worries.


Before – after.

I park Betsy in the garage of my place with major fine-tuning: There are literally two centimeters left between the walls/gate and the car, back AND front.

Precision Work
The Art of Garaging a 4x4

If it fits, I sits.

The packing takes a bit longer than I thought – I have bought 5 5-liter/1.32-gallon bottles of water and food for about 48 weeks so the big toploader fridge inside the car is crammed (very practical if you want to get something from the bottom).

4x4 with Fridge

Betsy’s cousin boasting her fridge, which is basically taking up half of the trunk.

Unfortunately I am so busy with getting everything right that I totally forget to take pics and vids and document the whole thing. Still a long way to Influencerary, I guess.

But then I AM ON THE ROAD, BABY! Yeeeeehaaaaawww!

Finally some freedom after feeling trapped inside those Windhoek walls for a while.

Windhoek City
Outside of Windhoek Namibia

Windhoek rush hour, and then… ride like an eagle, Betsy!

Going South

I am looking forward to my first goal: Tropic of Capricorn. In Oman I already stumbled across the Tropic of Cancer sign, and for some reason crossing those geographical (and in this case astronomical) landmarks takes on an almost mythical dimension for me.

I can’t really put it in words but somehow it reconnects me to travel of old and also to the fabric and the makings of the universe, if this makes sense (probably not).

Tropic of Capricorn Namibia

Betsy at the tropic, still squeaky clean. Not for long, Betsy, not for long.

Marie at Tropic of Cancer
Marie at Tropic of Capricorn

Yes, I made it a point to wear the same blouse. Hoping for a tropic series, of course.

About 137 Capricorn selfies later I head off south. Now I understand why people have warned me about the monotonous driving in Namibia, aka hours… zzzz… on end… srnnk… with the ever-same landscape… zzz… huh?

Those Empty Namibian Roads

One of the most typical views in Nam (at least in certain regions)

In Mariental I make my first acquaintance with a thing from outer space, which makes cockroaches look pretty pale in comparison.

Welcome Marie
Armored Cricket

Oh, well thank you for the nice welc… what is this??? It’s almost as big as my hand! 😱

The encounter of the third kind proves to be an armoured ground cricket, and if I think this was a rare meet and greet, I’m up for a surprise (more in part 2 of this blogpost soon).

That said, I do find them quite beautiful. Until I imagine they crawl up to my tent and say hi at 3 am. Um, let’s rather drive on!

Welcome to Maltahöhe
Jesus Lives

Jesus lives… in Maltahöhe

Going Gravel

After Maltahöhe I hit the gravel for the first time. And with it, the dust.

Dust Clouds in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
Another One Bites the Dust

Dusty Springfield approves. If a big, fast & furious car passes, the next 10 seconds are mystery driving.

Grass after Rainy Season in Namibia
Weaver Bird Nests

Once-in-ten-years-rain has graced Namibia, so there is grass all over the place. And as always the iconic weaver bird nests.

The drive is still somewhat monotonous. Even more so as Betsy has an mp3 player but I forgot my music USB stick at home. I try to find a radio station. There is only one called WhiteNoise FM.

In most parts (i.e. 90 % of Namibia), there is not even a cell signal, and if you think about it it does make sense. Springboks and zebras hate typing messages for obvious reasons, and from what I heard they are not into TikTok, either.

The drive thus becomes quite zen – not much to see, not much to hear. You could always talk to your inner child or sing, but I choose to just be silent.

The Wide Roads of Namibia

Drive on, nothing to see here!

All of a sudden, the C19 leads downhill, and the landscape switches into spectacular mode. The awe starts, and mightily so! There are new views after every bend.

Views After Every Bend

Fibonacci was here.

The weaver birds’ nests are getting bigger by the minute.

Huge Weaver Bird Nest
Tree with Weaver Bird Nests

I am getting to know new street signs, and the temperatures are rising as I approach the desert.

Kudu Crossing
Marie in Namibia

While Kudus might be crossing, Marie is sweaty but happy.

Namibia, I learn, is THE country for introverts who are not overly keen on other peeps within a 200-mile radius.

Introvert's Heaven

Little farm on the prairie.

The vistas! The colors! The flora! If I keep stopping the car every 30 seconds to get a photo I will reach tonight’s destination in about 14 days. Awesomeness overload, pls haaaalp!!

That said, every photo stop means sliding and gliding out of the car – monster truck high clearance makes that smallies like me just cannot get out in the usual way. And then you have to climb your way back in, of course. Pure exercise! As they say, 500 photo stops a day keep the doctor away.

Namibian Landscape
Southern Namibian Landscape

Apparently all of this is much less green in years of little rain. Lucky me!

Going Camping

I have booked my first night at the Family Hideout campsite in NamibRand, where I am eager to see the red dunes. And that means being alone in the middle of nowhere. Literally.

Entering the Namib Nature Reserve
Gate to NamibRand Family Hideout

Things are getting serious!

As I enter the gate I am greeted with a 45 min drive (for only 20 km/12.5 mi) that is so stony and wonky that I am already reckoning with a flat tire on my very first day.

Tire Challenge
First Drive on Sand

It was actually worse than it looks here. Go, Betsy!

After a bumpy, mostly first gear ride, undamaged Betsy and I finally arrive at the reception, a wooden box with two chairs and a table in it. The lady gives me a rough map and tells me to meet the ranger at campsite Venus.

Reception at Namib Nature Reserve

Out-of-the-box customer service.

They have 3 campsites in total, all of them some kilometers/miles apart, and you have your campsite all to yourself.

Some kind strangers in a facebook group (thank you Alan and Anne!) had recommended campsite Jupiter to me – the only one with electricity – but it had been booked.

So after a few beautiful kilometers and my first acquaintance with driving in deeper sand I stop at Venus aka a little ablution cabin surrounded by dunes. Wonderful!

Headed for Venus Campsite
At Venus Campsite NamibRand

There is no signal whatsoever so this is going to be a digital detox.

But not to worry, in their description it said that you get a walkie-talkie radio (would be a bit creepy to be all alone without any connection to the outside world, right?).

The ranger arrives, hailing from Monosyllabic Heights.

And he has good news: the Jupiter peeps have canceled, and I can upgrade. Yay!

After paying for the upgrade I ask: “What about the radio?”

“Radio?? There is no radio. No reception here, so no mobile and no radio.”

Right. I had trusted there was at least some contact to other humans possible.

“What happens in an emergency, then? Also, I want to do the 4×4 self-drive tour and have never been driving off-road, what if I get stuck?”

“Then you have to walk the 5 km to the reception.”

Right. Note to self: Do NOT have a heart attack tonight.

NamibRand Satellite View

Hello Jupiter: remote, more remote, even more remote. Photo © Google/CNES

“So what about safety?” I ask, bearing in mind I cannot notify anyone.

“It is safe. We sleep near the reception, and we would hear if a car arrives.”

This is somewhat comforting. I think I can mana—

“There are some leopards and hyenas”, he adds. “But they usually keep away from the camps.”

He really has a reassuring way of communication.

“Okay. So what about the guided tour tomorrow morning?”

“We start at 7, and since you are alone, you have to pay double”.

Right. 120 instead of 60 USD. Love it. But of course, since this is a once in a lifetime thing, I teeth-grindingly oblige.

Then I drive from one middle of nowhere to the next, Jupiter, which is bigger than Venus and, most importantly, allows me to charge my camera.

Jupiter Campsite NamibRand

Jolly Jupiter

I arrive and stop. Listen. Feel. Then remember that sunset is approaching, and I wanted to do the 4×4 self-drive.

First I deflate the tires for 25 seconds, as Peter advised me. I have no clue any more how the compressor works since the intro was a while back. Somehow I manage to use it and notice that I have to deflate Betsy even more.

Then I head out for the drive, which is not very long but super scenic.

Moody Savannah
The Landscapes of NamibRand

Sunset, savannah, solitude.

It has some sandy uphill stretches with bends directly after the pivot, so you have no idea what expects you – especially as you cannot see the ground in front of you. Which is even worse when you turn from uphill to downhill: you seem to fall into nothingness with the car. At the same time you cannot go slowly because then you get stuck in the sand.

Two minutes later I do get stuck in the very first deeper sand. I know I have to gain momentum before the sandy uphills, but I am too scared yet to put the pedal to the metal.

Time for Betsy to show off her low-range 4×4 gear. She immediately turns into a heavy duty monster truck and rumbles her way through the dunes. Yeah for Betsy the Beast!

This is actually quite fun, and at the back of my head my old dream of doing Paris-Dakar starts waving its tiny hand.

Sunset Mood in Namibia

Random snapshot of Namibian beauty.

When I get back from the wonderful little drive (dunes! Mountains! Dead or alive trees! Yellow grass wafting in the wind!) the sun has set already. Phew, no 5 km walk to the reception so far.

This means I have enough energy left to walk around Jupiter to explore the surroundings, i.e. the dunes the campsite is embedded in. Those trees in the desert are something special. I take photos of each and every one of them for my upcoming book The 24.235.870 Trees of the Namibian South (abridged version).

Hello Neighbor

It’s a tree! And another one!

The after-sunset colors are overwhelming. The whole sky slowly turns from violet to blazing red. In moments like this, you feel what the word awe means with every fiber of your being.

I chose NamibRand because I wanted to see the red dunes, and now I get a first glimpse.

Red Dunes of NamibRand

Dune, Director’s Cut.

There is so much to discover, but it is getting dark, so just a short dunesploration for now.

Animal Traces in the Sand
Jupiter Campsite NamibRand Nature Reserve Namibia

Wondering what animal left those traces… and if it will pay me a visit at night.

As the moon waxes poetic over Jupiter it gets more prosaic again: Let’s do some camping!

My only experience so far has been a short camping holiday in school where our tent got completely flooded, plus one night in Denmark last year with a pop-up tent that I had to wrestle down Hulk Hogan style to pack it.

I have never had to set up a rooftop tent nor used a gas cooker.

So let’s face the tent before it gets too dark. To the sound of birds and geckos I manage to open it. Which is actually the easiest part.

Unboxing, desert version.

There are 4 metal bars for stability. I have to stand on the tire or the back bumper to put them in the holes that hold them under tension. But the front bar is almost impossible to insert, as I have nowhere to cling on to. You have to bend the bar but can only do that if your body has grip and resistance.

After a struggle that feels like wrestling Hulk Hogan on steroids I finally manage to hole the bar. Victory!

Camping Alone at Sunset
The Red Skies of Namibia

Before – after.

Sunset at NamibRand Campsite

There are worse backdrops for tent rigging.

Then I unpack the sleeping gear. Peter had said that the sleeping bag is enough at this time of year but being a chilly mortal I had asked for a blanket. Little did I know that I should have asked for five.

So what else to take up to the roof? Mobile? Doesn’t make sense without any signal. Earplugs? Doesn’t make sense in the middle of nowhere. Sleeping mask? Doesn’t make sense in a resort that belongs to the official dark sky regions of the world.

I do take some warmer clothes should it get cold (it should).

Plus, of course, the peeing device. Before the trip I had asked a female overlander (thank you My Pink Bumper!) how she does it, and she recommended a one liter/0.25 gallon protein shake bottle, as it has a wide opening:

“This allows you to stay in the tent for peeing – but make sure that you empty the bottle immediately by pouring it outside. Or that the bottle closes reeeeallly well.”

Ok. I did not have time to look for protein shakes in Windhoek so chose an 800 ml/0.2 gallon cup that formerly hosted South African pepper feta.

Still I try to avoid gulping down gallons of water at this time so as not to have to use it in the first place.

When all is finished it is nearly 9pm. No way am I going to heave that heavy gas cooker out of the car and make dinner now, so it has to be a cheese sandwich (the cheese chilling, of course, in the unfathomable depths of the toploader fridge, which takes some Hulk Hogan style fridge wrestling).

It later turns out that this frugal dinner may have saved my life, but let us address that when it is due (= in part 3, coming soon (after part 2, coming even sooner (major cliffhanger alert!))).

So finally I sit on my camping chair and can enjoy the experience. And what an experience it is!

The geckos and the birds are rehearsing for their upcoming Carnegie Hall concert, and other than that, there is nothing but a soft wind.

No artificial light. No people. No man-made noise. Just the sky, the animals, and me.

A real introvert’s paradise!

And despite the leopard-hyena mention of the reassuring ranger I am totally fearless.

Feel safe in the grandiosity of nature.

As I am looking up to the Milky Way, I cry. Not because the moon, the ole bugger, is shining bright and thus clouds the Milky Way experience a bit. But because I am so touched.

Touched and grateful that I get to experience such tremendous beauty.

Such oneness with nature.

Such humbleness facing creation.

And oh, that Milky Way. As NamibRand is a dark sky region I had researched how to do astrophotography and now try it out for the first time – where, if not here? The result is okay but, of course, only fractally reflects reality.

Milky Way over NamibRand

Man you should have seen us on the way to Venus walking on the Milky Way, it was quite a day, hey hey…

I sit there for a long while soaking up these indescribable moments. The stars, the desert, and Marie, enchanted like a little girl.

After a while there wafts a super sweet and heavy fragrance through the air. A bit like a stinkhorn, only in a very pleasant version.

The Squirrel: “Huh? What? Could there be a rotting carcass nearby?”

The Buddha: “If you let go of your negative thoughts your life will be much more peaceful.”

I go with the Buddha.

At 11 pm the animals go to bed. As if someone has flipped the switch, all noise dies. The silence adds to the experience.

I have never been so alone in the world and yet felt so connected.

Interestingly, when we say alone, we only refer to other people not being around. Out there in the wild, the concept of being alone does not exist. Truth is, it does not exist in civilization, either. But a thick veil of illusion is disguising that fact very cleverly.

How much more at one with the universe must the elders have felt, back when there was no noise, no light pollution, no crowds. Granted, they might have had no time for such musings, as a leopard was growling behind the next bush. Yet I do believe they were closer to unity, to the source, to the all-one.

Finally the tent is calling, and I am knackered plus have to get up early.

Foreseeably the hamster in my mind is still dancing salsa in his wheel. All those impressions keep me awake for some time.

All of a sudden, I hear a car approaching. Oh no! My heart starts beating harder. Is it the ranger? Is there a danger?

I listen closely but the sound seems to stay the same and not get louder. Weird.

After 10 minutes of hard harkening and no change in the humming I realize that the noise comes from the fridge underneath.

So here I am in the most forlorn of places, in total darkness and total silence. Bar my frickin’ fridge.

I finally fall asleep.

Later in the night, I wake up from “the urge” but also the cold. It is freeeeezing.

No sleep till Brooklyn in sight, so I decide to climb down the ladder to use the ablution facility and not my feta loo (ABBA, anyone?).

It is still the same special atmosphere outside – this time, however, the moon has gone AWOL, so it is pitch dark. Except for an even more splendid Milky Way, which I now can see expanding over the whole firmament.

This is probably my happiest have-to-get-up-at-night moment ever, and I wish I had booked 10 nights here instead of one.

But I do experience this in the first place, and could not be more grateful.

Ablution Facilities at the Campsite
Marie at Night

Absolution through ablution – happy Marie!

The rest of the night is dominated by freezing my b.u.t.t. off. After getting up in the morning I remember that I even brought a hot water bottle with me. Duh.

The night is short but who cares when everything’s so magical?

Going Red Dunes

The guided tour in the morning turns out to be gorgeous, as the sun rising above the red dunes creates yet another stunning ambiance.

NamibRand Nature Reserve at Sunrise

Ain’t no caption wide enough…

Sunrise over the NamibRand Mountains

Out of Africa.

Finally I get to see the red dunes in their full glory.

Red Dunes with Mountains

The panorama is not too shabby.

Vistas by the dozen.

NamibRand Variety

Also there are trees…

Tree and Grass in NamibRand

…and more trees…

Lonely Tree

…and even more trees…

Barren Tree

…you better watch out, Isengard!

As it is still early, the ride is as chill as it is chilly, the latter especially when the ranger hits the metal.

Marie at a Coldish Early Morning Tour in NamibRand
The Grass Catcher in the Rye

Freezing some more on top of The Grass Catcher in the Rye

All of a sudden the ranger’s vehicle has a flat tire (proving the cliché to be true) so I get a front row seat in a tire-changing tutorial. What took him 30 minutes would have taken me 3 hours minimum.

Flat Tire
Changing Tires

A day in the life of Namibia, plus a tire-changing crash course

I learn from the ranger that the sweet fragrance from last night comes from a flower – Kohautia caespitosa, aka little night flower aka desert perfume, which only reveals its sensual scent after sunset. Such a delicate, inconspicuous small flower, and such a strong trademark – remarkable!

Namibian Flora with Wonderfull Smell
Plant in the Deadvlei Desert
Landscape with Pink Desert Flower

Flower power, literally. They also constitute one of the many colorful layers of NamibRand.

When we land back on Jupiter I see the site in daylight for the first time. And I like what I see.

White Grass

Oh, ok, I really was THAT alone?

Camping at Campsite Jupiter in NamibRand

Stop – packer time!

I wish I could stay longer, but there is still so much more to see. The soft colors of NamibRand, however, will remain with me long after I have driven those roads…

The Long and Unwinding Road

So here we are … Congrats for having read all the way down. Thank you!!

But wait – there’s more!

Part 2 is coming soon-ish (Solo Camping in Namibia 2: Alone Among Armoured Crickets). You will then read about my drive to Sesriem/Deadvlei/Sossusvlei, and crickets. Lots. Of. Crickets. Plus and thus the feta loo in action.

Stay tuned! And in the meantime, why not follow my adventures on Insta, FB, and Twitter?