Van Zyl’s Pass and Camp Syncro

In Namibia’s north-west it’s comfortably warm in winter – even during the night (unlike in the more central regions). Last night I used the sleeping bag as a blanket and we had the “windows” in the roof tent all rolled up. The constant exchange of fresh air inside the tent apparently works everything but detrimental for a good night’s rest. I slept like a baby.

I’m the first to get up and I use the time to heat up the donkey shower. It’s a good feeling to be up first and to do good for the group. Since I really learned to enjoy off-road driving here in Namibia I’m very much looking forward to the route today: Van Zyl’s Pass is waiting! I’m eager to find out what it’s really like. All the stories I heard and read, how much of it is true?

For breakfast we prepare “Geröstel” (fried potato chunks and onions) left-over in the fry pan. It tastes fantastic! While we have breakfast a Himba boy from the nearby village shows up to collect the campsite fee. As many other campsites in remote areas the Van Zyl’s Pass camp is a Namibia community project. Since the boy doesn’t speak English he simply hands us a brochure with the fees neatly listed. His eyes glance hungrily over our rich breakfast table and we give him some oranges and fill a plate with Geröstel for him. His bony body makes it obvious that at least part of the community lacks ample food supply.

Pumping the tires again once the vehicles are out of the river bed

As the campsite is located in the middle of a sandy river-bed we had to release some air from tires before returning to the road to Van Zyl’s pass.

The drive through the mountains to the pass is simply fantastic! The extremely rugged road and the very slow pace that results from that is responsible that at least the co-driver can enjoy the scenery. The pass itself is less demanding than anticipated. It is very demanding for the cars obviously but with a car like the Land Rover TD4 it’s fine as long as the driver is alert. You don’t need to be an off-road super-guru. You shouldn’t attempt that route alone, though. If your car breaks down you’re lost. has a number of videos that give you a good impression of the pass.

It's customary to tell the world that you (or your car rather) mastered Van Zyl's Pass

The sandy earth road in the Marienfluss valley on the other side of the pass is pure horror, though. It’s extremely corrugated and even if you race along with 80km/h it feels like your car is going to fall apart any minute. If you go slower it’s even worse…

The 60km to Camp Synchro seem endless. I just want this to be over, it’s most definitely the flip-side of the off-road medal. After I hit a stone while trying to navigate around particularly bad bump in the road the warning lights start flashing automatically. The respective button on the dashboard doesn’t indicate they’re flashing though and they can’t be switched off either. I’m just happy that the tires didn’t get damaged. In moments like this one realizes how heavily we depend on our vehicles in such remote areas.

Marienfluss valley between Van Zyl's Pass and Camp Synchro
Marienfluss valley between Van Zyl's Pass and Camp Synchro

I’m in a foul mood because of the road conditions and I’m angry at myself for letting this influence my mood. I want to be more calm and more positively thinking. We’re on vacation after all. Many people envy us for that. And here I am swearing at a road in bad condition – not very “grown up”. In this mood I have little hope that a pretty camp is expecting us but Camp Synchro is a very positive surprise. It’s like an oasis at the Kunene river. We find lovely spots for our cars overlooking the river and we settle for yet another romantic dinner around candles, torches and a small fire. I even manage to fix the flashing warning lights by disconnecting the primary battery for a second.

Namibia 2009 photos

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