Luís Simões, travel sketcher around the world
Namibia Pt.1 – Windhoek to Sossusvlei
Cycling from Windhoek to Sossuvlei, Namibia in 5 days. Embarking from the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek, heads up on tarred road of the C26, before pedaling through the scenic arid terrain that sealant its magic until the infamous salt pan, Sossusvlei.
This tour – Cycling from Windhoek to Sossuvlei, Namibia, we shared for whose into challenge. A journey of 313 km long that is embarking from the capital city of Namibia, heads up on the tarred road of the C26, before pedaling through the scenic arid terrain that sealant its magic until the infamous salt pan, Sossusvlei. But wait! Windhoek? Namibia? Where is it, exactly?
Where is Namibia?
Africa is a huge continent that – unfortunate as it may be – is still somewhat ignored by the international community. For those who aren’t sure, Namibia is located on the southwest coast of Africa. It is bordered by South Africa in the south, Angola to the north, Botswana to the east, and Zambia in the northeast.
Mostly arid, the spectacular landscape resembles Mars, with vast expanses of rocky mountains and canyons, vast orange and white sand dunes, and empty savanas, while the rugged Atlantic coastline is one of the most treacherous in the world. Hence, this route is the first part of our cycling and sketching adventure in Namibia that we did from September 2019, a few months before the pandemic of Covid-19 breakout.
Namibia by Bicycles
How to get there?
This route started on Windhoek, which has an International Airport – Hosea Kutako International Airport. As the airport is on the outskirt of the city, I recommend you get a taxi will be less hassle than mounting your bike and cycling to the city due it’s still around 40 km (depends on where will you stay).
If you decided to start pedaling from the airport, you may put a day extra into this route as it’s about 40 km away from the city (depends on where will you stay). Or just get a taxi up to town and safe the energy for days ahead.
As the starting point of this route, it’s recommended to explore around Windhoek before you hit the road. Despite the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek is in contrast to what you are used to from capital cities, it is comparatively small. It is much quieter and more relaxed than you would expect from a capital city.
Additionally, Windhoek is the best place to stock up for the days ahead. There will also be not many places nor options to get what you need in the future of this route.
As soon as you are leaving Windhoek, the scenery change to arid scenes. It ́s pretty dry and dusty everywhere. Enjoy to the fullest the tarred road of the C26 that stretches 20 km long before it turns into the vast emptiness, towards the crumpled folds of the Namibian desert. If your wheels aren’t plus tires or less than 2.4″ like ours, what you can do is lower the tire pressure to get a better grip on the sandy path.
Not for long after you are leaving the manmade constructions, you will see some baboons on the trees next to the road. Don’t worry about them because they will not do anything unless they feel threatened. Don’t forget to take some snaps of them since you may not see them again. Instead, you will see other wildlife along the route.
Once you reach km 14, prepare yourself for the first climb and the longest in this route – 360 meters in 9 km, with 9% of inclination (max). However, this climb isn’t something you have to worry about since the mighty heat will remain strong until 6 pm. Which, nothing to do with temperature during the day.
After Gollschau, you will turn to the left on D1265 road. This path is smaller than C26 and even more, fewer cars pass. Yet, it will lead you to a beautiful pass called Spreetshoogte pass. It ́s known as the steepest pass in Namibia with gradients between 16-22% and descending almost 1,000 m within 4 km of road. As it has a narrow road, please keep focus to keep the danger to a minimum.
Enjoy the vast scenic view of the Namib desert from the top of the Spreetshoogte pass. You deserve to let the breeze easy your body and rid your sore legs aside while filling your eyes with the redish palettes of the Savana.
Continuing onwards about 211 km cycling on a corrugated track, you will turn left on C14 road for 20 km before you reach Solitaire. As you reach this point, you will see more 4×4 cars and trucks loaded with tourists. Solitaire is not a village. it is a small stop area between Windhoek and Sossusvlei or Sossusvlei and Walvis Bay. This place has a gas station, a post office, a general store, a small luxury lodge, and a bakery. A true oasis for travelers. Hence, stock up while you can!
Sesriem is the finish point of this route which is also the gate of the infamous salt pan Sossuvlei. It is a small settlement that has a little shop on the gas station where you can stock up. Also, here is from where we went back to Solitaire on the same route before we continued on to Swakopmund via C14 which creates a 681 km (423 miles), 10-14 days of the venture.
Sossusvlei sure isn’t a cheap place to go. Because of its location, there are some restrictions such as neither motorbike nor bicycle can go inside the park. It ́s also not allowed to camp inside the park. While the iconic dunes and the deadvlei are still 60 km away from Sesriem.
You won’t avoid the forever shift in shape and hue of the dunes. Forms and reforms their contours by the wind, while their color changes from ochre to burnished orange to fiery red over the course of the day. The constant cobalt blue sky is in contrast to the blazing tones of the sand. The centerpiece is the shriveled weird white pan of Deadvlei where skeletal trees – some hundreds of years old, dot the cracked clay floor. The scene is nothing short of otherworldly.
Watch our travel documentary of Namibia
How to use this map: Click the tab in the top left corner of the map to see the points of interest. You can click on the selection folders to hide or show the folders. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the map title, the map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “My Places”, click Maps, and you will see this map in your list.
- The capital city of Namibia, Windhoek
- Spreetshoogte pass: The steepest pass in Namibia – 1.780 m (around 5839 foot)
- Solitaire: A small settlement, yet an oasis for a traveler
- Sossusvlei: Salt pan
- Logistic: Bring lots of food because there is nothing in between the town. The average distance between the town/villages usually is 150 km (93 miles). Water is important but as long as you ride the bicycle through the tourist route, you don’t need to worry. Lots of tourists will kindly share their water whenever we ask. We should point out that Namibia is a desert country and as such has very limited water resources. Try to be water conscious and conserve wherever you can.
- Danger or annoyances: Don ́t put the pride high as a bike tourer. Get a lift sometimes is better than getting a heat stroke in somewhere out of nowhere without water nor shelter.
- Internet: Network is limited throughout most of the country. So, it’s recommended to stocked up the phone with offline maps of the route.
- When to go: Consider the season you’ll be cycling through Namibia. May to October has better temperature. Generally it’s more comfortable.
- The desert gets cold at night, where temperates can drop below freezing in the winter. Don’t let the heat during the day deceived you and think to skimp on your layers.
- Bike: The route was designed to be rideable on pretty much any bike. However, Plus tires are likely the best option. Expect to push through the sandy stretch if you have less than 2.4 inch tire
Wildcamp: Namibia is home for its wildlife. As mush as wild camp is fun, ask the local people to camp overnight in their property is recommended. Not only safety reason, it’s also for get the water easier.
Campsite: Usually the campsite along this route has European price. Yet, people tend to be adaptable when it comes two wheelers with the human power.
Hotel/Hostel: There are not many hostels in this route beside in Windhoek. Hotel usually called as lodge which usually are costly.
Food: Bring lots of food because there is nothing in between the town. Windhoek is the best chance to stock up. SPAR is the biggest supermarket chain that has many options. After Windhoek, in Solitaire and Sesriem are the only places (limited option) you may stock up.
Water: As it’s dessert, always try to refill when you can. Although, the tourists that pass by will (mostly) kindly share their water whenever you ask, keep it mind you have 4-6 liters of water before the sunset. But since Namibia is a desert country and as such has very limited water resources. Try to be water conscious and conserve wherever you can.
Luís and decided to give 7.5 rate for this tour. The terrain and environment are indeed demanding but since there were a plenty of tourist in 4×4 and truck pass along the route, it become less stressful. Also, with the right bike, there are few technical challenges, though the roads can be extremely sandy at times – the latter dependent on yourself (ask local, and carry extra water to allow for slow progress). As you ride in the desert, keep yourself hydrated and away from heatstroke.