Driving Into the Desert, Overland Travel from Windhoek to Sesriem, Namibia


It’s always been on the list to do a driving trip through Namibia. Today’s adventure would have us setting out towards Sesriem from Windhoek in a Toyota Hilux truck. There’s something exceptionally remote about driving in Namibia thanks to its remote nature and low density of space to population. We took in the sights while we travelled across a beautiful African landscape as we headed into the desert and our final destination of Sesriem.

This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates. This trip was redeemed through American Airlines AAdvantage & Alaska Mileage Plan. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Driving into the Desert, Overland Travel from Windhoek to Sesriem, Namibia

“Travelling from Windhoek to Sesriem by truck was a terrific introduction into overland travel in deserted Namibia “

Arriving at Windhoek International Airport:

After arriving on Air Nambia Cape Town – Windhoek, we picked our rental car at Hertz at the international airport. Despite being Hertz Gold Counter, level members, as is typical in Africa the whole process took well over a full hour. First there were two people ahead of us dealing with some problem, then it was another staffer that didn’t know how to operate the Hertz rental printout system. I had booked a Toyota RAV4 small sport utility vehicle but they had fortunately upgraded us to a Toyota Hilux Diesel pickup. We went through the whole outrageous credit card charge process again, this time with a 127,241 NAD$ ($8,946.36 USD) First Amount Payable deposit charged to our Amex card because we declined the Hertz Collision Damage Waivers.

We then self led ourselves out to the truck with the keys where another Hertz staffer didn’t like that I loaded the suitcases into the back bed of the trunk on the bed liner. He actually unloaded them for us, and wouldn’t let us leave until he had placed them into the back seats of the truck, citing that there couldn’t be any “scratches”. MrsWT73 almost lost her marbles at him, given what we had gone through with the 3:15 AM wake ups and the 45 minute wait at the Hertz Counter. She managed to recover somehow though . . .

Driving from Windhoek to Sesriem:

At around 9 AM, we departed off headed for the Sossus Dune Lodge at Sesriem. We had hoped to stop for some proper breakfast along the way at a restaurant where we could park and see the car with all our luggage (and laptops) in it. Unfortunately, Windhoek was not kind to us in that regard and we ended up settling for Pick and Pay (grocery store) pre-wrapped sandwiches to eat on the road while one of us guarded the car with our valuables.

Google Maps shows Windhoek to Sesriem it at about a 4.5 hour drive and it took us approximately 5 hours of driving without including the breaks. What the maps didn’t tell us is that the shortest route, via B1, C24 (D1261, D1275) and C19, was not paved for most of the way. I had thankfully purchased a proper Namibia $10 highway map at a book store in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront mall in Cape Town that had proper distance and relief marking which was the best marital therapy decision I could have made for this portion of the trip.

Our Route from Windhoek to Sesriem
Departing Windhoek on Paved Highways

The route from Windhoek to Sesriem included some really rural and fairly rugged truck terrain on highway C24. I was happy to have had the upgraded truck as I would have felt that the RAV4’s tires may have gotten shredded on some of the rocks seen on the roads. Most of the travel was at a bumpy 80 km/h on the gravel roads, with some parts of it as low as 50 km/h on rough wash-boarded gravel. The route was isolated and far from any amenities, gas, washrooms or restaurants. We were committed once we had started so we powered through and thankfully made it without any issues. I only saw about 5 cars the entire 2 hour period, which shows how isolated it was in this particular area. Here are some brief photos of the rest stop I took at the intersection of C24 and D1264. I didn’t even have to pull the truck off the road, there was that little traffic.

Coming up to the Intersection of C24 and D1264
Deserted Namibian Landscapes
The Deserted Intersection of C24 and D1263
Our Rental “bakkie” on C24
Highway C24 – A Gravel Sand Road

Continuing onward southbound in the D1261 and D1275 sections, the roads got substantially rougher and slower. It was still scenic and very much an adventure.

Scenic African Landscapes
A Land of Rock and Sand
African Vegetation with nothing around for miles to see
Stunning Vista’s

Arriving to Solitaire, Namibia:

We ended up taking a break at Solitare; a sort of a nowhere down that happened to cater to a lot of tourists on their way through from Sesriem to Walvis Bay. We loaded up on diesel fuel, keeping our tank more than half full, and we stopped into the restaurant for a Windhoek Lager. We had a surprisingly good late lunch snack here at the Cafe Van Der Lee as we weren’t expecting to find anything in this area catering to tourists.

Filling up on Diesel at the Only Gas Station in Town
Outdoor Dining at Solitare
The Cafe Van Der Lee, Solitaire, Namibia
Solitaire General Store
The Annual Rainfall Chart at Solitaire General Dealer

Headed South to Sesriem:

From Solitare, it was an easy 71 kilometers to Sesriem. There were more mountains surrounded by basins and plateaus and a complete absence of any one around. There were no cars, people or pedestrians in this postal code. It was still pretty mind boggling on how deserted this country was.

The Hills Grew Larger as we Approached Sesriem
Beautiful Desert Landscapes

The town of Sesriem itself is sort of an ugly round up of campsites, hotels and dusty entrance ways. It is the entrance to the Sossusvlei park and we picked up our government issued two day entrance fee for 2 adults + car for 340N ($28 USD). These are available to purchase on the spot without any reservations needed. A quick 10 minute drive up the road and 6 km and we arrived to Sossus Dune Lodge inside the Sossusvlei park gates.

The Bottom Line: Our Drive from Windhoek to Sesriem

All in all it was a pretty adventurous drive. I most certainly would not have attempted it at night, and was glad that we had the proper type of car to handle the rugged outback of the Namib desert. I would probably take the easier but longer paved route next time, although it was neat to see the middle of nowhere. We had no problems getting diesel fuel and the only advice I can make is to book the car well in advance for a truck and be prepared for some mild sticker shock to your credit card if you decline the rental agency insurance.

If you’ve driven in Namibia, do you have any extra advice on how to prepare for a road trip in Namibia?

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