After all the Overlanding preparations (see the September recap), we finally got “off-road expedition ready” during October. EDIT: It later turned out that we did not, but we’ll update you on that in December’s recap. We did our first – epic! – road trip with Honey Badger, touring Moon Landscape, Damaraland, Twyfelfontain, and of course, the iconic Etosha National Park.

OCTOBER BROUGHT US STUGGLES AND WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS

We are lagging a bit behind with these monthly recap writings as so much is going on all the time that is eating our time and energy like a monster with an endless appetite. Unfortunately, many of the things happened have not been positive ones but we are going on no matter what.

And we’re going to catch up with this series, so stay tuned! And now, let’s get started with what happened in October.

Serious Off-Road Driving Training on Tony Rust’s Race Track in Windhoek with Henry Bisschoff of Land Rover Owners Club Namibia

We spent a whole day practicing some serious off-road driving with Henry Bisschoff, who is the president of the Land Rover Owners Club in Namibia. Around 10 AM, we drove to the Tony Rust’s Race Track just outside Windhoek and started doing some awesome stuff. 

First, we learned how to engage the diff-lock and low-range gears in Honey Badger, and then it was showtime!

We learned how to drive up and down on really steep hills with bumps, holes, rocks, and branches. We also learned how to drive on top of big rocks, and what to do if your engine stalls while you have not reached the top of the hill. 

Henry was a very patient and tranquil teacher and made an effort to show and explain things to us thoroughly. The first hills up and down were pretty scary, and our Honey Badger made huge noises while we drove! We were scared that something would break because of the sounds, but Henry said that there’s nothing to worry about, a Land Rover is supposed to make noise when it’s working hard. 

Then it was just concentrating really hard on learning new tricks on this crash-course of off-road driving. After getting rid of the fear during the first few rounds, it started to be extremely fun, though very challenging. We learned how to inspect different obstacles, remove dangerous objects, decide on driving lines, and how to work together to tackle an obstacle safely. 

Learning what to do if the engine stalls in the middle of an upward hill were thrilling to discover. We practiced with a slope that seemed to be almost 45 degrees steep, and our Landy was at a really steep angle. Staying tranquil and calm is the crucial part of off-road driving, and trusting your car is another one.

New Skills Are Always More Than Welcome

We think that all these news skills will come into use at some point on our journey, although avoiding trouble is high on our list. But you never know how things may turn out, and then knowing what to do is vital. 

You wouldn’t think that we just got our driving licenses in May 2019, would you? It’s been a steep and quick learning curve that we’ve had to do, but it’s been fun and rewarding. 

At the end of the day, Henry’s feedback was that Piritta took more risks but was a more tranquil driver, and Niina was the opposite, more considering as a driver and more careful. We were a bit surprised to hear this as we would have thought it to be the opposite. 

What We Need to Work On

And the thing that we really need to work with to improve was our communication – because when someday there will be a real-life situation, and we have to get through a challenging obstacle(s), good communication and cooperation is the key to successful off-road driving! 

We certainly don’t want to get into trouble because of bad communication, so we promise to work on that! 

Honey Badger the Defender Showed Us a Different, a True “Bad-Ass” Side

Honey Badger showed a totally different side of her as a car that can go practically almost anywhere if driven correctly and made us very pleased in our choice of car on this expedition. Many people could have a different opinion about Land Rovers and their reliability. Still, then again, many people would defend Land Rover Defenders for being one of the best cars out there for Overlanding. 

We, of course, think that Land Rover Defender is the best car on Earth and that it can take you anywhere and will run on practically forever if you just take good care of it. OK, it may need a fair bit more maintenance than some other 4x4s, but if you do the small repairs from time to time, you will have a fantastic beast of a car in your hands.

 

The Surreal Moon Landscape That Lives Up to Its Name

We had a brief visit of one night to the beautiful Moon Landscape nearby Swakopmund. We wanted to test our gear and get a brief experience of the bush.

The Moon Landscape is not far from Swakopmund. Just drive east on Welwitschia Drive by the road C28. It’s a great destination for a day trip or an overnight trip.

On the way you can see lots of welwitschias and a landscape like nowhere else, carved by the Swakop River.

During our drive we stopped on a few lookout points to take photos of this surreal landscape. Don’t you think that it really looks like the Moon?

The surreal landscape of Moon River Valley in Namibia.

WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS AND ROAD TRIPS THAT RAISED OUR SPIRITS

Visiting and Exploring the Western Part of Etosha National Park and the Olifantsrus Campsite

On our second visit to Etosha National Park in the middle of October, we decided to explore the western part of the park, which hasn’t been open to the general public for that long. The western part used to be accessible only to people who stayed in the NWR Dolomite Lodge and no one else. 

Nowadays, there are one NWR lodge, the Dolomite, and the still pretty newish Olifantsrus Campsite that has only 10 campsites with shared facilities.

The best thing at the Olifantsrus campsite is the big and impressive, two-story hide built on stilts at a waterhole. From the upper level, you have great views over the pans, and the first floor brings you on eye-level with the game visiting the waterhole. 

The lower level is covered with plexiglass, while the upper level has no barriers between you and the wildlife. 

We spent two nights in Olifantsrus camp, and on both nights when we were visiting the hide, several black rhinos were visiting the waterhole. It was a humbling experience. Just sit and watch how the black rhinos walked, drank, and fought only a few meters away! 

On the first night, there was a small fight between two male black rhinos, the other was a huge one, and the other almost half of his size and the smaller one started the quarrel. It was fascinating to observe. No harm was inflicted on either one of the rhinos, but a lot of growling was sure done. 

Meanwhile, a mother and a baby watched from a small distance away, and one other lone black rhino roamed the surroundings. It was like watching a nature documentary, but this one was live in front of us!  

The rhinos also came to the waterhole approximately at the same time on the second night, so they’re probably quite regular visitors.

We’d warmly recommend staying a few nights at Olifantsrus if you’re able to arrange a visit to the Etosha West, the hide alone is unique enough. And there are so few cars around compared to the Eastern side, which everyone visits. 

Trying to Catch the Desert-Adapted Elephants in Twyfelfontein and Brandberg Areas

We tried long and hard to find the elusive desert-adapted elephants in their common living areas around Twyfelfontein and Brandberg. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we didn’t manage to see them; they were always a few steps ahead of us and residing somewhere else. 

These desert-adapted elephants are extraordinary ones, the population is estimated to be around 150 individuals today, and one great organization doing excellent work with them in Namibia is EHRA: Elephant-Human Relations Aid

They’re doing close-knit work with the local communities to promote constructive relationships between the elephants and communities living amongst them. 

For example, they’re building walls to protect the crops of the locals and closely monitoring the desert-adapted elephants. EHRA also has a good reputation volunteer program, so if you’d like to donate your time and effort to elephant conservation, this is one of the best places in Africa to do so.  

We also caught up with EHRA’s managing director, Rachel Harris, and tried to arrange a meeting with her in person, but unfortunately, this time our schedules just couldn’t match, despite trying hard. However, we have agreed on an interview with her by other means, and you will have the opportunity to read a more thorough article about EHRA and their fantastic work here on our website later on!

 

Where to Buy Camping and Off-Road Supplies in Windhoek, Namibia

We collected several camping items from Cymot (in the center of Windhoek, the biggest retail shop of the chain), some from Bushwhackers and Sportsman’s Warehouse, and some random things from other shops around town, like Agra. 

The tricky thing was that we had to gather all the bits and pieces and drive around town several times, as we gathered all our camping stuff from scratch. Luckily, Christmas was around the corner, and there were already Holiday sales around, so we saved hundreds of Namibian dollars. As money is always tight with us nowadays, we were pleased about these savings. 

The bachelors of Etosha, Namibia.

What Repairs Were Done to Our Car, Honey Badger the Defender, during the end of September and October, and What Did It Cost?

As we told in the September recap, we had to do a lot of things to our car during the month of September and October. And here is a summary of what was done to our great expedition car, Honey Badger, the Defender, and what did it cost. 

We bought the car as “fully serviced,” but as it did turn out, everything was certainly not done what should have been, and there were also things not done as correctly as they should have. 

But here are the things that were done in September and October:

  • Basic Maintenance Service
  • Replaced left side tie rod seal
  • Repair of the hooter
  • Brake and hydraulic fluids drained and replaced. Replenish and bleed systems.
  • Diagnostic check
  • Oil, fuel, and air filters changed
  • Engine oils changed
  • Brake fluids changed
  • Gear oils changed
  • Underbody wash

 TOTAL COST: N$ 6834 (which is about 476 USD / 428 Euro)

  • Install a second battery
  • Install solar panel, regulator, inverter, and plug
  • Solar panel bag

TOTAL COST: N$ 7705 (which is about 537 USD / 483 Euro)

  • Removing old rooftop tent and installing a new one
  • Removing roof rack and welding a brake in a roof-rack
  • Installing roof rack
  • Repair of poor winch connections

TOTAL COST: N$4200 (which is about 293 USD / 263 Euro) 

So, calculating everything together, we lost about N$ 18 739 – which is about 1304 USD / 1174 Euro! A financial loss we did not have prepared for.

 

So, please, if you could help us in any way, we’d be extremely grateful! There are several ways to give us and the wildlife we’re trying to save a helping hand in here and get some nice perks in the process!

Sleepy black rhino in Etosha National Park, Namibia.

What Our Defender Should Have Had and What Was Promised to Us When We Bought It and What It Didn’t Have Despite the Promises

Like we mentioned in last month’s recap, the car was supposed to have a dual battery system – but it didn’t! So, therefore we had to install a second battery, too. And the batteries aren’t cheap here, either. 

Also, the car was sold to us as “having a full service history with agents.” Which also turned out that it did not have! This was a severe lack. From the proper service history, we would have seen what has been done to the car and when. What parts have been changed and when etc.

Now we’re in pretty much absolute darkness about these things and will just have to go and see what comes up. We, of course, tried to solve this issue with the guy (Russell Gilchrist from Swakopmund) from whom we bought the car but, unfortunately, canceling a deal/getting money back here in Africa is extremely difficult.

However, we’re still trying our best as we feel that the car was sold to us with misleading information, and we’d be entitled to at least some reimbursement. Let’s see how it goes. 

Losing money, which we don’t have that much in the first place, is very discouraging. 

 

Disappointments and Good Occasions With Other Gear

Many other, unpleasant surprises also unfolded and to mention just a few: we bought the car believing that it had a usable/good conditioned rooftop tent and awning. Like we told, it turned out that the rooftop tent was so old and run down that we had to search for a replacement one. Here is in more detail what we did with that problem. 

First, we tried to look for the used ones on different forums around the internet because we certainly couldn’t afford to buy a new one. Without much luck there, we turned to the most famous rooftop tent manufacturers and asked whether they’d want to support our Expedition Conservation and give us a tent to use on our trip.

We were thrilled to get a cooperation deal with Eezi-Awn from South Africa, who kindly gave us a used rooftop tent against promotion on our websites and social media during our expedition. We want to give them a big thank you! 

So, we then arranged the freight for the tent from South Africa to Namibia (that cost us about N$2000/USD140/125€). 

The awning also turned out to be as old that it was not exactly useful anymore, it would just fall off on the slightest gust of wind. We tried to use it on our trip to Etosha, but it just kept falling down. Having no money to put into a new one, we then sold the old one.

We decided to go without for as long as we’d have some money either to buy a new one or preferably get a sponsorship deal with a reputable awning manufacturer in the future. Luckily, our tent will give us a little bit of shade under it in the meantime. 

OCTOBER WAS FULL OF UPS AND DOWNS

Escaping to the Wild Saved Our Month in October

So, all in all, this month was full of ups and downs and without the great trips into the wild areas of Twyfelfontein, Brandberg, and Etosha National Park, which raised our spirits back from the depths of the disappointments, our month would have been a lot worse. 

Seeing elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, and all other wild animals in their natural habitat and just being in nature is the best medicine against any stress! Highly recommendable for everyone. 

We also tried to take video clips from the wildlife sightings on the waterholes in Etosha National Park and we’re going to try to find time to edit you some nice wildlife films in the future. They will then be published on our YouTube -channel.

Whatever Happens You Do NOT Quit – Ever!

And whatever happens, we’ve decided that nothing will ever prevent us from going forward! Because whatever you do, you do NOT quit – ever! We’ve both been raised with the Finnish persistence that never allows you to quit, no matter what. In Finland, we have a specific, own word for it: “Sisu.”

And “sisu” is definitely something that we will need here in Africa during this expedition, as some gut feeling is telling us that the hardships are far from over yet.