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Saturday 11 Feb 2012
Sesriem, Namibia

Getting a luxury lodge on the cheap

(continued from previous entry...)

Gravel roads
Gravel roads

The road up to Sesriem (the gateway town to Sossusvlei National Park), was long, hot and sore. I had to keep my eyes peeled on the road, and my hands gripped tightly on the wheel. At any moment an oryx or eagle could jump out into the middle of the road (and often did) which involved yet more ice-skidding sensations as I swung the car around in the loose gravel. It was fairly stressful and I started experiencing a strange illusion as I drove along when my eyes shifted from looking at the middle distance to look at the speed dial and everything appeared to warp slightly... thankfully I had AC and the iPod to keep me awake during the trip!

It got dark quickly and luckily the route from the small town of Betta up to Sesriem was a nice solid wide gravel road and I was able to keep a steady 80 - 100kph. Petrol stations were few and far between so I made sure to top up whenever I saw one. It was unfortunate that it got dark while I drove up to Sesriem as I drove through a few nature reserves en route and would occasionally see signs for Zebra and Giraffe, but as I couldn't see beyond the section that my headlights illuminated I only saw foxes and oryx, plus the odd scorpion. I could feasibly have been driving through an area packed full of The Big Five game animals (but I highly doubt it!).

By the time I reached Sesriem, I had come across a few sticky sections where the ground suddenly gave way to reveal jutting rocks, so I was fairly exhausted from having to stay alert for 5 hours straight. Thankfully there had been practically no other traffic on the road so I had been able to keep in the centre of the road for most of it and had advanced warning of any animals approaching the road.

Without realising it, I actually passed Sesriem! The "town" was easily missable as it was just one petrol station and a shut gate which bars the way into Sossusvlei national park. No lights to be seen anywhere and I was under the impression that I was on the lookout for a veritable town. It was only after driving on another 10km that I decided I should go back to have another look at the sign I saw earlier and noticed the gate to the national park. Good call!

At this stage it was 10pm and I had no idea what sort of accomodation options there would be in Sesriem, but I was hopeful there would be a hostel or guesthouse. How wrong I was...

There were a few places to stay within the park itself, but at this time the gate was shut until the following morning so I was stuck looking for a place to stay on the outskirts. I quickly realised that there were no budget accommodation options unless I had brought my own tent! The only other option was to get a room at a luxury lodge. Visiting Sossusvlei wasn't going to be cheap (the "Southern Africa Lonely Planet" I had bought was fairly useless at mentioning anything like that)!

Sossusvlei Lodge tent...
Sossusvlei Lodge tent...

The entire place looked dead when I arrived but I noticed a place called the Sossusvlei Lodge which had some lights on so I thought I'd see if the reception was open. It looked pretty expensive and indeed when I went to the reception the price quoted for a single room was around 250 euro! The guy at the desk was asleep when I arrived, I guess they don't normally get solo travellers arriving late at night! He explained in a thick African accent that this price included dinner but that because I came too late he could give a room to me for 150 euro. I said 120 and he let out a great laugh: "OK OK €130!".

It was a lot, but the alternative was to sleep in my car so I agreed and put in my credit card. Message came up "DENIED" (due to no connection and thankfully not because my card was maxed out!). So I checked how much cash I had on me ... $1,000 plus a few hundred more that I would need to see me through the next day. He said "OK pay me $1,000 now and then you can pay balance in the morning when you check out". That's 1,000 Namibian dollars which is around 100 euro. As luck would have it, he wasn't there when I went to check out the next day. Score, a 5 star lodge for 100 euro!

No doubt the receptionist pocketed the cash I gave him!

The room I got was a sort of tent/bungalow hybrid overlooking a lit watering hole on a private concession... I was too wrecked to even begin animal-spotting so I conked out on the bed.

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Sithern Efrika

Travel blog by peterforan

Great White Shark cage diving

Great White Shark cage diving

20 days to sample the "other" down-under... a trip covering parts of South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe in February. Cape Town to Vic Falls get the treatment, while I mix in a safari or two... Now where did I put that elephant gun?

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