On this page you’ll find all the information you need for a bicycle trip through the dry south west of Namibia. We made this trip in September/October 1996 in the triangle Windhoek, Keetmanshoop and Swakopmund.
Please also check out our travel-update from June 2001; since 1996 a lot has changed in Southern Namibia.
Our route through Namibia
The best map available is the free map distributed by the Ministery of Tourism (scale 1 : 2.000.000 ). It shows all roads with road numbers and and gives the correct distances.
A good alternative is the widely available Lonely Planet Travel Atlas of Namibia, Zimbabwe en Botswana; scale 1:2.000.000. It gives road numbers and distances for all major roads. It also contains general travel info (bus, train, car, bicycle) for all three countries.
Very interesting to read is “The Sheltering Desert” by Henno Martin. It’s the story of two German geologists who escape internment during WWII by living two and a half years in the Namibian desert. Or read the report of a short trip by Jan Boonstra.
Most roads are gravel. Quality varies but generally speaking C-road are better than D-roads. The best maintained roads are graded every 2 weeks. Lesser used roads may see a grader only 4 times a year. A recently graded road can be excellent for cycling.
Roads mentioned as ‘bad’ in the route description will not always be bad. Check with the locals as road quality may vary considerable.
The bicycle – preparations – equipment
Outside Windhoek virtually nothing is available to repair a broken touring bike. There are some bike shops in Windhoek but don’t rely on them for serious repairs. The trip, as we made it, can be done on a strong touring bike with wide tires (we used 37 mm). A mountain bike is not a necessity.
Food and drinks
In all villages we passed, small shops are selling basic supplies like bread, meat, rice, spaghetti, mineral water and canned vegetables. Outside Windhoek and Keetmanshoop fresh vegetables are extremely rare. It’s safe to drink water from the tap, although the taste may less appetizing.
Camping is the best option. Depending on the distances you are able to cover free camping may be necessary as towns, villages and national parks may be far apart. If you don’t mind cycling more than 100 km’s a day it’s possible to stay on a regular campgrounds every night. In villages and major tourist spots, like Sesriem, you can stay at hotels.
An other option are the so-called Rest Camps. Note: although the name may suggest otherwise some of these camps do not offer camping-facilities. You can rent rooms or bungalows at these camps.
It’s possible to transport your bike on the train. After some paperwork our bikes were freighted on the same train we were traveling from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop for just US$ 3,-
Busses may or may not take your bike, depending on the space available. We traveled from Swakopmund to Windhoek by mini-bus taxi (with trailer). A ticket costs US$ 9,- and the bikes were taken for free on top of the trailer. Recommended companies here are Dolphin Express and Van Wyks Wal-Wind Express.
Hitchhiking with your bicycle is no problem. We did it several times because of extremely strong winds or impassable roads. Within an hour we got a good ride on a pickup or large truck.
We made this trip in October, in the Namibian spring. Maximum temperatures varied from 25˚C to 35˚C.
The nights were cool (10˚C) and we even had a night with sub zero temperatures. The wind was causing quite some problems. On several occasions it was extremely stormy. These strong winds are caused by cold air streaming from the sea to the warm land. These kind of storms can last up to 3 days! On one day we experienced wind speeds up to 100 kms p/h! In winter, when the Namibian plateau cools down, these stormy winds blow east.