Epupa Falls – Namibia

Jesse and Olivia could not say the name without laughing hysterically!  For them this was up there with toilet talk.  But they were also beyond excited to see the waterfalls featured in the animated movie, Zambezia.

Epupa Falls is one of the most incredible places to visit.  Situated in the northern most region of Namibia in the Koakaland on the Angolan border.  It is fed by the Kunene River and is 0,5km wide and drops down in a series of waterfalls that spread over 1.5 km.

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Epupa Falls taken close to the town

Getting there

The road to Epupa is pretty amazing.  Like most roads in Namibia it is gravel, but it is well maintained and a 4×4 is not necessary.  It is possible to get there without having to do a whole overlanding long trip, like we did.  You can fly into Windhoek and rent a standard car and drive up.  It is far more accessible than I expected.

Taking the trip from Windhoek, you will need to look at overnighting en route.  It is never worth pushing distances in Africa just in case something goes wrong.  A great place to overnight is around Etosha.  There is a new camp on the northwest side called Olifantsrus that has camping and chalets that friends stayed at and raved about.  We spent three days on our way up in a Game Reserve called Erindi and then overnighted in the town of Opuwo before getting to Epupa.  If you decide to rather push the distance and stay in Opuwo, we stayed at the Opuwo Country Lodge.  I would forgo staying in Opuwo unless necessity requires it as it is not a great town.  They have a good campsite, though you definitely need to book during school holidays.  We stayed the night on the weekend, so there was lots of music and partying going on in the surrounding area.  The road up to the lodge was a bit tricky and the area you go through not great.  The lodge area is well fenced and there is security.  The hotel itself has an amazing view.

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The view from the hotel

Fuel and Food

We did our major food shop in Windhoek, as you can get pretty much everything.  Fuel is something you have to plan for as you always want to have a bit more that needed just in case a petrol station doesn’t have, which is possible.  You are pretty much guaranteed to get good diesel at Kamanjab.  We filled our jerry cans at this point.  When we got to Opuwo we just topped up the main tank.  This is due to not always being able to get 50pp diesel there.  At the main garage in Opuwo there is also a decent Shoprite if you need to get some basics you have forgotten.  I had forgotten flour to make bread, so could get a local brand there.  Click here for my yummy beer bread recipe.  There was also cash machines and banks if you need access.

Culturally

Just before reaching Opuwo, you will start to see Himba people.  If you have children, it is a good idea just to show and discuss with them what to expect.  The women are completely topless at all ages.  When we got to the garage to fill up diesel, our car was inundated with Himba women trying to sell their wares and then also young kids from different tribes begging for sweets and money.

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Olivia watching the children

My son found it very overwhelming and our friends son, who was 12, didn’t know where to look.  So discussing their culture is a good way to prep so that the children know what to expect and can be respectful.  I love showing them such diverse cultural differences.  It shows that diversity is beautiful and that respect is a human right regardless of how different we are!

Himba Women

Himba women riding to get water

If you do stop to take a picture, you will have to ‘pay’.  They want sweets or medicine, which you don’t want to give as they are both addictive.  Supplying fruit or food is better.  Also paper and pencils or pens are great, especially for kids.  Be mindful of giving things in plastic, as the packets/bags/wrapper will most likely just be thrown onto the ground and not disposed of properly.

They are also a nomadic people, so you will see shells of villages and camps.

Himba hut

Outside an abandoned Himba hut

Epupa itself

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Our first Baobab just before reaching Epupa

Epupa is like a little green oasis.  The campsites and lodges are all along the river right above the start of the waterfall.  We stayed at one of the most furthest along campsites called Epupa Camp.  Don’t get confused by Epupa Falls Lodge, we went there and then panicked as they were full and didn’t have our booking.  We then worked out we were in the wrong place.  It is a quieter campsite a bit higher up the river.  They have both camping and little chalets.  The main area has a bar and a swimming pool and wifi.  You can sit and have a drink and a dip in the pool or walk across the bridge to a little island.  You can’t swim in the river because of crocs and must just be wary when walking along the river bank.

The campsite was treed with date palms.  There was a shower and loo ablution stand per two camps with a donkey boiler.  The staff would light the donkey boiler morning and night, though the mornings tended to be a bit tepid as needed more time.   The showers don’t have a roof, so you shower at night looking at all the stars.

 

Just beware of monkeys, don’t leave any food out unattended.  They are so quick and if you turn your back for a second, they grab and run.

If you need any washing done, there will be local ladies at the gate to the campsite in the mornings.  You give them your washing and your powder, though I would supply the powder per wash as they pretty much used most of what we had budgeted for the whole holiday.  The rate charged depends on how many garments there are.  You also buy firewood at the gate from the locals.  Make sure that you have lots of change as you have to pay exact amounts.  This goes for pretty much all remote places throughout Namibia.  So often we wanted to buy wood etc but only had large notes and the local didn’t have any change.

With regards to safety, always beware of petty theft.  So don’t leave things unnecessarily out and unattended.  Walking through the town to the falls was very safe and we didn’t feel worried at all.

Activities

IMG_8110The falls itself is free to access.  We walked from our campsite and you can stand right on top of them.  There is even a walk down to the bottom of the valley.  If you want to go to the view point, you will have to pay money.  It wasn’t a lot and the best time of day is definitely later towards sunset.

Epupa Falls

Above Epupa Falls

There is a village tour and also a river rafting trip.  Both are organized through your place of accommodation.  We did the river trip with the kids, which was such fun.  You get driven roughly 8ks up the river and then you paddle back down.  The rapids were very mild, so very safe with the kids.  We saw crocodiles and birds and had our snack and cooldrink on the Angolan side of the river.

We spent 3 nights at Epupa, but I could have happily spent more.  It is tranquil and beautiful and so culturally rich!

Clothing guideline for an Overland Trip

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I am not a khaki and strops and socks kinda girl, no sirree!!!!!  Neither do I need to blowdry my hair and wear full make up but don’t deny me my mascara and nail polish and cute tops.  Just because you have to be practical doesn’t mean you can’t do pretty.  My husband does not subscribe to the same.  As long as he is comfortable he couldn’t care less, neither could our son.  My daughter on the other hand as been spotted in a leotard and tutu in the desert with leather gloves and takkies!

Like any holiday or weekend away, we always tend to take way too much.  The one trip I took my knee high Timberland leather boots!  Yes, they are comfy but flip packing those things was a pain in my b-hind.  So over the years I’m starting to get better at packing for both myself and the kids.  (I do check my husbands packing and tend to shove a few extras in without his knowing.  Once he went with two t-shirts and some board shorts and hardly anything else! He froze his ass off)

When you don’t have the luxury of wheelie bags and a 32kg limit but rather an ammo box measuring 235(h) x 395(w) x 505(l) for 20 plus days of travel with both hot and cold weather, you get clever.  Thank God for the micro down jackets which have come out in the last few years that pack away into tiny bags.  They have made my life soooo much easier.  So we each have one crate for clothes and then there is a shared crate for shoes and toiletries and another for the families towels etc.  So for a family of 4 there are 6 crates that are allocated for personal and then the rest are food etc.

This is all my clothes on my list below in one crate – it can be done!!!!

So here is my do or die live by list for roughly 15 days.  You will need to hand wash whenever you have available water.  If you want a food packing guideline, click here

Clothes for The Pink Puff (Olivia)

  • 3 shorts – no cuff turnups as sand gets in them and usually comes out in the car.  Half of the Namib desert seemed to end up in our car due to cuffs and pockets.  Try to keep to darker colors as they don’t show the dirt so much.
  • 3-4 leggings – I tend to pack more as they back up as extra PJ bottoms. Track pants are bulky to pack.
  • 6-8 tshirts and vests
  • 3-4 light long sleeve tops
  • at least one skirt or dress for the pink puff is essential
  • 2 warm hoodies – no zips because if they need to sleep in them if it is cold, zips are uncomfy.
  • 1 wind breaker –  we use the lightweight ones from Kway
  • 2 pj’s – one short and one long.  I am very strict that they are not allowed out of the tent till they have changed as they then get played in and filthy.
  • enough panties and socks so that if you are not in campsites you have enough to get by till you can hand wash again
  • 1 swimming costume
  • 1 buff/head band that can be used as a scarf or head band
  • Hairbands & clips – if your daughter has long hair, plait it!  This keeps it so much more manageable.  They will stick their heads out the windows of the car and if you can’t necessarily wash it that often it becomes a nightmare to deal with.

Clothes for Jesse (Boys)

  • 4-6 shorts (he gets so much dirtier)  Board shorts are best as they wash and dry quickly and sand doesn’t get into them like normal fabrics
  • 2  tracksuit pants – can double as spare pj’s
  • 6-8 tshirts
  • 3-4 long sleeve light weight tops
  • 2 warm hoodies – again try for no zips
  • 2 pj’s – one short and one long.  Again, they have to change before leaving the tent.  I set their clothes out the night before.
  • 1 windbreaker
  • enough undies and socks so that if you are not in campsites you have enough to get by till you can hand wash again
  • 1 buff/head band that can be used as a scarf or head band
  • 1 broad brimmed sunhat
  • when Jesse was little I would take waterproof lightweight rain trousers, as they kept him clean when playing (you can get them from Cape Union Mart)

Shoes for kids

  • Crocs or strops: You want something a little more covered than a slip slop but easy to put on getting in and out of the cars and that they can also shower in
  • Wellingtons/gumboots or hiking boots: shoes that cover the ankle if they are mucking about in rocks and bush where scorpions and snakes may be, so it covers the ankles.  My kids don’t have hiking boots so we take gumboots and takkies (trainers) but space could be minimized by just having hiking boots

Examples of some essentials for the Kids

Splash Pants from Kway               Jesse lives in his Keen strops       Lightweight Kway Jacket

If you need a basic guideline on kids and their toys/entertainment when overlanding, then please click here.

For the Hubster:

  • 3 pairs boardshorts
  • 1 pair cargo shorts
  • 1 pair long trousers/jeans
  • 5-6 tshirts
  • 1 lightweight long sleeve shirt (great for keeping the sun off)
  • 1 fleece
  • 1 light down jacket
  • 5-6 pairs underpants
  • pj’s – simon takes a long light weight pair of pants that can be layered with socks and the fleece top and then just sleeps in his jocks if hot
  • couple pairs socks – at least one warm pair and preferably dark
  • takkies/boots
  • slip slops/strops – needed for shower and in and out the car
  • beanie
  • cap/sunhat

For Me:

  • 2 pairs black leggings – I take my Nike full length ones.  I can then run in them if I want otherwise they are so comfy for evenings etc.
  • 2-3 pairs shorts – cutoff stretch denim is my go to as they are hardy and don’t get as dirty but they are a pain if you want to wash as take a while to dry.   Stay away from a turnover cuff as sand sits in it.  Short gym leggings are also versatile.
  • 6-8 tops
  • 1 shirt – I find they are great to keep the sun off and cool and an easy extra layer
  • 1 light weight dress – sometimes you just don’t want to wear shorts and t-shirts
  • 1 hoodie/fleece
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 set light weight PJ’s – I layer with hoodie if cold
  • 8-10 pairs panties – on a hygiene side, panty liners are a must
  • 1 swimming costume
  • 2 sports bras – they are much more comfortable to travel in and dry quickly
  • 1 scarf or light sarong
  • 1 cloth bag to put all your underwear and socks in.  It helps keep the crate tidy.
  • Paez shoes – these I swear by.  Lightweight, they keep your feet clean and easy on and off and they don’t smell.

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    My faithful Paez.  I swear by them!!!!

  • Trainers/takkies/hiking boots – I just take my trail running shoes.  I can walk in them and also try get a run in where possible
  • Slip slops for the shower
  • Buff – I take a couple as they are great to keep your head warm, a scarf and then I also use them to keep my fringe flat when I am drying it 😉
  • cap/sunhat

For the Trailer:

  • 2 sheets – we put them both on the bed at the same time.  You can then swop them round by putting the dirty one at the bottom.  You then don’t need to pack them into a crate.  Also, they are tan color so don’t get as dirty.
  • 1-2 pillowcases – can do same as the sheets or just use one and turn it inside out when needed
  • Micro fibre towels – get the biggest size as they are just nicer to use. They really pack small and dry quickly.  I don’t love them but its functional.K-Way Trek Towel XXL
  • Fleece blanket each – these are used in the car and also to line the sleeping bags for very cold nights.
  • Kikoi/sarong – these are great for a multiple of uses.  If its hot, to sleep under, and as a second towel.  Once when we were in the Okavango, it was stinking hot and there were flies everywhere and we couldn’t sit in the tent as it was stifling.  We would dip the kikois in the water and then just lie under them.
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My aunt and brother hiding under a kikoi from the heat and flies