around the country Namibia to get to know it is best to have a big one roadtrip be made, or a roadtrip which you divide into several pieces. This is part 5 of the roadtrip in which we will explore northern Namibia and visit the Himba Tribe. From palm wag In the middle of Damaraland we drive further to the north of Namibia. On the way we stop in the larger town of Opuwo, where many people's mouths fall open because of what there is to see. To Opuwo we go via a very bumpy road to the northernmost tip of Namibia and we visit Epupa. Later a 6th part of the roadtrip being added!
Also read: Roadtrip Namibia (1) | Keetmanshoop and Fish River Canyon
Also read: Roadtrip Namibia (2) | Lüderitz, Kolmanskop & Sossusvlei
Also read: Roadtrip Namibia (3) | Solitaire and Swakopmund
Also read: Roadtrip Namibia (4) | Cape Cross, Twyfelfontein and Palmwag
Also read: Preparation trip to Namibia | Best travel time & packing list
Also read: Itineraries Namibia 2 to 5 weeks | Example routes
Table of contents
We drive through Damaraland like this Kaokoland inside. This is the most north-western area of Namibia. This runs from Sesfontein to the border with Angola. The town of Opuwo is located in the middle of this area. The town is known as the Himba "capital". The himba is one of the most photographed tribes of southern Africa† They live in this area together with many other tribes and come to do their shopping in Opuwo. At the supermarket and the gas station it is therefore often a collection of different tribes. Tourists are therefore quickly noticed and are often immediately overrun by street vendors.
Do not expect much from Opuwo because it is not more than two supermarkets and a few gas stations. Buy everything you need here because in the rest of Kaokoland there are very few supermarkets and gas stations. If you want a nice view, go up the mountain that is on the western edge of the city and look out over the mountains that surround Opuwo. On top of the mountain you also have the best chance that your network will pick up signal and be available again. The mobile network in this city is very weak and often completely gone, something to take into account.
The road to Epupa
Opuwo is left on the C43 heading north. The next 200 kilometers to Epupa will be long and especially bumpy. During and just after the rainy season, this road can be difficult to access due to rainfall and flooded river beds. You can only do it with a 4 × 4 drive through otherwise you will definitely get stuck. Even in the dry season it can easily take 4 hours to reach Epupa.
The road itself regularly crosses riverbeds that are made solid at times by concrete slabs. The dangerous thing about the road is that the riverbeds can only be recognized late and that at high speed this can be very dangerous. Because it is a gravel road, your braking distance is of course a lot longer. The concrete slabs made often do not connect well to the road and are full of holes. Therefore, drive carefully and above all calmly.
Calm driving is not bad at all here. Don't forget to look around you when you drive on this road! There are several Himba villages everywhere and people walk along the way to one of the various water points that can be found every few kilometers. The area is fairly densely populated compared to other areas of Namibia where much less people live. On the way, try stopping in one of the small villages and enjoy real life in Namibia.
Things to Do in Epupa
At the end of the 200 kilometer bumpy road is the small village of Epupa. The runs past the village river Kunene which divided Namibia from Angola. The village is mainly known by tourists for the famous Epupa Falls. Do not expect a supermarket or gas station in Epupa itself. There are, however, several campsites and lodges where tourists can stay. The streets in Epupa are intertwined with the main road passing through the local football field. Keep a close eye on the map and see where you need to go, otherwise you'll get lost between all the houses.
1. Epupa falls
The Epupa Falls is one of the most visited places in Namibia. There are several islands in the Kunene River from where the falls are clearly visible. Most water can be found here in the first months of the year after the rainy season. Keep in mind that there is a lot of noise and water around the waterfalls, which means you may not keep it completely dry yourself. At the end of the year it can even happen that there is hardly any water in the Epupa Falls.
The falls are 35 meters deep and are easily visible from the village. The most special thing about the waterfalls is that the influence of water is clearly visible. There are many baobab trees and looks like you are in the jungle. Do not compare the falls with the Victoria Falls because these are many times larger than the Epupa Falls. The most beautiful are the waterfalls just before sunset and sunrise and it is therefore worth walking there.
2. Himba tribe
The Himba is one of the many tribes that can be found in Namibia. Near Opuwo and Epupa there are many Himba villages. Originally, the Himba and the Herero are one tribe, but over time they have become 2 tribes, both of which have developed their own language. It is a semi-nomadic people that still herd cows and goats. Their houses consist of loam with palm leaves in it.
Himba's are easily recognized by their red/orange colored bodies and distinctive jewelry in their hair. The red/orange color of the body is due to the body lotion they use every day, which consists of fat (vaseline) and ochre. This protects the skin from the sun and other influences.
Their hair indicates how old they are and what their social status is. Young girls wear their hair braided forward. As soon as the girl becomes an adolescent and the so-called Ekori party has taken place, the hair is changed and cut off. At this feast she is given an Ekori headgear made by goatskin and is always worn. After this, the braids are also braided in the traditional way, which is smeared with the same ocher. This creates the orange color and hard material around the hair.
Both men and women wear many bracelets and necklaces to show that they belong to the Himba tribe. They wear iron bands around their ankles to protect themselves against bites from snakes and other animals.
3. Rafting in Kunene River
In the river Kunene there is also a possibility to go rafting over the border between Namibia and Angola. Do not expect large rapids, but above all a relaxed piece of rafting. Along the way you will encounter crocodiles basking in the sun. Furthermore, you will see people of the Himba tribe on both sides of the river's edge who come to fetch water, wash or take a shower. With all the risk that the crocodiles could suddenly emerge from the brown water…
4. Hiking and cycling in Epupa
Epupa is perfect for doing something sporty during your holiday. Various walks can be made along the river and in the mountains. Do this especially with a guide to make sure you don't get lost. Cycling is also possible through the mountains and the gravel road that runs along the river to various villages. However, it is only possible to rent an electric bicycle or a mountain bike. Keep your eyes peeled especially along the river as there are chances of spotting crocodiles along the side.
We then leave Epupa and continue our roadtrip through Namibia. The Himba tribe has left a great impression on us and are very curious what we will see in the coming days. You can read all about it in part 6 of our roadtrip through Namibia!