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  1. #1
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    Default Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    In May 2021 we did a three week trip through Damaraland and Kaokoland.
    Our core focus was on Riverbeds and exploring as much of the area as possible.
    On this trip, we did the Lower Ugab, Lower Huab, Upper Huab, Aba-Huab, Sout River, Hoarusib, Kumib, Puros Canyon and some other minor rivers. Obviously each river cannot be done in its entirety, but we tried to drive each one as much as reasonably possible for a solo vehicle trip and in the time we had.
    We did about 1600 km in Kaokoland and about 700 km in Damaraland, of which over 500 km were driven in the riverbeds themselves. Riverbed conditions varied considerably: hard sand, soft sand, rough sand, fine sand, powdery dust, wet quick sand, river rock sections, muddy marshes, reeds, trees and overgrown shrub. Some rivers were dry and others had long stretches of flowing clear water and some had impassable muddy marshes. Every river travelled had its own set of unique challenges.

    Travelling the rivers in May, being fairly soon after the rainy season and with few travellers cutting new tracks after the rivers had flowed, made for some tough going, from breaking new ground, to crossing marshes, and travelling in flowing river sections. We assessed each tricky section and then made a call on how best to proceed.
    We were well geared and prepared for most scenarios. Our vehicle has a winch, lockers front, centre and rear, as well as solid recovery points. We also carried a comprehensive range of recovery gear. Being a solo vehicle trip, we had three forms of emergency comms and food and water for three weeks minimum, without rationing. We also carried a small range of vehicle spares, filters, hoses, etc and tyre repair equipment. I also took my OBD2 diagnostic scanner with us to read fault codes and for accurate vehicle breakdown diagnoses. So if we became irrecoverably stuck or had an irreparable breakdown, it would just have been a matter of establishing comms and sitting it out until help arrived. This allowed us to push the boundaries a bit and make a few more risky calls on whether to proceed or not through some of the very wet sections and marshes. It also gave us great piece of mind when travelling alone in some of the very remote regions.

    Our vehicle was a 2005 Land Cruiser Sahara 100 series, 4.2 TD. Fuel consumption was down to 5 km/l on average for the trip. Lower than expected, but being heavily loaded and with all the river bed driving, it was reasonable. We slept in a Hannibal RTT and camping was a mix of wild camping, community campsites as well as some of the better known campsites.

    In summary, the route was as follows:

    Swakop - Lower Ugab River - Rhino Camp - Desolation Valley - Lower Huab (Northern side) - No crossing Huab possible - Drive back - Lower Huab (Southern side) - Huab - Aba Huab - Sout River - Upper Huab - Huab Okaukuejo - Ruacana - Road along Kuenene River - Epupa Falls - Van Zyls Pass - Marienfluss - Camp Syncro - Rooidrom - Bloudrom - Hartman Valley Airfield - Groendrom - Oranjedrom - Hartman Valley Airfield again - Oranjedrom (Drove all three Main Routes into Hartman Valley) - Joubert's Pass - Etanga - Opuwo - Otjakati Upper Hoarusib River - Okandjombo - Orupembe - Khumib River - Hoarusib River - Puros - Hoarusib River - Puros Canyon - Puros - Gomatum River/Road route - Sesfontein - Palmwag - Springbokwasser - Terrace Bay - Swakop.

    On previous trips we have done the Swakop, Khan, Messum, Ugab River (Brandberg area), Hoanib and Ganamub Rivers, so did not do them again on this trip.

    It was a truely awesome trip and a really incredible experience. Thankfully the trip was trouble free and we did not get stuck or breakdown. Some of the rivers we travelled in were still very wet, some sections impassable and easy to get bogged down in, travelling them later in the year when drier (July/Aug) would have been much easier, but then again, you will miss some of the flowing rivers. Travelling alone is great, but has some disadvantages, a second vehicle would have been great for backup and for recoveries if you get stuck in the river marshes.

    I took over 1200 photos and it is really hard selecting only a few to represent a whole trip. So I will post some general pics that will hopefully give some idea of what the landscapes, rivers and trip was like.

    If there are any questions regarding the routes travelled and river conditions, I will gladly try and answer them. I also hope that those wanting to do a similar trip in future may find some of the info to be posted here useful.

    I will shortly post some pictures of each section of the trip, with a brief story.
    Last edited by Searcher; 2021/06/13 at 02:28 PM.


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    We arrived in Swakop on the 30 April 2021 and spent about a week prepping for the trip and rigging the vehicle. It takes a lot of work and the "to do" list never seems to get shorter.

    Enjoying a sun downer at Tigers Reef a few days before we leave on the trip.

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    The morning we leave. Fitting the RTT with a RTT fitting rig I made to make fitting and removing the RTT easier. My wife and I do it easily using this rig.

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    Ready to go, just getting a few last minute supplies in Swakop.

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    Having gotten quite a late start, the first night we spent wild camping in the Ugab River, just East of the Dorob Park.
    We came across quite a muddy section with tall grass and did not want to cross it in the late evening and decide to rather drive it in the morning.

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    This muddy section we crossed the next morning.

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    Some parts of the Ugab had not been driven after it last flowed and we had to path find and work at finding the best route forward.

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    While directing my wife over a very rocky section, I was walking backwards in front of the vehicle directing, I just heard her shout "snake" I turned around and about 1.5m behind me was what looks like and I believe was a large Black Mamba. It was not aggressive, but luckily was trying desperately to get out of my way. I managed to get my camera out and take a picture, unfortunately by this time it had slithered away towards the bushes. It was lying on the black rocks sunning itself when we came along. Close call.

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    We then came across an uncrossable section, but luckily found an escape route that takes you over a koppie and just past this overgrown section of river and renters a few hundred meters up river.

    Here the way forward ends.

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    Escape route taken and back in the river.

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    In some places the reeds were overgrown and we drove slowly, not wanting to surprise an elephant around a corner.

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    We arrived at Rhino Camp and it was deserted as we had heard.

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    From Rhino Camp we headed for the lower Huab River, West of Desolation Valley.

    More to follow tomorrow.
    Last edited by Searcher; 2021/06/12 at 10:13 PM.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Thanks very much Searcher for your inspiration. We took a similar rover route in about 2014, led by Jan Slabber. 3 couples. Jan is very knowledgeable about the area and has been there many times with his wife Marie. Also Davey and Alida de Villiers. Magic countryside. My favourites the Valley of Desolation, 11 watercourses including the Hoarusib from Puros north to the 3707 (IIRC, the whole region. Jan is very generous with his knowledge.

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  5. #4
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Nothing like almost stepping on a snake to get the blood pumping. I'm impressed you could still grab the camera.

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  7. #5
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Admittedly, my cell phone was in my pocket and I used that to snap the pic of the snake. I was pretty shaky then and for some reason managed to mistakedly flip the camera mode to forward camera and it took a few seconds to set it to rear camera again, all this while he moved off at speed.

    At first I was a bit mad at myself for not being more aware of my surroundings, but later and in hind sight was actually grateful for the encounter. It quickly and sternly reminded me early on in the trip, that nature was firmly in charge and that I was the visitor. Afterwards I was a lot more cautious and aware when inspecting tracks, especially through the grassy, wooded, marshy or rocky areas.
    Last edited by Searcher; 2021/06/13 at 07:50 AM.

  8. #6
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    After leaving a deserted Rhino Camp we headed North on what T4A calls the "Desolation Valley 4wd-trail".
    We have driven this track out of the Ugab before, it starts with a small rocky tributary that runs into the Ugab River, with a small spring early on. It takes you Northwards away from the Ugab and towards Desolation Valley and the Huab River. The views along this remote route are spectacular.

    Amazing views and scenery.

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    After easy slow driving and an early stop, we wild camped somewhere along the trail, about half way between the Ugab and Huab Rivers.

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    The next morning we drove on towards the Huab River, more amazing views and things to see.

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    When approaching the Huab River we took the Western most fork in the road and entered the lower Huab.
    The wind that day was blowing strongly and we were greeted by a light sand storm and a very dry Huab River.


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    We drove up the dry riverbed till we came to thick reeds and had to exit the river to the North. Here we followed a trail till it joined the very overgrown and now wet river upstream. We hoped to cross here, but there was absolutely no chance. T4A marks the crossing as "Difficult to Impossible" and the Eastbound trail ended here. So we had to backtrack all the way back to where the track splits on the "Desolation Valley 4wd-trail" and then took the Eastern fork of the trail.

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    We then followed the South Eastern trail till it joined the river and took these photos from a Desolation Valley look out point. It was amazing to see, thick reeds, water and marshes as far as the eye could see.

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    Strange rock formations just a bit further on.

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    Still further on, the river was completely overgrown and washed away in places, but we had to find a way Eastwards or cross the river Northwards to avoid a very, very long backtrack. The picture below is actually of a track marked on T4A that should hopefully allow one to cross the river to the Northern side, but as you can see it now simply stops and is impassable.

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    So we kept going along the Southern side. It too was quite washed away and quite rough. A recent heavy late season thunderstorm the week before had allowed the minor tributaries to flow and pool and made for muddy going.

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    After a long drive along the Southern river banks and a detour, we eventually ended up in a much drier Huab River higher up.

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    Determined that there must have been an easier way to cross the river earlier on, we then drove back down the Huab riverbed to try and find a route to the Desolation Valley viewpoint for future reference.
    Now driving West down the Huab, after about 10 km and a little into the swamp, we found a small, bumpy, muddy track exiting the Huab South West, just before the swamps get really bad. We followed this 4x4 track through the flood plain bad lands, until it crossed our previous path. So we now know of two doable 4x4 routes from the Nortern banks of the Huab to Desolation Valley for those up for a challenge.
    Other T4A "main" route lower Huab crossings were not doable then, crossings higher up the Huab are fine.
    I am glad we did go back down the Huab, as there were some amazing clay river bank cliffs and other things to see.

    Huab River flood plain bad lands

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    High river bank

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    Afternoon temperatures were still nice and warm.

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    A bit bumped and bruised after the exploring and some rough going, we did a few repairs and were good to go.

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    We wild camped for the night near some rock cliffs, just North of the Huab River.

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    Up next, explore the local area and then head off Eastwards up the Huab Riverbed, into the Aba-Huab, until we reach the Aba-Huab Campsite.

    More to follow soon.
    Last edited by Searcher; 2021/07/05 at 10:51 PM.


  9. #7
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Thoroughly enjoying reading your posts. Just wondering if you recorded any of your trip on a gps and can provide your route? I'd love to take a look at it in T4A and Basecamp.

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  11. #8
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Thanks so much for the report, great! Maybe you'll touch on this, but what was your fuel capacity, and did you utilize any of the 'container fuel' suppliers or were you always going to a service station?

    Someday we'd like to make another foray up to the Kaokoland and I think I'll have to cave and get 2x more jerry cans. I loath to add the extra weight on the roof rack, but I'd love to have more latitude for exploring.
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  13. #9
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by danielbme View Post
    Thoroughly enjoying reading your posts. Just wondering if you recorded any of your trip on a gps and can provide your route? I'd love to take a look at it in T4A and Basecamp.
    Yes, I have tracks for everything, but first need to tidy it up and sort out the all the data captured to make it reasonably presentable.
    Should get to it fairly soon.

    Edit: Added maps below of Desolation Valley, Lower Huab, Huab, Upper Huab, Aba-Huab and Sout River routes:

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    Last edited by Searcher; 2021/06/26 at 09:50 AM.

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  15. #10
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by CalDriver View Post
    Thanks so much for the report, great! Maybe you'll touch on this, but what was your fuel capacity, and did you utilize any of the 'container fuel' suppliers or were you always going to a service station?

    Someday we'd like to make another foray up to the Kaokoland and I think I'll have to cave and get 2x more jerry cans. I loath to add the extra weight on the roof rack, but I'd love to have more latitude for exploring.
    My fuel capacity was a total of 200l Diesel.
    Main and Aux tank: 140l
    Jerry Can on roof rack: 20l
    4 x 10l Fuel Bladders: 40l

    I managed to get fuel at Okangwati, after Ruacana, so had a full 200l of diesel going into Kaokoland. It was not enough and a few days later it was nearly depleted, so we diverted to Opuwo to refuel, got to Opuwo on reserve, there we refueled with another 193l and we bought an extra 15l container, then went back into Kaokoland, now with a fresh supply of 215l diesel. Next fill up was at Sesfontein.

    I swear by the fuel bladders and am going to order more. Takes up minimum space when full and fold or pack away to nearly nothing when empty, best investment I ever made for carrying fuel. They come in 10l and 20l, I prefer the 10l bladders, much easier for travelling with. As you travel you empty them into your main tank on a first to empty basis. What a pleasure.

    See Here: https://www.tentpro.co.za/shop/motor...or-petrol-new/

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    Last edited by Searcher; 2021/06/13 at 07:37 PM.

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  17. #11
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by CalDriver View Post
    Thanks so much for the report, great! Maybe you'll touch on this, but what was your fuel capacity, and did you utilize any of the 'container fuel' suppliers or were you always going to a service station?

    Someday we'd like to make another foray up to the Kaokoland and I think I'll have to cave and get 2x more jerry cans. I loath to add the extra weight on the roof rack, but I'd love to have more latitude for exploring.
    I can contribute something here, as we met with Searcher in Epupa and we both used the same container fuel supplier in Okangwati.

    Firstly, we had only a standard fuel tank in our (diesel) D3, and carrying extra fuel was absolutely essential. We had an extra 80 litres in jerry cans on the roof which we had to share between our D3 and our Fortuner (we had both on this trip as we did it with the in-laws), and it was only just enough. Both cars arrived in Okangwati with fuel lights on after two weeks in Kaokoland.

    There is now fuel available from various people in Puros: we stayed at Omenye campsite and Bakkies organised us fuel at N$20/litre. Two 25 litre drums, siphoning into your vehicle included in the charge!

    At Okangwati, the supplier we used sells in five litre ex-drinking water bottles. N$110 per bottle. They had lots in store. Very friendly and helpful people, there was also a compressor there for us to put a bit of air back into all of our tyres. About 250 metres north of the junction at the police station, on the western side of the road.

    We had no problems at all with the fuel at either place (and we took about 90 litres)
    2007 Disco 3 TDV6 SE
    2007 Fortuner 3.0 D4D

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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Thanks for this trip report and pictures. It brings back many memories and a desire to visit again.

    Comments like "T4A marks the crossing as "Difficult to Impossible" and the Eastbound trail ended here." bring a smile to my face, as it could have been my submission many years back. We got to the same spot from the other direction and found the existing T4A track washed away, leaving a huge donga.

    We also had to backtrack, and then found someone else's spoor through a small dry river bed, not on any logged tracks. It must have been made by a local who knew the area. We trustingly dropped down some banks which where impossible to navigate back up to if we had to. It was quite an adventure.
    Last edited by mikeml; 2021/06/13 at 05:56 PM.
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  21. #13
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    thanks for the pics and report, seems we just missed you guys, pity. Was in the area about a week before you.

    Did you have a look at the bushman painting at the "rock cliff" you camped at? Unfortunately they seem to become less almost each time I am there, people have been scratching at them, something I will never understand.
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by AboutAfrica View Post
    ....Did you have a look at the bushman painting at the "rock cliff" you camped at? Unfortunately they seem to become less almost each time I am there, people have been scratching at them, something I will never understand.
    Probably the same crowd who steal the shower buckets in the CKGR....
    Mike Lauterbach

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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Sorry we missed you!
    Yes, we saw the bushman paintings in the cave. My wife studied a bit of Archaeology as one of her subjects and was really loving it. It was the second time we have camped at that spot, last time was a few years ago. I have to agree that they are sadly being vandalised.
    We noticed that some person decided to draw a picture with black charcoal right next to one of the paintings.
    Last edited by Searcher; 2021/06/13 at 07:59 PM.

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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Love this report. A quick question. I sent it through to my cousin whom is going to tour damaraland with me later this year. He is a bit hesitant as he will be pulling a 4x4 trailer behind his Amarok. I have assured him it should be a sinch if we do not do stupid things.

    I assume many have toured with a trailer. I look forward to your next report.

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  27. #17
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeml View Post
    Probably the same crowd who steal the shower buckets in the CKGR....
    Must be cousins...
    Walter aka "Meerkat"
    slightly modded 02' 105 series 1FZ-FE
    https://www.facebook.com/kepanamibia/


    My heart beats to an African Bush drum...

  28. #18
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Khakibush View Post
    Love this report. A quick question. I sent it through to my cousin whom is going to tour damaraland with me later this year. He is a bit hesitant as he will be pulling a 4x4 trailer behind his Amarok. I have assured him it should be a sinch if we do not do stupid things.

    I assume many have toured with a trailer. I look forward to your next report.
    Depends on the routes you take. Some are not amarok/trailer friendly. Stick to the "main" routes etc and as you say dont take chances and you will be fine.
    Walter aka "Meerkat"
    slightly modded 02' 105 series 1FZ-FE
    https://www.facebook.com/kepanamibia/


    My heart beats to an African Bush drum...

  29. #19
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Khakibush View Post
    Love this report. A quick question. I sent it through to my cousin whom is going to tour damaraland with me later this year. He is a bit hesitant as he will be pulling a 4x4 trailer behind his Amarok. I have assured him it should be a sinch if we do not do stupid things.

    I assume many have toured with a trailer. I look forward to your next report.
    As Walter said - "depends on your route". I would hate to go through the AbaHuab river in the narrow sections with 4m high side walls, with no escape routes. We had to do an about turn once after encountering some ellies - it would have been impossible with a trailer. This is one of our reasons we decided on a 4x4 camper, and not a 4x4 trailer. We also would not have been able to do the alternate route at Desolation Valley when we encountered the impassible crossing

    But, there are plenty of other routes you can take with a trailer
    Mike Lauterbach

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  31. #20
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    Default Re: Kaokoland, Damaraland and their Riverbeds - Mini Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Searcher View Post
    I swear by the fuel bladders and am going to order more. Takes up minimum space when full and fold or pack away to nearly nothing when empty, best investment I ever made for carrying fuel. They come in 10l and 20l, I prefer the 10l bladders, much easier for travelling with. As you travel you empty them into your main tank on a first to empty basis. What a pleasure.

    See Here: https://www.tentpro.co.za/shop/motor...or-petrol-new/

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Something else to consider and also cheaper


    https://www.gps4africa.co.za/fuel-pa...jerry-fuel-can

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