Namtib


It was good to wake up in a bed this morning. The Namtib Desert Lodge is a farmstead set a few K back from the D707 on a sandy road, in a cluster of big rounded boulders and rocky hills. Thorsten who runs the place with his wife said it was really too small a farm to be viable and tourism was the main business now. He said that means focusing more on the preservation of the wild animals in the area, than raising stock. Its a simple setup with fairly plain chalets, each with a solar water heater and solar batteries for a little bit of electricity. The meals are communal around a big table. I sat next to a wiry American called Steve who’s a teacher in Doha and spending a month travelling around Namibia in a two wheel drive Chevy which he as “learning to love” – and sleeping in most nights. He had brought a tent but had yet to unpack it. Breakfast around the table included mealie-pap – a hot corn paste which you make palatable with sugar and cinnamon. Not as bad as it sounds in fact, but it looked like something you would use to glue furniture. Tom was distinctly tired. I looked up to see him eating a bowl of cereal with a knife and fork…

This part of our trip was always going to be a bit of a pinch point as we are gradually making our way back east to Windhoek, but there is a ghost town and a coastal port which I really wanted to see and they are both in the south west. Thorsten was dismissive of our ability to see it all; “You’ll end up rushing and won’t have enough time anywhere”. His advice was to head to Aus and do a little hike, and chill out and the next day go straight to our next destination, the Fish River Canyon.
Well we took part of his advice; packed up and drove ninety minutes to Aus. The  D707 was just as pretty in the morning light, past little farms with tall aluminium windmills tucked into the hills off the D707. There was a veritable stream of cars coming the other way. We must have passed ooh, at least five, dust clouds billowing in the sunshine behind them like steam locomotives. The only community we passed, Goageb, looked to be empty and crumbling.
Aus is a little village on a hill. The street is lined with small buildings dating back to the early 1900s, all brightly painted. There is a petrol pump and a general store run by a big man with a bushy white beard who looks like he could have been one of the original founders of Aus. Across the smooth tarmac of the B4 is a cluster of smaller houses on the hillside which used to be the black township during South African rule and apartheid. The B4 was the border between black and white in Aus, but not any more, and the former township is brightly painted and looks like a housing estate.

Aus is also famous for its herd of feral horses – about 175 at last count – which roam the desert, but stay close to a man-made waterhole about 20K from Aus. No-one really knows how they got there, but its thought some are descended from horses abandoned by German troops at the beginning of the first world war, others may have come from stables assembled by a German Captain at Duwisib Castle, who was later killed at the Somme. Some may simply have been farm horses which escaped or were let loose. However they came to be there, they remain one of the only herds of desert dwelling horses.

We went to see them at the waterhole which they share with the local oryx and ostrich populations. There seems precious little for them to eat in the dry season but they had glossy coats and looked in reasonable condition.

We were due to stay at the Desert Horse Inn, one of a cluster of accommodation options now all part of the same group. When we got there, Piet who runs the business said one of the stone chalets 7k away in the desert was free and would we prefer to stay there..? We would.

It was the very nicest place we have stayed in Namibia. The chalet was a good sized stone house, the back wall of which was the smooth face of a giant boulder. It was beautifully done with a big stone fireplace, simple wooden furniture and a kitchen.

We immediately abandoned any plans for a hike and spent the afternoon on the terrace, reading, playing cards and taking in the huge sweep of the desert in front of us.

Tom also climbed the rocks behind us, climbing high enough to be almost out of sight amid the huge red boulders. It really was idyllic – worth the entire trip on its own.

Piet had given us a “braai pack” of meat, salad, baked potatoes, cheese and tomato sandwiches for frying (a Namibian speciality) and some big hunks of chocolate cake. After sunset, fat and happy, with a fire crackling in the grate we settled down to watch “Some Like it Hot”, part of Tom’s classical education…

Categories: Namibia

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