Our arrival into Windhoek in Namibia was much later than it should have been due to a 7 hour delay, but the sunshine soon made me smile again. Even in winter the temperatures are in the mid twenties, very pleasant for touring. It does dip to freezing at night so warm clothes are essential for sunrise and sunset drives.
Our first evening was a barbecue at These Hands lodge, so called because it was built with these hands and currently being extended. It is on top of a mountain overlooking Windhoek, reached by a rollercoaster ride on a 4WD. This was the first of our sundowner drives. My scary visit with a torch to their open air toilet on a precipice was rewarded with a vista of stars and the Milky Way, absolutely amazing.
The roads out of Windhoek are very similar to those in the UK and driving is on the left. These soon turn to gravel roads which are very dusty. You can drive for hundreds of miles and see only changing scenery and animals on huge farms that stretch as far as the eye can see. Our first sighting was of an oryx, and a little further along we disturbed some vultures and then we noticed some ostriches bouncing along. During our visit we also spotted kudus, springboks and hyenas.
We stopped at Gamsberg pass to admire the view shortly before reaching the Tropic of Capricorn. Our lunch at Rostock Ritz consisted of oryx, apparently delicious (I had salad) Rostock Ritz has a pet mountain zebra called Maya and a beautiful Weinamara dog. They play quite happily together.
Our home was at Namib Naukluft lodge. The views from our terrace were fantastic and as the colours change through the evening sunset into the night it is almost like watching a film, then on clear nights there is another amazing vista of stars and the milky way.
Our sunrise drive to the Sossuvlei dunes started at 5am as the dunes are best seen at sunrise to fully appreciate the red colours of the dunes. Upon reaching the gate of Sossusvlei dunes, it is then another hour’s drive to the best and highest dunes. Dune 45 is 45 kilometres from the gate and Big Mama is about twice as far. The sheer scale of open space is something that I hadn’t experienced before and these are amongst the world’s highest sand dunes. It was very misty so climbing Big Mama was even more daunting. I climbed about halfway to take pictures Some climbed all the way up through the mist, about 300 metres. The mist began to clear so some of the group climbed Deadvlei, an area of dead trees in crusted white sand, some of them up to 500 years old. This is a long walk up and over sand dunes.
On the way back we stopped at Sesriem Canyon, over 10 million years old. It would be easy to drive straight past it as it just looks like an insignificant hole in the ground where they could be laying pipes, until you walk up to it and discover a very steep drop revealing its unique pebbled rocks and caves.
We were rewarded with a sundowner drive to marble mountain. This was quite a short drive from our lodge. This 22,000 hectare farm has mountains literally made of marble and a fabulous view into the sunset in every direction as far as the eye can see, for miles around.
Time for the long drive back to Windhoek, about 350 kms. We stopped at Amani lodge, open for day visitors up a very steep dirt track 20kms outside Windhoek. This is not only the highest lodge in Namibia, it is also a big cat sanctuary. We were lucky enough to be to be in a large fenced enclosure containing two adult cheetahs. Most of us had the opportunity to stroke one of them. I was quite happy to stand back and take pictures from just a few feet away.
Back in Windhoek we stopped at African Roots restaurant which serves local specialities such as game and fish dishes. The portions are huge and only £3 – £4. I would highly recommend this restaurant.
It was a truly amazing trip which I will never forget.
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