“Have you got water with you?”
“Yes” I replied.
I smiled. I was really waiting for a briefing for my solo hike.
“You have the map…”
I hesitated, “Yes, er, see you in around 3 hours then.”
That was it?
No safety talk about the perils of walking in the Namib desert? No kit check to see whether I had adequate clothing and footwear, no briefing on emergency protocols, no sanity check to see whether I was really ‘all there’.
I was going on a 3-hour walk, in the desert. It was 3pm and over 30C and there was no check on whether I had a mobile phone or not. I was rather taken aback; I was not used to this.
Back home when I do a briefing to students embarking on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition, even if it is a training day and I am with them, I still ask a few more questions to see how prepared they are!
This is the beauty of Africa. If you are mad enough to consider going on a walk in the desert in hot conditions, then you should take responsibility for your actions and sort yourself out.
So I sorted myself out. I had a hand-drawn map (provided by Rostock Ritz Lodge), 3 litres of water (one for every hour), walking trainers (no ankle support there), a compass, sun cream, hat and a massive sense of adventure. I was ready.
Namibia is a country of compelling beauty and a sense of unconfined space.
Rugged yet fragile, barren but beautiful, it’s an enchanting wilderness with a rich fusion of culture and tradition. Immerse yourself into unspoilt landscapes and wide horizons with clear, unpolluted skies.
The famous sights of Namibia are remarkable: the oldest desert in the world, the highest sand dunes in the world, one of the world’s most ancient plants, and one of the world’s largest game reserves.
The striking scenery is a superb backdrop for Namibia’s diverse wildlife ranging from the smallest, busiest desert beetle to the largest imposing elephant; it is a photographer’s utopia. Namibia is a paradise for those who want to experience their natural surroundings – agoraphobics are advised to stay away!
I had only been in Namibia for one full day and already I had reignited my love affair with the country. The sense of freedom that you get once out of Windhoek and on the gravel roads is monumental.
The scenery is mind-blowing, so much so that a photo cannot really do the vistas justice. Miles of dirt roads winding through canyon passes and around stark red rocky outcrops, meandering down towards a sea of sand dunes, it is just incredible.
I had driven 5 hours on a dirt road to get to Rostock Ritz, a small lodge nestled in the wilderness. It blends perfectly in with its surroundings with igloo-like rooms the same colour as the rocky outcrop they are built on.
I had arrived in time to have lunch by the pool. With an incredible view over the desert for about 50km, it was a spectacular setting. After lunch, I had decided to walk one of the 10 self-guided hiking trails that the lodge has created in the local area.
Namib Desert lodge walking trails
The walking trails were well marked with a mixture of white-painted arrows on the rocks and a few signs. How could I get lost? It was pretty easy to follow.
The small booklet had a rough route in it along with snippets of interesting information about the viewpoints, local flora and the geology of the area. It also warned about getting too close to zebra and oryx as they kick and bite.
I was rather dubious about this – how on earth could a zebra or oryx survive in these conditions? There was absolutely nothing to eat, no water and the ground I was walking on was very rocky and not conducive for hooved animals. Zebra? Here? Pah!
As I negotiated my way along the path and scrambled up the side of a small rocky hill it suddenly struck me that I really was by myself in the middle of nowhere.
I was enveloped in magnificent scenery that went on as far as the eye could see. My smile was nearly as huge. Walking for me is restoration for the soul and here in the Namib Desert it was heightened.
I only lost the route once. Naturally, I struggled to find the white arrows on the rocks as they were in a sea of white quartz! I felt as if I was playing ‘Where’s Wally’, with the consequences a little more serious if Wally wasn’t found.
As the minutes ticked by, I became mildly concerned and wondered whether I should retrace my route, follow my instinct or use my compass. I also wondered whether I had enough water to survive the night…
But after 10 rather nervous minutes I managed to find that elusive arrow and continued on my adventurous journey.
The views from the ridgeline I was walking along were worth stopping for and I rested on the warm rocks and gazed into the distance over the Namib desert.
The colours were astounding; rich ochre reds and pinks dotted with burnt brown scraggly bushes, a vivid green cactus or a bright white vein of quartz – there was too much to take in.
And that was when I saw 31 zebra, 5 oryx and 2 ostrich…all in a couple of minutes. So, there is life in the desert after all. Astounding.
Humble pie would have to be eaten that evening.
I would thoroughly recommend walking in Namibia where you can and it is safe to do so. Not only are the views and terrain incredible, but it is also fantastic to be out of the car and to stretch your legs. Put your best foot forward!
Namibia is an excellent self-drive destination, ideal for those looking for a sense of freedom and adventure and where the environmentally aware lodges blend into the landscape creating a natural and tranquil ambience. The perfect destination for bespoke and compassionate holidays.
It’s ideal for:
- Scenery as well as wildlife
- Cheetah spotting – Namibia has the largest wild cheetah population in the world
- Those who want to travel independently
- Adventurous families
- Water is generally safe to drink in Namibia, but please ask your lodge on arrival. If travelling in rural areas, bottled water is recommended.
- The currency in Namibia is the Namibian Dollar, which is fixed to the rand (1 Rand = 1 N$). South African Rands are accepted everywhere.
- Namibia is at GMT+2 hours. The United Kingdom is one or two hours behind Eswatini, depending on UK ‘summertime’.
- Electric current is supplied at 220 volts AC 50Hz, and 15-amp three round-pin wall sockets are used. These are the same as the South African adapters.
- In large towns, there are chemists, supermarkets, and a variety of shops to buy necessities.
- Afrikaans and English are the official languages.
- A British driving license is recognised in Namibia