Dirt roads, desert & starlit dinner - News - Gondwana Collection

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Dirt roads, desert & starlit dinner

Avatar of inke inke - 22. mars 2019 - Gondwana Collection, Tourism

Namib Desert Camping2Go. Photo: Megan Dreyer

Annelien Robberts

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

As we drove around the curve towards Spreetshoogte Pass and caught the first glimpse of the rugged landscape lain barren in the hot summer sun, we “wowed” our way to the viewpoint. No matter how many times I have been here before, it is near impossible to drive by without getting snap happy and capturing the steepest pass in the country on camera first.

There are few things as liberating as hitting the road to the south. The mere thought of the transition from tar road to gravel already conveys a holiday feeling that replenishes the spirit. Open spaces, unpolluted air, a remote ruggedness that eventually turns into soft dunes of all shapes and sizes. Horizons stretching as far as the eye can see, speckled with grazing gemsbok in the distance.

With an all-girls group of friends, we set off to Namib Desert Camping2Go’s recently introduced campsite in the south. We wanted… needed to be as close to nature as possible. To get away from civilisation. To soak up the sounds of nature when sitting around the campfire at night.

Among the four of us, camping does not feature on our list of strengths, granted that we are not kitted out for it. But we do have one thing in common: our love for nature. Choosing a campsite was thus simple… Namib Desert Camping2Go – the Namibian version of glamping.

Namib Desert Camping2Go from a bird's eye view. Photo: Prostudio

Although glamping is frowned upon by many traditional campers, for the past decade the world has been going wild over this travel trend, a portmanteau of glamorous and camping. Travellers felt the need to be close to nature without the hassle, especially for shorter trips.

Knowing that this luxury camp was awaiting us, we had time to take the scenic route. We continued to Solitaire, a beloved pitstop for cake and coffee at McGregor’s Bakery. A road sign beckoned “Dead slow”, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Mostly due to the heat not allowing any fast or sudden movements.

Namib Desert Lodge
Our next stop was the Camping2Go site. With everything already set up, we had more than enough time on our hands. So, we drove to Namib Desert Lodge, about a kilometre away. Upon entering the lodge’s garden, we felt akin to a Namibian version of Alice in Wonderland who fell down a meerkat hole. Have we stumbled upon paradise? Sparkling blue swimming pools surrounded by lush lawns where chirping birds flit from one tree to the next. Yet we were well aware of the surrounding desert with ancient fossilised dunes peeking out above the trees. This was where we waited out the heat.

Activities in the desert
Then it was time for an active adventure: exploring the desert on e-bikes. After a couple of “ooooh” moments, we got the hang of riding fat bikes. I learned that it is better to kickstart on power-level 3 when in thick sand, instead of winging it on manual mode and risking a face plant.

The earth started turning golden, which is when we met up with our guide for a sundowner drink. We climbed atop a small dune where each of us got a refreshing pink gin and tonic. It was not long before the pink in our glasses seamlessly blended in with the colour of the horizon after the sun had set. The evening desert chill kicked in and we headed back to camp.

The Camping2Go safari tents are equipped with four beds and en-suite bathroom. Photo: Sparkle Studio

Namib Desert Camping2Go
I remember a time when my mum used to pack my bag for the holidays, and everything I needed was just “miraculously” there. That is how it felt unpacking the kitchen utensils from the crates provided. From braai tongs, a cast iron pot for cooking pap or potjie to one of those essential braai casseroles that no Namibian family can live without, and even a pair of kitchen scissors. You name it!

We sat around the firepit with a view of the fascinating dunes. On the braai (or barbecue as some might know it), chops and sosaties (meat kebabs) sizzled away on the hot coals. With no other campers around for the night, we were utterly entrenched in nature. After dinner we switched off all the lights while enjoying the dim red smouldering of the last coals, and merely turning our eyes skywards felt like taking a dip in the Milky Way, the most rejuvenating swim one can imagine. And then it was time to get out the guitar for some campfire singing before bed.

The Camping2Go units also have a barbeque area. Photo: Sparkle Studio

Exploring Sossusvlei
The desert has two moods – ice cold and scorching hot. There is no better way to experience it than with an excursion to Sossusvlei. We departed before the crack of dawn and arrived at the gate just before opening time. As we headed to Deadvlei, the surrounding mountains became a delightful display of 50 shades of sunrise. Some of us decided to brave it in short-sleeved clothing, while the smarter ones came in warmer clothes on board the open safari vehicle that took us all the way to the point where we had to start walking.

The sand was ice-cold, but the velvety texture made it feel like I was walking on something that dreams are made of. This is where the famous Big Daddy is located, the highest dune in the desert, offering a leg workout like no other. And as you make your way down to Deadvlei, you arrive in a photographer’s paradise – dead, yet undecomposed camel-thorn trees surrounded by apricot-coloured dunes against a clear-blue sky. We spent quite some time here and made our way back at around 10 am. Remember the smart ones I mentioned above? They had stripped their winter layers and now had to carry it back while the rest of us were unobstructed by bulky backpacks.

Early morning at Sossusvlei. Photo: Mikkel Beiter

Sesriem Canyon
We headed to the nearby Sesriem Canyon, obviously not without a large supply of water. A walk inside the 30-metre deep canyon offered a welcome respite from the heat. It is said that the canyon is one kilometre long, but somewhere along the walk it splits in two, so I am not sure how it is measured. But we most definitely got more than 10,000 steps in for the day.

Back at Namib Desert Lodge, cool drinks and the pool awaited us, after which we went for a hike on the beautiful desert reserve. Standing atop the edge of a hill overlooking the plains with its abundant gemsbok, it is almost unthinkable that about 15 years ago, the wildlife population had vanished due to reckless, uncontrolled hunting. The reserve was now teeming with healthy populations of fauna.

Before bed that night we opened all the tent flaps to allow the cool air and the music of the night inside. None of us intended to wake up before sunrise, but as the sun rose the following morning and set the fossilised dunes ablaze, the colourful sky lured us all out of bed.

Wrapped in the comfort of our blankets, we sat on the terrace enjoying the cool morning air while the water for our first cup of coffee was heating up. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “Never look down on glampers. Their camp light will outshine yours.” If there are ways to get closer to nature, we will always find it.

On that note, the four Camping2Go units at Kalahari Anib Lodge will be ready to host its first guests from the 7th of April, just in time for Easter.

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