Unfinished business at the Namib Naukluft Park.
After spending a few holidays up in the northern countries such as Iceland, Norway and Scotland, we thought it would be a good idea to do something completely different this year.
Africa came to mind and it didn't take us long to choose Namibia as our next destination: a stable country with an impeccable self drive reputation, stunning nature scenes and precious wildlife. In other words: the entire package!
First up on our travelschedule was the Namib Naukluft Park.
What attracted us to visit? Two hikes called The Waterkloof Trail and The Olive Trail. Not only do their names sound beautiful, they really are both stunning hikes. But let's not rush things.
After a first good night sleep .... (Wouldn't that be a nice beginning?) Truth is, there's no bed like home, and rooftop tents don't come anywhere near it! (Luckily I did manage to get more sleep once I got used to the tent). So after a pretty bad first night sleep, we had scheduled to take on the Waterkloof Trail.
This is a 17km round hike that is very well marked by yellow painted footsteps. Except for this one point, not far from the start of the trail, where you can easily miss the right turn (which of course we did). No worries, about 5 meters further on, some yellow painted arrows and the word STOP made it very clear we needed to turn back and look for a yellow footprint somewhere else. (Note to myself: Take more illustrating pictures).
About ten minutes later we bumped into our first family of baboons sitting on the path. They're not exactly our favourite animals and we were a bit hesitant to approach (did you see the size of their canine teeth?). However, the ones at the Namib Naukluft Park are still wild enough to run (or actually it was more walk) away once you get too close.
Further down the track, the path leads you to some beautiful natural pools.
I knew I would regret it if I didn't jump in that clear water, but at the same time I was a bit scared. What if there was some dangerous animal in there?
B. convinced me he would have me out of the water in no time should anything go wrong...and so I jumped...
Looking back, I'm really happy I did it. There was this little sense of fear right up until the moment I stepped out of the water though... I will definitely have to overcome that by jumping in more pools or lakes on our next trips!
Refreshed and well, we were ready to continue our hike. We passed dozens of butterflies, bright red dragonflies and more baboons than we could count.
We enjoyed every bit of it, all the while suffering from the boiling heat Africa is known for. By noon we arrived to the canyon part. Closed in by the high stone walls, the thin air became even warmer. It was as if someone was blowing a hairdryer right into our face. On top of that, we were quickly running out of water supply and we weren't even half way...
Common sense took over and for the first time ever, we decided to turn around and head back.
We weren't happy about it, but it was definitely the right choice.
At least this way we got to hang out some more with the baboons at the creek.
As soon as we were back, we rushed over to the reception area to get some fresh drinks from the bar. A fresh beer in one hand and a bottle of water in the other, we began to understand a few important things.
We didn't set our alarm clock that morning, because we thought the first daylight would wake us up. Which it did many of the following mornings, but of course not this first day after a 10h flight, a 4h (left side) drive, setting up our rooftop tent for the first time and cooking our own dinner. (Mind you, we did nail those last two! ;D)
We shouldn't have planned such a long hike the very first day of our stay. We weren't used to the african heat yet (I honestly think I only just escaped a sunstroke) and it's not as if the namibian hikes are easy strolls.
We should have brought more water and snacks (3L per person as a minimum).
All valuable lessons we learned that first day and we were confident we'd do a better job the next day hiking The Olive Trail.
Of course the main advantage of this trail is that it's only a 10km round hike.
At 9am (one hour earlier to the day before), we were ready to go. Actually, this was still pretty late. We should have started hiking around 7 to make full use of the 'bareable' morning temperatures.
More so because the Olive Trail immediately starts off with a steep climp up to the top of the plateau. (At the Waterkloof Trail the hike up the mountain is only later down the track...we never reached it). Ten minutes out, we were sweating like a pig!
All this hard work to go downhill again after just a glimpse of the surroundings at the top (don't get me wrong, they're totally worth the effort).
It's a good thing we brought decent hiking shoes! These rocks can have very sharp edges. But although tricky sometimes, the way down the river bed was a piece of cake compared to the climb earlyer that morning.
From that point on, the hike consists of following the gorge.
All of a sudden we noticed the rocks were getting bigger and bigger, to the point where we could no longer just walk over them but had to climb over and around them. Not long after that part we reached the highlight of this hike.
Thwo chains allow you to safely pass alongside the pool at the bottom of the gorge. There's hardly any water left because of the drought they've been experiencing in the entire southern part of Africa for the last two years. Rainy season normally starts somewhere along October. It was now the end of the month and not a single drop had fallen from the sky yet. Not that the low water level made the view any less spectacular!
Holding on to the chains is not so hard. It's only for a few steps anyway. The trickiest part was reaching the chains in the first place. They are attached rather far away, don't you think?
The structure of the rocks is pretty amazing!
After the chains it's not long before you reach a 4x4 gravel road that leads you straight back to the parking lot. Walking those last kms of the trail we encountered some locals (or what was left of some of them). This unidentified creator's skull was already clean enough to be touched. Something we didn't do with the remains of the half eaten zebra we found a little further on. (Nore did we take a picture of that sad sight). Then we bumped into a gigantique antelope species that stormed away once it saw us, granting us the perfect picknick spot in the shade of a tree. (We would have taken a picture from him, but he was too fast!)
One last drink from the bar before leaving the Namib Naukluft Park to drive up to our next destination. Well in time according to the rules of the Park.
We would definitely recommend this park if you're into hiking! As far as the campsite goes...
Don't bring food that belongs in a refrigerator!!!
This is one of the few campsites in Namibia that doesn't provide electricity. A bit unfortunate when your food supply contains lots of yoghurt for breakfast. We ended up having to throw most of it away...
It could have been worse though by having to throw away meat for dinner (thank god we bought vacuum smoked salmon for our second day)! Those unfortunate siuations can be avoided by dining at their restaurant (Make sure to reserve a table in time).