The Arid Eden Route
T here are many treasures to garner in Namibia’s north-western regions. Open Africa’s Arid Eden Route incorporates four optional routes and encompasses a large section of the country, giving travellers a wide choice of routes, attractions and adventures to experience in this fascinating area. The Welwitschia Experience incorporates many of Namibia’s spectacular attractions in a 6- to 7-day trip.
The Spitzkoppe. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Departure from Windhoek after breakfast. Stops along the way include the woodcarvers in Okahandja, the Wilhelmstal or Namib Oasis (Usakos) farm stalls, and viewing if not buying crystals and semiprecious stones at the Uiba-Oas Crystal Market at the D1930 turn-off some 24 km after Usakos, where small-scale miners from the Spitzkoppe sell their products. The best time to explore the Spitzkoppe and surroundings is during the morning. Rising 1,800 metres above sea level, the area is a popular rock-climbing destination that provides great photographic opportunities. Spend the night camping at the Spitzkoppe.
Aerial view of Brandberg. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Head north along the D1930 to the C36, and from there to the Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, where you can do a short climb to view the famous White Lady rock painting, as well as enjoy birding opportunities. Spend the night in the area and set out the next morning to search for the Ugab desert-adapted elephants. Lodges in the area offer guided tours daily in the Ugab River Valley. These activities need to be booked in advance.
Further north there are many other attractions, including the renowned rock engravings at Twyfelfontein and geological marvels such as the Burnt Mountain and Organ Pipes. Guided walks reveal the geological riches of the area and give you an opportunity to stretch your legs. Spend some time with the local people at the Damara Living Museum, where visitors can see how the Damara people lived in Namibia before colonisation.
Rock engravings at Twyfelfontein. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
From here head east on the C39 and pay a visit to the Petrified Forest National Heritage Site, where a large collection of fossilized tree trunks have been discovered. The Welwitschia mirabilis, an endemic Namibia fossil plant, can be found here. Further east along the C39 is the small town of Khorixas, where you can fill up with petrol and buy basic supplies. The area features the Fransfontein village fountain, around which the village was developed. The fountain still irrigates the surrounding orchards and supports the local community.
A fossilized tree trunk. Photo ©Elzanne Erasmus
The Palmwag area. Photo ©Elzanne Erasmus
Head back east towards Palmwag and Grootberg along the C43. Both these destinations are located in a barren albeit scenically beautiful part of Namibia. Here you can explore the Grootberg, a table mountain of volcanic origin that forms a U-shaped plateau above the Klip River Canyon. Travellers can take walks up the plateau with guides (available from lodges in the area), who point out the local fauna and flora, and the rock formations in the Etendeka Mountains. There are also many Himba communities in the Palmwag area that you can visit to learn more about the extraordinary way of life of these denizens of the desert. You are advised to take a local guide along on such visits, as the communication gap might cause problems.
The Kunene Region. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Once you’ve had your fill of this magnificent part of the country, you can continue exploring neighbouring areas. You can either head northwards to explore the more remote areas of the Kunene Region, or Kaokoland as it was previously called, or north-east to visit the Etosha National Park.
All the above-mentioned roads are gravel, so take care when driving, and whatever you do, don’t rush it. If not driving in a 4×4, your best bet is to hire one for the journey. All meals at lodges en route should be booked well in advance; otherwise make sure to pack enough of your own provisions, as towns with proper facilities are few and far between.