by Ron Swilling
When travelling it is often the chance meetings and recommendations you hear along the way that shape your journey. If travelling at a slower pace, information comes your way and settles in. It was just such a feel-good morsel of information that led me to Aubures Camp, which is accessible from the C27 approximately 50 km from Helmeringhausen.
Still focused on schedules and times, I drove along the 5 km of farmhouse road, forgetting that the Namibian landscape works its own magic in its own time. While still uncertain whether to stay or move on to make full use of the daylight hours, I met the owner of the farm, Jörn Miller, and continued on the 1 km rocky road to the campsite. Once there, my haste and impatience retreated back to the city where it belonged as I became aware of the striking landscape surrounding me, and large, soft wings of peace descended upon me. I walked up the small koppie, took deep breaths and looked out onto distant grasslands, the northern edge of the Tiras Mountains and down onto the camping sites positioned under large camel-thorn trees. I heard the silence and knew that I wanted to stay.
Jörn says the beauty of the Namibian landscape is not in the midday heat. It’s in spending time seeing how the light and colours change and transform the land. The charm of Aubures Camp is that it is part of a working farm. Jörn’s family has 103 years of history in the region, having owned the neighbouring farm for this period. Jörn, his wife Adrienne, and their three children live on the newer Aubures section, which has been in the family for the past ten years.
As I watched a flock of predominantly black sheep return from pasture with their shepherd, Jörn told me that they farmed karakul sheep, cattle and goats, the standard livestock in southern Namibia. A gaggle of geese was running around the farmhouse with its stone walls, small orchard with lemon trees laden with fruit, and prickly pear cactuses growing at the back. Like many people in the area, the Millers use the traditional German steam method of extracting the juice from the prickly pears to obtain the syrupy concentrate, which is doused with large amounts of sugar.
Hoodia Growers Association
More interesting though is the hoodia nursery. Jörn is the chairman of the Hoodia Growers Association of Namibia, and as the plant grows naturally in the area, has begun to cultivate his own population. He explained that numerous permits must be obtained from the Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) for growing, harvesting and exporting the CITES-protected plant, which is in demand in the western world for its benefits as an appetite suppressant. Permits for harvesting a certain percentage of the plant every two years in the wild are given to certain permit holders, and the process is strictly monitored.
The friendly couple showed me around their farm and we drank tea on their porch with its view over a green strip of garden and an expanse of lovely Namibian land. When the sun sank behind the horizon, I returned to the campsite, which, although only a kilometre from the farmhouse, feels as if you’re a million miles from anywhere. The sites have been creatively constructed under large camel-thorn trees demarcated with circles of red rock. An attractive terracotta open-roofed ablution facility built around a robust camel-thorn tree provides the wonderful experience of showering beneath a camel-thorn canopy and clouds.
Surrounded by silence
Sitting on my own at night in the campsite surrounded by silence and peace, I tried to remember the last time I had been alone on the land with the stars above and the sounds of the night and nothing in between, with not a person or a light to distract me from the moment. This is the beauty of Aubures Camp. With no cellphone reception, except the immense beaming of the natural world, it’s best to put your watch away and enjoy the environment. When last were you alone in the good nurturing land?
For travellers who take time to slow down and appreciate the magnificence of their surroundings, this campsite with its wilderness feel will hold definite appeal. Jörn wisely says he feels like a caretaker rather than the owner of the land, and is happy when visitors enjoy the serenity of the area.
Midway between Fish River Canyon and Sesriem, Lüderitz and Sesriem, Aubures is ideal for a touch of Namibian farm life and peace.
This article was made possible by Cymot Namibia
This article appeared in the Aug/Sep ‘10 edition of Travel News Namibia.