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Ride your bike in the NamibAugust 28, 2012
An authentic farm experience
by Ron Swilling
Opening the gate to Dornhügel Guest Farm, you are met with a typical farm scene: a few horses, a field of sunflowers, a windmill turning in the wind, a farmhouse and two dogs waiting to greet you.
Visiting Dornhügel (translated as thornhill), a cattle farm since 1908, is a chance to experience a typical Namibian working farm. Max Beyer grew up here, starting the guest farm with his wife Irmgard in 1994. The 11 000 hectares of farmland, although primarily a cattle farm, has Basotho horses and Damara sheep, and maize and sunflowers are grown for own use.
Max and Irmgard Beyer, German-speaking Namibians, both grew up in farm environments. They are now in partnership with Volker and Susi Ledermann, owners of Etusis Lodge, south of Karibib, and are keeping Dornhügel small and simple with five comfortable guest rooms. The rooms presently being upgraded, have animal names, giraffe, jackal, hornbill, Damara dik-dik and kudu, with photographs and snippets of information about their habits displayed on the walls. They give the guests the feeling that they are visiting family out of town. A covered main area, separate from the house, is a dining room, with a large fireplace for winter evenings, a sitting area and bar, with a nearby pool and quintessential Namibian barbecue area. The guest farm also has a library and small curio shop stocking Nguni cow hides.
A farm drive is offered to guests to give an understanding of the running of the farm. Max takes me out for a late afternoon drive onto the farm roads where he points out blesbok, a South African antelope species, ‘Lady in Black’, a zebra-horse mix bought in from a neighbouring farm, kudu and ostriches. Warthogs run across the road with their tails high in the air and black-backed jackal dart through the long grass.
Max talks about his cattle, showing me the pregnant cows and explaining that as they progress in their pregnancy, they are moved to an enclosure closer to the house for observation. He also talks about the beef market and how to know when the cattle are ready for slaughter. Dornhügel produces meat for the local, South African and EU markets. Returning to the house, we see a new-born calf, a half-hour old, trying to stand and being nuzzled by her mother. As we near the maize fields, Max tells me that the kudus help themselves to the bounty from the fields. He says: “There is enough for everyone.”
Dornhügel is situated 24 km off the B8, a short distance north of Grootfontein, enabling a farm stay to be incorporated into your itinerary if en route to Etosha or the Caprivi.
When eating supper with the Beyers and their visiting cousin, delicious fresh farm food is laid out and the guest sits with the family for the meal. For the traveller who wants a taste of Namibian farm life, the Beyers invite you to be a guest at their family table.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘08/Jan ‘09 edition of Travel News Namibia.
Photos courtesy of http://www.dornhuegel.com/dornhuegel/en/photogallery