Take time out for beauty
by Ron Swilling
Pause. On the way to Swakopmund. Turn off from the B2 towards Henties Bay and the mountains in the distance.
Known for its golden, picturesque afternoons and challenging climbing opportunities, Spitzkoppe is a dream of a campsite for its wildness, rounded geological formations and striking beauty.
Driving the 30-kilometre D1918 gravel road towards Henties Bay and then the D3716 to Spitzkoppe, you will certainly be thankful for not speeding past. The Spitzkoppe massif, including the Klein (Small) Spitzkoppe and the Pondok Mountains, looms into the sky in granite glory, with the grassy plains spread out below.
Nestled between the huge boulders in this magnificent mountain world are twelve private and peaceful campsites dotted with quiver trees, acacia, shepherd and butter trees, set against a blue sky and ochre rock. The appeal of this campsite is that you are able to enjoy a striking landscape without the interference of crowds or facilities to detract from the natural setting. If you appreciate flora and fauna, the Earth’s magnificent sculptures and a heaven of starry skies, Spitzkoppe will soon become a favourite.
Facing the inselbergs, from left to right, you will find the natural arch or bridge, Sugarloaf Mountain, the Spitzkoppe peak, the rounded Pondok Mountains and Bushman’s Paradise in the east. Klein Spitzkoppe is further away towards Henties Bay and Small Bushman’s Paradise is situated behind and between Spitzkoppe and the Pondoks.
For experienced climbers, favourite climbs include Spitzkoppe, Sugarloaf Mountain and the Pondok Mountains. Bring all your own climbing gear.
Excellent for birders
Besides challenging mountaineers and satisfying hikers, who can happily explore the area, Spitzkoppe is a good birding spot to look for the Namibian endemic, the Herero chat, seen amongst the small acacia trees and often near to the Henties Bay entrance gate in the early morning and late afternoon. Gray’s lark can be found west of Spitzkoppe, on the gravel plains on the way to Henties Bay. After rainfall, Spitzkoppe is especially good for birding. Birds that may be seen are Rüppell’s korhaan, white-tailed shrike, Monteiro’s hornbill, Stark’s lark, lark-like bunting, Namaqua sandgrouse, yellow-bellied eremomela, chestnut-vented tit-babbler, bokmakierie, lanner falcon, peregrine falcon, augur buzzard, greater kestrel, martial eagle, African hawk-eagle and black-chested snake-eagle. Common birds seen are the delightful blue and green rosy-faced lovebirds, red-eyed bulbuls and pale-winged starlings.
Basic facilities keep the wilderness in and the noisy twenty-first century out. This is an optimum place to absorb the natural beauty by day and with no electricity available, the undisturbed star-studded sky by night. Rock-encircled fireplaces and longdrop toilets provide the camper with the essentials, and nature does the rest. Come prepared. Bring water, firewood, groceries, large black garbage bags, a star guide and a good sense of appreciation of Mother Nature and the good Earth. A small restaurant offers simple meals on request and the bar sells cold drinks, cold beer and a few snacks. Simple showers and flush toilets are positioned near the entrance. Two basic bungalows are available, each with two rooms, if you’re not the camping type, have forgotten your tent at home or are longing for a soft bed. Remember to burn all toilet paper if you make use of the bush, and that cigarette butts are unsightly litter.
A walk up Bushman’s Para-dise, aided by a steel cable, is recommended, as is a visit to the natural bridge rock formation. A handful of rock paintings that have survived human tampering and natural weathering can be seen at Bushman’s Paradise, Small Bushman’s Paradise and Golden Snake. Local guides are available to show you the Spitzkoppe specials. The rock paintings are protected by the National Heritage Act, and it is against the law to tamper with them, to camp or to make fires in the nearby vicinity. Refrain from using flash photography.
The rest camp can easily be visited in a sedan car, although the road to Bushman’s Paradise has loose gravel and a few deep ditches.
Spitzkoppe is run by the local community and is situated in the ≠Gaingu Conservancy. A percentage of the proceeds is returned to them for community essentials such as hospital trips and school and clinic fundamentals.
A curio shop with home-made crafts acts as an outlet for the community’s handcrafted items and semi-precious stones adorn the tables at the turnoff onto the gravel. Tourmaline, fluorite, smoky quartz and rough garnets are displayed, shining in their multi-coloured earthly magnificence.
A far cry from commercial city campsites, Spitzkoppe’s wild and wonderful appeal is a celebration of the great outdoors and in particular Namibia’s intriguing landscape, wide blue skies and endless space.
Pause. Take time out for beauty.
This article was made possible by Cymot Namibia
This article appeared in the Aug/Sep ‘08 edition of Travel News Namibia.