Text Marita van Rooyen | Photographs Marita van Rooyen, Bernhard Walther
There aren’t many things that beat that feeling of unzipping your tent at the first cry of a rock dassie and emerging to the sight of pink-tinged skies and trees atwitter with sounds emanating from a buzzing settlement of sociable weavers. Of course, dozing off next to the campfire while counting shooting stars comes pretty close.
Camping is arguably the best way to see and experience this spectacular country, as it forces you to leave your comforts at home, take a big whiff of fresh air, and appreciate having dirt beneath your fingernails.
Peg your pen
Now picture the ‘Matterhorn’ (the Namibian version of course!), at nearly 700 million years old, rising some 1,784 metres above sea level, and boasting boulders the size of giants’ marbles. Add a plethora of Bushman paintings dating back 4,000 years, a fascinating geological history, a community of friendly Damara people, a daily dose of donkey cart, enough crystals and minerals to satisfy a large chunk of the world’s beady-eyed population, and you have a magical experience of nature at its finest. There is simply no better place to hit a tent pen into the ground.
And the best part? You won’t even know you have neighbours unless you accidentally run into a lone ranger on your quest to find the best sundowner spot. It’s literally bush and boulders as far as the eye can see!
The great outdoors
So once your tent is pitched, climb into your boulder-hopping boots and explore the great outdoors. True to its name, ‘the Matterhorn of Namibia’ (given, needless to say, because of its striking resemblance to the original), the Spitzkoppe is world famous for its climbing options, which cater for rock ramblers of all calibres. First scaled in 1946, today it draws mountaineers from every corner of the globe, all with one mission in mind: to conquer the Spitzkoppe, which is actually not that simple to achieve! The rocks are rough granite and badly weathered on the sunny side of the mountain, making it tough on sensitive city hands. So bring your protective gear if you’re planning to take on the mountain.
But testing your limits through means of rope, wedges and chink clamps is by no means the only way to experience the Spitz. You can achieve the same sense of wonderment by making yourself comfortable while on your backside. So, don a warm jacket, spread your picnic blanket out, and start admiring one of the clearest night skies on the planet.
Says rest-camp manager Alex Thompson, “Living in the cities and urban areas, we’ve forgotten about the unearthly potential embodied by the stars. At Spitzkoppe, they stretch from horizon to horizon, shimmering in the dry air, unfettered by light and air pollution.” Of course, the dryer the atmosphere, the better, and winter is recommended to enjoy the best of a night out in nature. You might need an extra-thick jacket though!
In the winter months, be on the lookout for constellations such as the Southern Cross and Scorpio, while planets like Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can be admired throughout the year. During the summer season expect to find the Great Square, Orion and Leo constellations lighting up the night sky.
Namibia’s Matterhorn is also a popular destination for avid leg stretchers. It’s really hard to lose your way in this landscape (since the mountain acts as the total beacon), and there are no restrictions on those wanting to explore casually on foot. For the more serious amongst us, there are three walking routes to choose from, ranging in difficulty and taking anything between four to eight hours. These routes can only be undertaken with a designated mountain guide by your side though, as they include visiting some of the vulnerable rock-painting sites.
Then there’s the option of hunting with binoculars, with more than twenty different species of our feathery friends fluttering around the boulder-strewn landscape. Or, if you prefer a cultural experience, book a donkey-cart ride and test out the local transport system.
Whichever option of exploration tickles your fancy, never leave the comfort of your temporary canvas home without a thick layer of sunblock, plenty of drinking water, and a fully-charged camera. And remember to think less and feel more; this is one landscape that needs to be experienced with body, heart and soul!
Book your nature getaway with Lesley at Spitzkoppe Reservations and Info Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through Anja from Logufa Marketing, at email@example.com. For questions and additional information, contact manager Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support the local garden
Lesley Tjongarero – the man who lives for the wellbeing of his people – initiated a great way to involve tourists in community development and social tourism: a garden. As the chairperson of the Spitzkoppe Community Development Association, he spends his days thinking up ways to enhance the living standards of the surrounding communities. And so, during a spark of brightness, the Spitzkoppe Youth Development Corporation was born.
“The aim is to enthuse young people about establishing their own gardens and thus becoming self-sustainable and educated about the importance of a balanced diet.” He works with groups of up to 30 youngsters who come for weekend camps to gain practical gardening experience.
Tourists are encouraged to get their hands dirty and join in the green-finger initiative, and in the process gain valuable one-on-one time with the local community. Launched with the help of Dawid Gawaseb, Rural Youth Programme Coordinator at the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, the garden addresses the direst need of these people – food security. Dawid adds, “We need to introduce more greenery into this dry landscape! We believe the project will work because it raises awareness by exposing young people to practical, activity-based life-long learning.”
To visit The Garden, seek directions there from a member of the Spitzkoppe community, or prior to your visit by contacting Lesley at 081 211 6291.
Fast Facts on camping at the Spitzkoppe
This article originally appeared in the 2013 Spring Travel News Namibia publication.