by Ron Swilling
Perched on the bank above the Tsauchab, an ephemeral river that is dry for most of the year, Hoodia Desert Lodge is surrounded by superb mountain scenery, exuding a beauty that embodies the majesty of mountains.
On either side of the large thatched central area are twelve spaciously positioned bungalows. The heavy wooden doors of the main building open into a modern lounge area with a zebra skin sprawled on the floor, leather couches, lamps, paintings, African masks and a bar counter with a cappuccino machine producing enticing aromas. This leads into an elegant dining room that looks out onto a deck and the Tsauchab River (and of course the mountains), and which leads to a small pool on the far side. A massive central fireplace creates the warm dinner ambience on chilly winter evenings.
The African elegance is continued in the thatch-roofed bungalows that are part canvas and part brick, and have wooden floors, doors and windows. The bricked bathroom area is reached through an arched doorway, while a door leads from there to an outside bathtub for luxuriating in when nights are still and warm. Leather chairs, a photograph of a single flower and silky curtains create a comfortable bedroom, with a heater/air-conditioning unit doing the rest. It is the setting sun, however, that lights up the room, glistening through the curtains and painting the mountains in gold, creating breathtaking scenes all around.
The three-year-old lodge, owned by Anton Porteus and managed by his daughter and son-in-law, Henreza and Thomas Becker, is the upmarket sister to Hammerstein Lodge. Thomas says that since guests may visit the area only once in their lifetime, he wants their experience to be as special as possible. Thomas loves the personal interaction with the guests and Henreza constantly improves the cuisine with her passion for cooking and her culinary flair. The husband and wife team are kept on their toes by their credo, ‘You are as only as good as your last guest’s evaluation’.
Courteous lodge staff and friendly guide/assistant manager, David Kambinda, welcome guests when they arrive with refreshing iced tea and moist facecloths, in the custom of luxury lodges, and are available to assist guests with all queries and requests. Being only 22 km away from Sesriem (the gate to Sossusvlei) and 82 km from Sossusvlei itself, the lodge makes a comfortable base from which to explore the area. Guided day trips are offered to the vlei, which include a sit-down lunch with tables and chairs, wine glasses, crockery and all the essentials for a sophisticated meal.
Another day trip worth considering if time allows, and definitely a reason to prolong your stay (contrasting a dune trip with a mountain experience), is a journey into the Namib-Naukluft Park for a walking trail. Guests have a choice between a shorter walk, traversing a section of the Waterkloof Trail, or the longer Olive Trail. This is an appealing activity for hikers or guests wanting to experience the land on foot and to see a section of the Namib-Naukluft Park. A sunset drive to a koppie near the lodge where a table is set up with snacks and drinks, is another favourite and rewarding excursion.
Out here, scenery is to be savoured and the lodge indulgences enjoyed. The choice of excursions places a laudable cherry on the top.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘11/ Jan ‘12 edition of Travel News Namibia.