Forever landscapes, wild horses and history
by Ron Swilling
I wake early for the show. Lying propped up in bed with the curtains open, I am in a prime position for the dawn.
I watch the landscape before me lighten and deepen to the accompaniment of bird song.
Pale green and yellow grassland merges with burnt-orange sandy plains dotted with dark-green trees, flowing into a forever landscape until they are held in check by purple-blue mountains. They are touched red by the sun’s early rays, which slowly spread down, dressing them in their finery for the day.
The late afternoons at Eagle’s View chalet when the landscape transforms into gold are just as magnificent.
The moments snatched in between are best used to luxuriate in the stone chalet built to incorporate huge natural boulders as part of the structure with its wooden furniture, slate floors, fireplace, quiver-tree wine rack and the green of a few aloes in a completely private setting with a scenic surround-view.
The rich earth textures and colours exude a feeling of well-being. Windows are photo frames, with the front sliding door opening on to the flowing sweep of landscape and the side and back windows framing granite boulders filled with green and a dash of sky.
Einmalig (unique) is scrawled in the guest book. “Wow – what a privilege,” says another, and I can’t but agree.
Mr Swiegers bought Klein-Aus Vista in 1983, farming with karakul sheep and cattle and running a dairy and fruit-juice bottling plant. When Willem Swiegers returned from agricultural college in 1992 to help his father on the farm, he built a campsite and a few years later, the Eagle’s Nest bungalows.
His brother Piet, returning from studying zoology and an extended overseas trip in ’97, joined Willem, and in 2000 they began to convert the main farmhouse into a guesthouse, calling it Desert Horse Inn, in acknowledgement of their equine neighbours.
Over the years, more land was acquired.
Currently the Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park is 51 000 hectares. (The family-owned business became part of Gondwana marketing in 2005.)
The area is adjacent to the Sperrgebiet National Park, proclaimed in November 2008, and is located in the transition zone between succulent Karoo and the Namib-Naukluft Park.
Klein-Aus Vista offers a choice of accommodation options: the Desert Horse Inn with the reception area and restaurant and 26 middle-market rooms; Desert Horse Camp (2 km away) with ten sites; a rustic cabin of two rooms with 10 bunk beds set in the secluded Geisterschlucht; and Eagle’s Nest (7 km away) with stone-walled self-catering chalets nestled against granite mountains in an exclusive setting with an expansive view. Klein-Aus boasts a 75–80-km sunset view to the horizon, depending on the time of year.
Geisterschlucht, or ghost valley, running between granite koppies, has a rusty bullet-ridden 1936 Hudson motorcar on the side of its gravel road, said to have belonged to a diamond smuggler escaping from the Sperrgebiet.
Stone ramparts from World War One, once creating an illusion of protection for the Schuztruppe troops stationed there, remain dotted around the property. The history of the original farmland adds poignant depth to the area.
Adam Bolz bought the farm in 1908 and established a dairy, supplying the new-founded Kolmanskop mine. Adam served in the Schutztruppe in World War One and was deported and interred with his son for a period in South Africa in World War Two, leaving his wife and daughter to tend the farm.
The farm remained in the Bolz family until the land, dairy and livestock were sold to the Swiegers family. The 1920s style of building used in the rooms at Desert Horse Inn duplicates that of the Bolzs’ original farmhouse. The wild-horse theme runs through the central area of the inn, from table displays of horses rearing, to black-and-white photographs on the walls, bringing the spirit and freedom of the desert horses into the area.
For visitors wanting to absorb this striking land on foot, self-guided hiking trails skirt the area with a choice of 1–5 hours of walking. The Eagle Trail offers views of the beginning of the red Namib dune sea to the north and a short one-hour/4-km trail starts at the campsite, a recommended route to find a throne or rock platform for the sunset, although any rocky boulder or the deck of the Desert Horse Inn makes a good choice for sipping and celebrating.
Klein-Aus Vista offers sunset, half-day and full-day drives into the Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park, to bask in the beauty of the Namib Desert biome with its granite outcrops, desert plains and linear sand dunes.
The Swiegers will soon in-corporate excursions into the Garub-Khoichab concession area in the Namib-Naukluft Park, offering sunset drives to watch groups of wild horses in the endless desert plains of the Namib. A half-day drive will include a visit to the Khoichab dune sea and spending time with the horses. For the more energetic visitors there is the option of climbing the Dicke Wilhelm mountain, a prominent landmark in the area, after viewing the horses.
Klein-Aus is still a family-run business, with the two brothers and sister (with their families) and parents living on the property. The prime location is a destination in its own right, and a good place to pause when en route to Lüderitz or Sossusvlei. The Garub horses (20 km west of Klein-Aus Vista) and a visit to Lüdertiz and the old mining town of Kolmanskop, add flavour and intrigue to the stay, or you may just want to lie in bed, warm under a thick duvet, and savour the scenery.
This article appeared in the June/July ‘10 edition of Travel News Namibia.