A serendipitous find
by Ron Swilling
Midway between Sossusvlei and Windhoek lies an unassuming farm, NamibGrens. It belongs to the Rabie family, members of whom have farmed here with cattle, sheep and goats for many generations.
A short drive from the farmhouse where goats are nibbling on garden greens, a striking landscape of granite hills greets the visitor. Here, nestled serendipitously between the granite domes, are three recently built thatch-roofed villas. Positioned a good distance apart, with views of the rocky land and distant mountains, they blend into the landscape with ochre colours and subtle flair, while granite boulders are incorporated creatively into their interiors.
Built as an upmarket and self-catering option to the rooms next to the farmhouse and the Mountain Campsite, the high-roofed villas are a combination of comfort and style. Each villa has a central building with an open kitchen and lounge, edged with glass windows and doors leading out onto a balcony, and two (one of the villas has three) large and separate bedroom units flanking either side. The more exclusive Bushmen’s Rest sleeps eight.
The land is invited in as an honoured guest, with every window, even the one in the bathroom, paying tribute to it. Rounded wine-vat slats are used as railings, boulders are incorporated into walls, and comfort-able couches and a Jetmaster fireplace complete the central area. The two large bedroom units with twin beds are homes in themselves, with sunken baths or steps leading to enchanting bathroom alcoves with double basins and shower heads that peep mischievously out of golden rock. Sliding doors and wide windows have long curtains and crisp white linen, with colourful cushions and blankets accentuated against the muted natural tones of the floor and walls.
A place to unwind
An outside shower and an indoor fireplace add extra touches of luxury, inviting guests to snuggle in bed with a book or watch the slim crescent of the moon sparkle in the night sky. This is definitely a place to unwind in a hot bath as the fire sizzles or the sun sinks behind the hills, and to release the pent-up stresses of city life.
Designed by owner, John Rabie, the villas provide an appealing stop for travellers en route to the red dunes or for those simply pining for rest and relaxation. This is an attractive weekend getaway (at reduced rates for Namibians), just 165 km from Windhoek. For those continuing south on the Spreetshoogte Pass, Sesriem is 140 km further. Ensure that you allow enough time to travel slowly so that you can savour the scenery.
Farm and lodge managers Dirk and Annemarie Strydom will happily show guests around, take them on game drives to a neighbouring farm and serve them home-cooked dinners and breakfasts on request. Annemarie makes typical boerekos, her speciality being pampoentert (pumpkin pie) with a mouth-watering sweet sauce, a recipe much sought after by guests and which regular visitors order when they book.
The farm is known for its unusual animals: the baboon Bobby, which grew up with the sheep and was occasionally seen catching a ride on a ram’s back (filmed by a BBC team); a pet meerkat; and more recently Strepie, a zebra which the couple adopted when they spotted it abandoned on the side of the road. In an unexpected snowfall in June, Strepie was featured in the media posing in the snow. As she grew up and developed a liking for the couch or guests’ beds, she was relocated to another area, but she still accompanies hikers around the farm.
There is a choice of hiking routes for those wanting to stretch their legs, with trails ranging from 4 to 30 km on a two-day overnight hike (shortcuts are conveniently marked out). Most of the trails lead hikers to vantage points with spectacular views. Guests can drive to the viewpoints to watch the sunrise or enjoy the sunset with drinks in hand. Klipspringer‘s Window has a splendid view of the Gamsberg. Four-by-four routes also skirt the farm.
NamibGrens (Afrikaans for Namib Border) is positioned on the edge of the Khomas Hochland escarpment and the Namib Desert (where the two regions merge). It has been a venue for weddings, artists’ outings, conferences and team-building events. A farm with much to offer, it is also a place of retreat, where the luxuries of life and the beauty of the Namibian landscape can be enjoyed from the comfort of the stylishly built villas.
On the way back to Windhoek, take the time to pause and settle the overdose of stimuli you’ve been exposed to before continuing on to the capital.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘11/ Jan ‘12 edition of Travel News Namibia.