On the banks of the Omaruru
by Ron Swilling
A hacienda desert-style exterior with rockeries and a goldfish pond opens into an oasis of a garden, bright with red cannas, palm trees and greenery. This surprising contrast and Heidi’s vibrant colour scheme of yellow and desert orange create an unexpected garden of delight.
Six double rooms, two of them for families, line the central garden with the whole building created in a rectangular shape with doors into the middle and a single door to the desert exterior, providing a view to the 1904 Franke Tower, and the Omaruru koppie.
In 2005 Heidi and Eckhardt bought the property as a weekend retreat for themselves, but once they’d revamped the building, they decided to open it as a guesthouse. They attract the local population by having a regular pizza evening on Fridays when Heidi transforms into chef, Eckhardt into pastry maker and the breakfast room with its burnt orange walls and ostrich egg lampshades into an Italian/German restaurant. From about six thirty in the evening the gates are open and the strong smell of garlic pervades the air.
They also hold regular functions with an original theme when they feel a need for celebration. They have had a rain dance, a cowboy fondue dance, a Mongolian barbecue and a smoked barbel evening. For these they use the upstairs sundeck, also a good place for sunset viewing and to catch a cool breeze in the summer months.
The River Guest House has a turquoise pool in its oasis of a garden, a recreation room with a pool table, a table-tennis table and a small gym. The camping area of six large sites is situated closer to the river bank at the bottom of the property under the shade of large ana trees.
Heidi and Eckhardt arrange birthday parties and other special occasions on request for smaller parties of up to twenty-five people. Heidi also cooks meals, provided they are pre-arranged. She tells me of an outdoor wedding they held at the campsite surrounded by trees and vegetation.
Off-street parking, a locked gate and three friendly German shepherds give a sense of security. A variety of flags hanging from the entrance of the building welcomes the international traveller to this Namibian hideaway. Touches of vibrant colour and mosaics, small metal sculptures and wooden benches positioned in the garden add to this effect of a secret hideaway. Eckhardt sees the River Guesthouse as a base for people travelling the country, especially self-drivers driving from Walvis Bay or Swakopmund to Windhoek or up to the north. He says that the maximum mileage for a day’s travelling on a holiday should not exceed a comfortable 250 kilometres. This makes Omaruru and especially The River Guest House a perfect place to put up those weary feet, explore the area and enjoy the wonderful secret garden.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘08/Jan ‘09 edition of Travel News Namibia.