Silent Witness of an Ancient Lake – dinosaur fossils in NamibiaAugust 22, 2012
Africa Leisure Travel – To experience your expectationsAugust 22, 2012
by Amy Schoeman
No it’s not the one in Washington DC, it’s the one near Grünau, in the deep south of Namibia. And if you haven’t been there yet, it’s time you went. I’ve been there three times, and it’s as good as ever. I purposefully did not say it got better each time, because that would imply that it wasn’t optimally good the first time, which it was.
The owner/managers Dolf and Kinna de Wet have developed a unique way of welcoming you warmly/ bidding you a fond farewell, depending on whether you’re on your way in or on your way out of Namibia. First of all, as you park your car, before you’ve even alighted, either Kinna or Dolf will appear and invite you into the reception area, where you’ll be served coffee or tea, while admiring the rose quartz collection and other artefacts on display. They’ll tell you about Rose Quartz Koppie and the interesting lithops species (Lithops karasmontana spp) that grow in the surroundings which people come from far and wide to see. They are friendly, open and relaxed, and it soon becomes so cosy and congenial that you’re loath to leave.
When you finally pull yourself up from the sofa, they explain how the accommodation works at the White House, which is a short drive away. It has four family rooms and a single, and close by there are three separate bungalows, all in all a total of 28 beds. Breakfast is a do-it-yourself affair – you can choose between a cooked or a cold one – the ingredients are provided in a basket the previous evening. You pay for your drinks yourself, and if you want to, you can do your own braai. A fresh, crispy salad is provided with the chops and boerewors.
And now we come to the unique part of spending a night at the White House. The ultimate option is having your evening meal served to you at a pre-arranged time, once you’ve settled in, showered and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink. It arrives at the appointed hour and looks incredibly mysterious, as the large tray is snugly wrapped in a travelling rug. It is delivered either to your bungalow or to the White House, where there are three separate tables, and where it’s up to the guests whether they want to mix and mingle, or have their own private dinner to one side.
The exciting part is unwrapping the blanket to see what’s inside. On my first visit it was an enormous leg of lamb (we were two people and there wasn’t a way we could polish it, even if we’d been huge rugby-playing men-folk). The meat was so succulent and tasty that on my subsequent visits I opted for the same meal. However, Kinna reassured us, if you’d rather have something else – such as game or chicken – you simply have to say so when you make your booking. There were also spicy pumpkin fritters, rice, gravy, squashes filled with peas and a mixed salad with feta cheese, avocado and bean sprouts. It was a veritable feast, and if your thing is boerekos uit die boonste rakke, this is where to come and indulge.
The White House itself is a curiosity. It was originally built by one Frederich Haschke in 1912, with materials – Oregon pine for the floors and ceilings, roof tiles, and so on – imported via Lüderitz and put on a train to Klein Karas. But Frederich had not done his homework very well. It turned out there was no water in the vicinity of the house, every drop had to be transported from Grabwasser. He stayed there for a short while only, his bride Maria for even shorter, before they both returned to Germany. Dolf’s grandfather bought the farm in 1927, and it’s been in the family ever since.
In fact, Dolf and Kinna spent their honeymoon in the White House in 1978. They bought it from Dolf’s brother in 1980, but it stood empty until 1996. Then, as these were the years of the great drought of the nineties, they decided to convert it into a guesthouse to supplement their income. Kinna’s parents were already involved in the hotel business, so the expertise was already in the family. The White House was the first over-night accommodation to open in the surroundings.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘04/ Jan ‘05 edition of Travel News Namibia.