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Elevated above the world
by Ron Swilling
As I approach Ugab Terrace Lodge, a black eagle circles the hills. Perched up on a plateau overlooking the terraces and wild Namibian land, he is king of the sky, and a fitting welcome to Ugab Terrace Lodge.
The Ugab terraces are conglomerate remains from a large river formed over 30 million years ago. Over time the remains eroded into the striking flat-topped mountains and rock features in the area between Outjo and Khorixas visible above the mopane bush today.
It is a different feeling to be elevated above the world with the trees far below. Part owner/lodge manager Karl-Heinz Oosthuizen calls it ‘einmalig’ – unique – which it is. Namibian-born Karl-Heinz lived in Germany for fifteen years, studying hotel management while he was there.
When he came to Namibia for a seven-day visit in 2005, his airport arrival turned into a fortuitous event when he met his friend Leon Wiese at Hosea Kutako International. His aunt, Gudrun Otto, one of Nambia’s longstanding female tour guides, also happened to be picking up a guest on the next flight.
While the three waited for the flight, they tentatively discussed the possibilities of building a lodge. On returning to Germany, Karl-Heinz put it out of his mind until four months later when he received a phone-call to say that Leon and Gudrun had found a perfect piece of land near the Ugab terraces.
Today, ten bungalows line both sides of the ridge, with a turquoise pool built into a rock gully in the middle. In designing the lodge, the idea was to have nothing square. Keeping areas round gave a more organic and creative feel.
The artwork, inspired by the local people, brings an authentic Namibian feel to the lodge. The bungalows have a rounded roof and inside, the attractive ceiling is made of mopane branches. The white bed linen and curtains are complemented with bright, colourful cushions and curved walls on either side of the room, enclosing a toilet and bathroom.
The room is so comfortable, interesting and appealing that staying in seems like a good idea. The bed looks out onto a wooden deck with a view, giving a feeling of space as the landscape unrolls below. It is a place to sit and appreciate your private eagle’s view and to shake out your dusty feathers.
There are eight luxury tents at the bottom of the hill, built on an incline to retain a view of the terraces. A camping area, each site with its own private shower and toilet, is set between large boulders, thus catering for a different range of guests.
This lodge has a large glassed-in central area, allowing the sublime view to permeate. The large deck outside this main area serves as a restaurant, lounge and bar, giving views of the Ugab terraces at sunrise and sunset. Enjoying a sundowner while watching the colours change with the setting sun is an exceptionally uplifting experience.
Adding to this unique environment is Karl-Heinz and Gudrun’s hospitality and personal attention, and the friendliness of the staff. The longer you stay at the lodge, the more you appreciate and enjoy the relaxed and pleasant environment.
Attention to detail can be seen throughout the lodge and restaurant, where wild grasses adorn the tables, red sand holds a burning candle and the delicious food is decorated with tomato roses and other artistic flourishes.
Ugab Terrace Lodge has a special drawcard for horse lovers. Horse trails take place in the winter months from April to October, beginning at the lodge, traversing a section of the Ugab River and ending at the coast. These nine-to-ten-day trails cover short distances in the early morning and late afternoon, with riders camping out at night.
Organised campsites with a chef for the catering are set up before the guests arrive. Gudrun, who has been a guide for over thirty years, leads the trails, sharing her expertise and knowledge of the Namibian landscape. The trail gives guests the opportunity to see and enjoy the endemic Namibian species along the way. The horses are American saddle horses, a hardy, well-natured intelligent and good-looking breed.
Accessible from the D2743 between Outjo and Korixas, the lodge is positioned in the middle of the main tourist route from Swakopmund to Etosha. It is a convenient stop for self-drivers or tour groups travelling through, and is also a short distance from the renowned Twyfelfontein rock engravings.
A nearby farm, Omburu-Ost, has rock paintings that can be viewed and farm owner Hendrik Reitz explains about the farmlands, the paintings and the San/Bushman way of life, making it an interesting and informative visit. The Vingerklip/Finger of Stone rock formation is a few kilometres away, and Karl-Heinz will advise on a Himba settlement to be visited in the town of Kamanjab. Other activities at the lodge include walking trails, mountain-biking and, of course, horse riding.
Sitting like eagles on the main deck looking out onto the Ugab terraces and the land stretching to the horizon, Karl-Heinz tells me how every moment is unique in this special place. He says that often in our lives we look past sunrises and sunsets, or long grass blowing in the wind like waves.
This is a time and place to get in touch with yourself and nature’s precious moments, which change every second, a place where every sunrise and sunset is noticed and appreciated. On The Terrace above the trees, the rush of city life and all the banalities that we spend our time on disappear and dissipate. Before us is pristine, wide-open space.
This article appeared in the June/July ‘08 edition of Travel News Namibia.
Additional images courtesy of http://www.ugabterracelodge.com