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Naukluft Hiking Trail Namibia – 8 Days Through Wondrous Desolation
Imagine a place so remote that you won’t see another person for days. Imagine deserted valleys, mountains and large flat plains of sand, rocks and dry grass patches. The Naukluft hiking trail in Namibia takes you through such places.
It all starts with an old house on top of a small hill known as Namib-Naukluft Park in South West Namibia. Hikers Haven is the base camp for this incredible trail. One last beer, grilled steak and a warm shower can be enjoyed here. After 8 days there carry a heavy backpack through some of the most beautiful and secluded parts of Namibia.
Generally one needs to wake up at 5 am and reach the trail by 7 am. Day 1 is no exception and covers a distance of 14 km. There is a beautiful lookout point at “Panorama” as one starts hiking up the mountains for a few kilometers. Spend some time here and enjoy the view of the grounds below.
From here the trail gradually climbs up the Knockluft mountain. A good place for lunch is “Fontaine Kloof”. There are some large trees for shade and a spring usually flows.
Like most overnight shelters on this trail, tonight’s shelter at “Putte” is a square stone structure with only 1.2m high walls, supported by a few stolen pipes for a tin roof. The floor is gravel. Approximately 150 meters from the shelter is a borehole with a large flywheel that has to be diverted for water.
The second day is 15km long and goes to the famous Ubusis Kloof or valley. Descent into the valley is accomplished with the help of several chains, some of which are up to 30m long and act as supports down the cliff. As one descends, a geologic time capsule is opened from one side into the rock layers. The view is quite breathtaking.
The Ubusis hut is the only “normal” accommodation on this trail. Many years ago the cottage was a small holiday home when there were still farms in the area. Water is supplied through wind pumps and boreholes.
The third day takes one back through the Ubusis Kloof as one went down the previous day. At the top, once reaching Bergpos, the trail turns north across the Kudu Plain. This day is only 12 km long and is considered the easiest of all days.
At the end of the Kudu field is the Adlerhorst overnight shelter, which can be reached by late afternoon. This gives plenty of time to admire the scenery and relax a bit. Water is again supplied through a borehole with a handle above the pipe.
When we got there hundreds of bees were eagerly waiting for the borehole pipe to turn the handle and get the water out for them. No one hesitated even once. They realized that the only hope for them to get water was the people coming to this place.
The fourth day is a bit more difficult and quite long at 17km. The tricky part comes when one has to descend the waterfall into a dry riverbed with the help of a long chain. The angle of the rocks makes it a difficult descent.
Next is another steep descent up the side of a loose slate mountain. In the past, this slate has caused injuries to climbers.
The Tsams-Ost overnight shelter has a large tank on a perch fed by a borehole and a wind pump. It is possible to take a cold shower while standing under the tank.
The next day, day five, Tsam-Ost begins with a steep climb up the mountain behind the overnight shelter and covers another 17 km.
A few hours later, Melkbos arrives at the field. The grounds include several kilometers of walking along sandy paths and through dried-up riverbeds. It is here that herds of antelopes like eland or kudu are seen grazing on the sparse grass and vegetation.
Die Vale night shelter is surrounded by mountains on three sides and behind these mountains the sun sets early. Here water is released in small water tankers which may not have much water especially at the end of the climbing season, so washing is very limited on these days.
Day six is the longest and most difficult of the entire trail. Although it is only 16 km long, most of the day is spent going up.
Immediately after leaving Die Vale overnight shelter, there is a 200m vertical climb to the top of the falls. From there comes a succession of ghats and streams that bury the falls all day long, climbing up.
It is in this ghat that some interesting geological formations called tufa are found. Tufa is a sedimentary rock that contains a lot of carbonates that were deposited by water. It often forms over waterfalls or streams. Here in this ghat, the tufa looks like a gigantic solid waterfall. At the top one comes across a large fig tree, the roots of which run along a small ridge.
Once at the top of the gorge, there is a small flat plateau to cross before a long descent along an old jeep track to Tufa’s overnight shelter. Be careful at the bottom of the track as the shelter is hidden in some bushes to the left. Water is re-supplied in the form of boreholes next to the dried stream bed about 150 meters from the refuge.
The seventh day covers 14 km and one goes to the highest point and is usually the coldest point of the hike in Kapokvlakte.
From the Tufa overnight shelter, the trail crosses some large boulders as it heads back towards the mountains. At the base of the mountains that eventually leads to Kapokvlakte, there are some chains that help one climb up the more difficult rock faces.
Once at the top, the trail follows an ever-rising dry stream bed until reaching the top in a global view. The name is very appropriate, because you can see for several kilometers. It is a good place to stop for a while and enjoy the view of the plains below and the mountains on the other side. From here the terrain is fairly flat and easy going.
Kapokvlakte overnight shelter is usually reached by early afternoon. The shelter is hidden behind a thicket of bushes which is the only large vegetation in the area. The rest of the plateau is covered with short grass and occasional small shrubs. Kapokvlakte can get very cold at night, and using a down feather sleeping bag is a must here.
The last day has come. By now everyone is dreaming of fat steaks and beer, but there’s still 16km to go. A few kilometers to the top of the plateau and the trail descends long through a winding gorge to Hikers Haven.
As the day heats up, more and more insects and other small creatures can be heard in this lonely gorge. Be careful picking up rocks. Often there are scorpions lurking beneath them.
Going down the trail, there are small ponds with big trees on the sides that make a good place to relax. The campsite is a few hundred meters away from Hikers Haven. Here you can meet other humans for the first time after spending so long in the desert. By now you can even see the roof of the old house at Hikers Haven. A few hundred meters more and one is back. How long was that!
Now you can finally take a hot shower again! Tonight will be a treat for those who brought vacuum packed meat and managed to keep it cool in their car during this period!
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