“Have you got water with you?”
“Yes” I replied.
I smiled. I was really waiting for a briefing for my solo hike.
“You have the map…”
I hesitated, “Yes, er, see you in around 3 hours then.”
That was it?
Be Prepared for Walking in the Namib Desert
No safety talk about the perils of walking in the Namib desert? No kit check to see whether I had adequate clothing and footwear, no briefing on emergency protocols, no sanity check to see whether I was really ‘all there’. I was going on a 3 hour walk, in the desert. It was 3.00pm and over 30C and there was no check on whether I had a mobile phone or not. I was rather taken aback, I was not used to this. Back home when I do a briefing to students embarking on a Duke Of Edinburgh expedition, even if it is a training day and I am with them, I still ask a few more questions to see how prepared they are!
This is the beauty of Africa. If you are mad enough to consider going on a walk in the desert in hot conditions then you should take responsibility and sort yourself out.
So I sorted myself out. I had a hand drawn map, 3 litres of water (one for every hour), walking trainers (no ankle support there), a compass, my suncream, my hat and a massive sense of adventure.
I had only been in Namibia for one full day and already I had reignited my love affair with Namibia. The sense of freedom that you get once out of Windhoek and on the gravel roads is monumental. The scenery is mind blowing, so much so that a photo can not really do the vistas justice. Miles of dirt roads winding through canyon passes and around stark red outcrops, meandering down towards a sea of sand dunes, just incredible.
I had driven 5 hours on dirt road and was staying at Rostock Ritz, a small lodge nestled in the wilderness. It perfectly blends in with its surroundings. I had arrived in time to have lunch by the pool. The swimming pool had an incredible view over the desert for about 50km, so pretty spectacular.
I decided to walk one of the 10 self guided hiking trails that the lodge has created.
Rostock Ritz Walking Trails
The walking trails were well marked with a mixture of white painted arrows on the rocks and a few signs. How could I get lost with this? It was pretty easy to follow. The small booklet had a rough route in it along with snippets of interesting information about view points, local flora and the geology of the area. It was also warned about getting too close to zebra and oryx as they kick and bite. I was rather dubious about this,. How on earth could a zebra or oryx survive in these conditions? There was absolutely nothing to eat, no water and the ground I was walking on was very rocky and not conducive for hooved animals. Zebra? Here? Pah!
As I negotiated my way along the path and scrambled up the side of a small rocky hill it suddenly struck me that I really was by myself in the middle of nowhere. I was enveloped in magnificent scenery that went on as far as the eye could see.
My smile was nearly as huge. Walking for me is restoration for the soul and here in the Namib desert it was heightened.
I only lost the route once. Naturally I struggled to find the white arrows on the rocks in a sea of white quartz.
I felt as if I was playing ‘Where’s Wally’ with the consequences a little more serious if Wally was not found. As the minutes ticked by I became mildly concerned and wondered whether I should retrace my route, follow my instinct or use my compass. I also wondered whether I had enough water to survive the night. After 10 rather fraught minutes I managed to find that elusive arrow and continued on my adventurous journey.
Enjoy the Space in Namibia
The views from the ridge line I was walking along were worth stopping for and I rested on the warm rocks and gazed into the distance over the Namib desert. The colours were astounding, rich ochre reds and pinks dotted with burnt brown scraggly bushes, a vivd green cactus or a bright white vein of quartz, there was too much to take in.
And that was when I saw 31 zebra, 5 oryx and 2 ostrich. All in a couple of minutes. So there is life in the desert after all. Astounding.
Humble pie would have to be eaten that evening.