Desert grace . . .
Touches of grace are always welcome in life, as is the refreshing breath at The Desert Grace imparts with its rose-quartz and pink-gin flourishes in surroundings as stark as the Namib Desert. This is my graceful nest for the night and the springboard from which I head south in the morning en route to Klein-Aus Vista.
The family-owned Klein-Aus Vista lodge is one of my favourites in southern Namibia, an area which has a rich history of a 1908 diamond rush, a population of wild horses and ample gifts from Mother Nature that imbue it with exceptional vistas of Namib sand merging with grassland in elegant streaks of apricot and gold.
This visit, wanting to feel the earth under and around me, I opt for their Desert Horse campsite and set up my tent under an old gnarled camelthorn tree bearing a massive sociable weaver nest – an avian apartment building of note where the birds mastered systems of thermodynamics a long time ago.
All the members of the Swiegers family have played a part in the running of the lodge over the years. Piet, an avid cyclist, has created a network of mountain bike, trail running and hiking trails in the granite-gneiss hills and I take a walk up a trail at sunset to view an image of a gigantic galloping horse on the plains below. Made using rocks from old jackal-proof fences that were dismantled during the restoration of the land, the wild horse, like other land art projects created by Anni Snyman, PC Janse van Rensburg and the Site Specific Collective volunteers, is visible only from above. We are fortunate to be able to view this one from the koppie, the other geoglyphs (earth drawings) in South Africa are only visible by drone, hot-air balloon and UFO. The wild horse is an apt symbol for the lodge that is only 20km from the Namib wild horses viewpoint at Garub. A horse theme runs through the Klein-Aus Vista lodge from the name of their Desert Horse Inn to the photographs on the walls and even the horseshoes mounted above doors. On my arrival I took a dip in their horse-shoe shaped swimming pool for relief from the hot day – and for good luck, of course.
The night is dazzling with its diamond-studded sky and I keep looking up at its clarity and brilliance, far away from city lights and pollution. The stars are so close that I feel as if I can reach up and brush my hand against their luminosity.
It’s become tradition for me over the years to visit the Garub hide as the sun’s first rays hit the plains. And the early morning seems to add an extra bit of magic. There I wait as flocks of Namaqua sandgrouse fly to and from the waterhole, as the Dikke Willem inselberg catches the warm rays and the earth lights up in a tapestry of tawny shades. It’s always a moment of excitement as I spot the first horse in the distance and then watch his family group approach quicker and quicker until the horses break into a trot as they reach the water. It’s not every day that one has the opportunity to view animals whose lot in life is usually to be kept behind fences running free – and it gets me every time.
This time I have to wait as the day warms and the wind blows vigorously through the hide. But, I’m in no rush. Their freedom is more appreciated than ever before at this time of Covid19 after repeated lockdowns and restrictions – and life interrupted. And I realise the strategic importance of freedom in life, without which we have nothing. I breathe in huge gulps of air with the possibilities of the morning and the beauty and freedom this land so generously offers. Eventually, I spot the first horses in the distance. It’s a matter of manes, dust and wild horse dynamics mingling with the gift of water in the desert, and I am, as usual, enriched and enthralled by their wild desert beauty.
And my very good luck at being able to be here in Namibia right now.
If you missed the 1st part of "Green-tripping Namibia in the time of Covid-19: A travelogue from the heart" please click here.
Ron Swilling is a freelance writer, who has a deep love for the land of big sky, its vast open plains, spectacular scenery, free-roaming wildlife and salt-of-the-earth people.