Naukluft Trail, Namibia
To walk 120kms over eight days in the desert may not appeal to many people. However, once one has walked one of the major trails in Namibia, the magic of the Namib draws one back again and again to experience the wonders of one of the oldest deserts in the world. To many people the word desert conjures up visions of sand and dunes that stretch away as far as the eye can see, but as we found out on our trip to Naukluft, a desert can also consist of mountains and some of the most rugged scenery to be found anywhere in Africa.
The easiest and quickest way of travelling by car to Windhoek (capital city of Namibia) from Johannesburg is by way of the Trans-Kalahari highway through Botswana. The journey to Windhoek takes 13-15 hours and traverses vast areas of flat scrub-land and semi-desert. Fuel stations are few and far between and fuel has to be paid for in cash in Botswana Pula or South African Rand. Botswana and Namibia road tax have to be paid at the border post. Enquire with the AA for latest rates. Drivers need to carry their vehicle registration papers with them and a country of origin sticker displayed. For South Africans a Visa is unnecessary but for other nationals it is advisable to enquire at the local Namibia and Botswana consulates.
From Windhoek, the journey to Naukluft takes about three hours, much of it along well graded gravel roads. After heavy rains (as experienced in 2006) these roads can become slippery and care must be taken.
The Naukluft park has provided hikers with a steel cabinet at Tsams-ost (4th night of the trail) to leave part of their supplies. To take advantage of this, one needs to allow about four hours to travel the round trip of 240kms to Tsams-ost.
The above map will give you some idea of the location of the Naukluft national park.
The start of the trail: Hikers Haven
The night before the start of the trail is spent at Hikers Haven, an old farmhouse situated about 500m from the park office and the start of the trail. Hikers Haven is equipped with beds and mattresses, a gas stove and shower. The walls of Hikers Haven have been decorated with the graffiti of hikers and their comments and experiences while walking the trail. Over the years these comments have become a tradition and Footprint Hiking Club members, have left its mark on these boards.
DAY 1. HIKERS HAVEN to PUTTE SHELTER
The first day of the trail starts off with an easy walk down a dry river bed. However, this feeling of ease is soon dispelled as the trail turns to the right and leads steeply up the mountainside. This exertion is rewarded by some beautiful views over the desolate area adjoining the Naukluft park. Eventually the trail reaches a saddle and levels out to follow a contour until it turns into a kloof. The trail follows this kloof for some distance until it reaches a plateau and Putte shelter.
The first day's walk
Putte Shelter and its water pump
DAY 2. PUTTE SHELTER to UBUSIS HUT
From Putte shelter the trail leads along a jeep track for some distance. The going is relatively easy and one tends to be lulled into a false sense complacency, especially when one reaches the Bergpos windmill well before lunch. However, the 'fun and games' of the day's trail is only just beginning as the hiker starts the descent down through Ubusis kloof. About 2-3 hours should be allowed for this section of the trail especially if some members of the party have a respect for heights. Cathedral Fountain is a good place to have lunch before one tackles the climb down to Ubusis hut. Our first impression when we came to the top of the first dry waterfall was one of disbelief. About 20m below a near vertical rock face we could see the white footprints leading away around the next bend in the gorge. The only aid provided to reach the bottom is a length of chain which is anchored at several places to the rock face. Taking our lives in our hands we gingerly proceeded to clamber down, holding onto the chain while groping around for the nearest toe hold. Eventually we were all safely down only to be greeted by exclamations from our advance party who had discovered the next obstacle. After four more chains we eventually reached level ground at the bottom of the kloof and proceeded to negotiate the boulder strewn river bed to arrive eventually and rather thankfully at Ubusis hut. Unlike the shelters found on the rest of the trail, Ubusis hut is fairly luxurious, having bunk beds and mattresses, shower and gas stove provided.
DAY 3. UBUSIS SHELTER to ADLERHORST SHELTER
Day 3 of the trail starts off with a return trip up the gorge to Bergpos. The ascent up Ubusis kloof proved to be a lot easier than the previous day's descent. Once the windmill is passed the trail swings north and the remainder of the day is spent walking through a valley following a rough vehicle track until Adlerhorst shelter is reached.
DAY 4. ADLERHORST SHELTER to TSAMS OST SHELTER
The fourth day of the trail starts off with a fairly easy walk along a mountain track. About an hour after the start the hiker reaches a split in the trail with an alternative route returning to the start of the trail for those hikers wishing to terminate the trail after four days. The main trail continues and soon enters Zebra kloof, a canyon that I believe surpasses the Fish river canyon for beauty. After some time spent following the dry river bed the trail climbs steeply away up the side of the canyon until one reaches a vantage point with incredible views of the kloof and the surrounding mountains. After a short walk across the mountain top, the reason for the climb becomes apparent as the sheer rock face of a dry waterfall comes into view. The trail soon leaves the mountain tops and starts an almost heart stopping descent to the valley below. This section of the trail is certainly not for the faint-hearted! At the bottom is an ideal resting spot for lunch before tackling the rest of the route down the kloof to Tsams Ost picnic site and then along a sand road to the Tsams Ost shelter, the end of an incredible day's walk and to our replenishment supplies.
The fourth day
DAY 5. TSAMS OST to DIE VALLE SHELTER
The 5th day of the trail starts with a steep climb of 200m. From the top, beautiful views of the Tsams Ost valley are to be seen. From the top the trail undulates for some considerable time before entering a long valley which one follows for the rest of the day. Of all the days of the Naukluft trail, this is probably the least interesting. However the route takes the hiker past some of the most beautiful specimens of Quiver trees that I have ever seen.
DAY 6. DIE VALLE SHELTER to TUFA TAVERN
From Die Valle shelter one has a beautiful view up to the end of the canyon and the high waterfall at the end, a rather daunting prospect for the hiker. After about 1km the trail leaves the course of the dry river bed and climbs very steeply (sometimes nearly vertically) up the mountainside for about 200m before a contour path is reached which takes the hiker into the kloof above the waterfall. This kloof is then followed for some considerable distance, chains again helping the hiker to overcome difficult sections. This is a very spectacular part of the trail and makes up for the rather disappointing fifth day. The trail gains nearly 600m in height until a plateau is reached. This is followed by an equally spectacular descent along the remains of an old mountain road to Tufa Tavern Shelter.
The spectacular 6th day
DAY 7. TUFA TAVERN to KAPOKVLAKTE SHELTER
This penultimate day of the trail starts with an easy walk for about a kilometre to the entrance of Arbeid Adelt Kloof. As one progresses up the kloof the going progressively gets tougher until one finds oneself at the bottom of a 28m long piece of chain dangling down a near vertical dry waterfall. However, our experiences during the past 6 days prepared us well for this obstacle and it was not long before this barrier was passed. Continuing up the kloof for some considerable time, we eventually climbed out of the gorge to witness the spectacle of panorama vistas of the plains 500m below. The trail continues for some time along the edge of the escarpment before eventually turning away across Kapokvlakte and the shelter which can be reached by lunchtime. Some hikers decide to walk on from this point and finish the trail the same day. This I believe is wrong as a 30 km walk at the end of such a wonderful experience as the Naukluft trail must detract from the overall experience. One word of warning, though, Kapokvlakte hut is inhabited by a swarm of bees!
Arbeid Adelt Kloof
The fantastic 7th day
DAY 8. KAPOKVLAKTE SHELTER to HIKER'S HAVEN
The final day of the trail starts with a seemingly endless walk across Kapokvlakte until one reaches its end in another steep descent down a tributary of the Naukluft river. Here we came upon perennial water and some lush vegetation. Beautiful crystal clear rock pools seemed to draw us to their edges like a magnet. Five hours after our set out we again walked down the same road that we had set out on,on what seemed like a lifetime before.
The Walk across Kapokvlakte
The pools of Naukluft
What a Trail!!! However not a trail for the beginner, the unfit or those with a fear of heights. Boots should be well worn in and good planning for the trail is essential. Hikers are allowed to stay at Hikers Haven both before the trail and after it. I will certainly be back to do it again.
Guest Farm Buellsport
Buellport Guest Farm offers an air charter service as well as hiking and horse riding in Namibia's unspoilt nature. They are situated close to the main gate of Naukluft Park and also offer accommodation, meals and other activities in the area. Visit their webpage at www.natron.net/tour/buellspt/buell.htm , www.buellsport.com
Bookings for the Naukluft Trail can be made through
Namibia Wildlife Resorts
Cape Town Office
Telephone +27 (0) 21 422 3761
Jacana Travel Marketing and Reservations
Telephone 0861Jacana (0861 522262)
Direct phone: Port Elizabeth 041 378 1439
Pretoria: 012 803 9109
Direct fax: PE 041 378 2548
Pretoria: 012 803 4144
PE e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Pretoria e-mail: email@example.com
Tim Hartwright e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Footprint Hiking Club
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