As someone told us, and became evident to us on our travels, climbing mountains is not so popular an activity in Namibia. Much of the landscape is flat, notably along the coast and the section of the Kalahari. But not all. There are plenty of low ridges of hills dotted about the central area which sometimes intrigued us, but most of them it would be hard to access without your own vehicle.
1 Okavi Mountain – southeast ridge 1954 metres 19.8.18
This is the first range of mountains we caught sight of of coming from the border with Botswana by the Caprivi Strip. There is quite an extensive range of hills to the north of the road between Grootfontain and Otavi townships which we passed in the taxi. The highest point marked on our map was at 2154m, called Gross Otavi, but we had passed this by the time we reached Otavi. Instead we opted to climb the ridge of hills near to Otavi, which was still a reasonable climb up.
The day before we climbed we discovered that all the land in the area is privately owned, by white and black farmers. We met a German lady at a camp to the north who sent us to the farm of the local (white) doctor, also locally known as the Winery, for they grow grapes there and make wine. The coupld here owned some of the northern ridge, but they were not happy for us to walk there, as they did not want us to disturb the wildlife, which here are kudus. They however thought it might be OK to climb the southern ridge.
So we took a taxi to the foot from Otavi the next morning, which dropped us before the gap in the hills in which runs the road. Just as we were setting off, a white lady comes out from the house nearby where they sold eggs.. She is the owner of this land. Fortunately she was happy enough for us to climb the mountain.
It was fairly tough going, as the ground was quite rocky and lose and there was much thorny vegetation to negotiate inbetween, so only rarely was it easy walking. But we persisted over successive summits until we reached a higher one, at least maybe the next one was higher, but we decided to be satisfied with our attempt after about 2 and a half hours. Of nature there was not a lot to inspire apart from some colourful and unusual lichens on the rocks on the south side in sheltered places with different shades of orange. We looked also to the south to some large farms, the whole area of flat land seemed to hace been portioned off into plots.
2 Gross Spitzkoppe 1726 m 23.9.18
From Spitzkoppe campsite.
This modest area of spectacular and rather beautifully coloured mountains arises out of the plain north of Usakos. We were very happy when we found this place which is a Heritage Area managed by the local Damara people, and receives many tourists who come to camp in the bush at the foot of the peaks, and to view some rock paintings here. The Damara speak the very strong click language, with seven different clicks.
We were lucky to find that, once we had paid for our camping, we were free to explore the area at our leisure without the necessiyt of a guide. It was some 4 kilometres walk from the gate to the foot of Gross Spitzkoppe which is the highest of the peaks here. At the base we found some people climbing on the rocks there. I should point out that the peaks appear totally unclimable from the base. They are of volcanic origin, but the magmas did not come to the surface of the earth and the rocks hardened beneath, Only later were the surface layers eroded away revealing the giant rounded outcrops of the Spitzkoppe mountains. The rock climbers pointed out to us the way, which is a route over boulders and rocks marked by small cairns. We were not entirely sure if we were able to reach the summit itself as we had been given different stories. But in the end with some perseverance we found the trail, leading first to a col, then ascending behind the large boulder face with the aid of some permanent ropes and chains that have been put there. Near to the summit the way goes through the branches of a large oretete tree (a sacred tree of the Masai which grows up there amazingly). and then up the rock to the summit, where there is a metal box containing a book which summit attainers can sign. The very summit is actually on a rock some three metres higher than the point attained, but one can pass through a gap in the rock and see to the other side, and gain a view of the sister peak Pontok.
It was certainly a very intruiguing and pleasing peak to climb.
3 Pontok 1629 m 24.9.18
This mountain contains several peaks, the very highest which is in the shape of one of the local bushman tents (called a Pontok) has, we were told, never been climbed. There are three rounded boulder summits to the west of this, of which we were able to scale the middle one, by way of a trail marked with cairns, clambering over the boulders then ascending by the bushy crack to the left of the peak. It was a very pleasant open summit with a ciarn on top, though we failed to notice the tin there containing the visitors book. What was remarkable on this walk was the beauty of the vegetation here which was still surviving. For the trees which do survivie here seemed remarkably healthy, with some flowering cactus, making beautiful flowers (prior to the rains). There were also some pleasant aromas wafting about here from these trees. There were also many rock hyraxes living on this mountain, though mostly their presence is on the lower slopes. (Also Oloropile, the Masai perfume tree).
Certainly this was a very wonderful place. There was certainly much beauty here, even if only a small amount of life.
4 City Hill
From Windhoek town. 26.9.18
This is the very modest viewpoint we chanced upon off the Sinclair Road as we were walking about the city. The area has been built with steps and walls, which have been covered with paintings and graffiti. One can gain a sense of the extent of the city from here.
5 White Lady rock outcrops. 560m 28.9.18
From the White Lady Lodge campsite.
These small rocky peaks, arising some 100 metres, are located near to the White Lady Lodge , with another of slightly lesser high beyond. It is certainly worth the climb to gain a viwe over the plain around, and over the Ugab River, which remarkably is covered all along its dry bed with trees and green circles of the Salvador Pissica (toothbrush tree). There are many elephants living here, and their dung and tracks can easily be seen about the foot of these outcrops and along the riverbed. Hyenas can also be heard here in the night. There is also much evidence of rock hyrax on the hills.
6 Brandenburg Mountain, outlier. 940 m 29.9.18
We wer somewhat dissapointed as we had hoped to climb the highest peak in Namibia, which is in the Brandemburg Mountain range, called Koningstein, some 2800 metres. But in the end the nearest we got was an outlier of the range. For when we arrived at the base we were told that permission had to be gained from Windhoek before you could climb it.
However this peak proved highly rewarding. We could see it from the White Lady Lodge somewhat in the distance, and it seemed it would be a good viewpoint for getting a sense of the land beyond stretching to the sea, and also something of the terrain of the Brandenburg Mountains themselves, which harbour very little vegetation. Though even then we found some beautiful patches of desert plants on the far side.
It took us about 2 and a quarter hours to reach the summit, where we sat for quite a while. We then continued over descending by the far side down to a stream bed we could see. We thought to walk along this stream to get to the Ugab river, and it was very interesting there with some green reedy grass still, and even in one inaccessible place a pool of water in which a great number of tadpoles were swimming about. However it turned out we could not walk down entirely ion the river bed, as it came through a gorge at one point, so we had to climb back over the rocks to get by. Then we came down, past an area which my friend was thinking must harbout lions, to the Ugab River. We saw many many elphant tracks here. for there was actually an area of the river here with some waterholes. We also met then quite a number of cars and tourists trucks coming from the lodge, with tourists looking for elephants who were asking us if we had seen any.
It was a very hot afternoon that day, so we were very happy to have the opportunity to rehydrate ourselves with glasses of iced water and soda at the Lodge on our return, feeling indeed we had surely deserved it