Ride ‘em in Rawhide: Our Namibian Horse trekking Adventure.

The next stop on our RTW tour was Namibia.  Continuing our preference for low cost airlines with funny names or impressive ad sales strategies we flew from Cape Town to Windhoek on “1 Time Airlines”.  Once again I kid you not.  And since I don’t expect you to believe it unless you see it with your own eyes, here it is.

While I would say that one time was probably enough (no free drinks or snacks on this airline!), I fear that we will be flying 1 Time Airlines a 2nd Time when we fly back to Cape Town.  Lord hear our prayer!

For our 1st wedding anniversary Francesca had booked a romantic horseback riding camping overnight trip with The Desert Homestead and Horse Trails resort about thirty kilometers outside of the town of Sossusvlei.

To get there however, we had to drive about three and a half hours from the Namibian capital of Windhoek largely on dirt and gravel roads.  We were warned by Budget rental car agent with the perma-smile not to exceed speeds of 60km per hour on these types of roads, but I felt confident as I pushed our little vehicle on at between 80 and 100 km/h.   That is until I heard the telltale flub-flub, flub-flub sound of a flat tire.  Actually we had been blasting our music so loudly we didn’t notice the sound until sometime after the flat had occurred.  I eventually felt that something was wrong and pulled over.

Francesca had asked me about thirty minutes earlier if I knew how to change a flat tire.  I didn’t want her to think she’d married a complete incompetent when it came to manly things – like fixing a flat – so I blurted out “of course!” before actually thinking about whether or not I could, in fact, perform such a testosterone laden procedure.  I think I had changed one once before, but I haven’t driven a car regularly in years and was never really a grease monkey type of guy to begin with.

But confidence is ½ the battle so I proceeded to change that thing like I was born doing it.  It was hot and dusty, but together (Franny handed me the tire lug nuts) we fixed that sucker in about 20 minutes.  Needless to say I was pretty darn proud of myself.   That said, with no spare I then drove at a painful 40km/h the rest of the way.  Oh, by the way, we also lost the hub cap on that tire.  Damn expensive VW logo one too!

When we arrived about one hour late our guides Anja & Kivit were waiting for us seemingly pleased that we were in one piece. Apparently flat tires and worse, cars rolling over, are a common occurrence on the road from Windhoek. In fact, Kivit had just been involved in an accident where the car he was riding in skidded in the rocky dirt, flipped over and hit a telephone pole.  Fortunately no one was seriously injured.

After we freshened up a bit in one of the villas (above) Anja and Kivit took us to the stables and mounted us up.  My horse was an ornery white and black spotted Apoloosa named “Sergent Pepper” and Francesca was introduced to a diminutive, but hard working steed named “Johannes” or “Jo-Jo” for short.

Franny with Jo Jo

The ride out to the campsite was as educational as it was beautiful.

Kivit, Anja and Francesca on their trusty steeds.

In the fading light we saw plenty of Springbok grazing in the open plains and Anja pointed out several interesting flora and fauna including the “Social Weaver” nest.  They look like big piles of hay sitting up in the trees, but they are nests built by these boisterous communal birds.  Some of the nests can have up to a hundred rooms or more and all the entrances are protected from snakes and other predators by sharp sticks wedged into the opening like spears.

We arrived at our campsite just in time for sunset.

We had a HUGE spread with enough food for a party of fifteen so Francesca and I ate like Royalty.

We drank wine as well as a special bottle of “Steenberg 1865” sparkling white wine that we had purchased at the Steenberg winery just for this occasion.

Kivit working the grill.

After we had gorged ourselves on a variety of grilled meats including some delicious lamb ribs we sat and watched the rest of the sunset, chatted with Anja and Kivit while drinking much wine and smoking some cigars that I had picked up in Dubai.

Anja, as it turned out, is only nineteen years old!  She looks at least twenty three and her confidence and knowledge are way beyond that of any nineteen year old I know.  Showing my ignorance I asked her what part of South Africa she came from as I didn’t think there were any Caucasian people native to Namibia.  I was incredulous when she told us she was born and raised right in nearby Windhoek.  Then, showing even further ignorance, I challenged “But you’ve got a South African accent and speak Afrikaans!” (which I had heard her speaking to Kivit).  She gently informed me that Namibia was part of South Africa until 1990 and so everyone who has basic education speaks Afrikaans.  Anja’s ancestry is German so she also speaks that language fluently as well.  Wow, a blond haired, blue eyed African girl!?  Well I’ll be.

Anja was working as a guide to pay for the various tests and certifications she needs to become an official, professional guide.  I think she’ll do just fine.

Kivit’s story was completely different.  While he had grown up in Namibia riding horses as well, he had chosen the business route and had been working a desk job as an engraver in a large city.  Then, a month or so back, he decided he’d had enough and wanted to work in the great outdoors so he quit his job of thirteen years and signed up with Desert Homested as a guide.  He had only been there for two weeks which was why there were two guides accompanying us instead of just one.  Anja was to show him the ropes and make sure he didn’t get us lost.   Kivit did a good job, especially on cooking, but he had a tough time on his horse – a feisty one to be sure.  He fell off twice during our ride and apparently had been bit once and stepped on in addition to three other falls all in his first two weeks.  Hey, you know what they say – “when you fall off of a horse you’ve got to get back up and ride”.  And that’s exactly what Kivit did.

Kivit after falling off his horse on our way home.

In the morning we had an excellent breakfast including biltong the South African equivalent of beef jerky.  I love beef jerky, but I found that the quality and taste of biltong varied widely and I’ve had more tough, fatty, foul tasting biltong than I have had tasty ones.  Note: the best we’ve found so far is “Tong” brand Spicy Chili Beef” biltong.  That’s some seriously good stuff.

Then we went to use the rustic, but elaborate shower and toilet area that the guides had set up for us (below).  It was a really cool, Robinson Crusoe meets Bemis affair and we were excited for a much needed shower.  Unfortunately a swarm of African bees had gotten there before we did having honed in on the only moisture in the arid desert.  We opted to shower once we returned to the lodge.  Score one for Mother Nature.

On the return trip we saw the heartier and rarer Gemsbok (aka Oryx).   The Oryx are a pretty cool beast as they are perfectly suited for survival in the desert.  They apparently have unique cooling systems in their brains which allow their body temperatures to rise to levels that could fry the brain of any other mammal.  But Onyx’s brain is kept cool and therefore it can stand the higher temperatures of the desert. A pretty neat Darwinian fact there for ya.

At the end of our ride which included a considerable amount of cantering, our butts were as tender as tuna tartare to say the least and we were grateful to be on solid ground again as we headed towards the showers walking, as you would expect, like we just got off a horse.

It was a great 1st anniversary.  We only worry that we’ve set the bar too high for future anniversaries.   Oh, in case you were wondering what we got each other for our anniversary gifts I’ll tell you.  On the 1st anniversary tradition dictates that you  give paper, typically stationary.  Since we didn’t really have a lot of use for stationary on our round the world trip and any ream of paper would add unwanted weight to our packs we bought each other two hours of wi-fi internet access figuring that email is a form of modern day stationary.  Agree?  Disagree?  Talk amongst ya selves.

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8 Responses to “Ride ‘em in Rawhide: Our Namibian Horse trekking Adventure.”

  1. 1time Airlines! I love it. I see you also were drinking wine “Just Like Grandma Used to Make”. That scares me. I don’t recall Grandma making wine, and if she did, it probably would’ve tasted like Manischewitz with some Borscht.

    Happy anniversary. Your travels sound amazing.

    • aroljahns Says:

      haha. Thank Dan! Manischewitz with Borscht sounds like an intriguing wine flavoring…..you may want to quit your job to start selling it. 🙂 our best to Diana and the kiddies!

  2. Hi you two, What a trip!
    Seeing all these places you have been visiting.
    Can´t help thinking What a wonderful world we have.
    Take care

    • aroljahns Says:

      Thanks Rosie! Truly a wonderful world. But as we are seeing now…..a world with a LOT of poverty. So sad, but makes you thankful for what you have.

  3. Dan,
    Congratulations on the 1st anniversary. Looks like you are having an amazing trip. We are just back from 3 weeks sailing and land vacation in St Lucia and the Grenadines and wish we were there with you doing the travel around the world. So many great places that you have seen and experienced and so many more too. Have a fantastic journey and look forward to more posts. —
    Kathryn, Dan and kids
    PS I have to say I am very impressed with the postings and website.. not sure when you find the time between all the adventure.

    • aroljahns Says:

      Hi Kathryn,
      Great to hear from you! Thanks for the comment. We’re having a blast. Your trip sound amazing as well! i hope to see photos on facebook soon. Francessca and I went to St. Lucia a few years back and loved it. Did you guys go to a Friday Night “Jump Up”! 🙂 Give my best to Danimal (and the kids!).

  4. These are by far my favorite photos! Absolutely gorgeous. The contrast of orange sand with blue sky is perfection. I suppose they also remind me of my own trip into the desert, the Atacama in Chile. Also surprisingly breathtakingly beautiful. And the video of your adventure brought laughter tears to my eyes, and a much needed bought of giggles. Thank you! And congrats on your anniversary, albeit belated. 🙂 Can’t wait to see you when you arrive in SoCal.

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