|Soul-awakening desert hiking by Marita van Rooyen“There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast.”
Paul Scott Mowrer
Apart from giving you a real feel of the landscape, walking is the best kind of meditation. And what better way to relax your mind than to go hiking? Not the hardcore, passout- from-exhaustion kind, but more the kind of hiking that Tok Tokkie Trails offers. This is hiking that allows you to experience a very special area of Namibia, learn about the desert fauna and flora, and regain peace within your soul. To top it all, you’ll find yourself in NamibRand, the largest private nature reserve in Southern Africa.
Elaine Hill, a Tok Tokkie hiker from Australia, agrees: “Who wants to see such a beautiful landscape by car? You’d have to stop every five minutes to take a photo. Hiking is the best way to travel, with your feet firmly on the ground, experiencing every amazing aspect personally and having it within hand’s reach.” It’s a magical feeling to watch the landscape change colour, see the vegetation transform from acacia trees to spiny ostrich grass, follow the trails of a tok-tokkie beetle, and watch a Cape cobra steal eggs from a bird’s nest.
On the Tok Tokkie hike you will experience many different aspects of the desert – from mountainous terrain, sand and gravel plains, to stretches of savannah and vegetated dune belts. Walking is conducted at a leisurely pace and doesn’t normally exceed 10 km per day. It’s ‘luxury hiking’, where you are woken with a cup of coffee or tea just as the sun comes up and where you can relax with a sundowner before enjoying a three-course dinner prepared by the camp chef. All you have to carry is your camera, binoculars and water – the Tok Tokkie crew supplies the rest. A maximum of eight people is allowed per group to ensure personal attention by the guide. Larger groups can be catered for on request. Guide Domingo Tjambiru will guide you through the wilderness and explain how the white lady spider does her dance, why it’s so difficult to spot Grant's golden mole, and why some gemsbok have only one horn. As you walk through fields of fairy circles, it’s fun to devise your own theory as to why they exist. Domingo carries a mobile refreshment pack on his back, so sit back against a rock on the saddle of Horseshoe Mountain as he takes out fresh muffins and fills your cup with hot tea. After a long day of walking, clearing your mind and cleansing your soul, you arrive back at camp just as the sun sets, where you are welcomed with a cold drink or beer if you prefer.
Your ‘room’ consists of a stretcher with bedroll, bedside mat, bench and washbasin. The ‘desert air-con’ (as Domingo calls the wind) is there to cool you down as you wait your turn for the bucket shower to wash off the dust of the day. Kick off your shoes and sink them into the soft dune sand; it’ll give an entirely new meaning to being at one with nature. When falling asleep under a thick blanket of stars you’ll have no other option but to consider yourself lucky, as this is one of the last true wildernesses on earth, a place where you will learn to appreciate the unexploited beauty of Mother Earth. Welcome to the thousand-star desert hotel! Wake up to the sounds of barking geckos and be one of the fortunate people to be up early enough to see the sun set the sky on fire, before you head off out into the open space again. Friedrich Nietzsche was right when he said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Remember to drink lots of water to encourage a healthy team effort between body and mind.
Tok Tokkie Trails is about 450 km from Windhoek. One route option is to take the C19 that passes through Maltahöhe, where you can enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Zaris Pass and be entertained by donkey carts along the way. Turn off onto the D827 and continue straight until you reach the C27. Keep an eye out for the signboard on your left. Otherwise, should you be coming from Sesriem, the turn-off is about 110 kilometres along the C27. Tok Tokkie Trails is a part of Unlimited Travel & Car Hire cc. Sister company, Safaris Unlimited, organises a variety of hikes and trails in Namibia, such as the Real Canyon Hike, Naukluft Mountain Trek, Desert Experience Trail, Mule Trails and the Brandberg/Köningstein Summit Ascent. (MvR)
The Story of Domingo, the Himba Guide
“A Himba/Herero man and his stick are inseparable. We use it for support, pointing things out, protection and even as a companion, which is why you’ll never see me without my stick,” says Domingo (Sunday) Ueeraije Tjambiru, the Himba guide.
Domingo, who was brought up in the Okaovahene Village in Kaokoland, is a big fan of the Namib. “The desert is alive. All you need to do is pay attention and look closely. Of course, the Kaokoland is also a place very close to my heart, as this is where my roots are.” At the age of 13, Domingo’s grandmother sent him to school so he could be helpful to his family in later years, but also to gain knowledge of what was happening in the country at that stage (before independence). “When I was about 10 years old, there was still a lot of political unrest, especially in the northern parts of Namibia. I remember how one day some soldiers came to our village and just started shooting. Bullets were flying all over and I ducked into the sand to dodge them. When my grandmother saw me a while later, she was so shocked at my appearance that she decided right then and there that I should go to school to learn about these things.”
Domingo went to school until grade eight, after which there were no more funds to support his education. He then found a job as a manager in a restaurant in the village of Calueque in Angola. “This wasn’t really a good time, because the war was still quite intense.” In 1995, he was found by missionary, Karel Vermeulen. When learning that Domingo was really good in English, Vermeulen used him as translator for his missionary work. Domingo then worked as a barber in the Opuwo Curio Shop, where he ran into French tour guide, Phillip Sioux. They became friends and it was with Phillip’s help that Domingo landed his first job in the tourism industry, at what was previously Karos Lodge. He started out as waiter and worked his way up to field guide. In 2003, he was further promoted as head guide for Sossusvlei Lodge, as it is now known.
After getting married in 2005, he moved to Windhoek to start a life with his wife and as a result found a job in Windhoek, at Eagles Rock Tours & Safaris. While working at the company, he did some NATH courses, extending his knowledge by reading books on birding, nature, fauna, flora and everything else he could lay his hands on. “Life is like climbing a ladder. By moving from one rung to the next, you never stop learning!” Today Domingo speaks English, Afrikaans, Herero, Oshiwambo, Ngambwe, Thimba, Ubundu and a little Italian.
Domingo is now a freelance guide, who spends most of his time between his family in Windhoek and guiding hikers through NamibRand. “I walk almost every day. The desert is my natural gym. Walking is good for the body and also for the mind. And yes, I really enjoy walking.” (MvR)