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On that auspicious day on 20 July 1969, Japie’s mother went into his room in Opuwo, in north-western Namibia, and woke him up. “You will have more than enough time to sleep later on in life,’ she said as they rushed into the lounge to sit around the radio as it spluttered and crackled, eventually hearing Neil Armstrong’s legendary words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as he stepped onto the powdery surface of the moon.

This artist’s concept features NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. The mobile robot landed on Mars on 6 August 2012 and investigates Mars’ past or present ability to sustain microbial life. (Source: NASA)

Today, many years later, as part of the NASA team behind the Mars Science Laboratory that landed on Mars on August 6th, Dr Jakob van Zyl remembers the events that influenced his life. He is now friends with Buzz Aldrin, the second person to set foot on the moon on that momentous day, but in 1969, he was awestruck. He hung a signed poster of the three Apollo 11 astronauts on his bedroom wall, dreaming they would one day meet. His other strong memories of his childhood came from his father, Ben van Zyl, the commissioner of the Kaokoveld from 1942-1981 after whom the daunting Van Zyl’s Pass is named. Japie often traveled with his father in the Kaokoveld as a child and he remembers lying out in the open one night looking up at the glittering sky and noticing ‘moving stars’. His father patiently explained to him what a satellite was, fueling his fascination about stars and what lies beyond the Earth.

Japie van Zyl talks to the Gondwana History Team during his vacation in Namibia in July 2012

Four people helped to steer Japie onto his path to NASA and the stars. The first was his future father-in-law, Binga Louw, who offered to pay for his studies in exchange for a vow never to tell his girlfriend about the offer.  “A man with your talents has to be given the opportunity to go places in the world and I will make that happen if you need financial support,” was his simple offer.  The second person was Twakkies du Toit, a former teacher of his from Outjo. When Japie told him that he wanted to study to be an engineer and was going to apply to Telecom for a bursary, Twakkies encouraged him to apply for a bursary from Armscor instead. This he did, going on to study electronics engineering at Stellenbosch University. His mother had put him right in the days when he thought he was going to be a doctor by saying, “Doctors do not build satellites Japie, you must become an engineer to do that.”

The next person to steer him on his path northward was his good friend and boss, Dave Harrison. After Japie’s stint in the navy as part of his military service, the friends were discussing where he could further his studies and Dave encouraged him to write to the top twenty universities. He dissuaded him from the universities in the UK saying, “They will not like your accent in England, rather go to the USA.” Japie decided on doing his Master’s in electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), thinking Boston too cold. He soon realised after a slow start that he would have to make more of an effort than he had previously, which he did, continuing his good academic track record. When he was celebrating his success at the campus club, his professor, Prof Elachii, caught him on his way out enquiring if he was going to continue with a PhD. When Japie replied that he didn’t have the funds, the professor offered to pay for him, keeping Japie set on his course for the stars.

The Opuwo boy, who grew up gazing at the heavens went on to work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the leading American centre for robotic exploration in the solar system. He first held various positions of increasing responsibility in the synthetic aperture radar programme and today is the associate director of Project Formulation and Strategy. He humbly says that he has ‘the nicest job on earth’, and although the Mars rover ‘Curiosity’ (dubbed by a 12 year school child) only landed on the red planet recently, he is already planning the next planetary voyage.

Young Japie van Zyl at Rockey Point Skeleton Coast

When people question Japie on these celestial journeys that cost billions of dollars while people in the world are starving, Japie replies, acknowledging that it is a valid question, that what they learn helps with solutions for the world’s challenges. One of the favourite questions he is often asked is if he believes in a higher power. To this he replies that in this field we ‘see the elegance of creation’. “This,” he says, “gives you no option but to believe.”

Japie is happy to have experienced both sides of the world, the Kaokoveld in Namibia, a country as large as California with only 2.5 million people, and the USA where he lives with his wife, Kalfie, his childhood sweetheart.

It seems that this local boy may be touching the stars but has his feet firmly placed on terra firma. His advice to others on similar quests to live out their dreams is to have an insatiable curiosity for life, something that he learnt from his father who was always looking for new roads; to surround yourself with excellence – teamwork is essential so it is important to build the best team possible; and to always stay relevant, to keep thinking ahead and moving with the times. The most important, uplifting and inspirational advice from Japie, however, is that ‘the sky is not the limit’ as we have always been told and absolutely anything is possible, even for a boy from Opuwo.

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January 1905. The steamship Professor Woermann lies in the roads off Swakopmund. Leaning against the rail young Schutztruppe soldiers, bound for Lüderitzbucht, are staring at the aspiring harbour town.

From 1905 anchorage in Swakopmund was shifted from the harbour a little to the south, where a wooden jetty had been built. In 1912 construction of an iron jetty started right next to the wooden one.

From 1905 anchorage in Swakopmund was shifted from the harbour a little to the south, where a wooden jetty had been built. In 1912 construction of an iron jetty started right next to the wooden one.

One of them is Albert Plietz: “The first glimpse of the mainland was a very desolate one. There was nothing to meet the eye but the yellow sand of dunes. At that moment probably most of us wondered what we had let ourselves into. It was really saddening to see the look on the comrades’ faces. The sun was hot as hell. Hopefully the south is better, because everybody was glad that they did not have to disembark here, in Swakopmund.” This even though Swakopmund is boasting 40 houses at the time, making it a rather sizeable place compared to conditions elsewhere in the German colony.

Swakopmund was created out of necessity because the German colony urgently needed a harbour. The bay 30 km to the south, Walvis Bay, was already in British possession when South West Africa was declared a protectorate of Imperial Germany. In 1892 the Reichskommissar (commissioner) of the German colony, Curt von François, started to search the central part of the coastline for a site suitable for a harbour.

“After the way he sounded off in August 1889 it was to be expected that the Cape’s official in Walvis Bay would do anything to prevent troops and munitions from passing through in transit. He was less interested in preventing the passage of provisions for the troops since most of the provisions were shipped from Cape Town. It was advantageous for Walvis Bay that the settlers spent their disembarkation fees etc. on British territory, had to find their first accommodation and buy their first necessities there. More than ever it therefore seemed vital to me to build landing facilities in Swakopmund in the near future.” (von François 1899, p. 157)

On 4 August 1892 the crew of the gunboat Hyäne discovered a spot where the coast could be accessed – later the pier (Mole) was built there – and marked it with two beacons. This date is celebrated as the day when Swakopmund was founded. Another reason for building a harbour in this particular spot was the availability of potable water in the Swakop River mouth nearby. Von François set up a military station slightly to the north, which consisted of accommodation facilities and a storage shed put together with corrugated iron.

The surf boat and eleven Kru sailors, requested by von Francois for the landing operations in Swakopmund, arrived in January 1893. In August that year the first steamship, the Marie Woermann, called at Swakopmund with 120 Schutztruppe soldiers and 40 settlers onboard.

The lighthouse and the district office (Bezirksamt) in 1905 overlooking the pier (Mole) and harbour cranes for unloading shipments.

The lighthouse and the district office (Bezirksamt) in 1905 overlooking the pier (Mole) and harbour cranes for unloading shipments.

The Walvis Bay trading company Mertens & Sichel opened a branch in Swakopmund in 1893. The following year 19 inhabitants were recorded for the settlement. One of them, Kurd Schwabe, who was appointed station commander of Swakopmund in the end of 1893, described life between the desert and the sea in a letter to his family back home.

“My abode consists of two parlours (if you want to call them that), a larger one and a hole where I have set up my bed. (…) Windows – none, but the wind makes up for that and whistles through a thousand gaps. Every now and then I take the time to plug the cracks with tow, assisted by Schneidewind. In the absence of floorboards the floor is the fine sand of the higher lying area, teeming with millions of sand fleas. Boxes and crates serve as furniture, some of them for sitting on, others for storage. (…) Barely 20 paces from my palace towards the sea a cave has been dug into the sandy precipice of the higher level and boxed up with boards. The roof across huge whale bones, which you find scattered everywhere in the sand, consists of corrugated iron, pieces of sailcloth and scraps of roofing paper covered with a layer of sand. This is not the dwelling of jackals, oh no, but that of a father and son by the name of Unglaube. They have set up their field smithy in front of their mansion. Both are industrious and skilful, making good money with wagon repairs and similar.”(Schwabe 1904, p. 115f)

In early 1895 the Damara & Namaqua trading company arrived on the scene, built three accommodation facilities and set up its business. Soon afterwards the first zoning map was designed for Swakopmund, a postal agency was opened and a scheduled postal cart connection to Windhoek was established. Now the little settlement started to grow; in 1897 it had 113 registered inhabitants.

In 1897 construction work started on the narrow-gauge railway line to Windhoek. Each kilometre of railway that edged forward through the Namib towards east shrunk the distance which had to be covered by ox wagon. Railway traffic from Windhoek to Swakopmund started on 19 June 1902, boosting the economy. The long waiting periods for transport opportunities inland had become a thing of the past.

Soon afterwards the pier (Mole) in Swakopmund was completed. It had taken three-and-a-half year to build. Inauguration festivities took place on 12 February 1903. Steamers finally moored in the harbour now. Together with the pier the lighthouse was put into operation. Initially 11 m tall, its intermittent light was visible 14 sea miles out at sea. The German colony was proud of its artificial harbour and the railway line into the interior. And Swakopmund’s inhabitants were very pleased that they scored a water pipe when the harbour was built.

Swakopmund’s first lighthouse around 1900. In the following ten years it was raised twice.

Swakopmund’s first lighthouse around 1900. In the following ten years it was raised twice.

After the turn of the century colonial-style houses were built of stone. Previously the street scene had been characterised by prefabricated wooden structures. In 1901 the railway station was completed; the building is part of the Hotel and Entertainment Center now. Other historic buildings include Ludwig Schröder House, built for the Woermann Shipping Line in 1903, and Woermann House with its striking tower and two gables. Completed in 1905 as headquarters of the Damara and Namaqua Trading Company this building was originally known as Damara House.

Elisabeth Brock, who arrived from Germany in December 1903 with her husband, described Swakopmund with approving words: “Early on Monday, the 28th all passengers were taken ashore with the large lighter. (…) Swakopmund looks quite impressive even from a distance, and on arrival I also found it to be a very pleasant place. There are several charming buildings – the railway station, the lighthouse and the telegraph office are particularly noteworthy. A beautiful large store is being built for the Damara Company. It looks similar to the shipping line’s premises in Hamburg (…). Of course you are still wading through sand a lot but there are already quite a few cemented sidewalks and proper steps to the higher lying streets, even some facilities and gardens.” (Brock, s. 16)

Since the pier silted up more and more, to an extent where after just two years steamers were rarely able to sail into the harbour, a newly-built wooden jetty was taken into use in 1905. It soon became clear that this structure would not be able to defy the forces of nature for very long. In 1912 construction work started on an iron jetty right next to the wooden one. The new jetty was to have a total length of 640 m, but when it was 262 m long the First World War put a sudden end to construction work. Imperial Germany lost its colony in south-western Africa. Naturally, the subsequent South African administration used the deep-sea port of Walvis Bay. Swakopmund lost its importance as a harbour town and turned into what it still is today: the most popular holiday resort in Namibia.

The Gondwana History series is a selection of memorable glimpses of Namibia’s history. Collections of the stories are also published as several small volumes in English, German and Afrikaans. Gondwana History III is available since early June at the offices of the Gondwana Collection in Klein Windhoek (42 Nelson-Mandela-Avenue), all the Gondwana lodges and in bookshops.

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Although you may think that mini-bus taxis, buses and bakkies are the modern means of transport in an ever-expanding Africa, on the dusty roads of the Namibian interior, far from crowded cities and the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, it is also the donkey cart that is one of the quintessential Namibian forms of transport.

A donkey cart on a dusty Namibian gravel road.

A donkey cart on a dusty Namibian gravel road.

The many gravel roads that bisect rural Namibia are arteries in the vast country, ideal for this transport of old that has survived the centuries, providing a vital form of affordable non-motorised transportation for local inhabitants and for carrying essentials such as firewood and water. Donkey carts convey people from village to village, to wells and clinics, and transport children to school. They are a common sight in the communal areas from southern to northern and eastern to western Namibia as they wind their way to their destinations at a pace appropriate for rural Africa. The two-wheeled ‘4x4s’ of the Namibian countryside are often emblazoned with car names like ‘Toyota’, ‘Ford’, ‘Opel’ and even ‘Mercedes Benz’ and are led by teams of up to five donkeys. Humorous inscriptions such as ‘Take me home’, ‘Lady man’, ‘Barjero – It’s a lifestyle’ and ‘The king of the road’ are often also added.

With these donkey carts poor Afrikaner farmers from South Africa trekked northwards over the Gariep (Orange) river in the 1920es in search for a better life.

The donkey descended from the African wild ass and was domesticated about five thousand years ago in Egypt or Mesopotamia. From there, it spread around the world to be used for transport and as a pack and draft animal. Donkeys, like horses, are not indigenous to southern Africa but were imported into South Africa at the time of the first Dutch settlers in the mid-1600s when the Cape of Good Hope became a re-provisioning station for the ships rounding the tip of Africa on their journeys to the East. The hardy Equids were introduced as pack and draft animals and to breed mules (a hybrid bred from a female horse and male donkey), which were more in demand for their superior strength, stronger hooves and surefootedness. The first shipment of mules and donkeys is reported to have arrived at the Cape in 1656. Donkeys were introduced into what is referred to as southern Namibia today in small numbers as settlers began to cross over the Orange/Gariep River from the latter part of the 18th century. Later on, towards the end of the 19th century, German settlers brought in donkeys to breed mules for use in the diamond fields and for military purposes. In the depression years following World War I, there was an influx of Afrikaner farmers travelling north from South Africa in two- or four-wheeled wooden donkey carts, replacing the ox-wagon as a means of transport. In later years as cars gained popularity, the majority of donkey carts were made using remnants of old cars. The carts were made using the ‘bak’ or rear part of the car, rear axles and tyres. From the 1920s until the 1950s donkey carts were the main form of transport on the farms. When the karakul market started to peak in the 1940s, many farmers were able to purchase their first cars. Donkey carts were passed on to the workers and made their way into the communal areas. By the mid-20th century the donkey cart had become a popular form of transport.

Paulus is fetching his employer’s children from school with a donkey cart.

With the continual rise in petrol prices and the high cost of motor vehicles, people are depending more and more on donkey carts for transport. They have become part of the lifestyle and culture of rural Namibia. These valuable carts are the Chevrolets and Subarus of the countryside, often even proudly bearing number plates. The donkeys are also given amusing names. Originally custom-made, donkey carts are now innovative modes of transport constructed with recycled parts from the scrapyard. These include the tyres, and the donkey cart occupants may be required to wait while the donkey cart stops every few kilometres for the owner to jump out and pump the tyres.

A typical donkey cart of the 21st century with humorous inscription.

While the inhabitants of the north-central regions of Namibia have mostly used donkeys to plough their fields or to transport large water containers and the Himbas have used donkeys as pack animals, the Namas and Damaras of southern and western Namibia have wholeheartedly embraced the donkey cart culture.

An intriguing attraction for tourists, the donkey cart is part of the Namibian journey. You know you’re in Namibia when you see your first donkey cart hurtling along the auxiliary roads, disappearing between the long bleached grass into the distance or when you explore the hinterland. Just when you begin to think you are the only person for miles around, a donkey cart will appear on the horizon. These are the times to slow down, not to envelop its occupants in clouds of dust, wave and become acquainted with the colourful people of Namibia. Guaranteed they will be waving and smiling back, and will always have time for small talk.

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The designer’s and builder’s name is Siegfried Schnebel. “This is a windmill which I designed and built myself”, he explains in an interview in his house near Brakwater north of Windhoek. “There is an unusually strong supply of water there, just 30 m below the surface. I wanted to utilize it for irrigating orchards and fodder plants.”

There is farm Neiseb which Siegfried Schnebel took over from his father, Wilhelm, in 1985. The fact that Neiseb has a lavish supply of water was already known during colonial times. “Wells for ox-wagon transports were sunk in this area in those days. The lower one of the two cisterns on my tower was part of the former drinking trough for the oxen. It is made of 5 mm steel plates.” While his father owned the farm, 60 cubic metres of water could easily be pumped per hour without any noticeable effect on the water table. It seemed obvious that this abundance of water should be put to good use. Wilhelm Schnebel had already planted 400 citrus trees, 50 sultana vines, 700 prickly pears (ideal fodder) and a little lucerne. “Date palms also thrived like weeds”, Siegfried Schnebel recalls.

Gigantic windmill on a massive tower

“The problem is that you need a powerful engine for pumping the water to the surface, and it wouldn’t have been worth it to install smaller windmills at several smaller boreholes.” The largest windmills on the market, however, weren’t sturdy enough to hold out against the high winds in the area, he says. “So I came up with a construction of my own, specially designed for the requirements of my farm.”

A large wheel was necessary for the high output of the pump. “But the larger the wheel the bigger the problems in very windy conditions”, Siegfried Schnebel explains. A standard wheel with metal blades was not an option. Too rigid, says Schnebel. “All is well as long as there is just a light wind. But in order to cope with high winds one needs to be able to adjust the angle of the blades to the direction of the wind, to reduce the pressure on the tower.” What is more, metal blades would have made the large wheel too heavy. “Therefore I used steel tubes for the wheel’s rim and axle only; the spokes are made from light wire rope and canvas is attached to the rope. This reduced the wheel’s weight to about 100 kg only, despite its diameter of 9.5 metres”, Schnebel points out with a hint of pride in his voice.

Resourceful handyman: Siegfried Schnebel

To make the sails equally suitable for strong and light wind they were arranged in two circles. In the inner circle their angle to the wind direction is 10 degrees, in the outer circle it is 45 degrees. Siegfried Schnebel explains: “Due to the higher leverage of the sails in the inner circle they push the wheel when the wind is blowing strongly, while the outer circle keeps it moving when the wind is light.” The blades of customary windmills are set at a 10 degree angle, Schnebel says, and turn out of the wind when it becomes too strong. The unusually long axle of his construction also serves a purpose: joined to the rim at the top with wire rope, it maintains stability and prevents the sail-covered wheel from turning inside out like an umbrella in heavy gusts of wind.

As for the rest of the construction, stability is the most important criterion as well. “The foundation is 10 m square and 2 m deep, made of carefully packed stones and diagonal iron struts which support the vertical steel pillars”, says Schnebel. “After all, the whole tower has a total weight of some 50 tons when both cisterns are full.” According to his estimate the total height of his windmill is a little less than 25 m: “The wheel’s axle is about 20 m above ground.”

Axle and rim are linked by a mesh of wire rope

Costs were also an important consideration when building the windmill. “Since the farm didn’t yield much I tried to get hold of construction material as cheaply as possible”, Schnebel recalls. “I got most of it from my brother’s scrapyard; Fritz ran a locksmith’s workshop in Lüderitz and later in Windhoek.” Building and constructing, by the way, was done without drawings or model calculations. “I simply experimented a bit, trial and error”, Schnebel says. But the experimenting wasn’t altogether by chance. Schnebel studied mathematics at the University of Stellenbosch and completed a Master of Science degree. He taught mathematics, physics and chemistry at the German School in Lüderitz for years.

In 1997 the work was almost complete. Only the irrigation system had to be installed. But at that point Siegfried Schnebel felt compelled to sell the farm. “It just didn’t yield enough”, he says. And so the giant windmill was never really in operation. He once got it going for the camera crew of NBC television. The documentary was aired in 2001.

Today the tower, citrus trees and prickly pears are all that remains of the plantation which was once envisaged at the foot of the Tiras Mountains on the fringe of the Namib. And a small café, closed down again since then, on the neighbouring farm on the opposite side of the road, overlooking the striking structure. Many a traveller stops and reaches for his camera. Small wonder. In the grassy plain the colossal contraption, welded together from pieces of scrap metal, looks like the futuristic work of an off-beat artist. Who knows, it might still turn into a tourist attraction one day – as the Peculiar Tower of Tiras.

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Gladiator, issued in 2003, artist: Helge Denker

Gladiator, issued in 2003, artist: Helge Denker

At the start of this millennium Namibia caused worldwide headlines when biologists found a mysterious insect on Brandberg Mountain which did not fit into any known genus, family or order. In the end a whole new order had to be established – for the first time since 1914. Thus some scientists felt that the discovery of the ‘gladiator’ was as sensational as finding a life mastodon or sabre-toothed tiger.

The predatory insect was nicknamed ‘gladiator’ because parts of it are covered with spiky armouring reminiscent of the legendary warriors of ancient Rome. The name ‘heelwalker’ is also used by some because the insect always points the feet on its hind legs away from the ground and puts down the heels only.

The scientific name Mantophasmatodea is derived from Mantodea (the praying mantis) and Phasmatodea (the stick insect). The gladiator, unlike the praying mantis, grabs its prey with both its fore and mid legs, and in contrast to the stick insect its first body segment is the largest. Nor does it feed on plants.

Between 1.5 and 4 cm long, the gladiator has a size that made many scientists wonder why it took so long to notice this insect. It does, however, live rather inconspicuously: it is nocturnal and prefers to stay in the shelter provided by clumps of grass and rock crevices. Males are smaller than females and have to beat a hasty retreat after mating, otherwise they may get eaten.

The discovery of the gladiator insect turned into a piece of detective work: At the Max Planck Institute for Fresh Water Research in Plön, Germany, Ph.D. student Oliver Zompro is busy examining a fossil insect trapped in a drop of amber which is 45 million years old. He concludes that the insect cannot be classed with any of the known categories and turns to the Museum of Natural History in Berlin. There he comes across a specimen which appears to be related to his object of research and which had been collected in the German colony of South West Africa in 1909. Reason enough for the exciting assumption that an insect, which over the past 45 million years became extinct in Europe, had possibly survived in Africa.

Enquiring at the insect department of the National Museum in Namibia he learns that indeed they have a similar insect – in fact it was received only a few days earlier. Namibian biology student Martin Wittneben found it on an excursion to Brandberg Mountain in north-western Namibia. The tiny creature had come into his camp and he was unable to identify it. This was a very lucky coincidence, as Wittneben had of course taken down the GPS coordinates.

The predatory gladiator insect in its typical environment at the Fish River Canyon. Photo: EduVentures

The predatory gladiator insect in its typical environment at the Fish River Canyon. Photo: EduVentures

Zompro decided to travel to Namibia. In March 2002 he joined an expedition to the Brandberg, jointly sponsored by Conservation International, the Max Planck Institute and the National Museum of Namibia. The team consisted of 16 entomologists from Germany, Britain, South Africa, Namibia and the United States. The scientists were dropped onto Brandberg and began a painstaking search on the stony, arid summit. Zompro collected a dozen of the insects and carried them back to his lab in Germany to study mating, feeding and other forms of behaviour in the insects. Aggressive tendencies became one area of interest — a couple of the insects apparently were eaten during the trip back.

After in-depth research it can be stated without doubt that this insect does not belong to any known genus, family or order. The last time this happened was in 1914. And so another new order was added to the 30 known ones – the gladiator or Mantophasmatodea.

Since then some 20 gladiator species have been identified and divided into 10 genera and 3 to 4 families. These species have so far only been found in southern and east Africa – more precisely in Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania.

In Namibia, by the way, Brandberg is no longer the only site where gladiators have been found. The inconspicuous predatory insect also occurs at the Fish River Canyon. On an expedition arranged in 2006 by EduVentures, an initiative of the National Museum of Namibia, to the northern parts of Gondwana Cañon Park biologists and students unexpectedly discovered three gladiator specimens.

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The second Klein-Aus Vista Mountain Bike Challenge will be held on 29 and 30 April 2012 at Klein-Aus Vista, the Gondwana lodge near Aus in south-western Namibia. Participants can choose to compete in a marathon of 110 km or a half-marathon of 60 km with 60 percent of the route consisting of single tracks. It follows that marathon riders have to cover 55 km per day, while a day’s stage for the half-marathon is 30 km. There are four water and marshal points along the route. The categories, for men and women, are Elite, Master and Junior.

Monday, 16 April 2012 is the final day to register for the Klein-Aus Vista Mountain Bike Challenge. The registration fee is N$ 175. 

Piet Swiegers

The demanding route leads through a unique landscape of granite mountains, rugged valleys and meandering dry riverbeds. Many spots along the way afford grand views of the Namib plains – for safety reasons participants will probably not be able to appreciate them, however… Sections of the route follow a historic path which the Schutztruppe used during the First World War for transporting water with mules and ox wagon to their entrenchments at the western foothills of the mountains. The fortifications on the mountain slopes can still be seen today.

Naturally the scenic beauty of Klein-Aus Vista can be explored by mountain bike at any time other than the weekend of the race as well. There is a choice of three routes: two long ones (30 to 40 km) and a short one (about 5 km). The longer trails are a real challenge, as they mostly consist of narrow single track paths through the scenery of bush and rocks.

Martin Freyer was the winner of the Junior category in the Klein-Aus Vista Mountain Bike Challenge 2011.

Guests need to bring their own mountain bikes. If you would like to rent a mountain bike for your roundtrip through Namibia you can contact Cycletec in Windhoek. The bikes easily fit into a car when their front wheel is detached.

For those who prefer to explore the fauna and flora of the Succulent Karoo on foot there are six different trails to choose from. They are well marked and take hikers through the wildly romantic scenery of the Aus Mountains.

Track profile of the Klein-Aus Vista Mountain Bike Challenge 2012.

Klein-Aus Vista also offers guided drives through Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park for guests to familiarise themselves with the fascinating plant and animal world of the Succulent Karoo.

Links
Mountain Bike Trails at Klein-Aus Vista

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Here is a hot tip for all Namibia fans: the new road map ‘Gondwana’s Classic Routes’, fresh from the printers. This map features fascinating routes plus recommended accommodation and many exciting stories about interesting places. At the same time it is also an ordinary road map with all the essential information of the official Namibia road map by Prof. Uwe Jäschke and the Roads Authority of Namibia, which is sold by book stores and souvenir shops.

On the map which has now been published by the Gondwana Collection routes for exploring the country’s south and north have been highlighted. The routes are laid out in manageable daily segments with Gondwana’s lodges and campsites marked as overnight stops. Additional accommodation establishments recommended for the north are Mushara on the eastern fringe of Etosha National Park and Waterberg Wilderness on the south-eastern slope of Waterberg Mountain. These are places where Gondwana does not offer any accommodation but which lend themselves as a destination along the route. Pictures and brief descriptions of the lodges on the side of the map help with the choices and increase anticipation.

Namibia map with routes, lodges and stories

Namibia map with routes, lodges and stories

The 40 numbered dots which mark particularly interesting places and sites are a special feature of this map. They include grand sights like Sossusvlei or the Fish River Canyon but also places which have a fascinating story. These places are described with a few lines and a picture on the reverse of the map. Many of the stories are taken from the ‘Gondwana History’ series of books.

The road map Gondwana’s Classic Routes is available free of charge in English, German and Afrikaans – from the Windhoek office and all the lodges of Gondwana, from Mushara and Waterberg Wilderness.

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