I usually put a good bit of effort into finding small, intimate lodges, nestled someplace wonderful, about as far off the beaten track as we can get on the theory that if you’re going to put the effort in to travel halfway around the world to see some place, you shouldn’t get lazy on the details!
Camp Kipwe? Check. Check. And check.
The drive in can be a little daunting, especially if you’ve made the mind-numbingly stupid decision to opt for the worst vehicle ever created for the massively washboarded Namibian roads, an oversize campervan. Once you’ve brilliantly backed yourself into this corner, you’ve strategically got two options: jar the teeth out of your head — and cupboards off the walls — by driving on the actual road; or, … steer that puppy, with it’s piddly little street tires, off into the shoulder scrub where a few other vehicles look to have ventured before — suggesting that it’s probably passable — but where not enough people have been crazy enough to try driving so as to create too many washboards. We opted for a mix of the two. If you choose the latter, you gotta carry some serious momentum and look out for places where the sand gets a bit soft. We had a couple of close calls where we started to get bogged down and needed to do a little evasive re-entry onto the actual road. It’s not the kind of place you want to get stuck!
By the time we arrived at Camp Kipwe we were both pretty frazzled, wondering if the small sign by the roadside wasn’t a cruel hallucination. The conviction that we must be dreaming was only fortified when we pulled up and they handed us cold wash cloths for our faces and placed frosty, fresh-squeezed lemon drinks in our hands. Cool, clear, life-giving water sweated out of the icy glasses and dripped through our fingers, the frivolous abundance of it. (The water, I mean. Well, and maybe more… )
After a few introductory formalities, we were led down a winding gravel pathway to our bungalow where a broad stone veranda and two comfy chairs awaited. Drinks in hand, we settled in for what has to be one of the greatest shows on Earth: the African sun yielding to a twinkling dusting of stars over the extraordinary landscape of Damaraland.
The veranda was pretty incredible, and we did use it quite a bit, but we also don’t sit still very well as a rule. We found ourselves wandering off into the desert, scaling rock outcroppings, and bouldering around a good bit. Definitely take a Camelbak with you, pay attention to where you are and how you’re feeling, and don’t go anywhere if you’re not reasonably experienced and totally comfortable doing so. It gets bloody hot. We ran across a troop of baboons, were chased by a camel spider (aggressive little bastard that kept running up my shorts), and finally got our hands on one of the inch-long lizards that bellows forth an amazing symphony in the evenings.
At the end of each day you can also hike up the hill behind the lodge where they serve up sundowners from a full-service bar along with amazing views!
There are more formal activities as well. Trips to Twyfelfontein and the Organ Pipes, along with morning safaris to track desert elephants in the Torra Conservancy (more on that in a separate post). The problem is, come nine o’clock in the evening you may very well be ready for bed. Force yourself to stay up and have another glass of wine … or two. I guarantee you that’s when the real show’s just getting started!