An Epic Journey Across Southern Namibia

by | Feb 20, 2023 | Namibia | 17 comments

I’ve nipped around the edges of the recent trip Thorsten and I took to southern Namibia. But I haven’t gotten to the real heart of the journey yet because I don’t know how to explain it. Namibia captured my imagination and then ran away with it, leaving me with insufficient words to describe my impressions. But let me do my best.

Quiver trees near Aus in southern Namibia
Quiver trees scatter across a hillside near Aus, Namibia. More on these beauties later.

The reason for the trip itself is hard to explain. Thorsten, who is from Aus, Namibia, was invited there as an architect, investigating a possible tourism project, and I was invited to come along. So it wasn’t exactly work (not for me at least) but definitely not a holiday, either. We were out in the blistering hot desert every day, driving and walking long distances. Every hour brought multiple new wonders — a mountain, a rock, a weird building, a tree, a funny sign — that I had never experienced before.

Sand sign in Namibia

I struggled to fathom how my boyfriend, a pale-skinned city dweller, sprung from this vast, bizarre, beautiful, yet inhospitable landscape. I struggled to fathom how any living thing can survive there at all.

Thorsten and Heather in Namibia
Thorsten and I in the inhospitable land of his birth. (Photo: Andrew Engelbrecht)
One of a herd of wild horses, probably descended from horses brought to Namibia by the German army during WWI. Inexplicably, this herd has survived and thrived in the desert for more than 100 years.

I had been to Namibia once before, on a 10-day trip through the central part of the country, and I loved it. But nothing could have prepared me for southern Namibia. It felt like visiting another planet.

7 Days in Southern Namibia

Here’s a summary of our journey, supplemented by lots of pictures.

Map of southern Namibia
Thorsten drew a map that illustrates our trip. The sketch on the left shows roughly where we traveled — the brown shading indicates southern Namibia’s big sand dunes. The sketch on the right is a zoomed-out map of southern Africa, showing that Aus and Joburg are on the same latitude.

Day 1: Walvis Bay to Sossusvlei

We flew into Walvis Bay, which is 30 minutes from the town of Swakopmund, and immediately headed south to Sossusvlei by car (about five hours’ drive). We didn’t make a lot of stops along the way, as there is virtually nowhere to stop on this route. But we did visit the Tropic of Capricorn sign and the tiny town of Solitaire, known for its apple pie.

Thorsten at the Tropic of Capricorn
Thorsten at the Tropic of Capricorn. Most of the roads are gravel in this part of Namibia; they are passable in a sturdy two-wheel-drive car but a 4×4 is preferable.
Heather eating apple pie in Solitairs
This is not pie in the American sense — more like apple crumble or strudel. But it was indeed delicious. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)

We didn’t have time to visit Sossusvlei, Namibia’s most famous dunes. (As discussed in a previous post, we went to the Koichab dunes instead.) We did, however, spend the night at a bizarre yet wonderful Sossusvlei hotel called Le Mirage.

Le Mirage, a castle in the desert
Le Mirage, which I think is a strange name for a fake-castle hotel.

Le Mirage is a luxury hotel serving up Game-of-Thrones-in-Namibia vibes. The outside is a fake castle and the inside is a fake Middle-Eastern-style courtyard oasis. I loved it because it was so random and weird, but our room was extremely hot and the internet was frustratingly terrible. (There were a few other minor annoyances, too.) I would recommend staying there, simply for the novelty of the place, but not during summer.

Inside room at Le Mirage
Our huge but very hot room at Le Mirage. (It cost about US$125.)
Desert oasis courtyard at Le Mirage
The desert oasis courtyard (beautiful and weird but also hot).
Sunset at Le Mirage
We witnessed an unbelievable sunset at Le Mirage.

Days 2-4: Aus

The next day we drove about four hours from Sossusvlei to Aus, where we stayed for the next three days.

Oryx by the side of the road
An unusually relaxed gemsbok (oryx) that we passed en route to Aus.
Crazy windmill near Aus
A Mad-Max-style windmill outside Aus, apparently built many years ago by an engineer who died before he got it working and now it just stands there looking awesome.
Town of Aus
Aus, a quaint little settlement consisting of a church, a hotel/restaurant, a petrol station, a train platform, and a couple of shops.
Aus as interpreted by its native son, Thorsten, a.k.a. @theThinking_Hand.

We spent most of our time in Aus exploring Thorsten’s friend Andrew’s ginormous farm, the Eureka Farm, where Andrew is planning to build a lodge. The Eureka Farm is insanely beautiful and desolate. I spent a lot of time walking around in the blazing heat with my jaw hanging open, gasping and exclaiming, “What?!?!” at one spectacular vista after another.

Heather by an old car on the Eureka Farm
An old car on the Eureka Farm, which apparently broke down on its maiden voyage more than 50 years ago and hasn’t moved since.
View from a hill at the Eureka Farm
WHAT?!? A mountain we climbed on the Eureka Farm.
Amazing view at Eureka
Seriously…WHAT?!?! Andrew and his friend Owen walking on the summit of the mountain. It was so stunning and surreal, I could hardly breathe. My photos don’t at all capture the way it actually looked.
A Eureka Farm sketch by @TheThinking_Hand.
Andrew's Land Cruiser
We climbed really high and it was hot. The skin on my arms broke out into a disturbing, sun-related rash. Eventually I wised up and realized that white people (maybe all people) should wear long sleeves in the desert.
Land Cruiser and camel thorn tree
Andrew’s Land Cruiser provided great foreground for my desert pictures.
Potential lodge site on Eureka Farm
Andrew, Thorsten, and Owen at a potential lodge site on the farm.
Quiver tree or kokerboom on Eureka Farm
For years I have been wanting to photograph a quiver tree (kokerboom in Afrikaans), a critically endangered desert tree that grows only in parts of South Africa and Namibia. I got my wish on this trip — there are hundreds of quiver trees on the Eureka Farm.
I love the way Thorsten sketched the gnarly trunk.
Quiver trees in southern Namibia
Quiver tree landscape
Quiver tree landscapes.
Quiver trees with curving branches
Quiver tree lovers.
Horses on Eureka Farm
Two beautiful horses playing on Eureka Farm. These are not wild horses — Andrew owns them.
Wild horses near Eureka Farm
The wild horses do, however, graze very close to the Eureka Farm. Here are two of them.
Andrew and wild horse
Andrew at the wild horses’ watering hole, which is close to the farm. Read more about the wild horses.

While in Aus, Thorsten and I also paid a visit to the Klein-Aus Vista Lodge. Someday I need to write a much longer story about this, but Klein-Aus was once a working farm that belonged to Thorsten’s grandparents and he spent several years of his childhood there. It was really cool to go back and visit with him.

Thorsten at Klein-Aus
Thorsten checking out one of Klein-Aus’ stone cottages, which are built right into the side of this rock face.

Thorsten and I slept in town at the Bahnhof Hotel. Thorsten also has fond memories of hanging out at this hotel as a child; his great aunt was once the manager there. The rooms are basic but nice, and I really enjoyed the German meals — particularly the spätzle — that we ate while sitting on the hotel terrace. (Namibia was once a German colony and there is still a lot of German cultural influence there.)

Bahnhof Hotel Aus
The Bahnhof Hotel.
Blackie, dog of Aus
Blackie, canine mascot of Aus, loves hanging out on the Bahnhof’s front steps.
Bahnhof Hotel sign
The Bahnhof has an amazing sign that can only be seen from the highway.

Days 5 and 6: Luderitz

Luderitz is an Atlantic coastal town 125 kilometers due west of Aus — just a little more than an hour’s drive on the famous B4 highway.

B4 Highway Namibia
The B4 has to be the smoothest, straightest road in Africa, if not the world.

Thorsten also spent time in Luderitz as a kid and wanted to show me the town, so we spent a night there before heading back to Swakopmund with Andrew. We stopped to visit Kolmanskop (which you’ve already read about), a few minutes outside Luderitz, then headed into town.

Quirky Luderitz.

Luderitz is known for its stark gray coastline, which contrasts with its colorful German architecture, its windiness, its flamingos, and its oysters. We didn’t have any oysters and I didn’t get any good flamingo pictures, but we did manage to see quite a lot of Luderitz in the short time we were there.

Airbnb in Luderitz
View of the ocean at the tiny but cute Airbnb where we stayed on Luderitz’s Shark Island. It’s actually not an island, but a small peninsula just north of the town center.
Lighthouse in Shark Island, Luderitz
Lighthouse on Shark Island. Shark Island has a gruesome history: From 1904 to 1908, it housed a German concentration camp where thousands of indigenous Herero, Nama, and Khoikhoi people were tortured and killed. I feel weird mentioning this horrific genocide in passing, in the middle of an otherwise happy-go-lucky travel post. But I also feel weird not mentioning it at all. Hopefully I can get back to Luderitz and spend more time researching this subject in the future.
Colorful Luderitz street
Luderitz’s version of the Bo-Kaap.
Church in Luderitz
Thorsten was confirmed at the church in the background.
Desert Deli
We had a couple of meals at this Luderitz coffee shop, the Desert Deli, and I highly recommend it.

We spent most of our full day in Luderitz driving around the larger peninsula west of town, stopping for tea at the picturesque Diaz Point and taking a long walk on a huge, deserted beach called Grosse Bucht. (I recommend a 4×4 for driving around the Luderitz Peninsula.)

Diaz Point
Diaz Point, where Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Diaz landed and planted a cross more than 500 years ago.
Skip Skop Coffee Shop
We had tea and cake at this tiny, wind-swept little café on Diaz Point.
Beach at Grosse Bucht
The beautiful beach at Grosse Bucht, where we walked for miles and met absolutely no one.

Day 7: Swakopmund

After Luderitz, we made the long drive back to Swakopmund and flew out of Walvis Bay the next morning. We didn’t have time to see much of Swakopmund before leaving. But I do want to recommend the Swakopmund Museum, which has incredible taxidermy, the Vellie Valley shoe shop (which I mentioned in my recent post about veldskoens), and Raith Bakery, where I bought an insanely delicious pastry on our way out of town.

Cherry danish from Raith's
My mouth is watering as I remember the taste of this cherry danish.

Thus concludes my rambling, photo-clogged description of the week we spent in Southern Namibia. I still can’t stop thinking about it and can’t wait to go back.

Heather and Thorsten on Grosse Bucht Beach
I covered a lot of ground here — questions are welcome!


  1. Albert

    Beautiful photos! And sheesh, I never knew about the concentration camp in Luderitz! What was it with the European powers and their concentration camps in Africa (Germans/ English)?

    • 2summers

      I know. They were assholes.

  2. Gena

    What a phenomenal post, wow!!! So much to take in, I can just imagine the overwhelm and excitement of physically being in that space!

    • 2summers

      Thanks so much, Gena. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Dieter Aab

    I would love to share a story (with pictures if possible) with you. My maternal grandmother was born in Nam in the year 1900 at a place known as Jakalswater. It formed the third point of a triangle between Walvisbay and Swakopmund. Then, a railway line ran there from Swakop to Karibib and my Greatgrandfather was in charge of maintainance of this stretch of line. The rail line was moved ages ago and now only a few ruins remain. Gran was such a strong woman, who grew to the age of 84 and was doing needlework the night before she passed peacefully in her sleep. Now lets try the pics:
    Not possible, unfortunately, as they provide an insight into the resilience of the people who lived there then. If you are interested, send me an address to which I can send. Really enjoyed this article as also my mother was born in Namibia and grew up there. Thanks.

    • 2summers

      Hi Dieter, wow that is so cool! Thanks for sharing. I will send you an email.

  4. maarten

    Sounds like you guys are moving soon to Namibia

    • 2summers

      Haha! I guess you never know.

  5. maarten

    Sorry my respons was about the trip and your fascination of the country, not about the concentration camps. That’s another story and not the best…..

    • 2summers

      I know, it’s so horrible.

  6. AutumnAshbough

    Gorgeous photos and interesting information throughout. Concentration camps go with colonizers, but are an U.S. export; our “reservations” for Native Americans inspired the Spanish in Cuba and other Europeans countries everywhere else. You are right to mention it, rather than continuing the tradition of whitewashing history. So many quaint, pretty little towns have a foundation of unspeakable horror.

    • 2summers

      I just wrote a lengthy reply which somehow didn’t post. So annoying! But yeah, the colonizers were assholes.

  7. Margaret Fauchier

    I spent several weeks in Namibia over two trips-one to the north and the other to the south. We were driven by locals who introduced us to many interesting people. I have amazing memories. What looks like a desolate place is filled with so many unusual and fascinating people and experiences. I need to go back soon!

    • 2summers

      Yes, that’s exactly it!

  8. dizzylexa

    Awesome blog with great photo’s. Namibia sure does have a unique beauty about it’s harshness. I too love Spätzle, it’s always a favourite of mine when we visit our local German pub.

    • 2summers

      Thanks Gail! Hope you’re feeling better.


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