The 4 day Naukluft trail is 60 kilometre of mountains and undulations. A group of 11 Grade 9 pupils of Swakopmund, 4 parents and their teacher tackled this trail from the 5th of October to the 8th of October and was led by Kobus Alberts, member of Wild at Heart Safaris.
This is the story of their trials and tribulations:
The boys: Matthias, Lukas, Morne, Dieter, Bozidar and Vincent. The girls in the group were Diana, Jasmin, Carmon, Ashleigh and Adriana. The adult group consisted out of Werner, Bres, Ilse Lichti, and me. Ian and Glenn were the parents that would stay in camp and acted as back up should anything go wrong.
Arriving at the Naukluft camp, the group sorted themselves and their bags for the following days of hiking. A male baboon quickly taught us to be observant at all times, by stealing some of the food.
The next day the group left, and spirits were high. Following a river system the hiking was nice and easy. Very soon that would change, when the first hill was approached. “Hamburger Hill” as it was named later, is a hill of stature. It does not look high or big, but once you start climbing it, you suddenly realised it is a hill of note. Resting on top, the views to the South were spectacular. Following contours towards Fonteinkloof, the walking continued at a good steady pace. Arriving at 11:10, we decided to have a lunch break in the shade of the big Fig trees at the fountain. Heartbreak Pass was to be our next obstacle after lunch. Usually the group walked in the following formation: I followed by all the boys and then the girls and the rest of the adults. After reaching the top of heartbreak pass, the boys showed some true gentlemen manners by going back and assisting the girls with the back packs up heartbreak pass. This was to be repeated later in the day as well, but at this stage we did not know it.
Towards the end of the day, the mountain where the shelter is situated was sighted, but it was still a long distance away. At this stage Dieter was very tired, and was assisted by Bres and Ilse. I took the rest of the boys on a fast walk to the shelter, so that I can return and help with rucksack carrying and morale boosting. As it turned out the morale boosting was being applied heavily by Bres, Ilse and Werner already. The whole group reached the Putte shelter at 18:15. There were some very tired people around, and after having a meal, silence descended on the camp. After some coffee and a meal the adults also went to bed. Ilse, having a strong dislike of scorpions slept on the roof the shelter. This strange habit of hers to pick strange places to sleep was to be repeated through the rest of the trip.
The next day saw the group heading to Bergpos. On the way an “Oryx dung spitting competition” were held, and Dieter came away as the champion. At Bergpos there was no water, so everyone was reliant on their own water supply, which has become relatively hot by this stage. Werner and I walked down to the Cathedral fountain, and even had a swim in some of the pools. During this walk a formula of note were also invented by Werner. E=mc². Very applicable and will be used on every hiking trail to come.
After lunch the hikers continued on their way to Adelhorst. On the previous day I have noted that the group really struggled to keep a good pace after lunch and this was to be repeated every day. About an hour into the hike, the group’s rhythm would become better and then the pace could be picked up again. Due to the heat and the altitude, there were several nosebleeds, but all under control. Carmon, daughter of Bres had some problems, so the pair of them kept on walking while the rest of us were resting in shade on the route. The two of them arrived at the shelter about 15:55, while the rest of the group arrived about 16:05. Having some daylight available, the group used the opportunity to have a quick wash, and prepared their food in style.
After some more coffee and talking about life and undulations, the adults also went to bed. Ilse slept on a raised cement slab outside the shelter. Hartmann’s mountain Zebra made a nuisance of them, but eventually left us alone for a good nights rest.
The last day was to be the longest as well. The previous days we covered 18 and 17 kilometres respectively, while the distance for the last day would be 27 kilometre. The terrain we walked through is known as “the plateau”, but very little of this area even remotely looks like a plateau. Undulations kept coming and had to be negotiated.
With little shade and no water en route, the group would walk for 1 hour and then rest for 10 minutes. This routine came in very handy, as the first 3 hours in the morning the total distance covered were about 11 kilometres.
After lunch the heat was well and truly with us, and the pace of the group also showed it.
After joining the Waterkoof trail, the going got even tougher. There were serious hills to be climbed, and on the other side, some serious downhill’s to be negotiated. All of this took some time, so we only reached the fountains at about 16:30. What a joy these cold clear water pools are! Everyone filled their water bottles and washed their faces, and you could feel the morale lifting as we set off on the last stretch of our journey back to base camp.
Morne and I arrived at the office at 18:45. (We started walking at 06:45 in the morning, so it was a long day in the veldt)
At 19:00 every single person of the group was present, and the last 500 metres were walked to Hikers Haven. In the meantime Glenn and Ian kindly sourced some meat and sausage, and were barbequing them as we arrived. What a smell to welcome in the tired hikers.
It was tough. There were blood and there were tears. Every single person in this group of hikers learned something about themselves. Every single person realised that hiking is like life, giving up is not an option.
Congratulations to all the pupils for surviving, and in the end, enjoying this hike. The area, game seen and just to feel the elements of nature upon their faces made this trip a memorable experience. Every single person helped each other, Jasmin and Diana for their support, Ashleigh for pushing through the “barrier”, Dieter for getting up the next morning and hiking again. Bozidar, always checking out the route, but always walking. Vincent the silent assassin.
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