Waking up in a tent surrounded by the Namibian bush is what I love. For me, camping and cycling go hand in hand, so when a long weekend is planned, the number one priority is always, “Are there mountain bike friendly roads or paths around the lodge or camping area?” Number two is whether the accommodation is pet friendly, as the family Golden Retriever and Maine Coon cat, love camping as much as I do.
In my Top 10 of cycle-friendly camping locations, is a guest farm called Namibgrens, located at the top of Spreetshoogte Pass and only 2 hours from Windhoek. It is an environment that I endeavour to visit at least twice a year, to just unwind and, of course, ride my trusty SCOTT carbon steed.
If you, like many Namibians, love to camp and mountain bike, then Namibgrens is a location not to be missed. Once a year in the middle of winter, they host their own mountain bike race, with different distances to suit all styles of riders. For those who are not thrilled by the thought of camping, mountain villa’s are available where you can enjoy all the comforts of home. If participating in a race is not your preferred method of spending a weekend, then book any free weekend, and just ride for the enjoyment or soul searching pleasure of enjoying the great Namibian outdoors.
A map is available on request from reception, with numbered locations on gates and intersections, ensuring that you will not get lost. Waking up at Namibgrens is nature’s way of recharging your batteries and mountain biking is an activity that makes life worth living. I’m there now and it’s still dark outside but the bush is starting to stir…
The rock pigeon announces the first sign of dawn, as the sky in the east slowly turns a gentle shade of orange. My mind is already contemplating my morning cycle route, even though I am still wrapped up in my warm sleeping bag. It is a few degrees above zero, but the anticipation of a fresh cup of coffee and an adventurous morning ride ensure that I will not stay in bed for long. It’s not something that can be explained, it’s a feeling that stirs deep inside me. The urge to climb on a bike and just cycle. The will to get up and out to shred the trails, enjoying the first rays of sunshine and the chance to spot many of Namibia’s game species. After a quick cup of coffee and a home-baked rusk, my adventure begins by heading north, leaving the silent campsites behind me. I follow a ‘twee spoor’ farm track that meanders among the small mountain koppies that litter the landscape. As I head through the first cattle post, I am greeted with a few long stares from the local farm cows, who by now are used to the sight of a lone cyclist. Namibgrens is a working farm, so a mixture of wild game and domestic farm animals will always be encountered.
Eventually turning west, I am thankful for the morning rays warming my back, as it is still well below 10 degrees Celsius. The path has been alternating between soft muscle-taxing sand and hard rocky sections, but now leads into the last set of mountains that form the border of this Namibian escarpment. Large granite boulders lay strewn among the mountains, as if Mother Nature had used this location to play a children’s game of marbles.
Her beauty is unsurpassed on this quiet winter morning, and the only sound I hear is my own heavy breathing as I increase my pace up the first gentle climb. The shadows caused by the boulders accentuate the beautiful morning contrasts, reminding me of how truly blessed I am to live and cycle in this wonderful country. Two little duikers dart across the path, startled by the sudden intrusion, and disappear just as fast between the hardy shrubs.
At the second cattle post, my mind relives the rides from my previous visit, reminding me of the multiple paths that lead back to the campsites. I choose the more difficult, technical path, as I know what awaits me at the summit of this detour. My heart rate increases as I start to push my limits up the first climb. The cold morning air burns my lungs as I push even harder. Cresting the climb I see the small gate, which leads to what I have been anticipating since I last passed through it. I slowly ride the last few meters, letting my heart return to its natural rhythm. As I ride over and around the last boulders, the whole world opens up before me. A wide expanse of crystal blue sky and hazy mountains. This is what takes my breath away, and I stand for a few minutes, just letting my eyes soak up the beauty of this amazing view. Eventually I pull myself away, and reluctantly start the descent back to the second cattle post.
The path now heads due south, winding through the granite boulders on the top of the plateau. I step up the pace another notch, as the path opens up between the mountains and heads back down to the campsites. The path is steep, but well maintained, and my full suspension mountain bike makes light work of the steep technical downhills. As I ride past the other campsites, I smell the freshly brewing coffee of other campers, but then come to the realisation that my early morning soul searching ride will shortly be coming to an end. Fear not, as the afternoon and tomorrow will be filled with more rides, exploring other areas of this amazing landscape. The thought brings a smile to my face, but now my mind is clearly focused on that post-ride cup of strong coffee and a hearty Namibian breakfast.
Author: Brendan Dickerson