Text andÂ PhotographsÂ Willie Olivier
I guess there are few countries in the world where you can drive from the centre of the capital for just 15 minutes, walk for 45 minutes and enjoy views of the city stretched out far below you. And when you make a 180 degree turn, all you see is unspoilt nature.
Farm Windhoek with its 70 km network of trails for walking, mountain biking and running is one such place. The trails meander along jeep tracks and into the foothills of the Auas Mountains at the southern end of the Windhoek valley. How far you want to walk and how much energy you want to expend is entirely up to you. The trails are interlinked and signposted at every junction with information about the distance to the next junction, the elevation and the average slope.
Especially if you are not familiar with the trails, it is extremely useful that they are graded and colour-coded. Jeep tracks are graded as easy and suited for those looking forward to a relaxing walk with their dogs, for families with children and novice cyclists. Single trails range from easy (on jeep tracks) to intermediate and advanced.
As soon as you have stepped through the entrance gate you will feel as close to nature as you can get â€“ together with those who are also out enjoying their walk: families, cyclists and people taking their dogs for an outing.
“As soon as you have stepped through the entrance gate you will feel as close to nature as you can get…”
The trails wind through bush savannah which is dominated by a variety of thorn trees. The first good rains transform the drab winter veld into a lush green landscape. Carpets of yellow devilâ€™s thorn cover the plains along the Serengeti Trail, and the drooping clusters of pink and yellow flowers of the Omutjete, also known as the Kalahari Christmas tree or sicklebush, are unlikely to escape your attention. The white trumpet-shaped flowers of the Ghabbabos, commonly known as the trumpet-thorn, are also conspicuous after the first rain. The Witgat, or Shepardâ€™s Tree, with its white bark is another noticeable species.
As you make your way through the bush, the alarm call of a Go-Away Bird might startle you, while the high-pitched whistle of the Grey Hornbill is unlikely to go unheard. Black-cheeked and Violet-eared Waxbills as well as a variety of other birds can also be ticked off along the way.
Farm Windhoek is popular with cyclists, too, and while you are hiking up or down one of the hills you might have to do some fancy footwork to get out of the way of downhill racing enthusiasts whizzing past you at breakneck speed. Remember that cyclists have right of way on trails. Mountain Biking events are regularly held on Farm Windhoek.
â€¢ Access points: Waldorf Gate at the end of Andries de Wet Street in Avis and the Kleine Kuppe Gate in Otjivero Street, Kleine Kuppe.
â€¢ Entrance fee: N$40 (10 years and older); Pensioners (over 60 years) free. Various package options are available for individuals and families who are regular visitors.
â€¢ Free maps are available at the entrance gates.
â€¢ It is always advisable to walk in groups (three or more is a good number) and to leave your valuables locked in your vehicle at the access gates.
There are just so many options and combinations, but one of my favourite walks is to the trigonometric beacon on top of Kleine Kuppe. From the start at the Kleine Kuppe Gate it is level and easy-going to the Play Pit, where you turn right, followed by a sustained uphill walk of about 40 minutes. As you ascend, Windhoek comes into view. But when you reach the beacon (1918 m above sea level) your efforts are rewarded with a birdâ€™s eye view of the capital to the north, the Auas Mountains to the south and the Khomas Hochland to the west.
This is where we usually enjoy a cup of coffee and a brÃ¶tchen (German bread roll) before setting off again. From the beacon the trail descends steadily for about 35 minutes until it joins a jeep track which you follow for about 25 minutes to get back to the start. At a relaxed pace it takes about an hour and 45 minutes (rest stops excluded) to complete this hike.
The trail network in the immediate vicinity of the Waldorf Gate consists of short, interlinked paths, while the routes in the Kleine Kuppe area are longer and the terrain is more undulating.