Backpacking the Naukluft 8-Day Trail

I was treated to a very special visit by my son, Tyler, who spent several weeks in Namibia during March and April. A highlight of his visit was backpacking together along the remote, 125km-long Naukluft 8-Day Trail with 9 other American volunteers (from Peace Corps and World Teach). As always in wide open expanses of land, the photos never do justice, but I hope just the same that you enjoy the photos taken by Tyler, PCV Sheridan and me.

Day 1

At the start of the hike, and at the start of each day, there were only smiles!

Some kept smiling throughout the whole day.
Everyone got to the top of the climbs before me, but few reached the top before Tyler.

Day 2

There were a lot of iconic Quiver Trees along the way.
Some of those trees host colony nests of Society Weaver birds.

This was the first of several chain-assisted ascents and descents in the “klufts” (ravines) throughout the trail.
They came in varying lengths.

Other places required open scrambling.
Through most of the klufts, there were long stretches of unsteady rolling river rocks. I’m glad I had my boots; others got by with sneakers and even sandals.
This was a common view up the kluft, and always seemed to bring another similar sight just around the bend.
Shady rest stops were always welcome.

Wind and water-carved caves were common, and likely resting places for leopards.
Some of my trail partners climbed up to look for them, but didn’t find any.
Once the climbs were over, we enjoyed long, level stretches across the plains.

Day 3

This day started with a backtrack up the kluft (and chains) that we had descended the afternoon before.

We climbed and scrambled again!

We loved our welcome break for snacks and blister repair.
Wandering across the high plains…
… brought us to wide valleys …
… and narrower canyons …
… and gentle ascents.
Did the guidebook really say “gentle?”
Soon, the trail turned into narrow klufts that are more like slot canyons.
Ascents were always followed by dramatic views …  This looking at the top of a 120-meter waterfall.

Climbs were always followed by awesome descents. Is there really a trail down this rock fall?
The trail blaze claims that yes, there really is a way down…
The loose rock made the footing precarious!
Not everyone made it down safely. This zebra was likely a victim of a leopard.
Magical pools greeted us at the bottom of the waterfall.

The dry river bed opened up into a wide valley to cross.
Which then descended into a deeper valley as the clouds thickened and darkened.

The end of the day brought another beautiful Namibian sunset …
… and the clouds brought rain and rainbows!

Day 4

After a cold night of rain, lightning and thunder, the morning brought a heavy mist that dampened everything but our spirits.

The mist finally lifted enough to let us break camp.

Of course, we were soon greeted with another climb! The guide book described this one as “300 meters of vertical.”

As the weather improved, so did the views.

Note: Clicking on the panoramic shots, like this one, will open up a larger image in your browser…
The trail led us to an incredible vista for photos ops …

… before heading back down into another valley.

Day 5 (or was it 6? At this point I had lost count…)

The blaze says to go this way, but…
… when I did, the big rocky point ahead of me never seemed to get any closer!

The blazes left no doubt which way we were to go…
And sometimes they seemed to be mocking us…
At those times, you just gotta lay back and laugh!

At the summit, we enjoyed the “Top of the World!”

High atop the plateau, we spent our last night on the trail watching wildlife at a nearby water hole, reading, cleaning our clothes and reflecting on the week’s journey.
It was particularly cool to see the moon rise at the same time…
… that the sun was setting on our last night out.

Last Day

In addition to the beautiful scenery, we were surrounded by amazing wildlife, not all of which were captured in photos. Zebra and Wildebeest were often seen, as were evidence of oryx, kudu and black rhino, not to mention numerous birds and smaller fauna!

Finally, after more than 120km, we see the canyon leading back to the Lodge, and the close of the loop trail.

We knew we were close to civilization when we came across one of the swimming holes that tourists use on their day trips.
Cold beer at the end of the hike, with these good friends, sure tasted good!
And I made a new friend of the Lodge Manager’s son!
The whole trip was wonderful, and the company couldn’t have been better. It was particularly nice to enjoy the experience with Tyler!
We neglected to take record shots at the start of the trail a week before …
So it was fitting to take them when we were done!
The end of the trail was not the end of our adventure, however.
What should have been a 5-hour drive back to Arandis …
… turned into a 2 1/2 day trip with 3 broken down vehicles …
… despite a lot of assistance on the roadside.
When we finally got going, however, we were treated to a very rare sight: the Kuisib River, in the middle of the Namib Desert, flowing above ground. It’s normally only a subterranean river.

Author: Chris

Until 2019, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia focused on Community Economic Development. Before that, I was a high-tech executive, small business owner, consultant and business broker.

14 thoughts on “Backpacking the Naukluft 8-Day Trail”

  1. Amazing, Chris- I am your age and the idea of several days trekking in the African desert is something I cannot fathom. You continue to astound me-
    Great job!

  2. What an amazing adventure! Was the water available for drinking? It looked so arid! Great photos! What did you use for a camera? Batteries? So proud of you keeping up with the young! Namibia builds strong volunteers. Happy father’s day!

    1. We were required to spend each night at a semi-primitive shelter and they all had water, so we only had to carry our daily needs and we were able to “shower” fairly often. There were also a few rainwater pools along the way. Most of us filtered or treated our water but a few didn’t and they were unaffected. The shelters also allowed some folks to hike without carrying a tent, or rain fly.

      For the photos, Tyler and I used our iPhones with every other app & radio turned off. We also carried a USB charger which I needed on about Day 5. I don’t recall what PCV Sheridan used…

  3. That is some remote and harsh country! Reminds me a lot of some areas in my home state of New Mexico. Great job doing such a long hard hike, Chris!

    1. You’re right, Peggy! A lot of Namibia resembles the US Southwest. Or, because the Namib Desert is thought to be the oldest in the world, perhaps I should say, the US resembles Namibia!

  4. Wow thanks for sharing! I hiked a shorter 4-5 day loop in that park about 15 years ago when I was a PCV and it was amazing. It was the most remote place I’d ever been. I got wonderful memories of the beauty there from you stories and photos. Thank you so much for posting this!

  5. Happy Father’s Day. Beautiful photos Chris. Thanks for documenting the outing and sharing. When do you return?

  6. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Tyler. I didn’t recognize him at first. I’m glad everyone got back happy and healthy. What a journey and treat for everyone. It’s beautiful country, although a few more trees would be nice:-)

    1. Fortunately, the route is pretty well marked. But I’d be lying if I said we didn’t find ourselves a bit confused now and then. If we hadn’t seen a trail blaze (white paint in the shape of a foot print or an arrow) for a couple hundred meters, we knew to stop and backtrack until the last blaze and try another direction. To say it’s a trail is being generous – usually there was nothing resembling a trail over the rocky ground. I prefer to think of it as “a route between semi-primitive shelters marked periodically by white paint to indicate the general direction to go…”

  7. My son Tyler has made me a better dad and a better person. I guess it’s fitting that I post this on Father’s Day! Thanks for making the trip, Tyler!

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