Getting from here to there in Namibia takes a long time. After descending the Spreetshoogte Pass, we continued on and on and on via hard, bumpy, gravel roads, rarely meeting another car. When we did, swirls of dust blinded us momentarily. Oryx (gemsbok) seemed to be the most common residents in this part of the world. Sometimes they grazed peacefully, raising their heads as we passed. Other times, they crossed in front of us or raced alongside us. We never tired of seeing them.
Finally, we joined the main road, which was also gravel and saw a sign directing us towards Solitaire … another 20 km (12 miles). The area was named Solitaire by the wife of the original homesteader, Willem Christoffel van Coller, who purchased the farm in 1948. His wife chose the name Solitaire because of its double meaning: a single set diamond, as well as desolate or lonely place … a unique kind of place, for sure.
Once again, the dot on the map might have us believe that this was a sizable town, but it's not really a town at all … it's a desert oasis, the only stop between the coast at Walvis Bay and the world's tallest sand dunes at Sossusvlei. There's a gas station, a frequently used tire repair shop, a general store, the Solitaire Country Lodge with a bar and restaurant and, of all things, a bakery!
We had reservations for a room at the lodge for the night and lugged our single duffel and backpack to our room and sighed in relief. It had been a long, tiring day even though we'd just been driving, and it felt good to stretch our legs and wander around a bit. The grounds were littered with strategically placed old, rusting, dilapidated cars and trucks. I doubt they'd been hauled here … they probably just expired somewhere nearby in the desert and were now used to add to the rustic, isolated, desert atmosphere.
The single-level lodge was pleasant with nice enough rooms, a swimming pool, which we didn't use, and a good hot shower which we used twice each. We gravitated towards the bar (how unusual) and sipped a beer outside in the cool evening and watched the last of the day fade away. Dinner was included with the room. It was buffet style and though my options were limited to veggies and a chicken patty, David indulged in springbok meatballs and a gemsbok steak. Both were okay, he said, but he'd had enough “game” for the week.
After a restful night's sleep, we were up early for breakfast … also included with the room. It wasn't anything special and catered to European guests … yogurt with muesli, scrambled eggs with toast and an anemic assortment of cold sliced meat and yellow cheese. We gassed up and headed over to Moose's Desert Bakery. Percy “Moose” McGregor, settled in the area about 20+ years ago and, with his partner, opened a bakery and rest stop for weary travelers along the desert road to the sand dunes. The business grew as did the legend of Moose McGregor's famous apple pie. Moose died last year, unfortunately, and perhaps much of the allure of the bakery died with him. We checked out the desserts, including the apple pie, but ended up only purchasing some bread for the next leg of the trip. In the book Namibia Space by Julienne Du Toit, Moose is quoted as saying that he settled in the remote outpost of Solitaire because he “liked the barking geckos and the stars … It’s like nature switches on a Christmas tree here every night”. Sorry, we never had the chance to meet Moose.
On the road again … en route to Sossusvlei. Bring plenty of water with you and join us tomorrow as we explore the world's highest sand dunes in the world's oldest desert.