"Succumb to Spitzkoppe's siren call!" Usakos by CatherineReichardt

Usakos Travel Guide: 8 reviews and 16 photos

I have just written up my page on Berseba where I stated that the nearby Brukkaros caldera was possibly my favourite place in Namibia ... and now as I settle down to write about Spitzkoppe, I'm not sure! Such are the challenges of travelling in Namibia ... sigh ... ;)

I refer to 'Spitzkoppe's siren call' in my page title, because however many times I travel to Namibia, Spitzkoppe alway calls me back. Perhaps because it is such a visible landmark on the otherwise flat horizon of this part of Central Namibia, it's difficult to ignore. There's something about its utter uniqueness - particularly its iconic pyramidal profile that has earned it its nickname of 'The Matterhorn of Namibia' - and no other mountain in Namibia looks remotely like it. I am beguiled by the way that it shifts mood in sympathy with changes in time of day, weather and season, and feel it exerts an almost magnetic attraction, at least for me. And what is most extraordinary of all is that however many times I visit, I am never disappointed.

To start with, a little geology if I may. Spitzkoppe is technically an 'inselberg', a nice solid Germanic term referring to an isolated hill or mountain that is created when erosion preferentially removes the softer material of the surrounding landscape. In this case, Spitzkoppe has been less susceptible to erosion than the material of the surrounding plain because it is comprised of granite intruded into the older (and softer) rocks of the Damaraland Formation. If you're enjoying the robust German geomorpholohical terminology, then you'll be thrilled to know that the characteristic bald granite peaks owe their rounded form to weathering and are known as 'bornhardts'.

I always find it surprising how few tourists actually visit Spitzkoppe, let alone stay long enough to explore. Perhaps because its picture postcard perfection is so visible from the main road, most people briefly stop to take a photo and then drive on - or maybe it's that by that time, they have had enough desert and just want to get to Swakop. Most tourists do not realise how much there is to do and see at Spitzkoppe, which is an awful pity, as it is only up close that you realise the intricacy and detail of a complex that the photographer, climber or naturalist could happily explore for a couple of days and not get bored. Having said that, this works to your advantage if you are a canny traveller, as it means that the place is very rarely busy, and it's pretty easy to have it to yourself, particularly if you're willing to stroll for a few minutes.

Spitzkoppe is a children's paradise as there are endless opportunities for rock climbing and scrambling, lizards to be pursued and rock formations just begging to be given fanciful names. One of the few downsides of travelling 'en famille' in Namibia is that the distances between tourist attractions are often long, which means a lot of time spent in the car. Thus, a couple of hours stop off at Spitzkoppe to let them let off steam is a sound investment in your sanity on the last haul to the coast, and should keep the choruses of, "are we there yet?" to a tolerable level!

To state the obvious, Spitzkoppe is at its most picturesque in the early morning and later afternoon. There is accommodation available in Usakos (25km, or about half an hour's drive away), but first prize would be to stay in the rustic camp run by the local Damara community (see my travel tip). I haven't had the opportunity to do this myself, but if you want to capitalise on the stunning light, this would appear to be a 'no brainer'.

  • Intro Updated May 11, 2011
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CatherineReichardt

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