05 April 2012 | Freizeit

Getting to know a piece of Namibia with every little step

Hiking allows you to let your mind soar, to savour the scenery at leisure and decide for yourself whether to take a little more time for the minor and major wonders of creation or whether to continue on your way. Hiking the Tok Tokkie Trail in the NamibRand Nature Reserve - in laid-back style - started already 15 years ago when the permit for a trail was granted. Marc Dürr, an experienced travel guide, came up with the idea to introduce visitors to the beauty of Namibia in a manner thus far unique in the country and set out to develop the Tok Tokkie Trail in 1997. For people who are interested in the trail it is usually particularly important, now as much as then, not to try and get to know Namibia by just rushing through, but to rather take part in a hiking tour and experience the secrets of the desert on foot. The Tok Tokkie Trail runs through the southern NamibRand area with its impressive array of changing scenery, from mountains to sand and gravel plains or overgrown dune belts. As you hike along the colours of nature and the vegetation change as well: there are less acacias but tall grasses or lichens occur more frequently. You may even come across the Fairy Circle phenomenon.

When Namibian tour operator Unlimited Travel & Car Hire took over management of Tok Tokkie Trails in 2006, and the whole trail business two years later, the company was determined not only to remain focussed on eco-tourism but also to train staff for the purpose. "Our guides are very experienced, they can show visitors how much life there is in the red sand", says Barbara Wayrauch, the marketing manager of Unlimited Travel, with visible enthusiasm for the concept.

The three-day hiking tours are offered for two to eight participants at a time. They only have to carry their daypack, the Tok Tokkie team takes care of everything else. A maximum of ten kilometres is covered in one day, otherwise the ideal of being consciously in sync with nature would fall by the wayside. The group walks at a pace which is comfortable for everyone and enough time is taken for breaks, photos and observing the environment. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and provide an insight into the incredible adaptability of the plants and animals in this area. With a little luck - and helped by the keen eyes of the guide - a golden mole, the wheel spider, the barking gecko or a dune lark may be spotted. Nights are spent in one of the three Tok Tokkie camps.
Since they have been entirely built from natural materials and do not include any lasting structures they can be dismantled at any time and nobody would even guess that the site used to be a camp. After a day filled with adventure the kitchen whips up a three-course menu for the guests, cooking on gas only. "Open fires are not permitted in the NamibRand reserve, therefore we cook on gas and use paraffin lamps for creating a cosy atmosphere", Barbara explains. Participants sleep in the open, on camp beds with down pillows and duvets. The starry night sky is the ceiling. The natural environment is the 'room' where hikers take off their boots in the evening, let the day's experiences sink in and watch how nature slows down for the night. As Barbara points out, "the tranquillity of nature, only disrupted by animal sounds, is fascinating and unforgettable for many of our guests". In the morning hikers are woken up with a cup of fresh tea or coffee at first sunlight. After an extensive breakfast they are on their way again - on foot, conscious of being part of nature and experiencing it from as close as it gets for a lasting impression.

Barbara feels that this is a very special way of getting to know a country. Even more so, because Tok Tokkie Trails offers only a limited number of hiking tours in this ecologically sensitive area. Only 20 guests per 1000 hectares are permitted in the NamibRand Nature Reserve. Therefore groups have more than eight participants only by special request. "Our experience has shown that there is an increasing demand for opportunities of this kind," she says. "Hiking for three days without encountering another soul is quite rare these days. To experience the natural world is exactly what many guests are looking for to balance the everyday strains of civilisation."
Naturally the safety of participants is guaranteed despite the remoteness of the trail. The guides are able to contact the base by radio at any time and organise help if needed.
Back at the camp visitors are welcome to visit the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) which imparts awareness of the need for environmental protection.
For more information see:
www.toktokkietrails.com

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