How much time should one allow for the hike through the Quiver Tree Gorge? Including the drive up to the plateau and the return journey from the pick-up point? At least five hours. Says BüllsPort. Guests from France, Belgium and Holland wanted to make it much faster. Without a car. Only on foot.
Sunday morning, 7.40 am. On the gravel road C 14, two buses and three four-wheel-drive vehicles approached from the valley of the Tsondab Riviers (dry river) in the Naukluft Mountains, trailing clouds of dust. They stopped at the T-junction of the D 1206 and parked on the strip next to the farm fence. About 400 metres from BüllsPort Lodge.
Banners marking start line of trail run
No, this was no ordinary bus tour group. No short stop at a place of interest. Women and men in tracksuits got out of the buses and four-wheel-drive vehicles. Two banners were installed at the open gate of the fence, with the inscription “La Piste des Oasis”, the Trail of the Oases.
They marked the starting line of a trail run through the private nature reserve of BüllsPort in the Naukluft Mountains. Through the realm of mountain zebras and quiver trees.
400 metres difference in altitude
Organised by a French trail run specialist. The route: Up the slope of the mountain massif into a high valley. From there up to the plateau. On the other side down into a wide valley that narrows into a gorge – the Quiver Tree Gorge.
And finally along a small riverbed back into the wide valley of the Tsondab Rivier, to the C 14. The finish was at the gate of the access road to one of the two small campsites of BüllsPort. Length of the route: 19.4 kilometres. Difference in altitude between the lowest and the highest point: about 400 metres.
Trail run on Quiver Tree Gorge hiking trail
This roughly corresponded to the route of the Quiver Tree Gorge Trail, as offered by BüllsPort as part of a tour. Adventurous drive up to the Naukluft plateau, hike on your own down through Quiver Tree Gorge and drive back to the lodge from the pick-up point at the end of the gorge.
This was exactly the hiking tour that eight members of the 45-strong tour group wanted to undertake. They boarded the Scenic Drive four-wheeler from BüllsPort, which was already waiting for them at the farm gate. And they were rewarded with a detour to a viewpoint, beyond the route of the trail run.
A member of the organising team was part of the group. Where the eight hikers were dropped off to start their hike, he set up a “food point” for the trail runners. It was the second of three points: The first was located at kilometre 4.5 before the long climb, the third at kilometre 15.5 just before the end of the Quiver Tree Gorge.
From below into the Quiver Tree Gorge
Five members of the tour group even opted for an ultra-light variant to experience the Quiver Tree Gorge. Their guide drove with them from below to the point where the eight hikers were to be picked up.
From there, the path follows the small rivier, upstream, thus only slightly uphill. It also offers a detour to a deep rock pool. Filled with water, shaded by mighty fig trees, enclosed by reeds: Pure Naukluft idyll.
Selfie with quiver tree
But back to the 32 trail runners. Excited mood at the buses. Some were warming up their muscles, others were fiddling with their backpacks with drinking containers. A short briefing. Then it was over to the farm gate. Some hopped, others shook their legs. The starting signal was given at 8.17 a.m. sharp.
The starting field quickly stringed out. The first runner passed the long climb a good half hour later, the last one took almost an hour. But most of them were not concerned with time. They posed for the course photographers and also took selfies with the quiver trees. And many stopped again and again, turned around, enjoyed nature and the view.
Trail runners rave about Quiver Tree Gorge
“The Quiver Tree Gorge Trail is uniquely scenic”, raved a female trail runner after the race. “And so varied!” Everyone around her nodded. “A very challenging trail for trail runners.”
And what was the biggest challenge? “Especially the long climb after the first aid station”, she said, rolling her eyes, “One and a half kilometres just uphill.” Her neighbour adds, “And the steep section up to the plateau. Very exhausting, but we managed it well.”
Food from the tripod pot
All trail runners crossed the finish line without any problems. The first one covered the 19.4 kilometres in two and a half hours, the last one in just under four hours. The buses shuttled the participants in small groups the two kilometres to the BüllsPort Lodge. There it was drink, shower and relax by the pool.
And then fill up on carbohydrates with a hearty chilli con carne. Of course from the cast-iron tripod pot, ladled directly onto the plate. Like a Namibian potjie (stew) in rustic farm style…. The meal on the lodge terrace with starter and dessert is the icing on the cake of the trail running event.
BüllsPort tailor-made for trail running events
Organiser Gilbert Durando of “La Piste des Oasis” is also thrilled. Everything worked like clockwork. Two years ago, just before Corona, he explored BüllsPort. “The Quiver Tree Gorge Trail is ideally suited for trail running events”, he explained. “Because of the challenge. The beautiful route. And the farm trails: for course marshals and for medical care of trail runners in case of emergency.”
The Naukluft was the second stop on the group’s eleven-day Namibia tour. The first destination was the Namib Desert. A 10-km trail run on the plains, to warm up. Then a 14-km trail run at Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei, with the summit of Big Daddy, the highest of the dunes. Third destination is the hilly Khomas Highlands, with two trail runs of 21 km and 24 km through the bush.
Then it’s over with trail running. The remaining five days consist of a normal short tour through Namibia, with Etosha National Park as the highlight.
Quiver Tree Gorge belongs to the hikers again
Sunday afternoon, 2.47 pm. On the D 1206 gravel road along the mighty Naukluft Mountains, two buses and three four-wheel-drive vehicles pulled away, trailing clouds of dust. BüllsPort Lodge returned to its usual quiet operation.
To its operation with a maximum of 24 lodge guests. Who take five or six hours time for the Quiver Tree Gorge Trail. For their hiking adventure in the realm of mountain zebras and quiver trees.
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