Hiking, a rejuvenating lifestyle

By By: Jemima Beukes
September 2011

Spending weekends away from the hussle and bustle of city life and strutting on pulse along the Tok tokkie Trails in the Namib desert, enables one to shelve the stress related to busy work schedules.

Mark and Elinor Duerr who introduced The Tok tokkie trail in 1997 adopted the idea from French tourists who commented on the lack of hiking trails in Namibia.

It is one of only 13 trails in the country.

Keen hikers themselves, the Duerrs, sought the approval of Namib Rand Nature Reserve Management to secure one of the five low-impact ecotourism sites in Namibia for the Tok Tokkie trail venture in the south of the country, about 130 kilometres from Maltahöhe.

A vast area of beautiful farmland has been revamped into one of the most beautiful nature reserves situated in the heart of the Namib Desert.

They named the trail after the Tok Tokkie beetle (Tapping beetle) which is commonly found in the desert dunes and makes a ‘tokking’ sound.

Namibia, endowed with its scenic mountaneous landscapes with serrated and rugged rock outcrops, is ideal for hiking and its spectacular undulating mountains of sand dunes, offers the ultimate platform for these trails.

The Tok Tokkie hiking trail is a three-day walking trail that leads hikers through the spectacular and wavy red dunes leading to a remote area in the Namib desert. While most hiking trails are self guided, the Tok Tokkie is one of the few hiking trails that has a guide acccompanying tourists.

Barbara Wayrauch, a travel agent for the Tok Tokkie trails says, “There is a general misconception that hiking and backpacking is arduous and backbreaking. On the contrary, this new sport is a rejuvenating walk that is done under escort by a guide and a handy service team who help the hikers in case of emergencies.”

She further noted that the hikers can savour the beauty of the landscape as they traverse the Namib dunes and gravel plains, freeing the tourist’s mental baggage releasing a therapeutic and mental relaxation. The end of the trail leaves one more energised and ready to face the challenges of another hectic week at work or at home.

Furthermore, it is enchanting listening to the tapping sound of the desert beetles while enjoying a magnificent sunset and later settling down to a rejuvenating and nutrition packed three-course dinner served in the middle of the desert. This is an experience that numbs the body-aches and bloats out the social miseries from the mind.

“Hiking is a popular sport in Europe and a great exercise which supports the body to release adrenaline and endorphines thereby reducing stress levels. If you are seeking outdoor recreation,choose the trail balanced to your fitness level. It is advisable not to overdo it. If you haven’t done any exercise in a long time you will not enjoy hiking for 25km.”

Hiking burns calories and exercises the cardiovascular system and muscles in a gentle way, offering an alternative to gyms by exercising and toning the body. While hiking serves as a social experience for those who go out in groups, it also helps to renew strengths.

Tok Tokkie trails are suitable for people who can scale the high dunes and prefer strenous exercise. Less strenuous trails through low sand dunes are ideal for beginners and offer good exercise for the casual walker . These guided tours are undertaken by groups which consists of two or eight people at most.

Wayrauch advises the best time for hiking is July to September, because the weather is perfect and marks the end of winter and beginning of summer.

A minimal fee of N$ 2700is charged per person for one night during the low seasons, and a slightly higher fee of N$ 2904per person a night during the peak season.

“While many hiking trails are closed off during wet weather, the Tok Tokkie trail season is closed during December and January, because of the extreme temperatures in the desert which can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” she says.

Hiking is a rejuvenating walk that most people find to be an excelllent muscle toner and stress reliever while at the same time providing unforgetable memories.

Two hundred species of the Tok Tokkie beetle family exist in Namibia and roughly 20 families have adapted to live in the arid dunes.

They are larger than other beetles and nature has made them adaptive to the high desert temperatures. Their thick chitin shell shields them from extreme heat and encourages moisture to cool the body.