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Stage 78 (59): Helmeringhausen to Alte Kalkoefen

The gravel this morning was better than many of the tarmac roads we’ve ridden over the past weeks. A proper road bed, raised up and graded smooth; we made excellent time to the lunch stop, just on the northern outskirts of Bethanie.

  • racing into Bethanie for the carrot cake (I lost)

A quick lunch and then on to the fabled carrot cake supposedly to be found at the café in Bethanie. Of course, it was sold out; I had to make go with a large wedge of vanilla cake (which in fact was darn good) and a decent coffee. Bethanie seems to be a relatively prosperous farming village; side streets and at least three churches, one of them being quite large and modern-looking.

I wandered off-route a block or two into the village and found this old stone church…. Reputedly the oldest church in Namibia. It seems deserted, with very unkept grounds, and no signage at all. Built in 1859, the Schmelenhaus was long considered the oldest structure in Namibia. It is a National Monument since 1952 and serves currently as a small museum.

Post Bethanie, the tarmac continued almost to the end of the day. We’re on a main arterial, however, with commensurate truck and transport traffic. The marked shoulder is very narrow, but in the main the Namibian drivers are generous in passing, usually yielding a comfortable distance.

We’re out of the dramatic topography and now into a much flatter landscape; it takes a while for the penny to drop, but I think we’ve left the interior mountains or hills of Namibia and are out into what is termed ‘Karoo cover’ consisting g of much younger rocks. It translates into far less imposing scenery.

We turn off the busy tarmac onto blessedly quiet dirt for the final 3 km to our camp for the night. I discover from the proprietor just what ‘Alte Kalkoefen’ means - it’s an old limestone oven, used for smelting(?) limestone to extract lime then to be used for cement. The camp is an oasis in this bleakness of the Namib.

A special note: the proprietor has established a Lithops nursery - Lithops being a uniquely southern African plant occurring only in the desert and semi-desert regions on western and southern Namibia and northwestern South Africa.

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