While Instagram had handily prepared us for many of the stunning landscapes we saw on our mini Namibian road trip, we weren’t expecting to be so taken by the tiny town of Solitaire. Well. They claim it’s a town, but much like the “village” we drove through that consisted of a windmill, sheep farm and minuscule police HQ, it’s more like a strategically located gas station with some unexpected quirks.
Solitaire is an isolated outpost between Windhoek and the Namib Naukluft Park, reminding us of a small frontier town that you might see in an old Wild West movie. The name of the town derives from ‘solitude’ so it goes, and if you visit you’ll instantly understand why.
We knew that Namibia was one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world – second only to Mongolia – and yet it’s not until we arrived and started our journey to the desert that we fully appreciated the extent of its emptiness.
Miles and miles of some of the most breathtaking views and mountain passes we’ve seen and sometimes an hour or more without seeing any sign of human life. Despite, or perhaps because of this, the wildlife is abundant, with mountain zebra, oryx, warthogs, springbok and more a frequent sight. We’d expected the landscapes to be barren, more desert like than anything else, and were surprised by the lushness and colours to be seen as the country started its move into the lengthy dry season.
We stopped briefly at Solitaire for fuel on our first evening travelling from Windhoek, and having heard a rumour about some amazing apple pie, I asked our guide where I could find it… only to find out we were far too late in the day to be in with a chance of getting our hands on some.
Thing is, not much separates this girl from her dessert, so I pleaded with him to take us back through Solitaire two days later when we’d be returning to catch our flight home. Clearly, I made the importance of this mission known and our truly lovely, slightly bewildered and very patient driver agreed that he’d help a girl out.
Luckily, even though we missed the bakery, we had arrived just in time for sunset. And wow, what a sunset it was. Solitaire is home to a chapel, the gas station I mentioned and a small motel, but it’s also home to vintage car wrecks, some quite splendid cacti and is surrounded by breathtaking mountain landscapes.
The best was yet to come though, as sure enough, we found ourselves back in Solitaire two days later bright and early and more than ready to join the queue that was rapidly forming outside the door of the bakery. Rob was insistent that he couldn’t see any apple pie and that I’d made the whole thing up, whilst the three Japanese guys also on our tour didn’t seem to have a clue why we were back in town.
As Rob rolled his eyes and browsed possible alternatives, I hopefully asked for some apple pie and we were rewarded with two chunks of the tastiest fruit based pastry we’ve ever sampled. Mission accomplished.
So go to Solitaire, you’ll probably need the fuel and you definitely need to try the pie – what more could you need while exploring the Namibian desert!