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Four Scenic 4x4 Mountain Passes in Namibia

  
  

If you are into 4x4 adventures, Namibia has some beautiful mountain passes just for you. We have selected four passes on routes that start in Windhoek and head down the face of the Great Escarpment and into the Namib Desert and beyond.

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Namibia's mountainous regions are well-worth exploring.

 

A Short Note on 4x4’s in Namibia

Upon arriving in Namibia for the first time you would be forgiven for thinking that much of the driving you do around the countryside seems like a 4x4 adventure. With most of the roads in Namibia untarred and cutting through rugged landscape, this assumption is not crazy. However, the extensive gravel road network of Namibia is well maintained and is, for the most part, very easy to drive on. So fear not!

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Clear skies, clear roads.

 

Most car rental agencies will have 4x4 vehicles for hire and you can find a list of some agencies in Namibia here. Be sure to double-check any insurance policy you take out for your hired vehicle. Some policies will not cover damages incurred while using the vehicle off-road, so make sure with your agency before you bound off into the rugged outdoors.

Check out everything we have on car hire here.

 

Scenic Ascents and Breath-taking Descents

The passes below are incredibly scenic and along the way you will find loads of great places to stop and take in the awesome scenery of the remote locations you will drive through. This means that these routes are not just rewarding for novices but also for more experienced drivers who can enjoy the amazing sights and landscapes that these mountain roads cut through.

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One of the scenic picnic spots en-route.
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

 

1. The Remhoogte Pass

If you are hoping to explore Sossusvlei, the Sesriem Canyon via the isolated town of Solitaire when you visit Namibia then this may be the perfect pass for you to take. There is also a lot of interesting geology along this trail with wind battered rock-faces rising out of the ground all along the route.

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The start of the scenic pass.
(Image via Tracks4Africa by Nakkiran Sunassee)

 

The Remhoogte Pass will take you over the Great Escarpment and into the Namib Desert and it is much less steep (and therefore easier to navigate) than the nearby Spreetshoogte Pass. This route is good if you are a little apprehensive about heights, or your ability to traverse a serious mountain pass. However, you must note, while it is possible, it is not the best idea to tackle this route with a sedan or light two-wheel drive vehicle.




A sedan will probably not cut it on this route.


How to get there

The pass can be found on the D1261. 

Take the B1 south out of Windhoek and head to Rehoboth. Just after you go through Rehoboth take the C24 going west for 37 km. Then turn onto the D1261 going south. Keep driving until you get to the C14- the C14 is the road you must take to get to Solitaire in the south.

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Welcome to Solitaire!
(Photo via Panoramio)

 

2. The Spreetshoogte Pass

This route follows a similar path to the Remhoogte pass. It too will take you from Windhoek to Solitaire meaning that you will be close to Sossusvlei and Sesriem. The major different between the two routes is that Spreetshoogte is much, much steeper than Remhoogte. As such, it is a little trickier to drive.

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Steep descents and sharp corner mean you will need a decent vehicle.
(Image via Panoramio)

 

The sharp bends and steep gradients are not bad news for intrepid explorers. These two aspects of the pass combine to provide travelers with unrivalled views of the dramatic landscape below the pass. It is best to drive in the afternoons as the landscape in the later afternoon sun is truly gorgeous and offers some awesome photographic opportunities.

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Another spectacular sunset on the Spreetshoogte Pass.
(Image via Alex Pompe)

 

How to get there

The pass lies south of the Gamsberg on the D1275.

Take the B1 and head south out of Windhoek, heading to Rehoboth. Just after you go through Rehoboth take the C24 for 37 km going West. Then head southwest on the D1261 for about 55km. Look out for the D1275. Once on the D1275 simply follow it until you get to the C14. Get on the C14 and head south to get to Solitaire.

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Both the Spreetshoogte and Remhoogte passes will put you en-route to the Sesriem Canyon.


3. The Gamsberg Pass

The mountain which this pass traverses got its name from the Nama word “gan” (flat on top). The Gamsberg Mountain is a flat top mountain and some even wryly referred to it as Namibia’s very own Table Mountain.

 

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The Gamsberg.
(Image via Tracks4Africa)

 

The route travels through the southern regions of the Namib Naukluft National Park, and should you choose, will lead you all the way to Walvis Bay on the iconic Namibian coast. This region of Namibia has a little bit of everything for everyone, with great rock climbing, challenging off-road 4x4 trails and awe-inspiring views of the foothills around the Kuiseb.

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The Kuiseb Valley.
(Image via Outdoorphotos by Andre Moller)

 

The pass is one of Namibia’s most popular passes and it is in fact the highest and the longest pass in the country. Its elevation and the fact that you overlook the Kuiseb River in the valley below it make it one of the most scenic 4x4 routes you can travel on in Namibia.

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The region has an average of 300 clear days a year.
Making it an ideal place for camping and stargazing.

(Image via Lynn Greenlee)

 

How to get there

The pass is on the C26.

All you need to do is head south on the B1 out of Windhoek and turn right onto the C26. The C26 is about 190km in length, at which point you will encounter the C14. Head northwest on the C14 to get to the nearby Walvis Bay, or head south to get to Solitaire.

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A rare shot of an unusually cloud-covered Gamsberg Pass.
(Photo via Alex Pompe)

 

4. The Bosua Pass 

The Bosua Pass is along a road that will take you from Windhoek to the famous coastal town of Swakopmund. The road is a far more scenic alternative to the traditional route along the tarred B1 and B2. However, like the Spreetshoogte Pass there are some very steep sections as you drive over the mountain and as such you should not try to do it with a car that does not have decent tires and brakes.

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The sun setting over the C28 just after the pass.
(Image via MEI)

 

The pass takes adventurers passed several abandoned mines and houses. Two notable sites along the route are the old Liebig House and the ruins of the Von Francois Fort. The former was once the residence of the copper mine’s top brass, while the latter was most recently used as a “Tronckenposten”- a drying out post for alcoholic German soldiers in the early 1900’s. Keep an eye out for these two landmarks!

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The abandoned Liebig House.
(Image via TREKEARTH)

How to get there

You can find this pass on the C28.

This pass is very easy to find. All you need to do is head out of Windhoek, on the C28 and head due east. The C28 snakes through the countryside for 319km and a trip from Windhoek to Swakopmund along this road should take you about five and-a-half hours.

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And once you get to the beaches near Swakopmund the fun and games can begin!


General notes

There are several picnic spots on these four passes. Some are at the beginning of the pass while others are at specific lookout points, so keep your eyes open for places to stop.

Please also note that you are not allowed to drive wherever you like in Namibia. You must stick to the roads on the map unless you have permission from the owners of the land on which you are driving.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Please ensure you close all gates that you drive through. Leaving these farms gates open endangers wildlife, drivers, locals and tourists. 

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Remember to keep those gates closed.
(Image via Zanzig Photography)

 

Happy trails!

 

+++++++

Exploring Windhoek with Rachel Lang

  
  

A few months ago travel writer Rachel Lang was part of our Go Big Namibia team who spent a few weeks exploring Namibia. On her tour Rachel spent some time in Windhoek and in this special guest post she shares her experiences and offers some suggestions for travellers visiting the big city for the first time. So read on, and follow the links at the bottom of this post for even more travel tips.

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Windhoek.

-Cruising through colourful Katutura-

by Rachel Lang

I’m usually not a big fan of bustling through cities, so it came as a surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed a morning of doing just that in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek.

I was with a great bunch of people (which makes all the difference, doesn’t it?), and together we whizzed around discovering a vibrant blend of old and new – long-standing colonial churches built by early German settlers stand amongst stark modern-day infrastructure. Windhoek is safe to explore on foot, and, if you know where to go, you’re in for a delightful cultural and culinary adventure! My favourite part of the city was (without a doubt) the bright and colourful township of Katutura.

When the first World War ended, Namibia (then South West Africa) was passed from German colonial rule to South African governance (under the League of Nations Mandate). Sadly, South Africa imposed their system of apartheid, forcibly dividing Windhoek into areas inhabited according to race and ethnic groups. Katutura Township was the area allocated to “blacks” and remains home to 65% of Windhoek’s population.

I recommend taking a slow drive along Katutura’s legendary Evaline Street (‘the street that never sleeps’) – a Joseph’s techni-coloured-coat of houses, shebeens, hair-dresses, friendly car-washes and enthusiastic entrepreneurs.

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Photo by Rachel Lang

We stopped to investigate the extremely popular meat market at Single Quarters. This is not a place for faint-hearted vegetarians! If that’s you, be warned!! (luckily I’m not). If you’re brave enough, you can join the locals by tucking into some famous Kaplan (braaied) meat, or, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, try a mopane worm. I couldn’t help noticing that it’s also a hunting ground for young single locals – especially teenage girls who do little to hide their ogling over the braaing men, who are, of course, only too happy to show off their meat-chopping muscles. But no judgement here – I’m a huge fan of Masterchef Australia, and this obviously has nothing to do with toned surfers in aprons! The market is also a popular date venue for local couples. If it were me, I’d definiatley prefer somewhere more romantic! What do you think?

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Photo by Rachel Lang

We then headed to the ‘Soweto Market’ where I did the real touristy thing (why not), and got a few braids put in my hair by a lovely hairdresser called Maria. The speed at which she worked was a spectacle in itself – intricate, perfect little plaits were done in no time at all.

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Photo by Rachel Lang

If you would like to do a tour of Windhoek with a guide (I would recommend this) here are some options:

2 hour double-decker bus city tour: 2 hours (two tours run daily, must book at least an hour ahead)

  • Tel: +264 61 275 300 | Fax: +264 61 263 417

Four hour private tour with local guide in air-conditioned vehicle:

  • Email – tours@discover-namibia-safari.net / Tel : +264 (0) 81 364 5069

This tour was made possible thanks to Africa Geographic and the Nambian Tourism Board, as part of the Go Big Namibia campaign.

More things to do in Windhoek

Where to eat in Windhoek

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Katatura Bicycle Tour

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What to do in Windhoek

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More from the Go Big Namibia team

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 Namibia, Windhoek, Katatura, Namibia adventure, go big namibia, rachel lang, bushbound girl, bush bound girl

Rachel Lang, in her own words...

I'm Rach – a freelance writer, blogger and environmental educationist based in Cape Town, South Africa. Born into a family of wildlife lovers, I spent my childhood immersed in nature and developed a love for wild places that has continued to grow for 26 years.

My blog, Bush-bound Girl, is a collection of family stories, travels, interviews, poems, and inspiring guest posts; all written on an adventure to discover Africa's wild side. Follow my journey on my blog, Facebook page, and Twitter.

If you would like to work with me, or share your own stories, send me an email.

Five Must-visit Spas and Wellness Centres in Namibia

  
  

After a hard few days of trekking through the Namibian wilderness, or after climbing some mountainous dunes, you may find yourself longing for a bit of rest and relaxation. Well the good news is that there are several spas and wellness centres dotted around the whole of Namibia that exist to help you unwind your mind and rejuvenate your body. Below are five of Namibia's finest spots for relaxation.

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View from the GocheGanas chalets.
(Image via GocheGanas on Flickr)

 

1. GocheGanas

GocheGanas is a 6000ha nature reserve aimed at providing visitors with a variety of activities to help them unwind. It is situated less than 30 minutes from Windhoek and offers walks, safari drives and access to international quality wellness facilities.

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Two guests on a walk through the reserve.
(Image via GocheGanas)

The wellness facility is fully equipped to ensure that the lodge’s guests can fully unwind and rest up for the next leg of their Namibian adventure. There are eleven treatment rooms with state of the art crystal baths, hydrotherapy baths, and Vichy showers so there is little that you will want for when visiting this mecca of relaxation.

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A guest reclines in one of the specialised baths.
(Image via GocheGanas)

In addition to the treatment rooms there is a heated indoor pool, a cave sauna in a cathedral-like masonry vault, and a well-equipped fitness gym if you want to work up a healthy glow. All this makes the Wellness Village at GocheGanas a must-visit for any weary traveller looking to recharge their mind, body and spirit.

CATHEDRAL

The cathedral is truly a sight to behold.
(Image via GocheGanas)

Click here for booking information.

 

2. /Ai /Ais Hot Springs

The /Ai /Ais Hot Springs Resort can be found in the southern most region of the Fish River Canyon nature reserve, and it is perfectly situated for adventurers who have just finished exploring the beautiful canyon.

The water from the springs is naturally hot and issues from a warm water spring called/Ai /Ais. The unique spring was discovered in 1850 by a young Nama sheepherder and the spring was named /Ai /Ais which means “burning water” in the local language.

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This is the actual site of the natural hot spring.
(Image via The Cardboard Box)

A soak in the warm water is ideal for anyone suffering from joint or muscle pains of any kind and it is also good for relieving any other kinds of stresses or aches that you may be suffering from.

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One of the warm water pools at the resort.
(Image via The Cardboard Box)

The resort offers a host of other activities for active guests including hikes, walks and even tennis. As a result of its proximity to the South African border the resort is very popular with travellers from both countries so booking ahead is a must.

Click here for booking information.

 

3. Diplomat Hydro Spa

In the heart of Windhoek lies a hidden gem of wellness, the Diplomat Hydro Spa. The spa is situated in the foothills of Windhoek and as such seems completely cut off form the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Spending time in the resort it is easy to forget that you are just kilometres away from a major city.

The spa is open six days a week and offers a variety of different wellness treatments for its guests. All the treatments are water-based and the spa sticks strictly to the mantra that “water is nature’s greatest healer”. You can read more about their ethos here.

Click here for more booking information.

 

4. Seaside Hotel and Spa

Situated right on Swakopmund’s iconic beachfront the Seaside Hotel and Spa offers guests a wonderful place to kick back and enjoy some wonderful sea views while being pampered in the hotel’s world-class spa.

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The hotel is literally on the beach.
(Image via Stay Today)

Facials, pedicure and manicures are just some of the specific treatments that the spa offers its guests. There is also a sauna, steam room, jacuzzis and the unique Spa Oceana. Here is a list of all the treatments on offer at the spa.

 

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Two pools within the spa, overlooking the ocean.
(Image via Stay Today)

The spa of the hotel is available to both day visitors and hotel guests alike so whether you are just passing through Swakopmund or staying there for a prolonged period of time it is definitely worth your while to check out the Seaside Hotel. The spa also specialises in couple packages- perfect for honeymooners!

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Another happy couple.
(Image via Stay Today)

Click here for booking information.

 

5. The Kalahari Sands Hotel

Sun International’s Kalahari Sands hotel is another location in Windhoek that offers guests the opportunity to relax and unwind. The hotel’s wellness facility is located on the panoramic rooftop of the international hotel and casino.

The wellness centre offers a full range of treatments and therapeutic products as well as a gym. Whether you are staying at the hotel or not the Kalahari Wellness Centre can provide you with a few hours (or days!) of much needed time off from the bustling modern world.

 

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Nothing relaxes a tired body like a few hours of shuteye.
(Image via Kalahari Sands)

Click here for more booking information.

So go on and treat yourself to something a little out of the ordinary in Namibia. Both your body and your mind will thank you for the precious hours you dedicate to relaxation and wellness on while you are travelling through Namibia.

Rock Climbing in Namibia with Richard Ford

  
  

Richard Ford is an experienced rock climber and has been running an adventure and climbing company called Urban Friction in Windhoek for many years now. His company specializes in rock climbing expeditions to both near and remote parts of Namibia and recently we managed to get Richard off of the rock face for long enough to conduct a short Q and A with him about rock climbing in Namibia.

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Get elevated for a different perspective on Namibia.
(Image via Urban Friction)

Can you introduce yourself and tell us briefly how you got into rock climbing?

I have been climbing since I was a kid but only got into serious/technical climbing after my return from living in Cape Town and the UK when I was introduced to Mountain Climbing South Africa’s Namibia Section. Currently, I am an Industrial Rope Access Trade Association certified rope access technician.

Where do your climbing excursions take place? And which is your favourite spot to climb in Namibia?

The day excursions take place at sites just outside Windhoek, usually about 20 km outside of the city. We are also currently developing a site that is only 10 km from the city. Most of the climbing spots are on private farms and the right of admission is reserved. One of our sites close to the city is actually an old dried up waterfall.

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Climbing is a great way to get to remote parts of a country.
(Image courtesy of Richard Ford)

But my favourite place to climb is the Spitzkoppe and it is usually a three-day weekend climbing tour. The Erongo Mountain Range is also a beautiful and fantastic site to climb.  

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In the distance, the Spitzkoppe. A perfect place for climbing.

Briefly tell us what happens on a typical climbing excursion/tour?

Day tours like our Midgard tour – includes a hike, game drive to the climbing site, lunch, and use of Midgard Country Estate facilities.

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The climbs are usually in extremely scenic parts of the country.
(Image courtesy of Richard Ford)

Do you have to be an experienced climber to join an excursion/tour?

You don’t need any experience to join the climbing tours, they are open to everybody from amateurs to professionals. The climbing sites usually have various routes ranging from easy, to moderate, to difficult.

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A guide explains to a climber how to stay safe.
(Image courtesy of Richard Ford)

Do you have any upcoming tours that prospective climbers can join?   

On Mondays we usually have a half-day climbing excursion and on Fridays, we often have a two day/weekend climbing trip. I worked as a freelance tour guide between 2001 and 2006 so I have experience in leading tours and working with clients.

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No matter how long your climb is, it will always be rewarding.
(Image courtesy of Richard Ford)

Which kind of gear does one need to go rock climbing? Does Urban Friction provide their customers with this gear?

You need shoes (although I would recommend barefoot climbing to amateurs/beginners), a dynamic rope, a harness, and a helmet- we can provide all of these to our clients. But all of these items are also available from stores like Cycle Tec Namibia if you wish to buy your own gear.

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You can always bring your own, if you want to.
(Image via Urban Friction)

How safe is rock climbing?

Rock Climbing is actually very safe if you are well aware of all the necessary precautions that need to be taken; there are strict procedures one needs to follow. I would say that rock climbing is safer than most contact sports. However, there is a calculated risk involved similar to sky diving.

But rock climbing has been around for a long time, and the equipment we use is manufactured by big commercial companies who make sure their products are safe and trustworthy. I also check my equipment on daily and monthly basis.

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A safe climber is a happy climber.
(Image courtesy of Richard Ford)

What are your thoughts on the future of rock climbing in Namibia?

I am currently working a lot with kids to create and foster a culture of rock climbing in the community… While we are on the topic of the growth potential, it would be awesome in the near future if climbing would be allowed at the Waterberg.  It’s such a beautiful place and a lot of potential to be a world-class rock climbing site. It would be great to see that happen.

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For more information and to find out how to book an excursion with Richard and Urban Friction call them on +264 81 331 2916 or visit their Facebook page here.

The Wild Dogs of Namibia

  
  

The African wild dog or Lycaon pictus is truly one of nature’s wonders. Its intelligence, social pack structure and beauty make it one of the most interesting animals to track and view on safari. Namibian conservation groups are currently trying to bring these canines back from the brink of extinction and now you can help. 

Getting to know the African wild dog

Once these animals could be found in over 39 countries across the African continent with a population of more than 500 000. Now, however, estimates put the population of the African wild dog between 3000 and 5000 spread across just 14 to 25 countries in Africa.

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Two young dogs.
(Image via AfriCat)

There are many reasons for this dramatic decline in numbers: Human encroachment, poaching, and competition from larger predators have all played their part in decimating the population of these animals.

As a result of these factors the African wild dog is the fifth most endangered mammal in Africa. It is also the second most endangered predator on the continent and with numbers dangerously low it has been declared endangered and conservation efforts have slowly been increased.

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A cool drink of water on a typically hot day.
(Image via Lamb and Serpent)  

The African wild dogs are some of nature’s most well adapted predators and when a pack goes on a hunt they have over an 80% chance of making a kill. This figure is all the more impressive when you consider that lions, often thought to be excellent hunters, have a success ratio of about 30% on each hunt they begin.

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The dogs play, live and hunt together.
(Image via AfriCat)  

A large part of their hunting successes and social hierarchies stem from their ability to effectively communicate with one another using strange chirp-like calls that help co-ordinate their activities.

Members of a pack will vocalize to help coordinate their movements.

It is rare to see the dogs on a hunt but there have been a few documentaries that have managed to capture this amazing feat of pack hunting. Click here to watch the BBC’s Planet Earth team capture an amazing wild dog hunt in the Okavango.

Namibia’s Wild Dogs

Namibia has had a consistently critically low population of wild dogs and current estimates put their numbers anywhere between 300 and 600. As such the conservation of these rare animals is fast becoming a priority for conservation groups in Namibia.

Two organisations stand out in Namibia in their efforts to protect these endangered animals. They are N/a’an ku sê and the AfriCat Foundation at Okonjima private game reserve. Each organisation has different but complimentary programs aimed at getting people to better understand African wild dogs and thus ensure their survival.

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This trio is trying to beat the Namibia heat under the shade of a small tree.

N/a’an ku sê

N/a’an ku sê is a privately run foundation that operates just outside Windhoek and its aim is to help with any and all conservation efforts in Namibia. One of their points of pride is their wild dog program. The foundations maintains a massive enclosure on their premises that houses several wild dogs that were rescued as pups after their mother died.

These dogs now live their lives within their special reserve as they are unfortunately unfit to be put back in the wild. The dogs are observed within their enclosure so that the team at N/a’an ku sê can learn more about the social structures and behavioural patterns of these enigmatic animals. The upside to their being in captivity is that guests can get an up close and personal encounter (behind a fence of course!) with the dogs.

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Wild dogs surveying their enclosure at N/a’an ku sê.

The captive population of wild dogs can also be used as an invaluable genetic reserve that may one day help to repopulate the wild with these animals. The foundation also hopes that by better understanding the way in which the African wild dog behaves they will be able to educate farmers and locals all over the country on how best to live in sympathy with the dogs.

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A young male wild dog takes a breather.
(Image via AfriCat)

On the Carnivore Tour offered at the lodge you will not only learn about and see N/a’an ku sê’s pack of African wild dogs but you will also get a chance to observe (and sometimes interact with) lion, leopard, baboons, caracal and cheetahs. The tour is one-of-a-kind and is a must for conservation enthusiasts. All proceeds from these tours go straight back into helping animal conservation projects around Namibia.

You can also help support the projects at N/a’an ku sê by visiting their page here, or you can take part in one of their many and world-renowned volunteer programs by clicking here.

AfriCat

AfriCat has been in operation since 1993 and in that time the organisation has been rescuing, rehabilitating and re-releasing predators onto the Okonjima nature reserve in central and northern Namibia. Here they lead natural lives until they day they move on from this world.

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The program has successfully rehabilitated many African wild dogs.
See Raine, Rex, and Ricky.
(Image via AfriCat)

The foundation is only able to keep up their good work because of the money they bring in from tourists doing safaris and other activities in the park as well as through their highly effective adoption and donation programs.

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Join the pack today.
(Image via AfriCat)

AfriCat release a yearly report on the status of African wild dog conservation and you can read it here and see the good work that is being done across Namibia by the foundation and other conservation groups.

Going Forward

A unique challenge in the conservation of wild dogs is that a pack needs vast tracts of land in which to roam in order to survive and thrive. Most national parks in Africa, however, are too small for this and as a result many of the packs roam onto unprotected land and farmlands.

The resulting human/animal conflicts that result from the roaming packs of wild dogs have been largely responsible for the rapid decline in their numbers over the last few decades. The wild dog also suffers from a bad (and ungrounded) reputation of being a ferocious killer and as such is often hunted without mercy by overzealous farmers trying to protect their livestock.

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Here’s looking at you!
(Image via William Burrard-Lucas via WWF)

Through organisations like AfriCat and N/a’an ku sê we can all help in reversing the decline in their numbers and ensure that future generations will be able to witness these remarkable beasts in their natural environments.

Whether you donate your time or your money both are completely appreciated and welcome.

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A lone male looks to the horizon
.

What to do in Windhoek

  
  

The bustling capital of Namibia is a city that proudly wears its history on its sleeve.  Buildings, monuments and neighborhoods not only weave a narrative of the local histories and cultures, but it also makes for fascinating sightseeing.

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Welcome to Windhoek!

The city is clean, well organized and fairly easy to navigate, making it ideal for walking tours and casual sightseeing.  There are few must-visit sites in Windhoek that are all the more interesting when you know a bit of their back story.

Independence Avenue

This bustling main road cuts through the city centre and on it you will be able to take in the Gibeon Meteorites. 31 of the original 77 meteorites that fell near the town of Gibeon in Southern Namibia have been crafted into an unusual but beautiful piece of municipal art near the Sanlam Building on Independence Avenue. Thought to be over 4 billion years old, the 150 tons of space debris fom part of the largest meoteorite shower in the world.

At the intersection of Independence Avenue and John Meinhert Street, you’ll find the bronze kudu statue, one of Windhoek's best loved statues. This popular landmark and meeting place was unveiled in 1960 and symbolizes a “spirit of hope” and a “shared passion for the beautiful abundance of the country's wild.”
 

The Christus Kirche

Head up the avenue toward the iconic Christus Kirche church, located on a traffic island in the middle of Robert Mugabe Drive. Take in its curved gables, quartz sandstone walls and elements of Neo Gothic and Art Nouveau, and you will understand why it is often used as the face of Windhoek, on countless postcards and brochures.

The church’s clock and three bells were imported from Germany, as was the stained glass that was manufactured in Nuremberg and was a gift from the Emperor Wilhelm II.

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The Christus Kirche.

Katatura Township

Visitors to Windhoek are increasingly taking the opportunity to visit the thriving township of Katutura, which itself has a fascinating history linked to the country’s colonial past.

When the League of Nations made Namibia a South African protectorate, many of the apartheid policies and strategies were applied to the city of Windhoek, such as the policy for “separate development”, and in the 1950’s, township areas for the various ethnic groups were created, with a view to keeping the city segregated.

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Katatura.

The local black population was relocated to the township of Katutura, a name that means "the place where we do not want to settle". The plans ignited great opposition, eventually culminating in a bloody confrontation on Dec 10, 1959, a date that is today commemorated as “Human Rights Day” in memory of the 13 people who lost their lives.

The Katutura of 1968 consisted of about 4000 standardized rental houses without water and electricity organized into sections of five different ethnic groups. Each house had a living area of 45qm and a large letter on the door symbolizing the tribe (D = Damara, H = Herero etc.). If you look carefully, you can still see some of the letters on the walls to this day.

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Jerusalem street, Katatura.

Windhoek's total population is currently around 300 000 people, about 60% of these people live in Katutura. There are many suburbs of Katutura with poignant names such as Soweto, Havana, Babylon and Wanaheda. But residents of the townships have built these neighborhoods into vibrant, prosperous locales that can give visitors a unique insight into Namibian life.

Meat markets and craft centres

Take a guided tour through the lively meat market at Single Quarters, where visitors can have a taste of “kapana”, the local road-side barbecue that is the snack of choice for many Namibians. Or drop in at Soweto market, a commercial centre where small businesses such as seamstresses, vendors and hairdressers thrive.

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A local vendor preparing kapana.

Another popular stop is the Penduka Women’s Centre. This non-governmental development organisation aims to empower disadvantaged or disabled women in Namibia by giving them a place to make beautiful hand-crafted souvenirs. In the Oshiwambo and Otjiherero languages the word Penduka means “wake up”.

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Arts and crafts...

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...made by the women at the Penduka Women's Centre.

For the more daring, visit the infamous Eveline Street – the street that never sleeps. Lined with an array of shebeens (bars), hairdressers & other informal traders, its worth the visit if only to see the quirky names of the bars.

Eating out in Windhoek

Windhoek offers its visitors a plethora of dining options- the international cuisine at places like Stellenbosch Wine bar or the ethnic fare to be found at Xwama in Katutura and the “Penduka” restaurant.

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Xwama-  fusion culture, fusion food!

While in Namibia, visitors can step out of their gastronomical comfort-zones and get a taste for the local cuisine- from mopane worms, to the local brew omalodhu or more hearty foods like springbok and kudu steaks.

For more great food ideas, take a look at our post on where to eat in Windhoek.

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Mopane worms- in a tin.
Go on, try one.

For those who find themselves in Windhoek en-route elsewhere, it can be so much more than just a stopover. Whether you prefer to explore with a guide or on foot, with family or alone, it can offer a memorable, enjoyable Namibian experience.

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Picturesque- Parliament Gardens in Windhoek.

Namibia's 55th Oktoberfest Spectacular!

  
  

Every year for the last 55 years Windhoek celebrates its German heritage in one of the best ways possible: By holding its very own Oktoberfest! The original Oktoberfest has been held in Munich, Germany for over 200 years but when the fest comes to Windhoek you know it’s going to have a uniquely Namibian flavour.

 

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The Oktoberfest in Windhoek is like a little bit of Germany in Namibia.

(image courtesy of SKW)

 

The event aims to celebrate one of the many cultures that make up the rich tapestry of diversity that is Namibia, and it aims to bring people together for some good old fashioned family fun and games. The event is family friendly and several competitions are held through out the weekend with prizes and surprises for everyone taking part.

 

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Thirsty festival goers in search of more beer!

Festival goers will get the opportunity to enjoy traditional German festival grub like Bretz’n, Weisswurst, Hax’n and Lebkucheherz’n. But perhaps most importantly, there will be Festbier which will be specially brewed for the event by Namibian brew master Christian Meuller. Christian spent some time at Munich’s Oktoberfest picking up some tips and tricks that will no doubt mean better, more authentic beer for the thirsty crowds at the event!

 

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Beer, beer, beer!
(image courtesy of SKW)

What you can do there

Besides the delicious food and drink there will also be a range of activities and attractions to keep everyone happy and entertained. Live music, traditional Oktoberfest games and challenges, as well as other activities will make this event even more memorable for those of you who can make it there. Have a look at the festival’s official Facebook page which will provide you with the low-down on what to expect at the festival.

 

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The Stein lifting competition is always a popular event.

There will be a fine selection of live music that will range from authentic German oompa music to modern rock and roll. Popular traditional German band, Kirchdorfer, will be coming all the way from Munich to Namibia for the second time in as many years.

They are one of the original Oktoberfest bands in Munich and you can see what they’re all about by checking out the video below or by visiting their website.

 

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Kirchdorfer, the official Bavarian Oktoberfest band.
(image courtesy of SKW)

Kirchdorfer at the 2011 Munich Oktoberfest.
(video courtesy of Kirchdorfer)

Carrying the flag for Namibian music at this event will be the popular band Famaz Attak. Famaz play a mixture of blues and rock and will be on hand to make sure that the party goes late into the night!

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Famaz Attak will rock you into the late evening.
(image courtesy of SKW)

Head on over to the Hansa website to enter pre-festival competitions and you could stand a chance to win a limited edition beer keg filled with delicious Namibian brew. Be sure to visit their facebook page as well to keep up to date on all things Oktoberfest.

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A lucky keg-winner-
check out the Facebook page to find out how you can win!

(image courtesy of Hansa Namibia)

 

Program

This year's Oktoberfest is due to kick off on the 25th and 26th of October, with doors opening on Friday evening at 19:00, and closing only in the early morning hours of Sunday morning. There is a full program of events for the weekend so have a look below and see what's happening.

 

Oktoberfest program at the SKW (subject to change):

Friday 25 October 2013:

Gates open at 16:00

Band starts at 18:00

Official opening by VIPs at 20:00

Music & Entertainment till late

 

Saturday 26 October 2013:

Gates open at 10:00

Band starts between 12:00 and 13:00

Traditional competitions, games and entertainment during the day

Music & Entertainment till late

Tickets can be bought at www.computicket.com (or at any Shoprite/Checkers outlet) and will cost you N$75 for a day ticket if bought in advance (N$ 90 if bought at the door), or N$120 for the full weekend.

For more info you can get hold of the SKW who are organising the event.
 
SKW - Sport Klub Windhoek
Email: skw@iway.na
Website: www.skw.com.na
Telephone: +264 61 235 521

Why you should go

This year marks the third time in a row that Namibia Breweries Limited and Sport Klub Windhoek have joined forces to put on this spectacular event. The two organisations have been working hard to bring the fest to more people every year and they have succeeded in doing so. In 2010 there were 1000 attendees, and in 2012 there was a massive 5000 people enjoying sun, fun and beer at the SKW.

There are several reasons why you should make a turn by the event if you are in the nation’s capital. If you like good food, sunshine, happy people, fresh beer, and all round good fun then you should definitely make your way to the SKW grounds in your finest German attire and prepare yourself for a good time!

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There'll be plenty of beer and fun for all at this year's event!
(image courtesy of SKW)

Go Big Namibia Day 1: A taste of the BIG CITY

  
  
Go Big Namibia  

Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

 

Our adventure begins in Windhoek with a mix of history, local food and local culture. We headed down to Katutura to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Windhoek’s popular Soweto market. Here you can get anything from the local Mopane worms, to sorghum to the tasty speciality of “kapana” (strips of barbecued meat with plenty of spice). A visit to the Penduka project in Katutura was a heart-warming reminder that Namibians support women’s empowerment and sustainable business. Check out their unique crafts, beautiful batik and pottery through www.penduka.com.

We rounded off the day with lunch at Xwama, where we had a chance to taste practically all the traditional foods of my childhood. Well done to the team for doing it like the locals and eating the marathon chicken, eehanda (traditional spinach) and oshifima using only their hands- a mini adventure in itself!

 

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Soaking up the sunshine in the Parliament Gardens

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Emeritta buys some old local favourites at the Single Quarters Market in Katutura

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Delicious Kapana fresh off the barbecue

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The kids love posing for the camera - Rachel gives them a sneak preview of their photo

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Just some of the unique crafts hand made at Penduka

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Laurel prepares to get stuck into a traditional meal - not a knife or fork in sight!

 

Read what the rest of our Go Big team had to say about the Big City:

Rachel  

Rachel Lang on Africa Geographic

Cruising through colourful Katutura

describe the image  

Laurel Robins on Monkeys & Mountains

Adventures in Windhoek

 

Follow Emeritta and her fellow adventurers on their #GoBigNamibia tour

     


Celebrating the Heroes of Namibia

  
  

On August the 26th 1966 the first shots were fired in Namibia’s war for independence at the battle of Omugulugwombashe in Namibia's central Northern region. It would take 23 years for Namibia to achieve independence but it is these first acts of armed resistance that are being commemorated on Monday 26th August. Heroes’ Day is celebrated every year in Namibia in an effort to never forget the sacrifices and efforts of all the proud Namibians who fought for freedom and self-determination.

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 The Unknown Soldier at Heroes' Acre

These days the holiday is used to foster national pride and to stress the importance of togetherness in Namibia. Namibia has several diverse cultures living within its borders and presidents often use the 26th of August to remind everyone in Namibia, and the world at large, just how remarkable and peacefully all the different cultures in Namibia co-exist.

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Three Himba children laughing
(image courtesy of Nigel Pavitt)

Namibia’s Heroes’ Day is a time for all Namibians to reflect on how far the country has come since attaining its independence from South Africa in 1990. Rather than focussing on the lives lost needlessly in a justified struggle for independence from a white minority government, Namibia focuses on the positive aspects of its post-independence reality. In recent years the spotlight has been put on to current citizens’ Namibian hero. This typifies the Namibian spirit of endeavour and a national psyche of reconciliation with a view to the future instead of dwelling on the past.

Heroes' Acre

The Heroes’ Acre just outside Windhoek is a monument to the fallen soldiers and citizens of Namibia. The monument aims to honour the lives of those Namibians who may have otherwise been forgotten through the passage of time. There is a statue of the unknown soldier and seating for about 50 000 people for when events are held in its amphitheatre.

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A flame burns in memorium for those who have been lost

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A tourist makes his way to the Unknown Soldier

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Heroes' Acre seen from its paved square

Heroes' Day 2013

This year the annual celebrations will be held in the Omusati region where the war for independence began in 1966. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has predicted that over 50 000 people will attend the ceremonies being held. This year the highlight of the ceremony will include the unveiling of a new statue of Dr Sam Nujoma to celebrate the ex-president’s integral role in fighting for Namibia’s independence.

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Founding President Sam Nujoma (left) greeting the late Colonel John Otto
Nankudhu during the 2009 Heroes’ Day commemoration

(image courtesy of the Namibian Sun)

The planned ceremony will also celebrate the role of everyday Namibian heroes and heroines who all contribute to making Namibia the wonderful, peaceful and harmonious country it is. Men and women such as Cgunta Khao//Khao who at great personal risk helped to save a tourist form a bushfire in 2012.

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Cgunta: A true Namibian hero recovering from his burns in hospital
(image courtesy of the N/a'an ku sê Foundation)

Namibians across the political, social and economic spectrum are expected to honour the day. There are even groups in the United Kingdom that will be holding events for Namibian ex-pats looking to honour the spirit of their country. So if you are a homesick ex-pat reading this blog then take a moment this Monday to remember just exactly what make Namibia and its people so unique and wonderful.

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The Heroes' Acre monument stands proud against a bright blue Namibian sky


A Bicycle Tour through Katutura

  
  

To pass through Windhoek and not experience the bustling life of Katutura is to miss out on what is everyday life for most Namibians living in the capital.  

Katutura means “The place where people do not want to live” in Otjiherero, and was Windhoek’s former “blacks only” suburb during Apartheid rule. Today, the township is home to 60 % of the people living in Windhoek, and represents the vibrant soul of the capital.  

Travelling through Katutura by bicycle shows a side of the township you wouldn’t get by just passing through by car – you can smell the lunch at the food markets and watch the kids run alongside you on their way home from school. And best of all, it’s environmentally friendly.  

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Anna & Eric from Katu Tours

There are some serious hills in Katutura, as we discovered on our bicycles… but luckily the tour is for people of all ages and fitness levels, so you can take it at your own pace. In fact, the slower you go, the more you’re likely to see.  

Friendly guides like Eric take you on a route through Katutura and give you all the history and behind the scenes stories of the township, its people and the various landmarks you’ll pass along the way. From more politically relevant locations like Single Quarters, to the tastes of Soweto market, the shebeens of Eveline street and the crafts of Penduka, you’re in for an educational and cultural treat.  

Cycling through Katutura for a taste of Namibian history and everyday life is an experience not to be missed. Adventure tourism at its best.

Additional Tour Information:

  • Departs: Tuesday to Sunday at 8:30 am but (be there at 8:00 am sharp for a tour briefing and instructions!)

  • Numbers: 3 people minimum/12 maximum

  • Start/end point: Penduka Project at Goreangab Dam, Katutura (See map here)

  • The tour takes 3.5 hours and covers a total distance of around 7km at a relaxed pace

  • The tour includes a bicycle and helment hire, so no need to bring your own!

  • Make sure you pack light (not too big a camera either) and bring a bottle of water because it gets pretty hot out there

  • All schedule tours to be booked and confirmed 48 hours prior tour departure date

  • Katu Tours also offers tailor made tours to large groups and families, just make sure you request them 5 working days in advance

  • For more information visit the Katu Tours website at katuturatours.com

     

 

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Find out how Wanaheda got its name (here’s a clue: its got to do with the four largest cultural groups in Namibia)

 

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The tour takes you through all the different parts of Katutura and gives you a bit of a history lesson while you're at it


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Watch as Herero women make the subtly-sweet-but-oh-so -elicious Herero bread at Soweto market

 

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Meet the local shop owners in the bustling markets


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Get anything you need from Soweto market, from the freshest fruite to the best quality hair braids in town

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Wind through the streets to see the colourful homes


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Visit Oshetu Market for a meat extravaganza – every thing from fresh cuts to the delicious Kapana straight from the grill

 

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The streets are lined with carwashes – a good form of business for local entrepreneurs, and conveniently located close to the shebeens so customers aren’t twiddling their thumbs while waiting

 

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Check out the community upliftment and bicycle repair project The King’s Daughters

 

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Have a traditional Oshiwambo meal at Xwama before finishing up your tour

 

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Round it up with a look at the Penduka Women’s project where you’ll find extraordinary crafts, including glass beads made by deaf women from recycled bottles

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