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London, United Kingdom
January 11, 2003
All meals, included when staying in the Wolwedans Dune Lodge, are exceptional, from the hearty breakfast to the beautifully prepared and packed picnic lunch (for eating at the "Hard Rock Cafe") to the elegant and unexpectedly fine evening meal in the lodge dining room.
Our first evening meal is a revelation, a gourmet effort worthy of any top restaurant in Paris, London, or New York. The starter is a beautifully presented dish: a precisely formed pile of crisp apple and smooth avocado salad, pierced with a few upright strands of crispy, deep-fried spaghetti which cage long, twisting gratings of raw carrot, and surrounded by thin slices of rich smoked beef. This is followed by a tender braised rack of lamb served with a delicate potato gratin and a vegetable ratatouille. After this we still manage dessert: petite, hand-made orange ravioli served with a caramel sauce and caramelized nuts and decorated with a shining ball of spun sugar.
Ralph is the young and intensely serious German chef whose creative menu we have so enjoyed, and is responsible for training and overseeing the team of local kitchen staff. His colleagues express much admiration for his dedication to his team and we all experience their success.
I am hoping that he is still working there when we make our return trip, planned for 2004.
For further information on Wolwedans (photos, contact information, rates and descriptions) please visit Wolwedans.com
From journal Wolwedans, NamibRand Nature Reserve
Both the chalets and the public areas are constructed of solid wooden frames and ceilings, some wooden walls, and some large canvas walls that can be left completely open to the panoramic views of the desert beyond.
The main complex, built on a raised platform, consists of a bar lounge, a dining room, and a study, the canvas walls on at least one side of each room left open onto the large area of decking. In one corner of the veranda is an intimate fire pit surrounded by chairs.
The chalets sit in two groups on either side of the main complex. Ours is reached via a long, wooden walkway that crosses over a large sand dune, hiding the main complex from our chalet, and then a short walk across the sand.
Each time we cross the walkway, we examine the new tracks of birds and animals which mark the shifting sands. We are the only guests staying in this group of six chalets during our visit and are slightly unnerved and thrilled at the same time by the total silence surrounding us, interrupted only by the sounds of singing birds, scurrying beetles, and occasional animal visitors.
Each of the spacious chalets also sits on its own raised platform, providing warm, wooden flooring underfoot. The large bedroom is dominated by beautiful wooden beds dressed in soft white linen, and draped with a romantic mosquito net, knotted and twisted to hang decoratively above the bed (since there is little problem with insects at this time of year). There is also a wood-walled, open-windowed, en-suite bathroom, well equipped and environmentally friendly--the water run-off from shower and sink feeds a tree planted next to each chalet's solar panel and water tank. From the private veranda, we can admire the blonde grass, red sand, and mysterious Fairy Circles and the Tsamma melons growing on their ground-hugging vines. The bed sits up against one wall, and we leave the canvas wall, opposite, completely open all day and night.
The night is cool and, in the evenings, we sit on the veranda, admiring the night sky. We are unaccustomed to seeing such blackness lit up by so many stars, and are awed by the clarity of the Milky Way Galaxy. Mars, bright overhead, is also a sight we see rarely at home.
We get into beds warmed by well-insulated hot-water bottles and sleep the sleep of angels. We wake up to a sunrise at the foot of our beds, creeping up over the distant mountains and racing across the sand towards us.