I stood on the deck of my private house, one of only a dozen situated at the base of a low mountain, both awed and frustrated by the night sky. All of the constellations I thought I would be able to recognize escaped me; the half dozen signature stars that would have helped me identify them were joined by thousands of others, making it difficult for me to locate any stellar configuration except Scorpio. With no light pollution, and no air pollution, the sky here in the Namibian desert provided a truly astounding intergalactic display — complete with an easily seen Milky Way — the likes of which I had never seen before.
I had arrived earlier that day at the Desert Homestead Outpost near the small settlement of Sesriem, down a private road for a couple of miles to the main building. A staff member welcomed me with a cool towel and a refreshing glass of papaya juice, and then escorted me inside. Thick thatched roofs protected the multi-level main building from the strong sun. I followed along for the tour, through the large dining room, the lounge with a fireplace, the outdoor seating area, the bathroom in a separate building with thatched roof, and the swimming pool.
A porter wheeled my luggage along the stone and then gravel path, lined with lanterns, across a little footbridge. He pointed out the sundown deck atop the mountain looming above the camp. A fairly steep hiking trail led up to this vantage point, where guests could enjoy a dazzling sunset every night. We proceeded around a skittish garden snake and down to the private guest houses, which faced an enormous valley with nothing but scrub and low mountains.
After depositing my luggage inside, he wished me a warm stay, leaving me to revel in the unexpected luxury of a desert camp. The very comfortable bed, protected by mosquito nets, occupied the center of the room, surrounded by a couple of comfortable chairs and a writing desk. Solar-powered lanterns provided the lighting, and a gorgeous stone and tile bathroom made me want to renovate my own bathroom back at home: open and huge, with an open shower with a half wall, toilet with a half wall and a view of the valley, and a double sink. Through one side door, I stepped into the private outdoor shower. Through the large sliding glass doors, I emerged onto the shaded sun deck, with unspoiled views of the valley and distant hills. A ladder led up to my private roof, if I were so inclined to sleep under the stars.
I headed to the bone-chilling pool and took a quick dip before settling on one of the lounge chairs that were so comfortable I could have lied there indefinitely. I did until sunset, when the rocks turned lovely deep orange and rust colors.
The nearest sign of civilization is a 45-minute drive away, so once you’re on the property for the night, you’ll be having dinner here — and that’s a very good thing. My first evening’s meal, a scrumptious five-course dinner, accompanied by a pinot noir, comprised chopped avocado with a spicy sauce; homemade fresh-herb tomato soup; a garden salad; roasted whole lamb leg with rosemary sauce, mashed potatoes, fried red cabbage, and yellow patty pan; and brandy pudding topped with custard sauce. The second night was just as praiseworthy: fried chicken liver; homemade red lentil soup; onion, bacon, and asparagus tart; pan-fried kabeljou (a local whitefish) with a lemon-caper sauce; brown rice, glazed carrots, and baby greens; crepes suzette with caramelized fruit and vanilla ice cream; and a Namibian white wine.
On my way back to my room for the night, a jack rabbit hurried by on some nocturnal mission. Turndown service had been performed, and I found the alarm air horn — without a phone in the room, this is your contact call in case of emergency. At night, the silence is utterly complete. You think you’re deaf, because there’s practically nothing to hear, except perhaps the occasional animal. In bed, you can hear the wind approaching before it arrives a few seconds later, blowing through the screens in your windows and providing a deliciously cool breeze.
A generous variety of breakfast foods — orange juice, hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, potatoes, salami and cheeses, lemon-poppy muffins, Nutella on toast — make your morning meal on the outdoor terrace a pleasure as you watch the early-morning sun paint the surrounding landscape in pastel colors. And if you’re off property during the day, the staff will prepare you a substantial lunch of, for instance, a salami, cheese, and lettuce sandwich; oranges; mixed-fruit juice; peanuts; biltong (kudu and springbok) jerky; and a Kit-Kat.
When you pry yourself away from breakfast and get around to packing your bags for your departure, you’ll be loath to check out of Desert Homestead Outpost and the personable, polished service you received during your stay. If you want to disconnect from the rest of the world, but still be pampered, this is the place to do it.