The road through Solitaire in Namibia will put hair on your teeth. (Photo: iStock)
A car with no air-conditioning.
A screaming toddler.
A baker that refuses to make milk tart.
It’s hard to imagine that the lonely C14 road from the Velddrift border post to Walvis Bay will have a world-famous bakery, but for a dirt-speck like Solitaire, you’re going to need something extraordinary to make people stop for longer than a petrol top-up.
My family and I are born-Namibians living in South Africa, and we used to take a road trip every other December down to the Namib coastline near Swakopmund to meet up with our relatives. If we don't go through Windhoek first, the road through Solitaire is the shortest route. Though it might save you time, it's not a road for the fainthearted or those with serious agoraphobia.
Most people take the turn-off from Mariental and get onto the C14 at Maltahohe. While you don't need a 4x4 for the road, it's best advised to have a reliable, sturdy vehicle that's not an old Combi living one breakdown away from becoming scrap metal (but that's a story for another day).
As with any trip through the desert landscape of Namibia, you need plenty of water with you. There's nothing for a long time, and the first thing that will kill you if your car breaks down is the heat.
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There was one particular road trip that has been burned into the brains of my family, one trip so uncomfortable and painful we still talk about it years later.
My sister is a laatlammetjie and thus was still a toddler with little appreciation for her surroundings. As we drove down the desolate road that would eventually take us through the Namib-Nauklift National Park to Langstrand, the car's aircon stopped working. Now in Namibia cold air is a precious resource, and the car started heating up fast.
Our only option to avoid boiling alive was to keep the windows open and have the rushing air keep us cool.
Unfortunately, my sister had other plans.
As soon as we felt the relief of wind on us, she started crying. I mean bawling. I mean screaming out curse words that would summon Cthulu in the middle of the desert.
She wasn't dealing with the wind, and she let us know. The only way we could get her to quieten down was to close the windows, and then the heat would return with a vengeance.
All we could do was keep switching between the two extremes - having our eyes boil in our heads or go slowly deaf.
Travelling through the depressing, lifeless landscape without aircon and a screaming baby sister, the only thing that kept us sane was the thought of tucking into McGregor’s massive slice of heavenly apple tart.
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When we saw Solitaire's lonely petrol station come up on the horizon, I was never so relieved to see the rusty car that's been standing watch there for who knows how long.
Tumbling outside, we only had two things on our minds - the coldest cooldrink we could find, and a slice of the sweet dessert. And when I say slice, I mean a quarter of a tart.
My mother was trying to appease my sister by trying to get her her favourite milk tart, but the baker wasn't too impressed with the request.
"Ons maak nie sulke kak hier nie," he retorted.
Inside the petrol station's little shop, you'll see the remains of a glider. Years ago a pilot crashed into the desert nearby and the people of Solitaire rescued him. He had to stay there a few days before he was able to return back to his base, but it sounded like he had a swell time, if the note he left his rescuers on what was left of his ride is anything to go by?
With full stomachs and colder throats, we had to mentally prepare ourselves to hit the road again - where extremes of screaming and melting heat awaited. But once the rocky landscape starts turning into beautiful sand dunes, you know that the cool sea breeze isn't too far off.
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