My typical Namibia desert roadtrip checklist includes extra sunscreen, photoshoots of dry riverbeds, and plenty of rehydration stops. Thanks to Moose McGregor’s famed bakery in Solitaire, I’ve now decided that every desert also needs a pastry chef.
Eighty kilometres north of Sesriem, the tiny gateway town to the gigantic dunes of Sossusvlei, Solitaire is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dot on the map. I blinked. I missed it. Thankfully there was no traffic on the highway as I pulled a hasty U-turn to head back for breakfast; the tiny cluster of bakery, guest lodge, petrol station and general dealer are significant enough for geographers to give this highway intersection a spot on the map.
Moose McGregor’s apple cake is the stuff of legends. The Moose McGregor Desert Bakery at the Solitaire petrol station is famous for fuelling hungry travelers while they fuel their vehicles. Admittedly, my brioche wasn’t the best brioche I’ve ever had, but it was by far the best pastry I’ve ever had in the middle of the desert.
Sitting at a café table just after eight in the morning I realized how Solitaire earned its dot on the map. Sure, the baked goods are excellent. And as any driver in Namibia knows, a petrol station is the most important landmark on any map. But the traffic at this crossroads of the C14 and C19 highways – important thoroughfares to Swakopmund and Sossusvlei – was a telling portrait of the travelers who tackle these roads in search of Namibia’s natural beauty. 4×4 landcruisers, hardy bakkies, the occasional brave compact car. Families spilling out of spacious Land Rovers, weathered adventurers checking the straps on their spare fuel tanks, exhausted tourists calculating how many hours their two-wheel-drive hired car will need to crawl along the next stretch of secondary highway.
Mark Solitaire on the map for your next roadtrip through Namibia. Take a moment to slowly munch a plate of apple cake and remember why you’ve travelled this far. Grab a few pies for the road, pack away some biscuits for late afternoon tea. If you’re heading for Sossusvlei you won’t stop long: the fever to see Namibia’s bright red dunes will propel you south. If you’re on your way north with a camera full of Dune 45 photos, reward yourself for seeing one of Namibia’s most gorgeous treasures by sitting back with a second helping of pastries.
You can stay over at Solitaire if you need extra time to savour the apple cake. Check out the Solitaire Country Lodge. Or, as a halfway point between Solitaire and the pricier accommodations around Sossusvlei, stop off at Weltevrede Guest Farm (47km north of Sesriem; 37km south of Solitaire), with ensuite rooms with dinner and breakfast included make travel planning simple; self-catering units and camping spots are also available.
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