This small town, 147km from Swakopmund, used to be the centre of the country's railway industry, though now it's little more than a stop on the line, with banks and fuel to tempt those who might pass right through. If you linger here then the old station is worth a brief look, and the Namib information office is useful if you're planning to do much exploration of the local area.
Where to stay and eat
For casual snacks as you pass through on your way to Swakopmund, Namib Wuste Farm Stall
is the best in town. It is almost always open (closing at 20.00, even on Sundays) for a good range of take-away foods, biltong and chilli bites.
Most visitors staying in the area will use the guest farms around here and Karibib, but if you need to stay in Usakos itself, your two options are:
(14 rooms) Theo-Ben Gurirab St, PO Box 43, Usakos; tel: 064 530444; fax: 064 530765; email: email@example.com; web: http://hop.to/namiba
This two-star hotel, located next to the post office, is fully licensed with an à-la-carte restaurant, bar, beer garden and undercover off-street parking. All rooms have air conditioning, satellite TV, telephones and en-suite bathrooms. Internet and conference facilities are available. Birdwatching and local Bushman art are on offer at the nearby Mansfield farm, next to Usakos.Rates: single N$195, double N$280, including breakfast.
(10 rooms) Bahnhof St, PO Box 129, Usakos; tel: 064 530259; fax: 064 530267
This plain hotel has a simple restaurant, and off-street parking. All the rooms have en-suite bathroom and some have air conditioning. If you've no transport then you can arrange day trips from here to Spitzkoppe with the owner.Rates: N$145 per person sharing or single, including breakfast.
Nearby guest farms
(10 rooms plus camping) PO Box 266, Usakos; tel: 064 530803; fax: 064 530904
Ameib has been accepting guests for years, and is quite idiosyncratic, but it does have superb rock formations and excellent rock art, so is worth a visit.
Approaching from Windhoek or Otjiwarongo, turn right towards Swakopmund in the centre of town, then immediately right again, on to the D1935. This turning can be inconspicuous: there's a small sign to Ameib on your right as you turn, and a hospital on your left. (From Swakopmund on the B2, look for a small sign to the left. If you reach the main junction in the centre of town, you have missed it.)
Then follow the gravel D1935 for 12km to a signposted right turn on to the D1937. The landscape is beautiful: a little like Damaraland's vegetation, with sparse cover on the hillsides, and lush river valleys. About 5km further (on poor gravel) you reach Ameib's imposing gates. Then 11km later, the ranch is set amongst rounded granite boulders in the Erongo Mountains.
Its rooms are large and clean, with en-suite facilities, but the decor is uninspiring. They are functional, but not beautiful. However, visitors come here mainly for the excellent rock paintings. Many are within Phillip's Cave, a large eyelash-shaped cave made famous by Abbé Breuil's book of the same name. It's a classic site for Bushman art, and the paintings here include a famous elephant, giraffe, and red stick-like people. Getting there is a 1.8km drive from the ranch itself, followed by a 30-minute trail (15mins at a fast, serious hiking pace). If possible, do this in the cool of the morning.
There are also unusual rock formations, like the Bull's Party – a group of large rounded boulders which (allegedly) look like a collection of bulls talking together. These are about 5.2km from the main ranch, and around them are lots of unusually shaped rocks, including mushroom-shaped and balancing boulders – worth exploring for an afternoon. Unfortunately, Ameib still has a small 'zoo' next to the ranch, complete with native animals and birds in small cages.Rates: N$480 single, N$460 per person sharing, including dinner and breakfast. N$50 per person camping.
If you need money then there's a First National Bank, and for supplies try Engers Mini-Market or the Usakos Selfhelp (which is a shop, not a therapy group). Next to the Padstal Take-away, Rainbow Curios sells gemstones and various curios. Like everything else, it's on Bahnhof Street.In an emergency
, the police are reached on tel: 064 10111, whilst the ambulance and fire service are on 064 530023 – or 530095 after hours. The hospital is tel: 064 530013 or 530067.