18 Sep 2013

Rock engravings & Damara tribes

Namibia: Damaraland: Twyfelfontein & Seisfontein

Our first port of call heading north was a campsite, *Aabadi Mountain Camp”, just outside the extremely arid town of Twyfelfontein.  Here it has not rained in over 3 years and the stunted trees stand leafless in limbo.  The earth was a parched grey dust and from here northwards Namibia is suffering one of its worst droughts in 30 years.  We hear of goat herds being decimated by 80% and cows dropping dead in their tracks.  And the wildlife is suffering too – three days ago the notoriously grumpy desert elephants of this region played havoc in the campsite.  A highly developed water-tracing instinct had lead them to the latrines where they had pulled out the water pipes, leaving toilets lying on their sides, before turning their attention to the staff accommodation.  They are expected to be regular visitors.


Our host and barman was the modest, pipe-smoking Alan and his dog. Fortunately Alan’s fridge was unaffected by the drought, and a crisp, cold Windhoek draught was perfect rehydration.  Propping up the other end of the bar was a classic Crocodile Dundee type called Thys, a 4x4 tour & safari guide from Swakopmund.  He had just finished escorting two Swiss clients on an 8 day tour through Kaokoveld – our next destination.  The three of them kindly invited us to join them for dinner, and we made the most of the opportunity to pick up tips for our upcoming trip.  They hadn’t seen another car in eight days, and they had crossed the notorious Van Zyl’s Pass.  One of the most dangerous mountain passes in Southern Africa.  No fuel stations, no people, no mobile reception and definitely no tarmac.  And for Thys, no problem, just 2 satisfied customers.

After dinner, when the clients had turned in, and Thys was off duty, he very generously invited us to join him and some friends to a typical “Bush” after party.  How could we say no?  15 minutes later and Thys’ landcruiser and his friends pick up were ploughing through the sand of the dried up riverbed, stopping under the tree where Thys had got married a few years before.  He collected tree-sized pieces of driftwood and had a fire going in minutes.  Pink Floyd played from the car, drinks flowed and sparks shot up into the starry sky.  Our first taste of Namibian nightlife.



One of the most interesting sights around Twyfelfontein are the famous rock engravings just a few kilometres down the road.  Dating from between 2,000 and 6,000 years ago, these are remarkably well preserved and are supposed to be some of the best examples found anywhere in Africa.  This has been a World Heritage Site since 2007. 


These engravings are far more impressive than the under-whelming “Organ Pipes” found nearby.  The latter are vertical coloumns of granite, forced upward by volcanic activity over 200 million years ago and exposed over time by erosion of the softer surrounding rock. But they are less dramatic than equivalent sites around the world, and are done no favours by the compulsory, but half-hearted guide who wheezed and puffed alongside side us for the 10 minute tour.

We had just enough time to continue on to the “Damara Living Museum”, where volunteers from the Damara tribe demonstrated traditional dancing, bush medicine, fire making and handicraft techniques.  All a little touristy but an interesting insight into an ancient way of life. 



Bidding farwell to Alan and the Aabadi Mountain Camp, we pressed on to our first Community Campsite “Ongongo”, just outside the frontier town of Sesfontein.  

Here we camped by a tourquoise waterfall and lagoon, although unfortunately we were pestered by one of the campsite staff who at first said we needed to “make a donation” to the local football team and then later asked us for one of our rucksacks.  Given that we were already paying more to stay here than we had at privately owned sites, we felt this behaviour wasn’t very professional.  From here we had the choice of heading northwest on the 4x4 trail towards Purros or continuing North on the main gravel road to Opuwo and entering Kaokoveld from there.  The former option was very tempting but we were conscious that we were falling behind schedule and had been warned by Thys against camping around Purros – Desert Elephants had already killed 2 tourists there this year.  So we decided on the Opuwo route and set our GPS for the Opuwo Country Hotel & campsite.

KM driven: 971
KM total: 1,458

Animal sightings: Meerkat, Desert Horse

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