Our hearts don’t break leaving Swakopmund. A mist covers the town and sticks with us along the coastal drive before we make a turn landinwards. We can’t wait to be back on the gravel in the Namibian inland ☺ This time we are entering Damaraland. Along the road we see many ‘souvenir’ stalls, put together with tree branches. Many of them are deserted. It’s very hot around here and quite remote. At some stalls Herero women and girls dance in their Victorian dresses (a heritage from the missionaries in the 1800s who were appalled by the semi-nakedness of the Herero. Despite the high temperatures, the women continue to wear these heavy but very colourful dresses) to attract attention of travellers driving by. They sell jewellery, gemstones, ... At some points children stand by the road and hold up water bottles. People live in primitive huts, often trying to live of some cattle farming. Herds of cows walk along the road. Somehow they seem to know where they have to go to. We just hope they don’t unexpectedly cross.
After about 5 hours of driving we reach Twyfelfontein Country lodge, set in a rock-strewn valley near the Aba-Huab River (the river is ofcourse once again dry as can be). The Lodge almost seems to be integrated in the rocks. The heat overwhelms us as we get out of the car and walk to reception. Once again, very friendly welcome, little tour of the main lodge building where we first acclimatise with a light lunch. Then we settle into our room, a woman is just bringing us some towels. It’s so easy to start a chat here! She tells us most of the staff live in a village 9 km from the lodge and every morning and evening a little bus drives them to work and home. It’s hot for them too and at this time of day it seems everything goes a bit slower. Lesley is knocked out by the change of temperature and we take a little siesta before heading to the world heritage site of Twyfelfontein a few kilometers from the lodge. Again, the name of the place, describes a little story about a farmer who wasn’t sure he would find water in the underground. Twyfel is ‘to doubt’ and ‘fontein’ refers to the well. The slopes of Twyfelfontein, amid flat-topped mountains so typical for Damaraland, conceal one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of rock art. There are thousands of ancient engravings, made by Bushmen people who were here up to 6000 years ago. Only a fraction has been studied in detail and undoubtly there’s still rock art to be discovered. In 2007 Twyfelfontein became recognised as a World Heritage Site. There’s a small visitor centre, which is completely deserted when we arrive. It’s just too hot this time of day.
Guide Reinhard will take us along the rocky trail. First we come across the remains of a small farmbuilding. It belonged to a German family who emigrated to Namibia after the second world war. I don’t know what they were thinking, surviving in such a remote and hot area. It lasted for about 20 years. Then they received a government notice telling them to leave as they had no rights to the land. Today there are only the flat mountains, the red rocks and as we get closer the ancient engravings showing giraffes, elephants, lions, ostrich, birds, and even animals of the sea. The Bushmen were nomads and hunters, so they also made it to the ocean side (about 100 km to the west). And that’s how even today, after these thousands of years, we see seals and pinguins carved in the rocks. Reinhard tells us it was a way to communicate among the travelling families and to educate the younger. Smaller and bigger circles represent water wells and distances to reach them. Despite the heat and the annoying flies circling around our heads, I am fascinated and I ask many questions. Maybe I did miss a career in archeology ☺ I just get all excited thinking we are standing where people thousands of years before us, sat by the rocks, slept under the stars, hunted, ... By the time we see the last engravings and return to the visitor centre, a wind blows in the valley and brings some much needed refreshment. This is the time for some other travellers to arrive and start their tour. We just sit there for a while with a cold drink and then make our way back to the lodge.
Sun sets early again and by now we are ‘trained’ to go to dinner around 18.30 h, all the lodges serve dinner at that time ☺ This time it’s a buffet. The lodge manager has a short talk at every table, asking where we are travelling to next, what we think about Namibia ... Again, we find the Namibians are excellent and authentic ambassadors for their country. After dinner it seems the main building is soon deserted. Where is everybody? The bar is virtually empty except for us and the large grasshoppers who tend to suddenly dive down – with risc of landing in your hair. Outside a small group of people is star gazing. Wish I could take this night sky home with me.