Sunday 17th July
Having left the boundary of Etosha National park this morning at Ombika we were back onto sealed road (at least for a short time) heading around 100km South to the town of Outjo which has a population of around 6,000 located in the Kunene Region. The town was founded by Germans under the command of Colonel Theodor von Leutwein in 1897 as a small military base in order to explore the northern area of German South-West Africa, these days better known as Namibia.
We had agreed at our evening campfire briefing the night before that for lunch today rather than our usual fare of sandwiches and salads we would stop at a well known restaurant and partake of some local specialties. The German heritage of this town was evident from entering with signs in German and many buildings having that unmistakable European influence. It was a Sunday so apart from where we were stopping for lunch it appeared pretty much the entire town was closed.
Having been on the road now for around 12 days eating awesome meals lovingly prepared by Charles there was a sense of anticipation and excitement, especially amongst the kids that a Pizza or some fries could be a possibility. For us adults we were looking forward to some real local food and when we parked outside the Farmhouse Restaurant and Beer Garden we knew that local food would have a heavy German (actually it was Swiss) influence. We weren’t disappointed…… the kids got their Pizzas, Burgers and Fries and us adults got our Schnitzels, Currywurst, Roesti and Stroganoff served with steins of cold beer.
The day before Namibia had played Kenya in rugby and given we were traveling in Namibia with a Kenyan cook a few of us were eager to know the result. Unfortunately the WiFi was having the day off like the rest of the town so I approached two locals who were sitting in the bar having a beer and watching football. After some introductory conversation I posed the question to them along the lines of “Can you check on your phone please for the rugby results?”. They duly obliged which further strengthened my love for this country. For the record Namibia beat Kenya.
Lunch over we were back on the road with full bellies and around 200km to cover to reach our overnight stop which was to be a camping site close to the Brandberg White Lady Lodge in Damaraland. Unfortunately most of the days remaining travel was to be on dirt. With a content and subdued mood on-board (full bellies & it was a Sunday) we set forth into an area that was literally deep in the middle of nowhere.
Since we had left Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe we had not seen many contour changes to the land. The highest point at any one time was the tallest tree or bush with the landscape being uniform in it’s level…..flat! As our day progressed, the scenery did as well with glimpses of hills and finally some mountains.
Brandberg Mountain is located in Damaraland, in the northwestern Namib Desert, near the coast, and covers an area of approximately 650 km² with its highest point, the Königstein (German for ‘King’s Stone’), standing at 2,573 m which also happens to be the highest point in Namibia.
It is also home to The White Lady rock painting, located on a rock face with other art work, under a small rock overhang, in the Tsisab Ravine which is accessed by a 50 minute walk from the car park. We visited this the next morning (Monday) before heading to our next destination.
This mountain has national significance designation which means entry into it is strictly controlled and all visitors must take a guide with them to visit the paintings. This is well worth it as the information they impart offsets the cost (NAB$50 each…. and if your parking a car an extra $30 or if it’s a truck $50)
If you visit then try to make it as early as possible in the morning and take plenty of water. We started our walk at 09.30am and the temperature was soaring. There were also signs of the desert elephants having been present around the area with plenty of Ellie Poo and broken trees. Despite the heat, the upward gradient and the possibility of meeting creatures that were considerably larger than us the kids attacked this walk with gusto as they boulder hopped and were totally engaged.
Admittedly we didn’t know too much about this famous site and thought it was possibly along the lines of the Uffington White Horse in the UK but was very surprised to learn how small the White Lady drawings actually were and even more surprised to see not only the number of intricate artworks that surround it but it has since been proven that the White Lady is not actually a lady……according to experts it’s a man or a shaman (not she-man). Many of these drawings have been dated back to between 2-3 thousand years ago and describe stories of the people of the day. To be fair the walk to see this was more worthwhile than waiting in line at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa.
Drawn with a mixture of Ochre, blood,eggshells and charcoal the details are staggering. Although we were not able to see them, we were told there are many more similar paintings like this that have been found in the area.
Arriving at the White Lady lodge after a day of bouncing along dirt (sand?) roads in hot conditions it was sunset and with the surrounding Brandberg mountain, the colours were spectacular. We are seeing some beautiful sunsets each day and as every location is different it makes it hard to choose a particular one but this one was near the top of the list. As our guides were making the accommodation arrangements for the nearby campsite we sat on the brick wall of the lodge watching the sun go down over the mountains.
The campsite was around 5 minutes drive from the lodge and well set up with each site having it’s own braai, water tap, and ablution block……well it was really a bush toilet and a bush shower heated by fire. No electricity so no lights either…….try showering with a head torch for something different. The tents and kitchen went up on the cusp of darkness and a fire was started. Another fine bush meal was produced by a skilled group of bush cooks ( I think the kids were helping Charles from memory ) before the aforementioned warm(ish) shower and settling in for another evening beside the campfire with a beer.
Andy our intrepid guide had his guitar out and strummed a few tunes before we retired for the night around the time of 9.30pm. BB loves his reading but surprisingly (or maybe not given how much energy he was expending during the day ) he was often asleep a few minutes into opening his book. Between us we read, swapped and re-read the same two books over a 2 week period. Noelle and KK in their tent would write their journals before shutting off their torches for the night.
The area we were staying in is also famous not only for it’s rock art but during the drier periods of the year it is home to groups of desert elephants that rove in the valley of the Ugab river of which were camping close to. On the way into the camp we spotted a small group of them close to the road. These animals have adapted to their dry, semi-desert environment by having a smaller body mass with proportionally longer legs and slightly larger feet than other elephants. Their physical attributes allow them to cross miles of sand dunes to reach water.
They survive by eating moisture-laden vegetation growing in riverbeds and have the ability to go several days without drinking water. Sometimes they must travel long distances to reach a water source. By living in smaller than average family units of only two or three animals, they decrease pressure on food and water resources. With Noelle being a bit of an elephant buff this was another highlight for us to see these animals up close in their natural environment.
By this time whilst enjoying everything that we were doing and seeing our thoughts were turning to arriving in Swakopmund where we would have the opportunity to wash some clothes and to have a decent shower as our camping locations each day were getting more desert like and sand was invading every crease and crevasse of our gear and bodies. Although we were living in shorts, t-shirts and bare feet most of the time the sand just gave us a little reminder that nature was still the boss. As we were traveling light we were only carrying limited clothes and the last time we did washing was 4 days earlier.
Next stop – Spitzkoppe……….
Book of the week….is it any surprise Tony Park makes another appearance with his novel “The Hunter” It is based around Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe featuring a few places that we visited or traveled through. I’m sure it’s in your nearest library.