Driving through Damaraland

Not only our day starts with breakfast, apparently the day starts the same for Rock Dassies! An entire family was feasting in the green gras and the greenish trees surrounding the lodge in the early morning sun. If only they could enjoy the scenery like we do!

It is moving day for us, and we are destined to drive only a small distance through Damaraland to Palmwag, starting at Twyfelfontein. As we didn’t have time to do the things to do around here, we have them scheduled for today. Palmwag is a really deserted place, with only the lodge in the wide vicinity. So, off we were to the Burnt Mountain, the Organ Pipes, the Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings and finally the Petrified Forest.

Not all destinations are as envigorating as their names would make you believe, the Burnt Mountain is a really dark oversized hill and the Organ Pipes are an odd geological phenomenon where long vertical rocks were formed and are now exposed as a rives ate through them. The other two destinations can only be visited with a guide, and we started at the Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings. The region has been inhabited by the San people for thousands of years, and the engravings found at the site are estimated to be between 2000 and 6000 years old. Yes, really, really old. They are chiselled out of the soft sandstone rock, and do not fade like the paintings in Australia. As such, the are really well preserved and look very accurate. They depict the animals the bush people hunted, and include oddities such as a Seal, a Penguin and a Flamingo. Mind you, we are in the middle of a desert here, the sea is 150km in a straight line away. The San have seen those animals during the hunting and salt gathering trips, and created the pictures to show others what they’ve seen. This site is a World Heritage site, and has been since 2007, so it’s only a young addition to that list.

The official Petrified Forest has logs washed down in a giant flood 280 million years ago, which started somewhere north of Angola. They are Pine logs, which didn’t grow in Namibia back then, but were only found a few thousand kilometres north. That must’ve been a gargantuan flood! Several unofficial Petrified Forests can be found along the road the the official one, but we were advised to visit the state supported one as the others are usually villagers trying to gain money off of naive tourists. Our guide did not speak highly of them, and applauded us for choosing the official one. Yeah, right. 😉

We also had a setback today, as the left front tire blew out and had to be switched. This was done quickly, but it left us without a spare tire in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Also, cell phone reception is spotty, so getting hold of someone at the rental company proved to be difficult. We finally managed, and had to call back on Monday to get accurate directions on where to go to get a new tire. So, more tomorrow!

Taking the long way round to Twyfelfontein

We needed to travel a lot today, and as we didn’t quite get to do what we intended to do yesterday, that even became more. 😉

On the menu today was the trip from foggy and cold Swakopmund to the remote, dry and warm Twyfelfontein, clocking in at about 280km. As we wanted to start our day back in Walvisbaai to go see the resident Flamingos, we had to add about 60km to that. To make matters worse, we also couldn’t resist adding a huge colony of Cape Fur Seals to the trip, adding another 100km to our route, which is now totalling 440km. Of which a large part indeed is on untarred roads.

The road along the coast (Walvisbaai <-> Swakopmund <-> Cape Cross) is tarred but referred to as salt road, as it is really close to the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. The wind blows predominantly from the sea to the land, bringing with it a lot of moisture and salt, as the current is flowing from the South Pole to the Equator, and still is really cold when it gets to Namibia. This also means that the majority of coastal towns get a lot of fog, and fog less days are the exception! The road is because of the moisture and the salt very slippery, and accident prone, but by driving carefully we survived without any issues.

The scenery when driving on this salt road is the weirdest we’ve come across so far: the scorching hot and dry desert is actually next to the humid, damp and cold Atlantic Ocean, they are only separated by a small beach. The fog is thought to sustain a very rare and endemic plant to Namibia: the Welwitschia. We have not seen one today, but may have another chance in the future. The desert is exactly what you would suspect of a desert: reddish in color and really empty. No trees, virtually no shrubs and definitely no grasses. It also is very flat, quite uncommon to this land.

At Cape Cross (Kaap Kruis) a large colony of Cape Fur Seals live, which we just had to visit. We instantly regretted our decision as we jumped out of the car though: Seals do not smell nice. At all. One might say they reek. Badly as well. However, gazing upon several tens of thousands of Seals is quite the experience, and it also meant the large lenses we have been lugging around could be put to good use. 🙂

We are staying in the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, which is as remote as it is lovely. Built onto the sides of a hill, it overlooks the majestic plains of the Twyfelfontein Conservancy, and where you can have a cold drink at a reasonable price whilst looking at the busy lives of the Rock Dassies (Klipdassen) I might actually get used to being here though, so it is a good thing we only stay one night. 😉