On the Road: to Damaraland - News - Gondwana Collection

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On the Road: to Damaraland

Avatar of inke inke - 15. mars 2019 - Gondwana Collection, Tourism

On the road to Damaraland. Photo: Gondwana Collection Namibia

From the ancient Namib Desert and the delight of Swakopmund to rock engravings and an enclave of charm amid the mopane trees...

By Ron Swilling

“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” runs through my head as I leave the spectacular scenery of Namib Desert Lodge with a heavy heart. My mood lightens as I realise that untold adventure still lies ahead – and the fat lady isn’t singing yet. Far from it.

Solitaire. Photo: Gondwana Collection Namibia

Solitaire’s rusted old vehicles and apple pie draw me in on my way north, and further on I make a stop to pay my respects at the Tropic of Capricorn sign that marks 23˚ south, the sun’s southernmost point on its annual journey through the heavens. The desert, awash with a green tinge after the rains, and the intriguing scenery of the Gaub and Kuiseb canyons keep me spellbound. I pause in the rugged surroundings to peer into the depths of the dry riverbeds, peppered with acacia trees, and marvel at Namibia’s ephemeral rivers that only flow when their inland catchment areas fill up in years of good rainfall. After a brief pause when the universe seems to stop breathing, the water thunders down carrying large logs like matchsticks, and then it sinks quietly into the soil, replenishing the aquifers, the Earth’s great water-storage system.

After Kuiseb, I begin to hear the sea calling to me through the foggy reaches of time, remembering my faint fishy origins. It is just a soft stirring, a ripple on the water of my soul, but I feel it ruffle my desert reverie enough to make me jump into my Duster and continue to the coast. Here, I satiate myself with favourites like watching the flamingos in the Walvis Bay lagoon, snacking at the small, rustic Walvis waterfront and following the road that wends its way between the sparkling sea and sensuous dunes to Swakopmund.

The Delight Swakopmund. Photo: Gondwana Collection Namibia

“Delighted you’re here,” chorus the staff at Gondwana’s Delight Hotel, and I am delighted to be in the fresh and friendly hotel, to wander through the old German town’s wide streets, to visit the Saturday Swakop River market to stock up on olive oil, to take a drive to the Moon Landscape and welwitschias, and to run along the jetty, heart beating wildly, as the large waves crash below, to watch the setting sun slink into the sea.

The Jetty in Swakopmund. Photo: Gondwana Collection Namibia

When it’s time to leave civilisation, I amble along the salt road veering inland at Henties towards the small town of Uis. Roadside stalls display an array of colourful semi-precious stones, the riches of the land. Some, like Armando Gurirab’s stall, have been innovatively decorated with used plastic bottles that catch the sun’s rays. “Nice day. Safe on the road,” he calls to me as I leave. I drive on with a growing crystal collection and a happy heart. A lunch-stop at Cactus & Coffee (that boasts the best coffee in Namibia) is fast becoming an Uis tradition before heading north past Brandberg and its famous white-lady rock painting. I have the older rock art in mind this trip and continue past Namibia’s highest mountain towards the sacred amphitheatre. 

Herero woman. Photo: Gondwana Collection Namibia

Along the way, I come across the Herero women in their colourful long flowing dresses as they sit at their Singer sewing machines busily making the small dolls that fill the shelves of their roadside stalls. I leave with Herero dolls, smiles and stories, and cross over the dry Ugab River as I make my way into the heart of Damaraland. I am now in desert elephant territory and I keep my eyes peeled in case I come across my pachyderm friends, but they are keeping to themselves away from the crowds.

At the D2612, I turn towards Twyfelfontein. The name ‘Twyfelfontein’, meaning ‘Doubtful Spring’ in Afrikaans, stemmed from the time of farmer David Levin, who once struggled to obtain enough water from the spring for his family and livestock. Every time a neighbour came to visit, his wife would say, “He’s at the spring.” Neighbours started to refer to him as ‘David Twyfelfontein’ – ‘David Doubtful Spring’ - and the name stuck. 

The engravings at Twyfelfontein. Photo: Gondwana Collection Namibia

The engravings in the sandstone rock of Twyfelfontein were made thousands of years before Oom David set foot on the land, when hunters and gatherers of old would congregate in the mountains in the dry season. Here, their shamans would beseech the gods for healing and protection for their people, and for rain and luck for the hunt, hammering their prayers into the rock as they communicated with the spirit world. Walking around Twyfelfontein, I entertain the strange feeling that I am wandering through a cathedral of prayer. Longnecked giraffe reach into the heavens for rain and ostriches scamper across the rock. 

With these ancient renderings galloping through my head, I make my way towards Damara Mopane Lodge on a roller coaster road that dips and rises, dips and rises, until I feel as if I am in a stormy gravel sea. I make quick sorties to shore to visit the roadside stalls - their creative sculptures marking their place along the route. 

Near Khorixas, I thankfully join the tar and careen the last twenty kilometres to the lodge amidst the mopane trees. It is a lodge unlike any that I have ever come across, with the chalet gardens brimming with vibrant beds of spinach, beetroot and carrots, and an assortment of greens.

Sundowner at Damara Mopane Lodge. Photo: Gondwana Collection Namibia

Once again, I have arrived with the setting sun and I make it just in time to walk up to the sunset deck above the mopane woodland to toast and give thanks for another good day on the Namibian road.

A delicious supper awaits me and a night in a comfortable room surrounded by sunflowers, marigolds and the butterfly-leaved mopane trees. And my onward journey to Etosha sends ripples of excitement through me. But, for now, I am in the golden afternoon, hovering peacefully in the perfection of the moment.

To be continued on 19 February.

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