Monday, March 14, 2016

Namibia: Damaraland Sites

Other Posts: Trip Overview, Little Kulala Lodge, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, Sesriem Canyon And Scenic Flight, Swakopmund Sandboarding, Walvis Bay Dune & Sea Tour, Doro Nawas Camp

Choosing Doro Nawas Logde over other camps was Dave's decision because he wanted to visit Twyfelfontein. Doro Nawas was the only Wilderness Safaris camp close enough to the site to offer the visit as a camp activity. Who wants to have a chance to see rhinos when you can see one of the largest concentrations of cave art in the world? Other attractions we'd visit during the day would be Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain, Damara Living Museum, and the Petrified Forest.

The ride to the sites would be about an hour. On the way we saw a group of baboons grazing. They were too far for decent shots (or Dave's lens wasn't big enough) but their black fur against the dry grass provided some interesting shots.

Twyfelfontein (Afrikaans for "uncertain spring") is Namibia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's situated in a pretty little valley of red rocks with pockets of greenery. The area was inhabited because water was sometimes available from a spring. The estimated 2,500 carvings were likely created 2,000+ years ago. The site is about 180 miles from the sea, yet some of the carvings depict flamingos, seals, and penguins. Circular carvings depicted water, leading experts to believe some of the petroglyphs were maps of the area.

We checked in at the Welcome Center that housed a small museum, shop, bathrooms, and snack bar. The rock-walled building blended in with the sourrounding area and featured fencing made from 55 gallon drum lids. All touring of the area is conducted by guide and we were grouped with 14 early-retiring aged Canadians traveling together for 2 weeks by bus. 45 minutes with them was enough for us. They were nice, just too big a group to herd. By the end of the tour we were even yelling at John to stop dilly-dallying.

The site was definitely impressive and Holly enjoyed looking at rocks more than she thought she would.

Our next stop was Burnt Mountain. William gave us some explanation about how the mountain forming had to do with the continental drift but we were just lost. Our takeaway was some stuff erupted and left this black dirt.

The Organ Pipes were in the same area. Same major geological event caused their creation. The eruptive forces pushed the ground straight up creating columns of rock with cool rectangular shapes.
The final stop of the morning was the Damara Living Museum. It's sorta like Colonial Williamsburg but much, much smaller. The employees/volunteers wore traditional clothing while demonstrating facets of indigenous life in that area. Our teenage guide escorted us to different stations where someone else would demo a different craft such as medicine making, jewelry design, beer making (looked awful), tool work, and fire building. After groups of guests are routed through the stations the entire village comes together to perform a song and dance routine. Our entire experience here maybe lasted 40 minutes.
Here is where a little conversation with William would have paid off in dividends. We knew we were going to see the Petrified Forest for our evening event. We were just minutes from the forest while at the museum. Why would we drive all the way back here again? We figured we'd have other guests with us or there was another planned activity along with the forest so we didn't ask. Turned out we were the only guests going with William that afternoon. We drove to the "forest", saw it, and went back to camp. He could have had the evening off if we visited the forest in the morning. We would have been happy with drinks at the pool.
We don't want to be insulting to a national monument, but the Petrified Forest was probably our least favorite activity in this area. We were guided by a park employee along a path as he pointed out a couple of plants, including welwitschia (Namibia's national plant) and a red ochre tree, before we stopped to look at dead tree trunks. These fossilized trees are estimated to be 280 millions years old and arrived in Namibia from the north after a flood during the Ice Age. This was before the continental drift so these may have been from Europe.
Welwitschia - some of these plants are 1,500 years old

Sundowners were had back at camp on the verandah. Sunset was a bit haze-filled that night but still very nice. The next morning we were entertained by two hornbills while we packed up our things in preparation for our trip north. Our next camp, Hoanib Skeleton Coast, would offer game viewing and a trip to the coast.



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