In north-central Namibia, Damaraland is nothing short of magnificent with its red hills of broken rock and silky gold tussock studded with mounds of a spiky, silvery green plant. The backdrop is the translucent purple of a mountain range. Namibia has the sort of African landscape of which travellers dream.
In the village stalls sell dollies dressed in traditional costume to tourists but you can still see scenes of genuine village life. So what are the highlights of Damaraland in Namibia?
The Petrified Forest
In the Petrified Forest the scattered remains of an ancient woodland can be seen, with big stone logs and crystallised water. The star of the show is the unique plant Welwitschia Mirabilis – a “living fossil”. Growing small and low to the ground this desert dweller looks blasted but survives on the moisture derived from the nighttime fogs of the Namib desert, which it absorbs through the leaves. Incredibly they can live for 2,000 years.
At Twylfelfontein the rock art engravings in sandstone include a map showing the waterholes of the area, human footprints and graceful paintings of dancing people. There is a series of animals with corresponding footprints used to teach identification and tracking skills to children.
A dancing Kudu sends its legs flying all akimbo. There are thousands of paintings here, created by the Bushmen (San), a stone-age people. And not forgetting the famous ‘wave’ rock.
The Brandberg Massif – or the burning mountain – is a huge purple lump of granite rising out of the golden Damaraland plain. I hiked upward for a few hours to see paintings on orange and black rocks (less well-preserved than at Twylfelfontein) and enjoy the fresh scent of camphor on the air.
The famous White Lady of the Brandberg is actually a striking painting of a medicine man – all animal headed marks, white-painted skin and a cup of euphoria plant poison.
Spitzkoppe and Vingerklip
Driving in Namibia is exhilarating, nowhere more so than through the bizarrely-shaped rocks and eroded hills of Damaraland. The Spitzkoppe is an imposing inselberg, a magnificent 1,728m pyramid.
Vingerklip (or Rock Finger) is a strange figure of orange rock seemingly balanced precariously on a conical hill.
The green plains of Damaraland stretch away forever, studded with rocky tabletops – the remains of an eroding river plateau, the memories of an ancient land.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you travelled in Damaraland, Namibia? What were your highlights?