November 8th – Day Forty Five
Once dishes were done and tents stowed away we were off once more heading towards the Brandberg Mountain. The trip wasn’t that long, maybe a few hours, and we stopped off at the mining town of Uis to do a bit of shopping along the way. A few people weren’t keen to sleep the coming night in a proper bush camp so investigations were taken at Uis to find alternate accommodation and once this was sorted we headed off to bush camp.
The words ‘bush camp’ to me evoke green forests, babbling brooks and fern ringed clearings but not the sandy ground found beneath a bolder laden mountain with a view stretching out for hundreds of miles. It was this unlikely tableau that greeted us after we had turned off the road heading towards the Twyfelfontein Rock Paintings. Most of us set up tents close to the rising mass of rock (only to move the tents later as we were advised of the falling rock risk). Steve, being the individual he is, decided that he needed to be as far away from us as possible so set up his tent next to a tree well away from the rocky shade and the truck. Once everyone was ready it was once more into the truck and off to the Twyfelfontein Rock Paintings visitor centre to have a look at these ancient pieces of art.
The visitor centre was reached via a short path past large rocks being eaten away in the harsh environment and the centre itself was a tribute to a more industrial age. Constructed out of rocks, wire and what seemed to be pieces of large oil drums it complimented the surroundings and seemed to be a rusty edifice marking the way. We waited in the shady seating area for a guide to become available and admired the surroundings that were rather different to any building we had been in so far on our journey. Before long we were joined by a guide and set off at a slow pace towards the rock artwork.
The modern art that is the Twyfelfontein visitor centre
We were given the option of two paths and with the number of injured limbs we chose the easier Lion path. Our guide stopped regularly to give us information on the landscape and the people, the bushman, who carved the engravings we would soon see. After a short climb between rocks and hardy trees we came to an iron pagoda where we waited while another group cleared the viewing platform at the first set of engravings. The next thirty minutes were spent weaving along the path to other sets of engravings and seeing elephants, rhinos, people and such diverse creatures such as seals and penguins all carved in basic shapes into the warm red rock. We were told of current thoughts on what the various engravings may signify and our guide also gave us his opinion on the works as an ancestor of those ancient artists. Our guide also demonstrated for us the five clicks of the Damara language and we all had a go at replicating the subtly different sounds. It’s one thing to make the noise and quite another to actually integrate it into a word consisting of click and the more commonly recognised (by us anyway) sounds we would recognise as language.
Ancient Bushman rock carvings
It was now getting quite hot so we were back to the truck and those not camping in the wilderness were dropped off at their accommodation. The rest of us went on to the Brandberg visitor centre to go on a walk to see a famous rock painting of the White Lady. With water ready to hand and sunscreen applied we followed the guide from the visitor centre over dry stream bed and sandy ground for about forty minutes to reach the overhang that shaded the white lady and surrounding paintings from the sun. Again we had a number of talks about the area and the bushman who painted the Lady. If fact it’s not a lady, that was a piece of misidentification done by the original white people who discovered the painting (apparently it was decided firstly that the painting was done by Mediterranean people – I guess they thought the early Greeks took extended holidays down to the south west of Africa). We spent a good time looking at the several thousand year old paintings – for whatever reason the White Lady is actually faded a lot more that the other paintings in the overhang, I guess it’s had more attentions from hands and tools that the others.
Looking at the White Lady rock paintings
The fading White Lady
The walk back was a lot cooler, the sun dipping down behind the Brandberg peak rising above us. Back at the visitor centre Charles was waiting with our big blue limo and we were driven back to the mountainside camp where Joe was busy preparing dinner of t-bone steak and baked potatoes. Once the sun had set night came quickly and this far from civilisation we were treated to a fantastic array of stars. With this view in mind Jacques had laid out a tarpaulin for those who wished to sleep on for a night under the starry sky. In the end five of us did this being Jacques, Rachel, Helen, Keryn and I. After dinner we sat around the fire and Steve told some of his ghost stories and as usual Helen wasn’t best pleased at the spooky tales. She left the circle of light around the fire at one point and a short while later let out an almighty scream. She had been getting something from her locker and Joe (in the adjacent locker) had slowly opened his door and grabbed her arm with a shout of boo! Once we found out what had happened we were all laughing away, except for Helen that is.
All storied and talked out everyone was soon retiring for the night. Those on the tarpaulin were woken by Jacques at 2am to admire the millions of points of light above us but I have to admit to being to tired to really take the time to admire the sights, I opened my eyes, saw blurry lights and rolled over to continue sleeping. At least I wasn’t too tired in the morning I suppose.