Damaraland, central Namibia, speaks of a mystical magical place. It is desert. But it is also so much more.
This place feels spiritual. If you grew up in Australia or have visited any indigenous sites it is possible you may get a similar feeling about Damaraland. It reminds me of dreamtime stories I grew up hearing and recreates the imagery I remember of central Australia.
Brandberg Mountains are home to rock paintings. In particular it is famous for the White Lady of Brandberg painting. However since its naming, it has been suggested (by someone obviously more versed in the local customs) it is a painting of a man. And not just any man, it is a witch doctor and part of a hunting party. I think that is the beauty of art though – it is open to interpretation by the viewer. Although it is also possible it is meant to be a factual diagram?
About 40 kilometres from Brandberg Mountains is Twylfontein. Twylfontein is famous for its rock engravings. After passing through one of the most intriguing visitor centres (made from recycling 40 gallon drums and using local materials) you enter a vibrant red sandstone storybook. Rock engravings are said to be a form of communication between visitors to sites. The first image in this story (at the top) demonstrates this communication. It is a map of sorts and is said to show the tracks of different animals that frequent the area and which waterholes they drink from.
For me, one of the most incredible facts about these engravings is their age. They are said to be over 6000 years old. Can you believe how well they have lasted, exposed to the weather for so long, and most look as if they were carved just yesterday?
Welwitschia’s (Welwitschia mirabilis) abound amongst petrified logs in the petrified forest in Damaraland. Welwitschia’s love the dry sandy desert floor. They comprise just two leaves which continue to grow throughout their lives. They are sometimes referred to as living fossils.
The petrified logs were washed down into this area from hundreds of kilometres further north in tropical Africa after the last ice age ice melted. For some reason I view this in my minds eye as an Ice Age movie sequence, hmm! There are whole tree trunks, minus their roots and branches lying about as though testament to the persistence of nature.
Damaraland, of all the places we visited on our road trip through Namibia, was probably the most historically and biologically fascinating. I love the desert plants, not only for their tenacity in such a harsh environment, but for their variety. Together with this, it is the one place we travelled freely, as did the wildlife. No fences, no gates. We saw more abundant wildlife here than in the rest of Namibia.
Damaraland, thinking back, felt like a dream. It was constantly surprising and fascinating.