Ancient Art in the Burning Mountain
Now I know what a ‘washboard road’ feels like! Driving towards the mountain range called Brandberg certainly shook us about, but the views and the sense of absolute isolation were worth it. Brandberg stretches for 30 kilometres and encompasses the highest mountain in Namibia, Konigsstein, which rises to 2573 metres. The original Damara word for this range was Duares, which means burning mountain. German settlers simply translated this to Brandberg, as they were equally impressed by its glowing colours at sundown.
Of course Dag had to stop at times and test his drone. Stepping out of our air-conditioned vehicle and into the desert heat was a bit of shock.
Brandberg is famous for its huge number of ancient rock paintings in caves and overhangs, which are thought to date back between 2000 and 4000 years. They are believed to have been made by the San people, the first inhabitants of this area.
The most famous paintings are the “White Lady Group” in an overhang called Maack Shelter, after Rheinhold Maack who came across these and named them in 1918. These are now protected and can only be visited with a government guide. To reach them we hiked five kilometres up the dry Tasisab River Gorge.
Our guide pointed out scenes of hunting and ritual dance. She told us that for paint the artists used a mixture of ochre, charcoal, manganese and hematite, binding it with blood, egg white and milk. It was astonishing to recognize the animals, to get a sense of the hunt and to feel a connection with the people who lived here so very long ago.
After the bumpy ride we were happy to reach our resting place for the night, a sprawling campsite attached to White Lady Lodge. (So sprawling that we were told to drive and not walk to the lodge, because of the lions in the area.) Namibian campsites are very civilized. Even the simplest ones have hot showers and flush toilets which are kept spick and span. Each vehicle is assigned a spacious area with a fire pit, and the campsite attendants sell wood.
As soon as we arrived a lovely dog adopted us, and he and Dag became great friends. When we drove away next morning this little dog chased ‘The Beast’ for ten minutes. We couldn’t take him with us, and he was obviously well fed and belonged to someone, but Dag was heart broken!