Zooming out of Swakopmund we soared alongside the Atlantic Ocean being sure to make a stop on the Skeleton Coast. The Bushmen of the Namibian interior called the region, “The Land God Made in Anger,” white Portuguese sailors once referred to it as “The Gates of Hell.” On the coast the upwelling of the cold Benguela current gives rise to dense ocean fogs, winds blow from land to sea, the climate is inhospitable and constant heavy surf on the beach makes getting in and out a nightmare for ship captains. We stopped to take a glimpse at one of the many rusting ships which found their ultimate demise on Namibia’s unforgiving coastline, our final opportunity to dip our feet in the ocean before marching back into the desert.
We spent several hours traveling north through winding desert gravel roads which while arduous, offered a few opportunities to stop along the road and stretch. We first ooh and ahh’d over endless merchant stalls featuring a multitude of precious stones. A jewelers paradise! Farther up the road we stopped to visit a local indigenous tribe. The Himba are a semi-Nomadic pastoral group who maintain much of their traditional lifestyle. Women have a particularly distinctive appearance, as they daily cover themselves with a mixture of butter fat, red ochre and local herbs that gives their body a smooth, reddish appearance. This also offers them protection against the desert sun. Married women adorn themselves with ochre braided hair, distinctive headpieces, ornaments and jewelry made of copper, ostrich shells and woven reeds.
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By the mid afternoon we had arrived at Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, a scenic desert resort in the heart of Damaraland. The property features a towering lodge which is built directly into the mountainside. From the second floor guests enjoy stunning views over the desert from a spacious open air bar and restaurant. The signature suite offers a jaw drop which includes a bar and living room to entertain guests, master bedroom built into mountain rock, spacious bathroom with pedestal sink, shower and antique bathtub as well as a private pool overlooking the desert.
Each afternoon guests at the lodge have the opportunity to adventure on a safari and sundowner hosted by the properties local guides. We heaved ourselves into a massive open air vehicle which jolted and jostled through the desert. I literally felt as though I were driving 100km into a pizza oven. We clasped our sunglasses over our eyes and enjoyed the extreme desert heat (making a point to appreciate the fact that it was now snowing in Toronto). We drove along dried up river beds, through whistling winds and past deserted ghost towns before spotting a family of elephants congregating around a wee watering hole. Two babies provided endless entertainment while mom and pops swayed in unison keeping an eye on their little ones. At sunset we hopped out of the vehicle which had been stationed on a plateau overlooking a jaw dropping mountain landscape. We sipped on cider and sparkling wine while being sure to let out an appreciative sigh at the dreamy multicoloured horizon.
Damaraland is most famous for playing home to the largest known concentration of Stone Age petroglyphs in Namibia, with approximately 2,500 engravings around the Twyfelfontein area. The site was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007 and offers guests a look into how the first hunter-gatherers lived over 6,000 years ago. The rocks containing the artwork are situated in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain. The most famous of the engravings is “Lion Plate with Lion Man,” featuring a creature with human toes, an overly long tail and a pugmark on its tip. Art lovers and history buffs alike appreciate these ancient engravings which feature lions, zebra, ostrich, penguins, rhinoceros, elephants and the long necked giraffe.