Damaraland

Trip Start Apr 24, 2012
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Aba-Huab

Flag of Namibia  , Kunene,
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Damaraland

We got up bright and early to go do all there was to do in the area. First, it was  Burned Mountain and the Organ pipes.  Not far from camp.  We must be spoiled with all we have seen so far because neither of the two made any impact on us other that the clear evidence of volcanic activity some time ago.   Slightly disappointed we headed towards Twyfelfontein.

An organized tourist attraction with guides and a fantastic original building to fit into the surroundings. Twyfelfontein and the engraved rock art.  Twyfelfontein got its name as a result of the farm owner's disbelief that the fountain he discovered would continue giving water year after year.

The rock art is not paintings but engravings made into sandstone.  They used Quartz to scratch or draw on the rocks.  The men were usually the ones to do the drawings as they came home and told stories of what they had seen while out hunting.  One of the drawings even has seals in it.  Reason being the sea is only about 100 km away.  The famous Lion with the long tail (with a 90 degree kink) can be seen on several rocks.  The engraving that looks like a bicycle is in fact two circles with dots in it to indicate where water could be found on a map.  The guides are well trained and share a lot of info, far too much to try to remember a week later. 

Our guide also showed us the "kanniedood" plant, that, just as it name implies, cannot die.  She explained that even if just a leaf of the plant falls on the ground it would grow.  The Himba woman uses the red “kanniedood” for perfume.  The yellow and red ones are both used in the carving of figures as it is a soft smooth wood.

Included are some photos of the unique building that is the Info Centre. A huge number of old  metal drums were used. It is surprisingly effective. The rusted drums in combination with the rock walls work well together in creating this beautiful building. The Info Centre offers information on the plants that were used in the area as well as the people who lived here.  

Back to camp with the idea to get fuel on the way.  The only fuel in the area (see pics) is at the Twyfelfontein Lodge staff village.  One pump and a mechanic shop.  No diesel after 14h00.  We made it just in time with 5 min to spare.

Next we drove in a north easterly direction to the Petrified Forest.  The Damara people are known for being very intelligent.  They,therefore make use of the tourism money making scheme very effectively.  They advertise with obvious “home made” signs.  “Petrified Forest and Himba Village tour” or whatever tourists are in the area for.  They also sell all sorts of crafts and rock next to the road.

The “official” Petrified Forest did not fail to impress.  With a professional guide to lead you giving you all the info you need.  The petrified trees are huge.  There is no denying that they are actual trees that turned into stone.  Most are scattered but some are still intact. Interestingly, these trees were washed down from central Africa.  They are pine trees.

On the way back, just before the camp there is a Damara Living Museum.  We decided to go see what they offer, expecting just a couple of info boards and some displays.  Well, were we wrong?  As soon as we stopped we were greeted by a young Damara man. Professional, humble and kind.  Everyone in the “village” in traditional dress (very little clothing).  He started our tour off by explaining what the program involves and how long it will take.  It represented village life.  He strated by showing us a typical hut and what they slept on. What the bed was made of and what they used as a blanket.  Next exhibit was the beer hut and how the beer was made and what you could expect when you drink the beer.  He said that if you drank the beer you would speak Damara in no time at all. Needless to say we did not try the beer.  Next up was the medicine hut.  A lady showed us different plants and other items they use as medicine. The ochre the ladies used to moisturize their skin and to protect them from the sun.  A tea is made from dried Elephant dung as an immune booster. There was a specific plant that was for the men and another for woman problems. She would say the names in Damara and he explained in English.

Next was recreation.  A show of how a game is played in the sand.  They even use this game to settle tribal disputes.  Apparently if both opponents are clever, this game can last for days.  We tried to follow what was happening but they were much too quick to understand.

A little hut is for keeping the chickens. Thus far we have not noticed many chickens on our trip.

Now it was the turn of the men working the goat skins.  They have one tool, carved from Mopani wood, that is used in many different ways.  To scrape, to chop and to knock an unrespecting rabbit on the head. “Not to be used on your wife!” he said to Carlos.

While we are in the village – “life” seem to go on its normal way in the village – moms with children walk by, and old man appears, goats and chickens walk around etc. Thus, making it all very believable.  It is only later, when u recognize the faces from the village walking by the camp site in modern clothing, that one realize that it is simply a day job for them.

Next up was the ladies.  They showed us how to make jewelry from ostrich shell.  One shapes the circle, another drills the hole, and yet another strings them into whatever they need. Quite a couple of the ladies are pregnant and very keen to show off their bellies.

Next, he showed us how they worked the metal into tips for the spears and knives only using fire and a hammer.

Last but not least was a young man that showed us how to start a fire without matches.  He got the fire going in no time using dry dung, sand, and a piece of wood, some dry grass and a mopani tree root. Very impressive.

Then we were told to take a seat.  They will now sign and dance for us.  2 songs they will do.  Well!! I was just about brought to tears.  It was amazing. So real, and full of life. One almost forgets that this is just a show and not a real family in their own village.  They obviously love performing.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was the most value for money we received yet.  They have different crafts for sale at the end of the program. 

Happy with our days outing, we returned to camp to settle in for the night.  The China man was also settling in.  I could not help but feel the need to mother him a bit and help him out with a warm cooked meal.     The boss said “no!”  So I never got to speak to the China man.  I still wonder what motivated him to cycle through this harsh environment.
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