Here’s the next instalment from our travels in Namibia last summer. On leaving Swakopmund we set off north and inland for Brandberg. We were really surprised to find the small settlement of Wlotzkasbaken further up the coast. It appeared out of nowhere and was the strangest looking place. We couldn’t help but pull into it to drive around – we saw no signs of life although there are, apparently, a handful of people who do live there permanently. The 106 plots (or ‘erven’ to use the Southern African term) are primarily holiday houses and their owners come for the sea fishing. The properties are all self-built and there is no electricity or water so each household has to be self-sufficient (each property had at least one water tower to hold the water that comes in by lorry) and privacy is maintained by distance rather than walls and fences, bondaries being marked by stones. It was a fascinating 5 minute detour on the otherwise deserted stretch of coast!
We made another quick stop to look at the Zelia, a shipwreck from 2008. It looked very ghostly and haunting on an overcast day with the breakers, as always, rolling in.
Driving inland we started passing through small rural villages and clusters of houses with people living a very traditional way of life. There were a few roadside stalls selling necklaces and decorations made with seedpods, small pieces of wood and so on. We spent a night at Brandberg White Lady Lodge, close to the bottom of Brandberg Mountain which rises around 2600m from the flat Namib gravel plains. The biggest mountain in Namibia, it is a mass of a hill rising out of the plain and was visible for miles around. The White Lady Lodge is community run and was a great place to stay – staff were transported back their homesteads by donkey cart in the evening! Brandberg means Fire Mountain and the sunset and views we had that afternoon and evening certainly lived up to the name.
A short distance from the lodge is the White Lady rock painting, the most famous of more than 45000 rock paintings in the area (spread across around 1000 sites). The walk up to the site takes around an hour (a rough, hot and sticky walk) and was a beautiful way to explore a little of the mountain. Dassies were much in evidence and we saw leaopard tracks on the way back down. The White Lady is a protected heritage site and you can’t access it without being accompanied by a local trained guide – this seemed a great way to protect the fragile paintings as well as provide employment for local people. The White Lady painting itself (middle picture above), of a white figure holding a bow and arrow, is now agreed to be a man, probably a shaman (medicine man), and is thought to be bushman art from at least 2000 years ago.
We were woken very early the next morning by Red-billed Frankolin calling outside the window…..and by the noise of the wood-fired water heater being lit behind the cabin (middle photo above) – we had hot running water courtesy of a wee wood stove! We didn’t see the desert elephant who frequently pass through the site but we thoroughly enjoyed meeting the pair of meerkats who live in the main lodge building (it is quite common for orphaned or lost meerkat to be taken in as they are very good at keeping property free of scorpions and snakes). We had seen them when we arrived the day before, when they were busy scurrying around, but in the morning they wanted to sit in the sun which was pouring through a window and were very happy to snuggle up………making the sweetest noises all the while. Angus is our greatest animal lover and he ended up with one fast asleep on his knee – a very happy boy. When we left they were both making their way out of the lodge looking very purposeful and, we think, heading off for a morning’s hunting.