Damaraland in 7 days
The White Lady is just a 30 minute walk up the Tsisab River. Make sure you slap on the sunscreen, because the Brandberg is one of the more aptly named places on the map.
If you spread open a tourist map of Namibia, you'll notice that Damaraland is dotted with major attractions, from the Spitzkoppe to the Vingerklip. We drove a lazy, clockwise cirlcle through the region, starting and ending in Usakos.
Day 1 – Spitzkoppe
Camp at the big rocks
The plan: Depart early morning from either Swakopmund or Windhoek so that you’ll have the whole afternoon to explore the Spitzkoppe.
On the way: The biltong at the Namib Wüste farm stall just outside Usakos is the stuff of legend, so make sure to pop in there. It sells large bags of wood, which could come in handy if supplies elsewhere have run out.
At the turn-off to Spitzkoppe off the B2 tar road (blow it a little kiss; you won’t see tar again for some time) there are makeshift stalls where women sell semiprecious stones. It’s often their husbands who dig them out – in the Erongo Mountains visible in the distance. You can buy everything from desert roses (R40 for a small one) to a large purple “bowl” of amethyst (R1500).
What to do and see: Sunset is the best time to be at the Arch Rock. The best angle for photographers is from behind, so make sure you scramble up and under the arch to find the best position.
The chain-guided scramble into Bushman Paradise is easy enough, but do take care. Explore the kloof all the way down; there are beautiful rock formations and plants such as quiver trees.
(The photocopied map you receive at the gate is a bit confusing, so ask the staff to explain how to get to the different sites of interest.)
Spitzkoppe: Scenes at Bushman Paradise
Uploaded by Wegtydskrif. - Exotic and entertaining travel videos.
GO! says: Small Bushman Paradise has good rock art, but you’ll see so much of it in the coming days that you can skip it if short on time.
Spitzkoppe: Scenes around camp
Uploaded by Wegtydskrif. - Explore new destinations and travel videos.
VIDEO: Toast Coetzer says: There is no other campsite with a location like the Spitzkoppe campsite anywhere. The play of light the rocks in the early morning and late afternoon is something to see.Close
Day 2 – Brandberg
Venture into the mountain
The plan: Check this and that in Uis and then push through to Brandberg.
On the way: If you left the braai tongs in Benoni, don’t despair. Just pop in at the OK Value Supermarket in Uis, where you can pick up that, a coffee flask, a kettle and any groceries you might need in the coming days. Eat lunch at the Königstein Restaurant or the old mine club, now the Brandberg Restcamp.
What to do and see: The White Lady is the Brandberg’s most famous rock painting and very easy to get to. Sitting there in the shade of the overhang will be humbling when you consider the estimated 50 000 other rock paintings scattered over the Brandberg massif.
Cost: A guided tour costs R25 per adult and R20 per child under 13. Groups of five or more get a discount.
Times: The terrain is open from 8am to 5pm (summer) and 7am to 4pm (winter).
Where: Simply follow the D2359 to its end and you’re at reception.
Namibia: The tricky clicks of language
Uploaded by Wegtydskrif. - Explore exotic destinations and travel videos.
VIDEO: Gothardine "Gwen" IlGaroës was our guide at Brandberg in Namibia's Damaraland. I asked her to demonstrate her language.
GO! says: The guides here are very knowledgeable, so ask that burning ‘what’s this tree called?’ question. Ask them to point out dassie rats on the way to the White Lady.
Day 3 & 4 – Twyfelfontein
Ancient art and ellies
The plan: Take it easy for two days and explore the Twyfelfontein area properly. The longer you stay, the better your chances to see the elephants...
On the way: Branch off the C35 and take the D2319 via Sorris Sorris – it’s a picturesque detour. You might see the elephants in the Ugab River or otherwise just pop in at the kindergarten and hand out some apples or pencils. Just past Sorris Sorris there are “informal” rock art sites – check one out, it will make you realise that every third rock around here has got a Rembrandt tattooed on its backside.
What can I do and see?
Twyfelfontein engravings: A guided tour to the Twyfelfontein rock art site is a must. It’s one of Africa’s biggest cultural treasures and contains unique depictions, such as the engravings of seals and penguins and the famous ‘Dancing Kudu’.
If you’re a keen photographer it will pay to visit the site twice – in the morning and late afternoon – because different engravings show up better at different times of the day.
Cost: R30 per adult and R25 per child between six and 17. R10 for your vehicle.
Times: 8am to 5pm in summer and 7am to 4pm in winter.
Where: At the end of the D3214.
Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain: Damaraland’s got as many interesting geological features as Hillbrow has got nifty pickpockets. It’s a quick look and photo, but you need a geologist in the family to really tell you what you’re looking at.
Where: Towards the end of the D3254.
GO! says: The elephants usually keep along the Aba Huab River, but sometimes they venture further afield. We saw about 20, including young calves, so the population seem to be doing alright.
Day 5 – Vingerklip
Views from here to doer and gone
The plan: Leave Twyfelfontein early in the morning, because today you’re driving all the way to the Vingerklip.
On the way: Stop at the Petrified Forest next to the C39. You can explore the site by yourself (it’s a short loop to walk) or with a guide. Khorixas doesn’t offer much, but there’s fun to be had if you go looking for it.
The Vingerklip: Since the fall of Mukorob (aka the Finger of God), this Vingerklip is now Namibia’s version of the Statue of Liberty. Cost: R5 pp.
Where: 60 km from Khorixas, right next to the D2743.
GO! says: Make sure you’re at the Vinger at sunrise as it’s the best time for photos as the light slips up the pillar.
Day 6 – Omaruru
How about a cappuccino, sir?
The plan: After enjoying sunrise at Vingerklip, set the radar for Kalkfeld, via the D2351 and then the D2403.
On the way: From Kalkfeld you will see signs indicating the way to the dinosaur tracks on the farm Otjihaenamaparero. Entry is R20 for adults and R10 for kids between 6 and 16 years. Camping on the farm costs R50 per adult and R25 per child.
Contact 00 264 67 290 153 or email@example.com. From here, follow the D2329 all along the Omaruru River until you reach Omaruru.
What happens in Omaruru? Quite a lot! Besides the great coffee shops and restaurants (try Kaffeestube at the back of the White House), it’s also time to burn a few Namibian dollars on pretty things.
Bliss is in the main road (116 Wilhelm Zeraua) and sells everything from antique furniture and kitchenware to second hand books (I dug out a legendary trout fishing manual) and photographs. Chris Johnston, the owner, sells some of his own landscape and wildlife photographs.
At the southern edge of town you’ll see Tikoloshe Afrika, known for its unique root-carving statuettes. The artists work on-site and the shop is crammed with great specimens. The porcupines (R950) work best with the natural shape of the roots used for the carvings, but also look out for the barbel (R1550) and elephants (R1150, but prices differ according to the sizes) made from ironwood and mopane.
For a touch of history, visit the Franke Tower (drive through the river to the other side of town). The Germans and Hereros fought here in 1904 and the tower was completed in 1907, named in honour of Major Franke.
Go! says: In Bliss you can buy old black and white photographs of Damaraland dating from a time when lion hunting was as common as popping down to the Spar.
Day 7 – Erongo Mountains
A final fling with the wild west
The plan: Drive from Omaruru around the Erongo Mountains along the D2315, D2306 and D1935 to Usakos, where your trip started a week ago.
What can I do and see? The Erongo Plateau Camp is just an hour’s casual drive from Omaruru, so there’s no rush today. Once you’ve pitched your tent, go see the rock paintings on Ekuta (the farm next door) – few ever get to them. The farmer takes you there personally and it costs R75 per person. The whole area falls within the Erongo wilderness area, so you’ll see game everywhere (especially on the D2316). Maybe you’re lucky enough to spot one of the six black rhinos!
The next morning: Hit the road (D2315 towards the west) early and turn in at the San Living Museum at Omandumba. The farm owners, Harald and Deike, can take you on rock art tours between one and three hours long. It costs R150 per hour for 5 people (you go in their vehicle, so you won’t have to panel beat the Kia Sorrento) who go together. You can also do birdwatching or rock climbing (under own supervision).
There are also rock paintings at Etemba (take the i-Aiba Rock Painting Lodge turn-off) – phone the farmer, Claus Bern, on 00 264 64 570 860 if you want to go.
On many maps you’ll see Paula’s Cave marked as a premier rock art site. But this national monument is situated on the property of the Erongo Wilderness Lodge, so if you want to see it you either have to stay over with them or join their sunset/ game drive at R400 per person.
Go! says: Ameib Ranch (30km from Usakos) offers far cheaper rock art. Besides the beautiful rocks of Bull’s Party, you can see the paintings in Phillipp’s Cave for just R40 per person (R20 for kids under 8). Ameib is open for day visitors from 7am to 7pm.