DAMARALAND

Damaraland, one of the least populated places on earth, has few fences or boundaries in the vast, stony desert landscape and is inhabited by the people who have learnt to appreciate the land and its few resources over many hundreds of years. Damaraland certainly bears the time-ravaged imprints of aeons of moulding, sculpturing and change at the hands of the elements, all features still visible in the present day when visiting the numerous geological highlights found here and making the area so unique. It is marked by endless vistas across stark plains, ancient valleys and brooding, distant mountains which pull the traveller into this spiritual landscape, and burrow into his soul.

Burnt Mountain

The mountain belongs to a 12 km long mountain range lying from east to west. The mountain rises some 200m out of the barren landscape and shimmers stark and uninviting during the heat of the day. During the early morning and late afternoon, before being shadowed by the surrounding higher mountain range, it presents a kaleidoscope of beautiful colours. The mountain was formed by dolerite lava that intruded an underground cave consisting of limestone and shale. Upon impact the latter was instantly metamorphosed, releasing hydroxides and oxides, giving the mountain an amazing range of colours – red, orange, purple, black, grey and white. An interesting feature at the end of the mountain is a heap of shale (shale consist of organic plant and animal particles) that underwent drastic changes when it was intruded by dolerite, now resembling ash and clinker. As the area is extremely susceptible to compaction, please heed the request not to walk around on the mountain.

Organ Pipes

The name aptly describes these vertical stands of dolerite rock that can reach a height of 5m and are found in a valley some 100 meters in length. They were formed by an intrusion of a dolerite sheet into an area consisting of shale (they are situated only a few hundred meters away from the Burnt Mountain). When the dolerite cooled down and shrunk, neatly splitting into angular columns that we see today. It was subsequently eroded by the river cutting its way through the dolerite sheet. It is advisable to visit this geological phenomenon during the early morning or the late afternoon due to the intense heat build up in the valley.

Petrified Forest

Namibia’s petrified forest west of Khorixas is indeed a rare phenomenon. As if through the intervention of some great time machine, the fossilized remains of these tree trunks provide an intriguing glimpse of flora that existed some 260 million years ago. The optical illusion is uncanny – right down to such details as the colour and texture of the bark and growth rings. As startling as the initial sight may be to road-weary eyes – the surprise reaches its climax when the visitor stoops to touch a section of log… for what to all intents and purposes is a piece of wood, turns out in reality to be cold stone!

Vingerklip

Ramrod straight this remarkable monolith consisting of limestone conglomerate rises into the surrounding landscape of the amazing Ugab Terraces. It is the sole remnant of an ancient plateau that was wind-lashed and water-whipped over aeons into its present shape of an enormous finger. Standing below the daunting naturals sculpture, the weary traveller finds himself in a place of mystery, wind-sculpted rock and far horizons. It is a nature experience which lingers long in the memory. As the base of the pillar is subject to more erosion than the upper levels, and as the wind swirls the dust and sand particles around the ground level the base will eventually become smaller, causing the pillar to topple over. This was the case with the actual “Finger of God” or “Mukorob” monolith, which was situated in southern Namibia that suddenly collapsed in 1988.

Twyfelfontein

This National Heritage site confers yet another distinction to Namibia: that of one of the foremost centers of artwork in the world. It counts as the largest open-air art gallery in Southern Africa, its name reflecting a farmer’s incredulity that the unreliable spring (Afrikaans: Twyfelfontein) could have supported the Stone Age hunter and its prey for thousands of years. The reddish sandstone boulders seem to glow in the fierce heat, yet ancient man sheltered from enemy and spied on game from these surreal rock formations. Here he assiduously carved away at the intractable rock surfaces to imprint his indelible creations. Today, you can browse amongst these selfsame boulders and slabs of sandstone and marvel at the grandest spectacle of rock engravings in Africa.