Tag Archives: nature

Damaraland expedition (3): The last survivors

Monday 21st of August. Year 2017. Uis.

It was not in our plans to spend a night in Uis. Therefor I didn’t look to the satellite images from that part in the border of Damaraland. Uis was in the road map that we had, but let’s say it is not easy to find the roads when there are no signs. We left the town thinking that we were going towards Twelfontein but after driving for more than 100 kilometres we realized we were going in the wrong direction!

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In the borders of Damaraland we could find some trees and huge termite nests

We realized because after 100 km we saw the first road sign telling us that in 10 kilometres there was a crossing of two dusty roads. That crossing didn’t appear in the road that we thought we were following. What a mistake! Instead of driving back we took the crossing to the left and lucky us that the new road was not corrugated. We could reach 120 km/h with no bumps for almost 150 kilometres.

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A coloured lizard in Twelfontein

One of the things that we wanted to find out in Damaraland were the desert elephants. And in that road was the first place were we saw danger road signs because of the possibility of having an encounter with the biggest land mammal on Earth. Desert elephants are adapted to walking on the sand of the desert, have the knowledge of finding water where you and I wouldn’t find it and when they eat they don’t break tree branches because they know that damaging trees in the desert could mean killing them, which would mean no food for next year. They are found in Damaraland basically in the dry riverbeds. However, the guard from Save the Rhino Camp told us they were far from the places we wanted to drive through. At that moment they were in the mountains.

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Engravings of animal footprints. Can you see the elephant one?

After five hours driving, the last two just for 40 kilometres, we arrived to Twelfontein. This is a World Heritage Site in Damaraland where the Bushmen did spectacular wall engravings. We booked a guide that explained us the history of that place in the hottest day of our travel to Namibia. We were sweating while the guide told us that the Bushmen used those engravings to teach young people about the animals of the zone and how to hunt them. There are giraffes, lions, rhinos, elephants… And in some rocks there are maps where the Bushmen used to indicate the waterholes of the zone. Those engravings are older than 3000 years.

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The lion with a hand in the tail

It was midday and we were hungry. We didn’t want to cook because we were tired and we decided to try the restaurant of the Twelfontein Country Lodge. The lodge is incredible. It is found behind some big red rocks, it has a waterfall, some grass to lay down and the building itself made of wood and straw is the perfect retreat. We had self service lunch, which is something typical in Namibia, and we ate different kind of meat, rice and fruit.

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Twelfontein Country Lodge

We also wanted to see the Burnt Mountain, which was at the exit of the Desolation Valley before reaching Twelfontein. However, because we had to change our plans, we could not see this geological feature in Damaraland. But the next stop was the Petrified Forest.

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The explorer

This was our last spot that we wanted to find and we could. Close to Khorixas, the Petrified Forest, is a massive desert site with full of petrified trunks laying on the land. They were sequoias in the old continent of Gondwana which was formed by the actual Africa, South America, India, Australia and Antarctica.

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Can you see the trunk rings?

Some million years ago, when Gondwana already existed, it was located in a wetter position on the Earth. Big sequoias grew between the actual Tanzania and Botswana. In a massive flood through an old river those trunks where transported thousands of kilometres till were now you find the Petrified Forest. The trunks were buried and a chemical process transformed them in stone. It is also known that some of these trunks can also be found nowadays in South America.

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Petrified sequoia

We spent the night in Khorixas, a little bit north than our planned night stay. The next day we had more than 400 kilometres to drive towards the north of Namibia, to Opuwo.

 

Tuesday 22nd of August. Year 2017. Khorixas.

As we were farther north than planned we had time for a last visit in the border of Damaraland: the Vingerklip. It is a geological feature like the ones you can find in Monument Valley, USA. It is not far from Khorixas and it is spectacular.

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Monument Valley? No, Damaraland!

If you ever sleep close to this place, go there. After passing by some incredible tall termite nests we considered the end of our Damaraland expedition, without any doubt one adventure that we will never forget. Those landscapes, those colours, the loneliness, the lack of communication, the lack of resources, the lack of everything…

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The Vingerklip
Two Traveling Texans

 

Damarland expedition (2): loneliness, danger and death

We didn’t know if we had got lost. We were completely out of the maps, with no possibilities of calling anyone and at some point we realized that we had not seen any car in any direction, nor any person, for the last 4 hours. Fortunately, after driving up a hill and managing not to fall through the cliff on the left-hand side, we spotted a human building down there. It was just a house size building made of stones.

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Messum Crater seen from outside

We parked our car and we saw the sign: “Welcome to Elephant and Rhino World”. There is a family taking care of this refuge and they manage the “Save the Rhino” NGO. Inside the building there are some pictures, photos and texts that explain the work they do in the zone. You can learn about the fauna of Damaraland and how important it is to protect the rhinos in Damaraland. We asked about the state of the “road” towards Twelfontein and the guard told us that crossing the Desolation Valley to Twelfontein was about 4 hours through the same kind of “road” as the one that took us there for the last hour.

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Heading towards Save the Rhino Camp

We calculated the time we had left till the sunset, it was less than 3 hours. In our plan we wanted to reach Twelfontein next morning. We could have tried to cross Desolation Valley next morning and sleep that night in the Save the Rhino camp. However, we preferred to be conservative. Four hours driving in that kind of terrain was really dangerous. Considering the fact that our lives could be in danger in the middle of the Desolation Valley, without any possibility of calling and knowing that if something happened no one could find us in the following days, the best decision was to go back, drive one hour through that kind of landscape instead of four, and try to get to Uis before dark night.

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Save the Rhino Camp in Ugab dry riverbed

In order to reach Uis we had to take another road which is not covered by the insurance that the rental car company provided. This road surrounds the Messum Crater, an old volcano, from west to east. The landscape continued to be surreal, the different colours of the stones under an almost horizontal light from behind were a pleasure to our eyes. However, I was the driver and I could not go faster than 40 km/h because of the extremely corrugated road. My back was starting to feel pain after so many hours driving through impossible roads.

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The colours of the desert

My mind was exhausted too but at the same time stimulated by the landscape. And suddenly I saw many vultures. They were flying in circles some hundreds of meters in front of us. We approached them as close as we could and could see how they were landing at some place in the rocky landscape. I took our binoculars and found out a laying zebra being eaten by the predators.

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ZOOM: A Zebra being eaten by vultures

How could a zebra end up in the middle of nowhere with no water, no plants, no trees? Maybe it lost its family, started walking with no direction and just died of starving or the lack of water. Now it was the turn of the vultures that lived on the walls of the Messum Crater.

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The hard landscape of Damaraland

I saw on the rearview how the sun disappeared behind the crater and we didn’t know yet how many kilometres were needed to reach Uis. Time was against us. But just when the last few crepuscular rays reached us, already with some stars in the sky, we saw some electric lights in the horizon: Uis!!!

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Red, black, yellow… Damaraland

Uis has nothing interesting for travellers a part from being the closer town to the virgin lands of Damaraland. In order to get you an idea: from Save the Rhino Camp to Uis, there are more than 100 km through highly corrugated roads sometimes, wheel tracks other times or no road at all many times. Our satellite images saved us. Being conservative saved us. Uis is important for the mine industry and there is one campsite where we could spend the night. After that first adventure through the deadly landscapes of Damaraland, sleeping in a campsite was like a 5 star hotel! From Uis you can go to see the White Lady rock painting in the Brandberg mountain, the tallest peak in Namibia.

Two Traveling Texans

 

Damaraland expedition (1): Rocks, seals and dust

Saturday 19th of August. Year 2017. Swakopmund.

We had a lot of adventure in the Skeleton coast, like the jet flight above the Namib desert, the shipwrecks and the seal colonies, like the 4×4 expedition to Sandwich Harbour and the horse riding to the moon landscape. And after that we planned our route to go deep into the dead land of Damaraland. This land is a place where you don’t want to get lost, you don’t want to run out of oil or water, where there are almost no possibilities of calling anyone unless you have a satellite telephone and where you drive hundreds of kilometres without getting in touch with any human. Only wild animals like lions, rhinos, elephants or zebras and rocks. Red Rocks, yellow rocks and brown rocks, black rocks…

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Spitzkoppe landscape

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Road trip from Vienna to Munich

We’ve been thinking of sharing the itinerary of our Austrian-Bavarian road trip for a long time. We have already written about some of our experiences there in several posts, but we wanted to summarize in this post the route that we followed and to prove that you don’t need much time or to leave Europe in order to enjoy of an amazing trip. In just seven days, we discovered part of Austria and Bavaria in a road trip that took us from Vienna to Munich through a magnificient alpine landscape.

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On the electric boat towards Salet (Königssee)

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Pedraforca, a unique mountain

For those people that like walking in the nature, doing trails or climbing, there are two special mountains in Catalonia for this. They are magic for Catalans for different reasons. One of these mountains is Montserrat with its unique features and the astonishing monastery, and the other one is Pedraforca. A little bit further from Barcelona, you can reach Pedraforca base in less than 2h by car. When you approach to the mountain from the east in the morning you get these views.

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Pedraforca

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