Your time in Namibia is coming to an end. The year is coming to an end. So when you’re offered a glass of champagne as you head into a New Year’s Eve dinner in the capital city of Windhoek, you take it and raise it to two weeks of exploring one of the most fascinating places on the planet. You take a sip to commemorate a year brimming with meaningful travel experiences around the world.
In the dining room, you find the mother of all buffets. After having gotten used to a choice of beef or eland for dinner and day after day of pretty much the same food, you now have options for days and you’re not sure where to begin. A cook wants to know if you’d like some oysters. Yes, you would.
As you eat, the table fills up with a unique cast of characters from Angola, from Portugal, from South Africa. Most have an unusual story about how they ended up at this table on this day.
After perhaps a little too much seafood and wine, you take a quick break from the festivities. Then you head up to the roof for one last indulgence, fireworks and power pop music. The winds pick up right before 12am as if to signify that change is imminent. And then the fireworks explode after you countdown to midnight and everyone sings along to the DJ’s pop tunes, boisterously off-key, giddy with New Year glee.
(2012 New Year’s Fireworks in Namibia)
We signed up for a sundowner excursion through the Kunene region because it was our last chance to search for elephants on this trip. We never saw any, but as we drove through the veld, ruggedly beautiful views were plentiful:
Our vehicle for the drive.
Namibia’s fairy circles, mysterious bare patches spread throughout the desert grasslands. Scientists have yet to figure out what causes these spots.
The bumpy road less traveled.
A whole family of ostriches.
A sheep stampede.
We came across this village far away from any official road access. Our guide explained that these huts are incredibly well suited to stand up to the elements. When a huge storm came through the area, these huts remained while the one modern building here was destroyed.
Columnar basalt is a common sight in the Twyfelfontein area. The cactus-like plant growing from the rocks is a poisonous plant called Euphorbia virosa or Gifboom, which means “poison tree” in Afrikaans.
Petrified wood is also common in this area.
We had a “sundowner” drink of pink champagne to celebrate the sunset before heading back to the lodge.
In Twyfelfontein, red sandstone rocks perch precariously atop other rocks, looking as though they are ready to tumble at any moment and join the field of boulders below. Some have taken on shapes that are reminiscent of the sea and others that have been artfully carved and arranged by the elements look like transient public art sculptures.
The rock formations alone are captivating, but a closer look at the sandstone reveals a lot more — thousand of carvings and several paintings that depict humans, animals, and footprints. The rock art at Twyfelfontein dates back to the Stone Age when hunter-gatherers inhabited the area, and the oldest engravings could be up to 10,000 years old. It is believed that much of the art was part of shamanistic rituals and the Khoikhoi people who came after the hunter-gatherers also used the stones as game boards, for grinding, and as gongs in addition to adding to the artwork.
The name Twyfelfontein comes from a much later era when a European sheep farmer rediscovered a spring on the site and settled there in 1947. He had difficulty collecting enough water from the spring for his family and his herds and because of this, the area came to be known as Twyfelfontein which means “uncertain spring” in Afrikaans. As our guide showed us, the spring for which the site is named still exists, as well as the pump the sheep farmer used to extract it. The ruins of his residence also remain.
From the Stone Age to the 20th century, thousands of years of history converge at Twyfelfontein, embedded and etched into the stone: