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Namibian Rock Art

A rock outcropping in the hinterland of Namibia, frequented thousands of years ago by migrating San (bushmen), has one of most impressive concentrations of rock art in the world. An easy trek brings you face to face with thousands of beautiful images ranging from elephants to giraffes to kudu, depictions of people, and mysterious symbols.

Twyfelfontein is located off one of the “back roads” between Namibia’s skeleton coast—so named because of the many shipwrecks that foundered on the rocks—and Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s pre-eminent game parks.

To view the art you are required to walk with a guide, who will teach you about the more than 2,500 images, paintings, and engravings. We spent about an hour with Bernadette, from the Damara tribe, walking along the path that winds across the ridge above the open plains. The cost of the guided trek is about $5.

The images, thought to be between 2,000 and 6,000 years old, are breathtakingly beautiful. My favorite were the San hunters, often poised with bow and arrow. Bernadette pointed out engravings of flamingoes and seals, which show the wide area over which the San hunters ranged.

Some people suggest the footprints and animals were teaching tools. Others say they had spiritual significance, perhaps depictions of shaman experiences as they entered the spirit world.

Despite the remoteness of the area, there are some luxurious places to stay. We visited the new Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, only a few minutes drive from the site. Built with natural stone and thatched roof, the lodge juts out of the sandstone boulders and blends with the landscape as though it grew there.

We stayed at a less expensive place, a safari camp called Xaragú, operated by the Damara tribe. Beds in a permanent tent and an abundant dinner of native and Western dishes in the open-air restaurant cost $70 for two. Our host, Jeanette, was happy to teach us how to recognize and produce the various clicks of the Damara language.

For more information on lodges and campsites go to www.namibweb.com.

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