Not many places make your jaw drop in amazement, or make you want to utter a lazily drawn-out expletive, because no other suitable word comes to mind. But Twyfelfontein Country Lodge did just that.
This immense thatched lodge, in the heart of red-rock country in the middle of Damaraland, Namibia, is dwarfed by giant glowing rocks, that crowd around the building. The scenery is so powerful that it filled my soul with a sense of awe. It must have filled the ancient inhabitants with creative inspiration too, as there is an abundance of Bushman artwork here, starting with the great rock at the entrance.
When art is engraved into giant boulders, it means that you have to go to the art, rather than the art coming to a gallery near you. Once engraved, this sandstone turns an everlasting white, and these engravings at the entrance to the lodge, have been visible for a good few thousand years.
Since Twyfelfontein Lodge is in the middle of nowhere – which is very much its charm – you need either a private plane or a set of good wheels to get here. True, it’s far, but think of the journey as being the experience and the destination as an added bonus. Nowhere in Namibia is particularly close to anywhere else, and this is what makes travel here so rewarding.
BURNT MOUNTAIN AND THE ORGAN PIPES
There are many notable rock features in the Twyfelfontein area, in particular, Burnt Mountain and the Organ Pipes. Wouldn’t this be a cool name for a band?
And there could not be a better concert arena than Twyfelfontein. I imagine the sound would bounce of the boulders, or perhaps just get absorbed by them in much the same way as they suck up the heat from the sun and radiate it out into the dark night.
It was so arid here, that I was surprised that the banks of the dry Aba Haub river were so well vegetated, and a nearby plateau sported a mane of golden prairie grass that was totally unexpected. Nothing is what is seems around here and although this seems like the most unlikely place to see a rhino or elephant, they have, for some reason, chosen to live here.
The chalets at Twyfelfontein Lodge are in a bit of a time warp, with a somewhat dowdy 80’s look and passé animal-print blankets. It gave me that feeling that the place had been forgotten in time.
Namibia has that effect on people, and the sense of time is different from everywhere else. The foam mattresses and black and brown duvets did the job as the evening became cold, and our host Willem de Wet, supplement the warming process with large quantities of food and booze. Willem is the kind of guy who gets to feel like a pal instantly, and he is rather dishy too.
LOOKING FOR DESERT ELEPHANT
There were about six of us on this press trip and when Willem suggested that he take us up in his little plane, I was all for it and accepted an invitation to sit in the front. We were going in search of desert elephant, who have been filmed sliding down sand dunes, apparently for fun. We flew along the river course and over a strange savannah but couldn’t see any large grey things. So we continued north to go and see another of Willem’s lodges – Opuwa Lodge in the Himba country of northern Namibia.
Holy Moly, another unexpected place in one of the most out of the way places you are likely to visit. This strange town is quite strange. It is a border town between Namibian tribes, where you will see a half naked Himba woman smeared all over in a mixture of ochre and butter fat, and fully-clad Herero woman dressed from neck to ankle in Victorian dress with numerous petticoats. I’ve never seen such bizarre scenes.
Opuwo Country Hotel
The hotel was grand with a great vaulted thatched roof, rustic spaces, nguni skin ottomans, dangling chandeliers and decorative porcupine quill lamps. Chalets are equally as comfortable and appealing. But what do you do here in Opuwo, I wondered, apart perhaps from reflect on the strangeness of life.
A QUEASY FLIGHT BACK
I can get a bit queasy if boats or planes wobble, and since this was only a 6-seater, it was at the mercy of wind and weather. So when I asked Willem to chat to me over the headphones to keep my mind away from my stomach, he suggest I fly the plane. Oh yeah I thought, haven’t done that before. So I took the wheel and flew. He grinned and sat back, I concentrated so hard that my brain started to hurt more than my stomach and when I pulled a bit too suddenly and we did a bit of a jerk I thought I’d better let him take over before I killed us all. The others hardly noticed as the long day had them in a sleepy stupor. Willem wasn’t at all worried, but I insisted that he put his hands on the wheel and allow me to bow out gracefully. I never mentioned my stomach again!
|Safari Satisfaction Index (SSI)|
|Market:||□ Exclusive||□ Luxury||■ Mid range||□ no frills|
|Cost:||□ High||■ Mid||□ Low|
|Basis:||□ Fully inclusive||■ Full or ½ board||□ Self-catering|
|■ Child friendly||■ Activities extra|
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