us, and scattered oryx and springbok feed on sparse grasses. To top off
our balloon ride, a champagne breakfast awaited us tucked away in the
calm of the dunes.
People of the Desert
We never saw the Bushmen, although I’m sure they saw us at
some point. The San Bushmen is one of the last nomadic tribes in all of
Africa. Even though we never saw them, their artistic imprint was evident
throughout the mountains, canyons and deserts of Southern Africa. Namibia
has some of the most well-known, elaborate petroglyphs and rock paintings
in the world. Some of the rock paintings are 2,000 to 2,500 years old.
The “White Lady” was first discovered in 1918 by German explorer
and topographer Reinhard Maack. The rock painting was located on a rock
The next morning we hiked out to Dead Vlei (Dead Valley). Part
moonscape, part apocalypse, it’s a mud-cracked pan surrounded in
mountains of sand. Within the pan are 500-year-old dead camel thorn
trees; their elongated limbs enhanced the ghostly landscape, while their
shadows crept across the cracked pan.
At dawn we soaked in a different perspective of this grandiose
desertscape. We clambered into a sturdy basket and floated above the
desert in a hot air balloon. Loud bursts of butane gas filled the balloon until
it appeared ready to burst, and then we were off floating above the dunes.
Floating 1,500 feet above we could see the vastness of the desert. We saw
a black-backed jackal dig up an ostrich egg, a greater kestrel soar beneath
panel, also depicting other artwork on a small rock overhang, deep within
Brandberg Mountain. The giant granite monolith is located in Damaraland
and is Namibia’s highest peak at 8,550 feet. Brandberg itself hosts over
1.000 Bushmen paintings, hidden in rock shelters and shady caves.
The painting has long been an archaeological dilemma, and several
different hypotheses have been put forth on its origins, authorship and
dating. It is now usually accepted to be a Bushman painting, dating back
to at least 2,000 years ago.
Lori and I arrived there midday and the canyon leading to the White
Lady was a furnace well over 100 degrees. The 45-minute hike wasn’t
hard, but it was hot and well worth the effort. When we got there we both