The Hidden Secrets of Twyfelfontein

From Swakopmund we drive north to Etosha National Park, a long drive, but with interesting stops along the way. We follow the shore up to the Skeleton Coast, which provides some dramatic scenery. From there we turn inland towards Twyfelfontein.

Twyfelfontein – ‘Doubting Spring’ – got its name because of the unreliability of its water. The area around the spring is superb, with red rocks that look as if a giant with contemporary art aspirations moulded them thousands of years ago. But it is not only the weirdly shaped rocks; there is something else which makes this place unlike any other.

We ask a local guide to show us around. She leads us up between the rocks and then stops below a tall red rock. As we draw closer, we distinguish carvings on the rock surface: a giraffe, a rhino and other animals. “These carvings were made by San nomads,” our guide says. “They are between 2,000 and 6,000 years old and were seen as spiritual, shamanistic and educational tools. Giraffes and rhinos, for example, were ‘rain animals’. The San believed that the more of these they carved, the more it would rain,” and a dazzling smile appears on her face.

We discover an extraordinary carving of a man-lion, a creature with the body of a lion, but human feet and hands in the place of claws. Our guide continues her art history lesson: “This carving represents a shaman entering the other world at the end of his earthly life or during a trance session.”

As we climb on we discover a map of the area carved into one of the rocks, with special marks indicating water sources and hunting grounds. “This was a way of educating the younger generations,” the guide explains. We study the map and try to orientate ourselves: if this mountain is in the south and the water source is there, then we should be able to find elephants, giraffes and lions to the north-east. North-east… Hold on, maybe they mean Etosha National Park! Etosha, here we come!

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