The Daily Dozen: Twyfelfontein

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

After driving through the Palmwag Conservancy yesterday, we headed toward Twyfelfontein. I think that’s pronounced TWI-full-fawn-tine. That’s what my ears hear, anyway. We didn’t actually go to Twyfelfontein proper, but were in the vicinity.

We spent the night in another community campground, Aabadi Mountain Camp.

Sunset on rocky hill, Namibia

Rocky hill at sunset. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

The scenery around the campsite was nice, but the facilities were not as great as what we’ve had the past few nights. Adequate, mind you, but not as nice as others.

We got to watch the light change on this little red, rocky hill as the sun set. It was lovely.

Clouds over rocky hills.

Clouds, a welcome break from the sun.

Clouds rolled in late in the day, and we hoped we might get some rain, but, alas, we didn’t. The clouds cooled the air, though, and for that we were grateful.

Clouds roll in, Namibia

Clouds roll in.

They also made for some interesting light and shadows, a photographers playground.

Rainbow, Namibia


We didn’t get the rain, but we got a rainbow coming out of our pretty hill.

For the past several days, as we’ve been driving in the high, mountain deserts, we’ve been on the lookout for desert-adapted elephants. You might recall we found two waterholes in the Hoarusib riverbed that we figured (hoped) were dug by elephants. Maybe you’ve seen the documentary, too, where an elephant stops at a seemingly random spot in the desert and begins to dig with its foot, eventually finding water. I saw that ages ago, and it stuck with me.

But we haven’t seen any of the elephants.

Desert elephants don’t look different from other elephants, as far as I know, they just live in a harsher environment, traveling long distances to find food and water, and sometimes digging for water where they somehow know it will be. There are very few desert elephants, so seeing one would be a treat.

“We’re heading out of desert-elephant country now,” Mike said, expressing his disappointment in not finding one. We had, of course, been looking hard for them, driving long, difficult distances in hopes of seeing one or some.

Whenever Mike is the least bit pessimistic, I counter with cheerful optimism. “We’re not on the coast yet. We’ve still got a chance.”

Less than an hour later, when I had just started making up the cots in the tent, Mike whisper-shouted, “Jen, get out here. NOW!”

Desert-adapted Elephant, Namibia

Desert-adapted elephant.

Mike had been consulting maps in preparation for the following day, looked up, and smack-dab in front of him, twenty yards away (we measured it), was a single, male elephant—a desert-adapted elephant—strolling past our campsite.

Honestly, the ellie didn’t seem thrilled to discover humans out and about on the far side of the white truck. We were a bit of a surprise to him, it seemed. He turned and gave us a good, hard look. We slowly got ourselves closer to the truck while simultaneously getting the best views we could. It was just getting dark. In fact, it got dark as the elephant made its way through the campground.

Later that night, the same elephant returned to browse along the riverbed some 50 yards away. We heard him breaking branches and walked out to the river with the night-vision binoculars. There he was, just across the river, munching away.

According to the locals, it’s routine for a male to scout out an area before bringing the rest of the herd to it. The feeling seemed to be that this was a scout. I’m not sure I believe that, but what do I know?

Well done, Africa, on delivering the goods when I’ve gone out on a limb with my optimism. This isn’t the first time. I am grateful.

Petrified tree trunk, Namibia

Petrified tree trunk.

In the morning, our first stop was at a petrified forest with welwitschia mirabilis plants. This particular petrified forest, which we found with the help of the GPS rather than signs, is a national monument. There are other unofficial petrified forests around the official one, operated by local residents. They all advertise the welwitschia plants, too, and I’m sure they all have similar petrified-wood specimens.

Being at the official monument meant we had to be guided by a ranger who delivered the memorized spiel with nothing at all like genuine enthusiasm. This is one reason we despise guided excursions. But the petrified trees were cool. These were quite large pine trees, a species that no longer grows in Africa.

Petrified Forest, Namibia

Petrified forest.

Scientists think they were washed down to this area about 260 million years ago. That kind of time frame always blows my mind. Then the organic matter was slowly replaced by minerals.

Petrified wood and male welwitschia, Namibia

Petrified wood and male welwitschia.

Here beside this petrified tree trunk is a welwitschia mirabilis plant. Again, I’ve seen “welwitschia” spelled with the s and without it. I choose to keep the s because I don’t want to be distracted by “witch” ideas and connotations when I think of this plant.

Welwitschia’s are cool because they don’t grow in many places. They can also live 2,000 years. Unlike other species of plants and animals, I think welwitschias look dumpy when young and get better looking as they age. How refreshing is that?

Female Welwitschia, Namibia

Female welwitschia.

The body of the plant looks like a giant clam. Male and female parts grow on separate plants, inside the clam shell. Males look like grass seed heads; females look like closed pine cones.

From the lips of the clam shell (yes, giant clams have lips) grow two leaves, one from each shell. These two leaves, however, somehow get shredded into ribbons so that it looks as though there are many leaves.

Mike and Granny Welwitschia

Mike and Granny Welwitschia

And now, once again, we’re going to play fast and loose with the idea of “daily” (Daily Dozen, remember) and jump ahead to a drive we took out of Walvis Bay. It was a desert driving tour with rather dubious viewpoints. We examined lichen at one, for instance, and were to note how 100-year-old tire tracks don’t disappear quickly in this environment. I’m sure these things are new to some people, but let’s be honest, they aren’t to us. Our expectations were fairly low, but we wanted to see the “moonscape” area and the granny or gramps of welwitschias, an individual plant that is said to be over 1,500 years old.

The moonscape was cool. Pretty canyons and rocks. And the desert itself was beautiful.

Mike, ever the pessimist, poo-pooed the grand welwitschia prior to seeing it, and, of course, I countered with annoying optimism. Africa delivered. Again. Africa is awesome that way. Granny welwitschia was, in fact, impressive.

Granny Welwitschia, Namibia

Granny Welwitschia. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

So, too, were surrounding specimens, which were similarly old and big. Mike didn’t bother to take his camera with him as we walked around the area, but he wound up wanting it, so I cheerfully ran back and got it for him.

Agave-like plant, Namibia

Agave-like plant. Or perhaps an African agave. Sure wish we had a good plant book.

I heart silly desert tours that turn out to be interesting. If you look hard enough, I think there are interesting and beautiful things everywhere.

Categories: Africa, Africa, Travel