In nearby Twyfelfontein sits one of the largest collections of San rock art in Africa. The San are a nomadic ‘tribe’ of Africans who have roamed southern Africa for millennia. Subsistence by nature they lived from the barren land around them hunting for meat and leather and harvesting what they could from the earth. The rock art itself comes in two forms; carved or painted. We’d seen several paintings already in the Drakensberg mountains in Kwa-Zulu Natal but here the medium was predominantly carvings in the sandstone rock that surrounded us.
Some of these carvings are very old, the bone tools used to create them have been carbon dated at 6000 years old. It’s believed that they were largely created by the Sangomas or ‘medicine men.’ These sangomas were able to enter into a trance-like state for hours, they believed that they could call upon the spirits of the animals and their ancestors, asking them to bring the rains and along with them survival. In the Drakensberg we’d been told that these trance like states were achievable because the medicine men were normally smoking Dagga (pronounced Dacha, it’s marijuana.) In Twyfelfontein we were told that the sangomas just concentrated really hard to the same effect. Whether they were high or just ‘focusing really hard,’ they carved images into the rocks that are still visible today.
We arrived at the rock art centre at around 9am which was a little late as now the sun was warming up to full baking ferocity. The white bodies of the Germans in our tour group shimmered with excess sun lotion as we followed our guide like lambs, questions arose and were answered by our expert local. As she described how Twyfelfontein obtained its name, doubtful spring, she repeated its name in, Oshivambo , the local language. At this point Kraut number 4 piped up, “Are you able to zpeak ze local language?” We cringed with embarrassment for the entire German nation as our guide politely explained that she’d been born down the road and was able to speak Oshivambo, Nama and Herrero. She was also fluent in German but English was a universal language that was understood by 90% of visitors to the site and so that was the language she’d chosen.
At this point it is only fair to add that representatives of the good old U, S of A had been observed at the entrance gates pointing a camera at their guides face. The camera had been positioned deep into those boundaries of ‘personal space’ as the Americans told their guide to speak ######## and make as many of the clicking noises as possible.
As we were shown around, the heat was phenomenal. Water leaked from every pore of our bodies like we were no longer waterproof. At a convenient pause whilst we waited for Kraut number 11 to finish photographing a dancing kudu, Emma took a seat and Laura and I had a refreshing slug of 30 degree mineral water. Number 11 duly arrived and disingenuously apologised but still the guide paused. Only now she was looking at Emma. A couple of uncomfortable seconds passed as the group slowly refocused and saw a herd of small antelope galloping from beneath Dr. Alsops’ left buttock. A herd of 6000 year old small antelope. To be precise.
After our morning in Twiffle we had a drive to get to Outjo, the stepping stone to Etosha National Park and home of a superb German bakery. We stuffed ourselves with strudel and hit the road to find a spot to camp.
I’d been getting steadily itchier feet about paying N$70 per person for camp sites given we have months yet to travel and a budget that won’t get any bigger. There was also a certain romance to be had from ‘bush camping’ under the stars. I scoured the map for some likely spots, finally settling on a salt pan 80kms away. We nomads departed Outjo in search of a place to lay our heads.
Thirty kilometres along the road to Etosha there was a flash of colour from the side of the road accompanied by a soft thud as a Lilac Breasted Roller snapped its stunningly beautiful neck on the left upright of Redvers’ windscreen. We stopped, I’ll tell you why shortly, and saw this most beautiful of creatures lying softly, wings spread across the dry grass. I can honestly say I was gutted. Somers had a look on her face like I’d just stabbed an elephant to death. There were limited paths we could take from this point, but the one we were to take had been prearranged several weeks ago with one Spike Milligan. I was bound. I had given my word. Anything we killed in the road we would eat. Children are a grey area.
We were back on the road with a fair sized Lilac Breasted Roller now stuffed into a plastic bag behind the cubby box. Away from the main road we scouted potential Plan B camp sites as we closed in on our pan.
It soon became clear that the pan was on private property. We drove up a long driveway flanked by five metres of bush either side before a fence and then bush as far as we could see. At the end of the driveway we found a set of huge ten feet high gates bounding the property, a chain and padlock signalled no one was home. This driveway would be our home for the evening.
We struck camp behind some tall bush so as not to be seen. I began preparing our feast. Plucked, gutted, beheaded and de-footed, our prize looked like a miniature roast chicken. I duly seasoned the beast with some crushed rock salt and black pepper and stuffed her with a slice of lemon. She was wrapped in tinfoil with a little oil and roasted for 20 minutes before having her skin bronzed on the braai.
The Roller was ready. I took off the legs and carved the breasts into three tiny mouthfuls each. I served the breasts to Em and Laura who looked just like television presenters asked to eat something they already knew they wouldn’t like. They nibbled, I’ve seen mice take bigger mouthfuls. I ate one leg and then the other, finishing the breasts for good measure and washing them down with a stiff gin and tonic. The gin helped. Being a little insect eater our Roller was never going to taste like grain-fed organic chicken. It didn’t matter. Spike would be proud.