In western Erongo, flattish semi-desert savannah stretches northwards, the horizon interrupted by the distinctive domed peak of the Spitzkoppe, much favoured by rock climbers. Beyond is the vast massif of the Brandberg, home to the country’s finest collection of San rock paintings. This is the area known as Damaraland – a colonial and apartheid-era term that has seemingly stuck – which comprises some of the country’s most beguiling landscapes, and is still predominantly inhabited by the Damara people, after whom it’s named.
As you cross the ephemeral Ugab River – a linear oasis of luxuriant vegetation and a vital source of nourishment for elusive desert-adapted elephants – into southern Kunene, the undulating landscape becomes hauntingly beautiful. Expansive grasslands are interspersed with colourful escarpments of layered sediment and endless kopjies of burnished granite, embellished by the occasional dazzling white trunk of the five-lobed sterculia tree clinging onto a boulder. In the middle of all this is one of the continent’s largest collections of ancient rock engravings, at Twyfelfontein.