Leaving the Huab Valley of Twyfelfontein, the well-graded C39 heads northwards into what is generally referred to as NORTHERN DAMARALAND. The first half of the 82km drive to Palmwag is exceedingly scenic, as the road is framed by flat-topped escarpments, shored up by the odd unexpected sand dune. This striking landscape is part of the Etendeka Plateau, one of the planet’s largest sheets of ancient lava, which extends as far north as the Hoanib River at Sesfontein, and was formed millions of years ago when, following the break-up of Gondwanaland, the South Atlantic opened up and spewed forth volcanic rocks. Different hardness among the basaltic layers has resulted in stepped plateaus, as the surrounding semi-desert plains were eroded down. About halfway to Palmwag, the C39 peels off west to the Skeleton Coast and the C43 takes up the baton. At Palmwag – essentially a road junction in a fairly featureless patch of semi-desert plain but with a crucial petrol station – the road divides; east takes you over the dramatic Grootberg Pass on the C40, towards Kamanjab some 115km away, whereas the C43 crosses the veterinary fence, travelling a similar distance northwards, to the next sizeable settlement at Sesfontein. On the way, you pass through the sparsely populated communities of Khowarib and Warmquelle, which offer a few campsites and one very agreeable lodge between them.

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