Monday, 27 February 2017

A microlight flight over Uis and walk to the 'white Lady' of Brandberg

ALLIE: DAY 13: Tuesday, 27th of February

Micolight flying over Uis and a walk to “The white lady” at Brandberg

rock Art at Brandberg
Didn’t sleep well, too hot again. The more of a shock is my alarm at 6.00. Oh yes, we wanted to do a microlight flight with Nico. Still in the dark I am to board his tiny flying maschine first. We take of at his private little air strip in the pitch dark. The flight takes us up toward the mines and after 7 minutes Nico makes a sharp turn and landes on top of a little sand mountain overlooking the town. I am left there whilst he flies back to fetch Phil. Shortly afterwards we all stand there with a cup of coffee and watch sunrise. Magic. Nico also seems to love stories. He never answers questions but tells you a whole lot of other things. The next flight takes us (again in sequence) over the hills and riverbeds of the area. We spot two kudus grazing. Nico explains the story of the poisonous Euphorbia plant, that can kill people, and indeed did kill 16 travellers a couple of years ago when they grilled meat with the dried branches of this shrub. But especially the old dead looking plants are so poisonous that they contaminated the food and all of them died on that same evening of eaten the meat. We fly over their graves. A macabre story.
Well, that was an exciting and very rewarding experience – even though I feel a bit dizzy afterwards.

On to search for the famous “White Lady of Brandberg”. After 30 km on a dirt road we are at the foot of this protruding mountain. A guide leads us along a 2,5km trail toward the cliff painting that is said to be between 5000 and 2000 years old. The whole mountain is full of paintings, over 45000 of them have been found in the steep granite rocks of the highest peak in Namibia. 

In the evening we stroll around the tiny village in order to discover another bar. But except for the next door lodge – where we meet Basil! – and ours, there isn’t anything worth mentioning.

PHIL: Day 13/27 Feb

Nico, the Afrikaans microlight, pilot has the aircraft ready at the end of his own private strip as we arrive in darkness just after 6.He takes Allie off to another strip he has created on top of one of the old mine tips, leaving me to wait for his return to shuttle me up there too. Up on top, some 500ft above Uis, the backdrop of the massive Brandberg mountain gradually turns pink as we sip strong filter coffee and listen to Nico’s tales of ultralight aviation in Africa. His Windlass microlight was built in Durban, South Africa, and is powered by the ubiquitous Rotax engine.

Both Allie and I get separate trips round the area, spotting springbok and kudu – I even had ten minutes of ‘hands-on’ (probably ‘unofficial’) instruction before return to the short gravel strip for breakfast. She is feeling queasy after taking sleeping pills overnight, but I think there is a residual thrill nevertheless and, worryingly, she begins to ask what it takes to get a microlight licence. I pour cold water on the idea, perhaps a little unreasonably.

Next plan is to drive to the Tsuib Valley where we hire a guide for the 2.5km hike to the White Lady painting site. We arrive along with a Portuguese couple, but it is otherwise deserted. The guide, a Damara tribesman with the unlikely name of Colin, is very knowledgeable about local flora & fauna but starts to ramble about shamanism when tackled on the dating of the site and more complex issues. It is my first experience of such examples of art, having been to neither Altamira nor Lascaux before their effective closure to the public, and whilst the scale is surprisingly small the change over time from monochrome to polychrome is impressive.

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