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From close by it resembles a climbing wall for free climbers: Vingerklip is 35 metres high, about 15 metres wide and dotted with protruding stones. In 1973 the rock stack in the valley of the seasonal Ugab River, some 40 km east of Khorixas, was indeed conquered in free climbing manner by Udo Kleyenstuber, who ascended on its east side. The hooks which can still be seen were left by American mountaineer Tom Choate who is credited with the first ascent of Vingerklip in 1970.

For geologists, on the other hand, the erosional rock formation is like a book in which they can read stories that happened millions of years ago and shaped this landscape. They are captivating stories about sea levels dropping and rising, wet and dry phases of the climate, torrential rivers, chalky soil and rivulets that cause rocks to split. Even laypersons will notice that Vingerklip consists of different layers – layers of large stones alternate with layers of fine sand. They testify to the fact that at times the Ugab flowed rapidly enough to drag rocks with it, while at others it was so sluggish that sand was deposited in its bed.

Vingerklip/Outjo, issued in 1986, artist: Johan van Niekerk

Vingerklip/Outjo, issued in 1986, artist: Johan van Niekerk

Knowing this much it already becomes clear that it was the Ugab River that sculpted Vingerklip. These days a seasonal river which comes down in flood only after sufficient rainfalls, the Ugab rises in the western foothills of the Otavi Mountains, then passes south of Outjo and north of Brandberg Mountain to reach the Atlantic Ocean about 180 km north of Swakopmund.

Some 120 million years ago, as the southern supercontinent of Gondwana breaks up and South America drifts away, the southern African plate rises and so does its gradient to the sea level. Thus the erosional force of the rivers increases further. Southwest of Outjo the Ugab cuts its course deeper and deeper into the rock. Then, towards the end of the ice age 20 to 10 million years ago, the sea level rises again and a wetter climate prevails. The Ugab River fills the valley, which it created earlier, with rocks and sand. Layer is deposited upon layer, up to a height of 100 m.

The Vingerklip in the Ugab Valley, some 40 km east of Khorixas. Photo: Gondwana Collection

Two million years ago, during the ice age in the northern hemisphere, the sea level drops again and the Ugab once more cuts deep into its course which it previously filled with rocks and sediments. Parts of the wide riverbed fall dry. As the water evaporates, minerals precipitate – most of all lime because the Ugab and its tributaries drain the soil west of the Otavi Mountains and around Outjo which contains carbonate. The precipitated lime works like cement and binds rocks and sand into a conglomerate which is as hard as concrete. The deeper the river cuts into its original bed the narrower it becomes, forming several terraces over time.

The ‘cement’ in the conglomerate, i.e. the lime, is dissolved again by rain. This results in rivulets and streams which gradually cut into the terraces as if they were a cake. Erosion continues to gnaw on the edges of these pieces of cake, causing them to shrink and the gaps between them to widen as time passes. Vingerklip is the remainder of one such piece of cake, albeit not the only one: from its base another two, larger terrace islands can be seen in the Ugab Valley.

Furthermore, three different terraces can be distinguished. There is the ‘old’ main terrace, the plateau of which now rises some 160 m above the current riverbed, while the surface of a younger terrace lies about 100 m and that of the youngest one some 30 m above the Ugab.

Since this area does not experience much rain, chances are that Vingerklip will remain for years to come. It sits on a sound wide base with a circumference of 44 metres – in contrast to the Finger of God in southern Namibia, which collapsed in December 1988.

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Just in time for the first anniversary of Damara Mopane Lodge work on two hiking trails was completed in early November.

The Mountain Top Route (4 km) requires some climbing, over a total altitude of 118 metres, to reach a hilltop in the vicinity of the lodge. For the scramble over sharp rocks you can borrow protective gloves from reception. This is a challenging tour and the reward for your mountaineering effort is the gorgeous view of the surrounding Damaraland scenery. The trail is lined by some interesting trees, including the large-leaved Sterculia, the Moringa and Maerula.

Swimming pool and bar area at Damara Mopane Lodge

By contrast, the Valley Walking Trail is a leisurely 4-km-walk through diverse vegetation such as Mopane forest, grassy plains and thickets of Trumpet Thorn. There are many different birds to observe: Monteiro’s Hornbill, cardinal wood peckers, babblers, robins, Guinea fowl and weavers, to name but a few. Lively little sunbirds are particularly active in spring and summer. Ecologically speaking they are Africa’s counterpart to the Kolibri (hummingbird) in the Americas. Sunbirds are not quite as agile, however, and they cannot hover in midair for quite as long.

Bungalows and gardens at Damara Mopane Lodge

Bungalows and gardens at Damara Mopane Lodge

On both routes look out for lizards, geckos, chameleons and agamas taking a sunbath. With a little luck a warthog or Damara dik-dik may cross your way. Snakes are also part of the Damaraland fauna. Usually they give way before the hiker has even noticed them. If nevertheless you happen to have a surprise encounter with a snake – keep your distance and slowly retrace your steps.

Both routes are clearly marked. For the environment’s sake you are not allowed to leave the trail or remove any plants. After your hike the large pool of Damara Mopane Lodge beckons for a refreshing dip and a thirst quencher is ready at the bar.

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In partnership with Namibia Post Limited (NamPost) Gondwana now offers personalized stamps at three of its accommodation facilities. The ‘real’ postage stamp shows one of Namibia’s attractions and is attached to a blank stamp for a picture of the buyer’s choice, e.g. a portrait of themselves.

The personalized stamps are available in units of five. Stamps offered at Etosha Safari Camp show animals at a waterhole in Etosha National Park. The theme chosen for Damara Mopane Lodge is the nearby World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein and the stamps of Namib Desert Lodge feature Sossusvlei. Stamps with the Fish River Canyon will be available at Cañon Roadhouse from the middle of September.

 

Stamps with a personal theme

Well-known Namibian artist Helge Denker, whose postage stamps won the Stamp World Cup in 1999 and 2003, came up with the idea for designing Gondwana’s stamps. They are N$ 6.40 each, which is the postage for a postcard to detonations overseas.

The production of personalized stamps at our lodges is quite easy. Guests’ pictures can be taken at the reception or guests can bring their own pictures on a flash drive. With a special printer the pictures are then reproduced on the blanks of the existing sheet of stamps. It is an uncomplicated procedure which takes about five minutes. The price for a sheet of five personalized stamps is N$ 55.00 and a different picture can be used for each of the five stamps.

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