THE DIVERSITY OF landscapes is undoubedtly one of Namibia’s greatests charms. It evolves and changes as you move through it, and as the days and seasons pass over it.
Between the peerless wildlife wonderland of Etosha -a flat, often white zoological dreamscape- and the dunes and shipwrecks of the misty Skeleton Coast, Damaraland hides a wealth of beauty. The small, rugged mountains which divide the interior from the coast host a variety of landscapes supporting a greater variety of plants and animals.
Between Etosha and the Skeleton Coast, a small but significant range of mountains have created another spectacular arid Namibian landscape.
Palmwag is dry, flat conservation area, covered in rocky desert.
With few water sources over a vast, open area, it would seem an unlikely wildlife area.
Hardy desert shrubs and trees cling to life among the red rock earth.
And yet, out in this silent vista is an abundance of wildlife.
Science disagrees on whether the desert elephant is a separate subspecies, or just a remarkably adaptive bunch.
Angolan giraffe are here in good numbers, too.
Several small hill tops provide good vantage points around the park.
And even zebra are commonly seen.
In fact, Namibia's largest predator population outside Etosha is in Palmwag.
Over 100 lions, leopard, cheetah and hyena lurk.
Finding them is another matter, although we did see three leopards, at a distance.
With less than 30mm of annual rainfall, Palmwag does not support a rich birdlife.
Although the yellow billed hornbill hangs around the camps.
A handful of lodges provide tours and meals, as well as various levels of accommodation, outside the conservation area.
The Unaib river "flows" through the park, spring water sustaining plant life in other places. Swimming pools sustain camp guests.
This unlikely conservation hero is part of the Damaraland region, Namibia's undeveloped north-west frontier.
Dry river beds and sandy deserts are a feature of Damaraland, which will test the endurance of most vehicles and drivers.
Through this pass, along some bone shaking, rocky roads, lies the Desert Rhino Camp.
I wondered if I would make it through myself.
The sun was doing its spectacular African best by the time I made it to camp. 70km detour didn't sound too much!
Warm showers from a wood-fired "donkey" (boiler) eased my weary bones, and the desert valley scenery eased my mind.
Rock strata of the cliffs which line the dry river bed.
The layered rocks a reminder that I would have to drive out again.
Unusual vegatation, roots seeking water far below, climbs up and down the rock faces.
We really only had a morning to enjoy this beautiful place, which supports rhino conservation.
This was as close as we came to a rhino sighting this time.
No less bumpy, but without night approaching, the road out was far more enjoyable.
Also in the region between Etosha and the coast, another long detour near Twylefontein is worth a look.
260 million year old petrofied trees, some 50 in number, were deposited here by a great flood.
Towns are small and scarce, but there are many other attractions in the area, from pre-historic, geological and natural.
As you move towards the coast, fog and clouds move in from the coast, where they meet the mountains.