Spitzkoppe – Between a rock and a hard place

Post by Willie for Notes from Africa

Spitzkoppe in Namibia is a spectacular and unusual place.  The Spitzkoppe and Pontok mountains rise dramatically from an otherwise flat semi-desert landscape.  There are many reasons to visit this fascinating set of mountains and the surrounding area.

Many years ago when traveling from Windhoek to Swakupmund I saw this high mountain peak in the distance as it shimmered in the afternoon heat.  It looked like an anomaly in the desert scene and I vowed to return to investigate.

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Approach to Spitzkoppe ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

When planning for our recent Namibian trip I discovered that besides the obvious mountains the Spitzkoppe area has magnificent rock arches, great views, ancient rock art and the most unusual camping sites.  Although a large portion of the rock art has sadly been destroyed over time.  Most of the camping sites are located between extraordinary rock formations, with interesting views by day and night.

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Grosse Spitskoppe and neighbouring rocks ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

 

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Grosse Spitskoppe and neighbouring rocks ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

It took a bit of time to explore the area. The stark landscape and various rock formations are excellent for photography.  The late afternoon light brings out a glow in the rocks.  The best place to wait is on the western side of the Grosse Spitzkoppe, to catch the last rays of the sun which creates the glow.

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Rocks glowing at sunset ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

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Catching the last rays of the sun ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Rocks fading to lighter colours after sunset . . .

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Spitzkoppe and surrounds being lit up by the morning sunlight . . .

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We decided to have a slightly longer stay at the chalets maintained by the local community.  Mainly to have some rest days after traveling vast distances from the Southern Cape to central Namibia.  As an alternative to the community lodge, a more commercial lodge is in development to be opened soon.

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The Community Project chalets ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

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A campsite surrounded by granite rocks  ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Although you have this massive mountain to help you navigate there are a large number of little roads that twists and turns between the lesser rocks and camping sites.

Map of Spitzkoppe - you can see this map here.

Map of Spitzkoppe – you can see this map here.

Various climbing expeditions have been recorded, although there is some uncertainty about who can claim the first ascent to the Grosse Spitzkoppe.  Climbing the bald granite peaks certainly looks a like a huge challenge.

Rock arches are formed by natural weathering processes.  There is a rock arch (see map point A) to the northern side of the Grosse Spitzkoppe.

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Willie crouching inside the smaller arch to take photos ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

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Looking out from the smaller arch ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

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Note how the rock is crumbling and “peeling off” from the underside of the smaller arch. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

The most important rock arch is located at (F) on the map.  This large arch is perfectly located to provide a stereo view of both the Grosse Spitzkoppe as well as the Pontok Mountains.  I spent as much time there as possible playing with various camera settings to capture the view nicely.  To compensate for the dark shadow below the arch, I used the camera’s “High Dynamic Range” function where the camera combines three different exposures to get one evenly lit image.  You definitely need a tripod to use this function.

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The larger arch to the left of the photo. To the right you can see an arch in the early stages of forming. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

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Willie using a tripod to take his arch photos. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

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Exploring the Spitzkoppe area is highly recommended.  I am glad we finally managed to visit this place; it is not just a mirage in the afternoon light any longer.

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This post is part of a series Notes from Africa will be publishing about our travels through Namibia.

 

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Categories: Lifestyle/Travel, Nature/Environment, Photography

Author:Willie

I am a forestry scientist living and working in the Southern Cape, South Africa.

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11 Comments on “Spitzkoppe – Between a rock and a hard place”

  1. November 2, 2016 at 6:40 pm #

    So Beautiful…thank you for sharing!

    • Willie
      November 4, 2016 at 11:16 am #

      Hi Kelley, I agree, it is an amazing place. Thanks for your comment.

      • November 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

        It was my pleasure for sure!

  2. Eha
    November 3, 2016 at 1:41 am #

    Willie – brilliant photos, Willie: they belong in a book! And what a dramatic landscape: rockscape . . .

    • Willie
      November 4, 2016 at 11:17 am #

      Hi Eha, thanks, appreciate your comments. It is certainly an interesting place to visit. I really like this set of photographs as well, the arch pics are obviously my favourites.

  3. November 3, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    Brilliant indeed!

    • Willie
      November 4, 2016 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Mel & Suan, Thanks for your comment, much appreciated!

  4. November 3, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

    Wow, these are magnificent photos, Willie. I agree with Eha – these belong in a book! Clearly an intriguing area that invites exploration – with a camera and tripod!

    I’m definitely putting this on our must-visit list of places in Namibia. Every time I’ve driven to and from Swakop since I was a small child, I have seen this mountainous ‘mirage’ on the horizon – and I have always wondered what it is like up-close. The community lodge looks very neat – was it a good place to use as a base for exploring the area?

    • Willie
      November 4, 2016 at 11:41 am #

      Hi Reggie, thanks for your comment. So many photographs did not make it to the post. At least my editor (Lisa) allowed me to put in a couple more than her normal quota. The arch is perfectly situated to take these unusual pics. Like the effect of the one pic of the smaller arch where it’s peeling off’, almost looks like an optical illusion.

      The community lodge is reasonably priced but has very basic facilities for self-catering purposes. The new lodge may be a bit more pricey. Most of this area is accessible with a normal car. The lodge is a good place to stay to explore the Spitzkoppe mountains and a bit of the surrounding area, where the locals sell interesting crystals sourced from the area.

      Interesting that you have also been staring at this mountain in the distance for a while now.

      • November 4, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

        Hi Willie,

        yes, I don’t know how many times I’ve driven up and down the road from Windhoek to Swakop since I was little – but it must be a lot. When you’re gazing out the window at the vast, almost featureless plain, with the heat flimmers on the tarmac, either slowly descending from Usakos or slowly climbing from Swakop, it feels almost surreal to see those jagged mountains suddenly appearing on the horizon… Sometimes, they’re slightly blue or purple in the haze, or sharply defined when the light is just right. And they always exert such a magnetic pull on the imagination! So I really enjoyed seeing these pictures.

        I love the different framing effects you’ve achieved too, you’ve made it look quite extraordinary.

        Thanks for the tips re the accommodation options!

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