Tsolido Hills

Often while driving around in South Africa and Namibia, we heard that there was San Bushmen rock art nearby. But usually this required a whole day’s trip, or a large effort or expense to hire a guide, and so we always passed up the opportunity. It seemed to be everywhere, but always just out of reach. We had started to worry we would leave without ever observing some of the oldest art in human history. But then we passed near Tsolido Hills. Honestly, this probably isn’t somewhere we should have gone in our small Kia, as the last few miles were definitely for 4WD vehicles only.

But it was too good to pass up, and thankfully, our little Kia that could pulled through. Two villages sit at the bottom near the hills and local villagers act as guides for a small fee. Four hills wouldn’t be particularly exceptional except for where they rise – out of the flat, flat Kalahari plains. And so they stand out dramatically, so much so the Bushmen thought the world began at Tsolido Hills. The largest and most jagged they called male, the more gently curved (and one that supported people) the female and the two smaller the children. And given the sacredness of the hills to the people, they covered them in rock paintings. Here’s some of our favorites.

A whole lot of drawings together.

These were far under a rock and are called the dancing penises. I guess its pretty accurate.

Giraffes always look comical.

Two very large and impressive looking rhinos.

A penguin and a whale? In the middle of the Kalahari? They think the the nomadic bushmen may have wandered this far down toward Cape Town to know about them.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to stand there in front of something drawn 3000 years ago. For me, it wasn’t so much spiritual, which is usually how these things are described, but more of a feeling of the scope and uniqueness of humanity. Here were people, 3000 years ago, that despite living in such a difficult environment to survive (or perhaps because of it) felt a need to use their energy for these creative endeavors. Whether it was to appease or thank the gods or simply needing an outlet for creative energy, it speaks to the the innate way our minds work. It was really fascinating to just stare at one bushman’s legacy. I wish I can leave something that lasts 3000 years.

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