Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hiking Domboshawa

I was realistic. I swear. 

But when it came to flying into Africa I had nothing but romantic visions of what it would be like.  As I strained to see around Jonas’ large head while we descended into Johannesburg, the frolicking zebras and giraffes I dreamed of seeing next to my window were instead replaced with suburban swimming pools and dusty three lane highways.  The brimming, teary eyed feeling of finally arriving on the continent was replaced by spinning jetlag and a desperate urge to find a real bathroom. When we flew from South Africa up to our country, my seat dead center in the middle of the plane between a high schooler and a sleeping baby sealed the deal: my arrival was anything but romantic.

Quite to my surprise, I found myself immediately challenged to feel connected to the land in Africa.  So much is manicured where we are.  Even when I have been up to my elbows gardening in the red dusty soil or tracking in piles of dirt on sandals that will never recover, I have felt like I’ve barely touched the land for which I expected to feel nothing but awe.

Three days into the country, we went hiking about 30 km north of the city in a place called Domboshawa, and finally it happened.   I found the Africa I knew was hidden somewhere. 

Domboshawa is considered a "kopje," an isolated hill that stands among a surrounding plain.  It stands as an important mystical and religious site to many local cultures, as well an international site of importance for its botany (rare varieties of lichen grow on its granite outcrops) and geology (wind-eroded rock formations called bubble rocks sit atop the hill).  Though its scenic views from the top are spectacular, Domboshawa is most famous for its cave paintings. 

These animals have guarded the walls of this cove for thousands of years, a stark contrast to our two year old. 

Still clearly recognizable, even after the six thousand years many say the paintings have existed, are animals that can still be found in the area: kudu, rhino, buffalo, and warthog.

Jonas (pictured with my husband Kurt) has learned a lot about barbed wire since moving to Africa.

Kurt and Jonas explore a crevice near the paintings.

We are told we have to return to Domboshawa during the rainy season, when all is suddenly green and waterfalls litter the landscape.  We are told our view from the top was about as clear as it gets.  The haze from the heat or the mists/fog from the rain can make it a challenge to see far distances on many days, so our winter visit was perfectly timed. 

There are all sorts of places to climb at Domboshawa for special views of the surrounding plains.

The steepest ascent is the last.  My husband makes it look easy (carrying Jonas no less)... I didn't. 

Domboshawa looks crowded, but everyone pictured is from our group of twenty, all co-workers at Kurt's school.  We didn't see a single other hiker during our time there.

One of the bubble rocks sitting atop Domboshawa, below sits one of Jonas' new playmates Amara

Down below, displays found in the thatched coves explain the history of Domboshawa.

The Africa I knew was hidden somewhere...