The signs along the coastline are clear: ‘Do not leave your car. There are lions here.’ There is a passage in The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway that reads, "He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy.”
As a lion lover, I’ve never forgotten these lines for the pure imagery of these magnificent cats in this setting. I dream of places. I dream of lions of the beach. I couldn’t have known on my first reading of it that the place that would evince this so meaningfully would be the Skeleton Coast – and I couldn’t have predicted that such a barren location would be such a contemplative place. If Hemingway’s lost youth is held in lions on the beach, the Skeleton Coast is a place of earlier mentioned youth captured in amber forever.
Past a gate with skull and crossbones, whale bones and trinkets, back inland. The nothingness continued and pulsed into mountains. Mount Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, was in front of us as we drove through great gravel plains. This is a place of ancient habitation for the San people and located deep within the mountain is a rock painting on an overhang featuring the famous ‘white lady’. While various hypotheses on the painting exist, the figure was initially taken to be a warrior, but it seems to be accepted that the figure is shamanistic, surrounded by other figures in a heightened spiritual state, and oryx – our inner connection with nature around us.