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It was this chief who gave Burger his first wife, seeing no issue with the fact that Burger was also in a relationship with a male farm worker.

The wife was barren – making her a bad match in Himba society – and Burger had no interest in heterosexual sex. It was the perfect solution.

Today, Burger is the master of a farm, four villages, three wives, 30 adopted children and an Austrian boyfriend. Upon arriving at his homestead, I join him on the dried cowpat floor of a mud hut, along with wife number one, Makaja.

As a gaggle of naked grandchildren are bounced on various knees, he explains the history, rites and rituals of the proud Himba people, while pointing out the silver and leather adornments that cover their deep-red skin.

Himba women are known for the practice of coating themselves in a blend of butter fat and ochre, which lends their skin this red tinge.

The power of our unique encounter is not lost on Burger. “People travel across the world to spend a day or two here, as it is one of the last places that this experience exists,”he explains. “So I urge the Himba to carry on and try not to assimilate.”

Indeed, the Himba probably have a vested interest in showing their simple way of life to tourists – the tribe was almost extinguished in the Eighties, when a severe drought killed 90 per cent of their cattle. Now that they are so visible, being one of Namibia’s premier tourist attractions, this small ethnic group has found a clever way of preserving its culture.

But fascinating as the Himba are by themselves, I find them even more so with Burger in the frame.

He’s a Namibian who encompasses many aspects of this country’s disparate culture – one that I’m finding surprises and astounds at every turn.

The next day, behind the wheel of a 4x4 I rented back in the Namibian capital of Windhoek, I begin the spine-juddering journey towards Spitzkoppe, which is German for ‘pointed dome’ (Namibia was a German colony until it was handed over to South Africa in 1920).

The prehistoric peak is believed to be 750 million years old and is a violent anomaly in the arid wilderness of the surrounding, pancake-flat plains.

Encouraged by the torrential showers that break up the fiery afternoons of the rainy season, the gravel road slips beneath my ageing vehicle as I battle with the conditions.

The enforced slow driving, however, is nothing like the hell of Monday morning rush hour on London’s North Circular. Here, it is a pleasure.

I drive through a few kilometres of lush undulating hills, followed by fertile valleys of rain-soaked splendour, looming peaks and barren plains peppered with giant granite monoliths.

The silhouettes of warning road signs change from warthog to elephant. Shredded tyres lie discarded on the roadside, testament to the sharp stones awaiting my rubber.

Closer to Spitzkoppe, I’m forced to trace a hairy route. The rain makes parched riverbeds turn to raging torrents in minutes, causing hours of “should I, shouldn’t I?”

procrastination over whether to ford them. Recklessness inevitably wins and, although I don’t yet realise it, my alternator starts to slowly drown.

When I finally reach Spitzkoppe, I’m overwhelmed by the sight of this brown granite sword pushed through the earth’s crust, standing at 1000 metres tall. Isolated and impressive, it is a prehistoric playground in which days can be spent exploring its nooks and crannies.

James, a local guide employed by Spitzkoppe’s municipally run campsite, jumps into my car and directs me through
a maze of sandy tracks to the monolith’s base.

Hopping up  the coarse rock, James explains its geology and leads me to Bushman’s Paradise, an overhang dotted with faded ancient etchings of the indigenous hunter-gatherer San people. They are between 2000 and 4000 years old.

Keen to set up camp before dusk, I ask James which one of the 12 sites, sporadically placed throughout the conservation area, he would recommend.

“It is hard to choose among them,” he muses. “They are all good for different reasons … some for sunset, others for sunrise, but number 10 is my favourite as sometimes you can see the leopard who lives in a cave above it.”

Decision made. I cautiously set up at camp 10, peering up into the folds and crevasses searching for a glimpse of the elusive predator.


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Big trip to Namibia: Hiding from leopards and visiting tribal villages are all part of the adventure
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