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Adventures Near and Afar

Realm of the Ancestors

Photo Credit: Bonnie J. Fladung

Deep in the northwest corner of Botswana lie the Mountain of the Gods. Tsodilo Hills rise from the dusty sand and the eye is drawn to the multitude of colors reflecting from the craggy cliffs. As we approach from the east, the largest mountain called Male Hill is directly in front of us.


We have a day to explore the hills, lead by our guide Lopang. His ancestry is part river bushman, and his great grandfather accompanied Lauren van der Post here on his historic visit. Now he is guiding us along Rhino Path, where we can see the distinctive red paintings, some faded and some still vibrant. What is most striking is the accuracy of the drawings, there are no signs of erasures or sketch lines. The "paint" the ancients used was composed of sand and minerals combined with blood and urine. Somehow, they were able to perfect the ideal formula that would adhere to the rock for centuries.


Hiking along the Rhino Path, the first panel we see is a collage of animals - giraffe, eland, kudu, jackal, wild dog and zebra. Amidst the animals is a shamanic circle used in a ritual ceremony. Continuing along, we pass the famous van der Post panel.


The day is spent hiking, driving through deep sand and climbing rocks. Scrambling up into a sacred cave, Lopang asks us to imagine the ceremonies that have taken place there through the centuries. We are truly in the "Realm of the Ancestors."

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