Uis Things to Do
The White Lady of the Brandberg is probably the best known set of Bushman (San) paintings in Namibia, and is also relatively accessible provided that you're willing to do a bit of hiking.
The White Lady was first discovered under a rock overhang by a German explorer - Reinhard Maack - in 1918 and its origin has been long been the subject of spirited discussion. In recent years, there seems to have been general agreement that they are of San origin and are about 2000 years old.
The subject matter has been equally hotly debated. Clearly this is a hunting scene with Bushmen pursuing gemsbok (the local species of oryx). What is unusual is the shadowy white figure towards the bottom right hand corner of the image - hard to make out from the photo, and easy to miss even in real life due to previous travellers pouring water over the image in order to enhance the colour contrast.
Initially the figure was thought to be female (hence the 'White Lady', but it now seems to be widely accepted that this is a sangoma/shaman figure, wearing white body adornment and invoking magic to ensure a successful hunt.
The site can be accessed by hiking about an hour from the parking spot. In order to prevent further vandalism, the image is protected behind iron bars, but you should still be able to photograph it with relative ease: be grateful for this development, as initially a wire mesh was installed which made photography virtually impossible.
Bear in mind that this path follows the dry bed of the Tsisab river, and scrambling across boulders is required on some sections, making this unsuitable for small children and people with limited mobility.
The hike is stark but very beautiful, and personally I found it more impressive than the paintings themselves (but that's just a matter of personal taste). As ever, bear in mind that the Namibian climate is very harsh - particularly in summer - so take the standard precautions before setting out. Wear a hat and preferably long sleeves for sun protection, with a high factor sunscreen on exposed parts, carry plenty of water and make sure that you have appropriate footwear for the rugged terrain (slops/sandals are not suitable unless you're a complete masochist).
Even as a mining person, I wouldn't recommend visiting Uis on account of its tin mining heritage, but this history does help to explain the most prominent eyesore in the region.
As you drive north from Uis to Khorixas, you may notice a pile of white material stacked up against the hillside on your right hand (western) side: it's hard to miss because of the stark colour contrast with the brown landscape. This is tin tailings - the residue of ground rock that is left behind when tin ore is passed through a metallurgical process to extract the tin.
Tin mining commenced in this area just after the turn of the century, and the town of Uis was founded in 1958 to provide housing and services to the mineworkers. Today depositing tailings in such a haphazard manner would be illegal, but given that this tailings dump predates any mining environmental legislation in Namibia and large scale mining ceased here in the early 1990s, it remains as a stark white scar on the landscape.
Meet Tyrannophasma gladiator ... a splendidly named and highly carnivorous beastie, known respectfully as The Gladiator by his friends and prey!
It may not mean much in your world, but the entymological world was set alight when a whole new suborder of insect was identified by researchers from the Max Planck Institute in the Brandberg during 2002! This was the first time in 87 years that scientists had found living insects that could not be allocated to any known insect suborder - in other words, possibly even bigger than discovering a living coelacanth (whose fossil family was at least known and recognised) before it pitched up again in 1936 after a 70 million year absence from the fossil record.
These carnivorous critters had previously been tentatively identified in 45-million-year-old pieces of Baltic amber. At the time they defied classification in terms of the established taxonomy of insects: paleontologists thought that they might be juvenile forms of mantis-like creatures but couldn't be sure. Once living specimens were finally identified, scientists determined that although they share features in common with stick insects and mantises, they are different enough to justify their own sub group.
A close relative, Mantophasma zephyrum, has subsequently been identified in the Erongo Massif to the south of the Brandberg.
Spotting one of these during your time in the Brandberg is infinitely more impressive than a sighting of any of the more conventional Big Five wildlife! Needless to say, these are considered endangered, and so collection of specimens unless you have the right permits in place is absolutely forbidden and subject to heavy fines and possible imprisonment.
From looking around I saw that there are few places, but our stop here was for food shopping and gas for the car, we did our own cooking at the campsite later.
There were two supermarkets here, well, not exactly supermarket but a good place to stop in the middle of nowhere to get your supply for the road.
Uis Local Customs
There are a few petrol stations, shops and restaurants in Uis as well as quite a few street sellers selling rocks and semi precious stones that are found in the region. They work in gangs and will expect you to buy something from each person.
You will also see some Herero ladies in their elaborate multi-layered dresses here. It was unbelivably hot when we stopped here to get a flat tyre fixed, but these ladies looked so comfortable and cool in their dresses!