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IIf you've ever experienced the Northern Cape capital of Kimberley in mid-summer, you may have also been caught in a sudden, drenching Karoo thunderstorm.
That's the way rain happens up here in the heartland, and out at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre you'll see that the ancient shamans have been communing with the rain spirits for millennia.
It is believed that some of the 400-odd rock engravings at the site were inspired by shamans accessing the spirit world through altered states of consciousness. In trance, they could heal disease, control wild animals and bring rain. The etchings are thought to be an expression of their visions.
Wildebeest Kuil, a farm lying between Kimberley and Barkly West (a 15 minutes' drive from Kimberley) also has a long history of occupation recorded on the ancient rocks scattered about. From the older hairline engravings to the more recent pecked-out shapes and relatively modern middens, later Stone Age groups (ancestors of the San), the KhoeKhoe and various waves of colonists left their marks here.
A qualified guide meets you at the interpretation centre after you've watched a short introductory film. You then take the 800-metre walkway tour that weaves up and over a hill via a number of information boards. At the entrance is a well-stocked craft shop selling books on rock art and handicrafts made by the local !Xun and Khwe.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre
Tel: +27 (0)53 839 3747
Cell: +27 (0)82 222 4777
How to get here
The centre lies 15km outside Kimberley on the Barkly West road. It is an easy drive on tar.
Best time to visit
The centre is open between 9am and 4pm on week days and from 10:00 to 16:00 over weekends and on public holidays. It is closed on Christmas day and Good Friday.
Things to do
Kimberley has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, centred around its legendary diamond mining history.
A community guide is available to take you on an informative tour of the site - just ask at reception.
The San crafts on sale at the centre shop are of good quality and support the local creative effort.
What to pack
Make sure you have the right camera to shoot images of the engravings. A standard lens (18-55mm) will be perfect. Do not pour water on the engravings to make them stand out in your photograph. Rather work on it later in Photoshop by pushing the contrast.
Where to stay
There are many accommodation options in Kimberley.