From the national road (the B1) Brukkaros looks like any other ordinary mountain in Namibia. Anyone flying over the massif of Brukkaros, however, could be forgiven for thinking that they were looking down at the crater of an extinct volcano. They would be wrong though, as Brukkaros is not a volcano at all, in spite of having characteristic volcanic slopes and a caldera.
According to geologist Nicole Grunert in her book “Namibia – Fascination of Geology”, Brukkaros was formed as a consequence of magma rising from the deep earth’s mantle about 80 million years ago and getting stuck in the earth’s crust. Enormous pressure (welling up) pushed the overlying rock upwards, forming the mountain. During this process, the rising magma reached ground water, which in turn caused water vapour to form, and the pressure of this combination resulted in a gigantic explosion on the surface. The crater then opened up, and with subsequent erosion, Brukkaros as we know it came into being.
A few things are needed to visit Brukkaros today – a 4×4 vehicle (if you want to camp at any of the upper campsites), a sturdy pair of legs and a head for heights. These will ensure that you get the most from your visit to this beautiful and geologically fascinating spot. We were the first to arrive there on Good Friday, so were able to claim the best campsite with views over the flat and endless plains looking towards the little village of Berseba, with the upper rim of Brukkaros forming a dramatic backdrop behind us.
It is recommended that you hike the mountain with guides from the local community, but there were none around when we arrived, so we had to do the five and a half hour walk on our own. There are various hiking options – a strenuous walk around the rim up to the remains of a long-gone research station – or an equally strenuous walk down onto the floor of the caldera. We opted for the rim walk and shortly after setting out we stopped for a while to watch a pair of Verreaux’s eagles catching the thermals in the valley. They were later joined by some Black-chested snake eagles that spent quite a bit of time skimming the cliff face in search of food.
The first view of the caldera was amazing – a perfect basin, three kilometers in diameter, with a grassy plain dotted with rocks and quiver trees. Traces of river beds were marked by dark green trees, looking remarkably like veins on the landscape as they made their way down to the gap in the valley where water escaped the caldera over a waterfall, to tumble down into two pools below the mountain.
Brukkaros should be nicknamed “the crystal mountain” because all along the way you see crystals glittering in the rocks or lying on the ground. Along the path the rocks themselves are an amazing sight – some of them the colour of dark red ox blood (these are called carbonatite) and others dark brown. The floor of the caldera is covered in very hard rock called breccia, scattered with quartz crystals.
After a couple of hours of steady climbing and battling the long grass along a barely visible path, we arrived at the ruins, which Rob measured to be at an altitude of 1515m. We were fascinated by a building constructed partly by blasting deep into the rocky mountainside – with rusty bars in the window area it looked just like a prison. We have subsequently found out that it housed a solar observatory set up in 1926 by the National Geographic Society in co-operation with the Smithsonian Insitute.
The views from the rim of the crater at this point (about 564 meters above the Berseba plains) are magnificent – confirming a small painted sign propped up on a rock that read: “View of the World!”
Before leaving Brukkaros early the next morning, we took a short walk back along the path, armed with cameras and binoculars and waited for the Verreaux’s eagles and Black-chested snake eagles to make their appearance. Right on cue they left their nests and took to the thermals, giving us a wonderful display and a fitting send-off from their beautiful mountain.