The next valley inland from Hartmann's is the Marienfluss. If you are driving, this is reached via Red Drum – a crossroads marked by a red oil can. There is a fairly new-looking Himba settlement at Red Drum.
The Marienfluss has more soft sand and is greener than Hartmann's Valley. It is covered with light scrub and the odd tree marks an underground river. A most noticeable feature of the Marienfluss is its 'fairy circles', although they are also found, to a lesser extent, in Hartmann's Valley. These are circular patches without any vegetation. Studies by Professors G Theron and E Moll, from the universities of Pretoria and Cape Town, put forward three possible theories for their origin.
One theory suggests that Euphorbia bushes once grew here. It's thought that when they died, they may have left poisonous chemicals in the soil, which prohibit grass from growing. Another idea is that tropical termites may be blown into the Pro-Namib during wet cycles, starting colonies that kill the grasses. During the dry cycles, these die off leaving the bare circles that we see. A third theory suggests that there are 'hardpans' in these patches. That is, layers of soil through which water cannot penetrate, making plant life impossible. Of course, one other common explanation is that they were, indeed, made by fairies...
Where to stay
At the northern end of the Marienfluss, there is a public and also a private campsite. Both are set on the banks of the Kunene mainly under the shade of camelthorn trees, Acacia erioloba
On the track that goes past these camps there is a sign saying 'no photographs'. (The logic of this isn't obvious, except for the proximity of the Angolan border.) After a further 3km the road divides into three. The left fork goes to an excellent viewing point, over some rapids in the river. The centre and right turns are both blocked. If you walk up the middle track, you'll find a small beach on the Kunene. The right track leads off to some trees, which may have been a campsite once.
In morning and evening you'll see many Himba people going about their business, often with their cattle. There is also some wildlife around, including springbok, ostrich, bat-eared fox, bustards, korhanns, and many other birds.Okarohombo Campsite
On the banks of the Kunene, at the northern end of the Marienfluss, is a simple signposted campsite under ana trees, run by the local Himba community (who speak little English). Facilities at the five pitches are limited to a few flush toilets and fireplaces. Cold showers are sometimes available but could be washed away as the camp is at floodwater level. As this is one of the more remote areas where Himba people live, it is less commercialised than other places, and is a good location to experience their lifestyle. Like most community campsites, this is worth your support.Camp Syncro
This small, simple camp occupies a lovely spot overlooking the Kunene, from the end of the Marienfluss. It has just four simple thatched houses constructed from stones from the river and standing in the shade of ana trees. Each has water for drinking and twin beds. Two showers and long-drop toilets are shared between the houses. But then you don't come here for the camp; you come to explore the area with Koos, and to meet the local people.