The Namibia Adventure Begins 460 km

Day 6 Dec. 18 Thursday

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was unusually good to us in terms of the wild game we spotted. The crew told us they don’t usually spot as much big game as we did on this trip.

While we ate dinner last night, Richard allowed us a glimpse into his private life – his village connection. I don’t think he would mind if I shared it here – I just hope I am remembering it the way he told it to us. I can’t remember the conversation exactly or how the topic came up but during our drive that day, we had passed so many small villages – villages made up basically of very small huts, often quite a few together, enclosed by a fence that looked like it was made from a collection of a reed or grass-like plants woven together. I had seen several people in city clothes in the villages including a woman in sparkling white capri pants and a brightly-colored blouse. As I said, these huts are tiny – no room for closets – so I was wondering, logistically, where and how villagers could possibly keep and organize their clothes. Richard explained that he comes from a shaman background and that whenever he goes home, he goes back to a more traditional way of living. Most city-dwellers, he said, having come to the city for work, also belong to a village. Whenever people return to their villages, they observe all of the beliefs and traditions of their ancestors in the village. If a man is married and has been away from his family for  a week or more, he doesn’t sleep with his wife in the bedroom the first night. Tradition requires him to sleep in the kitchen for the first night as the kitchen is known to be the home of the ancestors. When a man returns to his village he always brings food. Both he and the food stay overnight in the kitchen, to be greeted by the ancestors and to have the food blessed.

We were on our way to Namibia – this is what the terrain looked like; flat plains, areas of rough and tumble rocks and in the distance, red dunes, making me anticipate we would soon be seeing the red dunes of the Namib Desert but it turned out to be a false alarm. We had a lot farther to go before we would see them!

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We crossed the border into Namibia quite early. Immigration was quick and efficient but then, there were few other people crossing. First impressions at the border? There were free maps and brochures. The brochures were of course advertising hotels and adventures but I was impressed by the attention to responsible travel as well as educational brochures about wildlife and environmental conservation. Every border we crossed had Ebola posters up, educating travelers about the symptoms and advising precautions.

Namibia border

Above is one of my first images of Namibia – the first village we came to. My feelings? Excitement about seeing and climbing the red dunes of the Namib desert … curiosity about what we would see and do … the growing anticipation of encountering new cultures – specifically, the Himba tribe.

We traveled on unpaved but excellent red gravel roads with regular slow-downs for dips which I think were for water drainage. Upon entering Namibia, everyone  is required to report, in writing, their entry mileage and type of vehicle (dependent upon gas consumption). The office where you do this gives you a paper with your information on it. When you leave Namibia, you hand in the paper and pay for the amount of miles you have used on their roads. This is for road upkeep and repair. A great idea I think.

As we first drove through Namibia, I was glued to the widow taking in the scenery. Rachel, who sat in the seat in front of me for the whole trip, drew my attention to the other side of the road where she had seen a row of telephone poles without wires which ended abruptly!! That initiated a lively discussion of and laughter about why that might be so. We never figured it out but it wasn’t the first time we saw that phenomenon.

The landscape here is reminiscent of Oman with its tumbled, rock chunk mountains, and miles and miles of rocky plains. We stopped for a quick lunch of yesterday’s leftover pasta with veggies and tuna, meat slices, and fresh melon.

This day we were headed for Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world. It started to get hot … 38 degrees Celsius, 100 degrees F.

Our camp for the night was at the Canon (pronounced Canyon) Roadhouse and it had wifi so our first order of business was a Savanah light cider and emails. With all of us overloading the system, the wifi was naturally quite slow. After a few attempts, I gave up, enjoyed the surroundings, cider and company and then set off to explore the camp. It was our lucky day – the tent was in the shade!!

When we arrived at the roadhouse, we discovered a museum-like atmosphere created by antique cars in the garden and a museum of sorts inside. Of particular interest to Mike was this old vehicle with a quiver tree growing out of it’s engine. Along the way we had been introduced to quiver trees – the tree the bushmen used in the past to make quivers for holding their arrows. They are beautiful trees – they reminded me a bit of the Joshua trees in Southern California.

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After a bit of a rest, we set off for Fish River Canyon, about 30 km away, to take in the sunset. Dumi dropped us at the head of a well travelled hiking trail through the canyon. This trail is a five day hike which leads down to the floor of the canyon, continuing on along the river. We obviously didn’t do this hike, skirting instead the canyon’s edge back to the main lookout. It was indeed beautiful.

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Home for a steak dinner, fries and coleslaw. A perfect ending to a great experience!