Into Himba Country; Opuwo Country Lodge 550 km

Day 11 Dec. 23 Tuesday
This was the day I was convinced that Mike had contracted Ebola!!!

The day began perfectly. Mike had set his alarm for 5 am so he could climb Spitzkoppe in time to photograph the sunrise. Much to the surprise of both of us, I managed to wake myself up enough to join him on the mountain. It was truly spectacular . . . . from almost completely dark to the first lightening of the sky to the full splendor of the newly awakened sun casting its rays on the surrounding rocks.

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As we were leaving Spitzkoppe, we found a cave. Richard told us that tribe members will go to a cave like that with a candle and some medicine from the local shaman and will spend ‘alone’ time there, meditating. . . . communing with the spirit world . . . . time spent in prayer and ritual.

We were enroute to our next 2 nights in Kaololand, reputedly one of the most remote, harsh environments in Namibia. It was also one of the longest days in terms of the number of kilometers we were to cover. In Opuwo, our final destination and where we would stay for 2 nights,  we had a visit planned with the Himba people. It was one of the things I was most eagerly anticipating.

The first part of jelephant signourney took us through Damaraland, the north-central part of Namibia. The Damara people who live here are an ethnic group making up 8.5% of Namibia’s population (thank you Kiboko for those facts and figures). We had been informed in our pre-trip information that the terrain here is rugged, consisting of mountains interspersed with gravel plains and hot, sandy valleys. We entered elephant country and started to see numerous  “caution elephants”  road signs. We never did see any at this point. The road was rough and by 830 am,  Mike became violently sick.

Dumi barely had time to stop the bus. Initially, I thought Mike was sick from the combination of cough medicine, wine the night before and the rough road, but as the day progressed, Mike went from bad to worse. From 830 am until late afternoon, he was sick, both ends trying to clear his system of whatever had disturbed it so viciously. Every hour we had to stop the bus. It got so that I dreaded any change in the motion of the bus. Every time the bus slowed down, panic-stricken, I would grab the roll of tissue and a plastic bag and support Mike out the door to his new favorite spot by the rear wheel. By afternoon, he could no longer stand up or support himself . . . Dumi and Richard had to help him or he would fall. Meanwhile, we were in the middle of nowhere in “one of the most rugged, inhospitable regions of Namibia”. Trust Mike to choose this day to be sick.

Mikal’s point of view:

Today was the shits, literally. It was both the longest drive of the trip and the roughest road too. We started out as usual but the road was very much rougher than I thought it would be which would have been bad enough… but I caught a bug ( besides single handedly downing an entire bottle of red wine last night.. incredibly STUPID!) and after about an hour of bouncing I was sick … Out of the bus and spewing from both ends….

Memories  of the rest of the day are nothing but a blur because from that point on I had to stop every 30-45 minutes to be sick… again and again and again…

I had lots of time to think and worry on this worst of all days. I thought back to when we entered South Africa at the Cape town airport and being ordered to “go this way if you have been in an Ebola infected country”. But there didn’t seem to be any enforcement of that order that I could remember seeing. When we entered the country, Ebola was the least of my worries . . . I didn’t give Ebola a second thought, my mind being much more occupied with the adventure about to begin. I did, however, think to myself as I was going down some stairs, my hand resting on the bannister, that I must be sure to use my hand sanitizer. Of course I forgot. I had never ever seen Michael so sick before – I started to think maybe ???? Especially since all of us on the trip had been eating the same foods . . . he was the only one who got sick.

The rough roads not only created a problem for Mike bus also for the bus . . . a problem with a brake line. Fairly early on, we stopped at the side of the road for the crew to try a patch job until we got to the nearest service station. A short distance up the road stood a rustic stand operated by three Damara women and their children selling handicrafts they had made. We decided to shop while we stopped. Not for long . . .  no sooner had I started to look then ….  I followed Mike into the bushes again.

 

Mikal’s point of view:

Dehydrated & extremely weak, I had Tilly very worried to the point she was thinking “Ebola?”. I  even had to be helped to the bathroom by Dumi …too weak to walk a straight line.

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We finally found the proverbial service station. We were deposited at a local, enclosed camp/resort spot where we had lunch and where we put Mike on a mat, in the shade to rest. These flowers were a small bright spot during this short stop.  So vivid! We waited for about an hour or so for the truck to be repaired and then, once again, we were under way.

I have to commend Dumi, Richard and Mandhla. They handled the situation superbly,  panic – free (I was doing that for all of us!!), but steady and helpful. Mike had by this time lost all of his bodily fluids. Dumi made him a concoction of  water, sugar and salt and Mike tried to keep it down.

Mikal’s point of view:

The crew – Dumi, Richard, Mandla were phenomenal in their care for me.They concocted  a homemade re-hydration salt/sugar solution… (1 teaspoon salt to 7 teaspoons sugar per liter). Getting it down my throat was easy… keeping it down? … We stopped every 30-45 minutes for me to be sick… again and again and again…

Our fellow travelers were incredible also, being supportive of Tilly and understanding of my situation by NOT taking a video for YOUtube posting later.

At this point, you’d think it couldn’t get any worse. It did. Mike just couldn’t get comfortable. After some discussion, it was decided he might be more comfortable in the cab of the truck, beside Dumi, who was driving.  All of a sudden, the brakes went on. There was a commotion in the front seat. I leaped out of my seat, and just as I got to the window and able to see Mike, I saw him having a seizure. He had thrown up again (thank heavens there wasn’t much left by this time). The seizure was very short – only a few moments. We quickly got him out – the nether region was also excreting. Mike told us that he thought maybe he was too hot but too incapacitated to say anything – basically I think he lost consciousness. Little did we know the sun had been shining on him full blast, through his open window, so on top of whatever bug he had, we had inadvertently caused him to have heat stroke too. We soaked everything we could find in water and laid him on the floor of the bus where he stayed for the duration of the trip. Once we got him cooled off, he started to rally and I started to hope that maybe the worst was over. Thank heavens we were finally on a paved road.

Finally, after a stop at the ‘already closed’ medical clinic, we arrived in Opuwo, at the Opuwo Country Lodge. Our tent was the priority that evening (it was already 7pm). We were already much later than planned with the numerous stops for Mike and the longer stop for truck repair. I think we were all exhausted. We showered, washed clothes, ate dinner and headed off to our respective tents.

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