Apr 212015
 

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

After the challenging and spectacular Hoanib drive, we spent the night at another community campground in Khowarib.

When I registered, the woman tending the camp said, “You can take campsite 1.”

Knowing that what suits some people doesn’t suit us, and not seeing any other campers around, I asked, “May we choose a different site if we prefer?”

She smiled and nodded. “Yes. You’ll choose campsite 1.”

I believed her then.

The upper Hoanib River and canyon. We think.

The view upstream from Campsite 1. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Campsite 1 was on a ledge overlooking this river canyon, which we think is still the Hoanib River. Here at the top of the river, a shallow, clear stream flowed, goats wandered the banks, and rosy-faced lovebirds flitted in the trees.

Hoanib River Canyon, downstream from Campsite 1.

Downstream from campsite 1.

The stream made a turn below Campsite 1.

As in the Puros community campground, each site had its own facilities: a shower, toilet, and bathroom sink set up in a stand of trees with stick privacy walls, and a kitchen counter with another sink, all with running water.

Shortly after we arrived, our host stopped by to say she was going home. “You’re in charge,” she said. “If anyone else comes, they can camp anywhere, and I’ll be back in the morning.”

No one else came.

Have I mentioned how much I like having these places to ourselves?

Chacma baboons scale the Hoanib canyon wall.

Chacma baboons scale the Hoanib canyon wall.

Chacma baboons scaled the canyon walls up to the campground, but they were not the thieving, nuisance sorts, and they stayed away from us. Good baboons.

The game park in the Palmwag Conservancy.

The game park in the Palmwag Conservancy. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

In the morning, we paid the Palmwag Conservancy to visit their game reserve. As far as game was concerned, our expectations were low based on what we’d read and the fact that this was a conservancy thing, not a national park. Conservancies are just communities; in fact, it’s just like the community campgrounds we’ve been staying in, only it’s a community game reserve. It’s not especially well developed, but there are 4WD tracks and the community offers guided trips. We, of course, chose to explore on our own despite a cautionary tale in our guidebook that described a guide getting lost and being found miles away on the Skeleton Coast, dehydrated and disoriented. This was a day trip for us; we didn’t wander off the main tracks.

The scenery was beautiful, again like the desert southwest US: red, rocky peaks and mesas; rocky slopes and plains; dry grass; and these large, succulent silversword-like plants that we’re calling “slate pencil” bushes because the branches remind us of slate-pencil urchin spines. The plant isn’t in my book, so I don’t know what it really is. If you know, please share.

Canyon in the Palmwag Conservancy

A small canyon in the park. Clickable pic.

Some red-rock canyons . . .

Wide-open valley, Palmwag Conservancy

Wide-open spaces. Clickable pic.

. . . and wide-open valleys.

Ostriches in the Palmwag Conservancy game park.

Ostriches in the Palmwag Conservancy game park. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

We saw the usual dry-environment suspects, including ostriches. They’re standing in front of the slate-pencil bushes, so you can see how big the bushes are. Ostriches are about 6 feet tall.

Gemsbok Herd, Palmwag Conservancy

Gemsbok herd. Palmwag Conservancy. Clickable pic.

And there were gemsbok, lots and lots of beautiful gemsbok.

Have you noticed that we haven’t seen any baby gemsboks? I’ve noticed. My book says that babies are kept hidden from the herd—not just us, but the herd—for the first month.

It seems to me, they keep the young ones hidden longer than that: I haven’t seen any with horns less than a foot long.

Interesting, eh? Of course, I’m dying to see a gemsbok baby.

Jackal

A wee jackal.

We also saw several jackals. The slate-pencil bushes provide great, shady cover.

Rocky Landscape, Palmwag Conservancy

Rocky landscape.

And then there were a mom and baby rhino, several giraffes, springbok, a meercat, and a couple of hyraxes, but they were all at a distance that didn’t make for nice pictures, so I’m giving you this picture instead.

Palmwag Conservancy.

Palmwag Conservancy. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Yep. I can imagine getting lost out there.

Clouds Roll In, Palmwag Conservancy

Clouds roll in. Clickable pic. That’s too many clickable pics. Someone isn’t being very disciplined today. Ahem.

Do you think these clouds bring rain? It rained yesterday, fairly hard for a brief period of time. Everybody wants rain, including us.

Apr 202015
 

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

Did you notice the change from game viewing to scenery viewing? How could you not, right? We’re out of the wildlife-heavy parks, heading into the desert. Wildlife is everywhere (sort of), so keep your eye out for it, but it’s likely we won’t see as much from here on out.

Today we left the Puros Community Campground and the Hoarusib River, backtracking the way we had come, but then we turned off the known route down the Ganamub Canyon to the Hoanib River valley, which would take us back to Sesfontein and “real” roads. That’s for all you map followers (Barb and Beck) and enjoyers of funny names (all of us).

Sandy riverbed.

Leaving our campsite on the Hoarusib River.

As you already know, it’s beautiful rocky mountain, canyon, riverbed country. Montana’s big sky is humbled by the sky here. The wide-open beautiful space, the blue-blue sky, the rugged rocks, the dramatic mountains and canyons, the life that persists out here—they all inspire and uplift. I literally breathe deeply in an effort to take it all in.

Giraffe in the shade

It’s cool to see you here, giraffe.

There is wildlife out here; it’s just not as abundant as it was in the parks. We saw a few giraffes today.

Mountain zebras in the shade.

Hi, zebras.

And small groups of mountain zebras, mostly at a distance.

Circles of plain sand where nothing grows.

Mysterious “fairy circles.” Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

These are “fairy circles.” They’re round patches of earth on which nothing grows. Our book tells us that it’s uncertain what causes this, and I can’t understand why someone hasn’t figured it out. Is it really impossible to figure out? How is the soil in the circle different from the soil outside the circle? I want answers!

But I don’t have any, so I’ll just enjoy the weird, polka-dot landscape.

A natural rock arch.

A hole in the rocks.

Hole in rock = photo op. Such a blue sky to shine through the gap.

Speaking of blue sky . . . the sky here is often blue because it rains so infrequently. In talking with Mickey at the Himba village, we asked, “Is it going to rain tomorrow?” When Mickey understood the question, she laughed at the absurdity and shook her head. “Maybe it will rain next year.”

Maybe it will rain next year.

That stuck with me. What a concept. That’s way-yonder out of my experience. It’s hard to imagine no chance of rain for many months, especially after a very dry rainy season. Day in and day out blue sky, sunny, hot, dry.

White sand, green shrubs, rocky mountains.

Scenery from the Hoarusib, Ganamub, Hoanib 4WD route. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Blue sky, rocky mountains, desert-adapted greenery, sand and rocks. And us.

A whole herd of gemsbok in the shade.

A whole herd of gemsbok in the shade. Clickable pic.

A herd of gemsbok. These hardy antelope, not dependent on surface water, are always immaculately dressed in their zippered cardigans and knee socks. They dress like preppy college students but get on and survive like rugby players. Of all the antelope we’ve seen, these are my favorites. Someday I’ll explain why in detail.

Mike driving.

Concentration!

The Ganamub Canyon route was a piece of cake, and the Hoanib River was fine at first, too. In general, we never went anywhere where we couldn’t turn around and get out the way we’d come. We are not big four-wheel-drivers; we are gentle folk who dislike the vertebrae-smashing, whiplash-inducing, teeth-cracking bumping and vibrating of tracks treated as roads. But we also love getting out to remote places, so we do what we have to do, as gently and carefully as we can.

Unfortunately, the farther along the Hoanib we went, the worse it got: long stretches of soft sand, flowing water in the river, steep banks, sharp turns, multiple tracks confusing the route. Sesfontein, with its real (albeit gravel) road, was only a few miles away if we braved it through whatever lay ahead. If we turned around, it would take hours to get there.

During a many-mile stretch of deep, soft sand, we came upon a group of springbok lingering in the track. “It’s up to you, springbok, to get out of the way,” Mike said. “I’m not stopping.”

They figured it out.

Note the thumbs out on the steering wheel, not wrapped around it. Soft sand can yank the wheel, breaking a thumb if it’s wrapped around. Well done!

Ostriches jogging in the Hoanib River.

Ostriches jogging in the Hoanib River. Clickable pic.

Ostriches on a PT run in the Hoanib River bed. Ohmygosh, they look funny running like that!

Mike walking the sand track to find the best route.

Scouting out the best route.

Scouting out the best route.

It was a difficult and sometimes stressful drive. Mike was pushed beyond his comfort zone. At one point, I was certain we were going to smash in the whole front end of the truck. The steep, sandy bank looked more like a wall than anything a truck could drive up and over, but up it went, turning sharply in soft sand at the top, no less. Four-wheel driving in the US is not as extreme as it is here in Africa. Being a solo vehicle, we did not want to get stuck.

We had a satellite phone if we got into too much trouble.

Driving on the Hoanib River

On the Hoanib River.

We made it. The truck and Mike did great. Mike insists the credit goes to the truck; the most he did was make suggestions.

The down side of Mike driving is that we don’t have as many pictures of the day as we would have if someone else had been driving.

Hoanib River, Namibia.

Hoanib River, Namibia. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

In the end, Mike deemed the experience worth the stress. It is beautiful out there.

Apr 182015
 

Everywhere we went in Kaokokland, from Kunene River Lodge to the Puros Community Campground, “Himba tours” were offered. The Himba are an African tribe in northwestern Namibia, nomadic cattle herders who continue to live today much as they did 100 and 1,000 years ago. They’re the kind of people written about and photographed for National Geographic.

On a Himba tour, a guide would take you to a real Himba village (as opposed to one of the fake ones, I presume) where you could openly gawk, ask questions and get answers in English, take photos, and buy the handicrafts of the villagers.

Honestly, I wanted to do all those things, but not on a tour with fellow gawkers that I didn’t know.

At the Puros community campground, which we had entirely to ourselves, I was surprised to find such a tour offered. I didn’t expect the community to be that organized or attentive to guests. I was impressed and pleased with the service we’d already received, and so was happy to support the community with my money. A tour here would surely be a private affair, just what I wanted.

While exploring around Puros early in the morning, we followed a 4WD track up a rocky hill that struck me as more suitable for climbing on foot than tires. At the top, we had a wonderful 360-degree view of the Hoarusib River valley.

Himba village from a distance.

Himba village from a distance. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Himba village, closer

Zooming in on the Himba village. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

At the edge of the valley, we were surprised to discover a fenced compound with mud and stick huts. Vehicle tracks between the compound and the community campground hinted that this might be the village the tour visits. Or not.

Himba women walking the trail to get water.

Himba women walking the trail to get water.

As we studied and enjoyed the landscape, three women, each carrying a five-gallon bucket, walked from the compound to the dry Hoarusib riverbed.

I think the fenced area that I’m calling a “compound” is called a “village” by locals. It’s so tiny, though, that I think “village” is misleading. I don’t think there are more than three or four families here, and they may all be related. I don’t know.

Himba women getting water from a waterhole.

Himba women getting water from a waterhole.

We figured they were getting water. The buckets tipped us off. All three of us have lived in the Bush where we hauled water the same way. I wonder if these women would be surprised to learn that, or if they would understand that was unusual for Americans.

The girl on the left in the t-shirt is named Mickey, or something that sounds like that to our ears. She speaks English moderately well. The other two do not speak English.

Mickey and the woman on the right have scarves on their heads to cushion and help balance the full water buckets that will soon be up there. The woman in the middle has an ornament on her head that I think prevents her from carrying anything that way.

Because we were curious and already gawking, and because we’ve all carried water ourselves, and because it was a long way from the water hole to the compound, and because we just happened to be where they were at this time, and because Mike’s brother is willing to do this kind of thing while Mike and I are not, we offered to give them a ride back. They accepted with smiles.

At first, they just put their buckets on the tailgate of the truck, but then were persuaded to hop on themselves; we’d go very slowly.

Once at the compound, Mickey invited us in . . . for N$30 (thirty Namibian dollars, which equals about three US dollars) per person. Good on her!

Mickey, I suspect, is a tour guide. She put on her guide hat as soon as we arrived. As I understand it, she was born in this village—right there in that compound, I think—but went away somewhere to school and learned English. I didn’t understand where.

At one point, Mickey picked up a toddler, and I noticed they looked alike. I figured the child was hers, but Mickey said the girl was her little sister, “We have the same mother.” That implies they have different fathers. That jibes with what someone else explained to me about African social structure: Multiple partners are not uncommon, which is part of the reason AIDS is such a problem here in Africa.

We paid Mickey and embarked on a private Himba tour. In addition to Mickey, there were four women in the compound and a bunch of kids. No men. The men were all in Puros we were told, or out with the cattle which were taken rather far away due to the drought and lack of suitable pasture nearby.

It was weird and uncomfortable for me and Mike. What do we do? What do we say? Mike is uncomfortable taking pictures of people, but that’s what our tour fee pays for. Even so, we hemmed and hawed and squirmed while Denny made himself at home and chatted up Mickey.

Himba children in the village.

Himba children in the village.

Mike and I headed for the kids who were gawking at us as blantantly as we were gawking at them. Hooray for kids and their curious, straightforward hearts! Mike picked up three rocks and juggled, which they found amusing. Having won the children’s approval, we relaxed a little.

Himba huts

Huts in the village.

Mike took pictures of the compound, and I joined the conversation with Mickey. I had tons of questions, but Mickey’s English was limited, and so, then, were my questions.

I wanted to know what they ate. The answer seems to be “not much.” As elsewhere, cornmeal is the staple, cooked like polenta. Himba are herders, so they eat goat and beef. I asked about local plants that they might gather and eat, and a palm fruit was the only answer I got. A child was eating one. First the skin and flesh are eaten from the outside, and the shell is cracked and the nut inside is eaten.

This same nut—a palm nut?—is carved nowadays and sold as an ornament. It’s sometimes called “vegetable ivory,” and is offered as a sustainable alternative to carved elephant tusks. However, given what these people are eating, I wonder if the nuts should be used this way rather than eaten.

Stall with Himba handicrafts.

Stall with Himba handicrafts.

In the middle of the compound was a stand loaded with handicrafts made by the residents. Mickey led us there, naturally.

Himba handicrafts.

Himba handicrafts. Clickable pic.

There were bracelets and necklaces made from leather, palm-frond fibers, seeds, and beads. There were carved palm-nut ornaments, and wood carved into giraffes and gemsbok and elephants and zebras. There were woven baskets and trays.

As we looked over the merchandise—which I enjoyed; it was great—the women came out and stood behind the sections that held their work. We knew who had made what, and I loved that. Any money we handed over went directly to the crafter.

Himba woman and me.

Himba woman and me.

We purchased a number of palm nuts carved by this woman.

Himba woman with her baby.

Himba woman with her baby.

At that point, she was very happy and friendly, and it was easier to take her photo. Her child is eating the flesh of a palm fruit.

The woman was wearing a goat-skin skirt—or perhaps it’s cow skin. What do I know? She didn’t speak English.

Her belt, as best I could make out, is leather covered with ochre clay. Tiny metal beads were strung together and pressed into the ochre. It weighs a ton . . . or at least several pounds. I picked one up. The anklet on her left foot and her head ornament appear to be made similarly. The anklet on her right foot is ochre-covered fabric.

The string around her waist is made from palm fibers, and I’m not sure what is strung on her necklaces.

Her hair is braided into many strands coated with ochre. She joked that I needed to fix my hair similarly, which Mickey had to translate for me. I would have let her do it if she had offered.

Her body is coated with ochre, too—ochre powder mixed with animal fat and herbs, called “otjize.” This protects the skin from sun and bugs. I’m sure it also removes dead skin and more as it dries and wears off. I understand it’s taboo for women to bathe with water.

I asked where they get the ochre. “Far away,” Mickey said. Our guidebook indicated that ochre is available in just one place in the country. I wonder that the Himba use it so much when it must come from so far away. I suppose it’s like diamonds or gold or any other status symbol: it’s more precious because it’s not easily available.

Himba woman cooking cornmeal porridge

A Himba woman cooks porridge.

While we were there, one of the women prepared a pot of cornmeal mush, called “pap” here. (It’s pronounced “pop.”) I know it as “polenta.” Also cooking on the fire was a #10 can of water and bark which would become the black dye used to color some of the handicrafts.

Himba children eat porridge.

Himba children eat porridge.

The pap was given to the children who dove in with their fingers, scooping out a mouthful at a time.

Himba mud hut

Himba mud hut. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

We asked if we might see inside a hut, and we were invited to go in this one. Maybe I could stand up straight in the middle, but I didn’t try. It’s used only for sleeping, though, and who stands up to sleep? These people spend their days mostly outside.

I’ve been calling them mud huts, but the mud here was animal dung, and I have since read that that’s the norm. It did not smell like a barnyard.

Inside the Himba mud hut.

Inside the Himba mud hut. Clickable pic.

We asked how many people sleep in this hut. Five. I’m sure several are children, but still . . . that’s a lot of people in this tiny space and no privacy for anyone.

Inside a mud hut.

Inside a mud hut. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

The belongings inside the hut included several blankets and pieces of fabric, three skin skirts, jars of ochre and who-knows-what, a belt, an animal tail, and a woven tray or plate. Cooking implements are kept elsewhere. Someone mentioned “day huts” and “night huts,” so perhaps each family unit has two huts.

Himba children try on my hat and bandana.

Himba children try on my hat and bandana.

Before we left, Mike took my hat off my head and plopped it on Mickey’s little sister’s head. Seeing that, a little boy wanted desperately to try on my bandana; he looked as though he might cry if I refused. When I put it on his head, he gave me a big smile that was full of tiny brown teeth being eaten away by cavities. I was glad to think these are baby teeth that will fall and be replaced, but then what? We’re not elephants: We have just one set of replacement teeth.

It was a weird, somewhat uncomfortable experience, but I’m so glad we did it. Looking back, I wish I’d asked a million other questions. One woman beat palm leaves against the fence, and I wish I’d asked if I might help her, if she might show me how she braided a necklace from the fiber. Heck, I even wish I’d asked if I might sleep over. I could have made dinner, brought a snack, showed them my embroidery, traded bracelets . . . . I know, however, that we’re lucky we did as much as we did. Maybe next time I won’t feel so awkward. Maybe.

Apr 172015
 

Twelve (or twenty-two) photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

The Puros Community Campground is in the dry Hoarusib riverbed. The Hoarusib River is an ephemeral river, which means that every now and then, but not very often, for a brief period of time, there’s running water here. There is, however, underground water in the riverbed, which explains all the greenery. The surrounding area? Dry, dry, dry.

Sunrise on the Hoarusib

Sunrise on the Hoarusib. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

It’s a beautiful morning on the Hoarusib. We walked to the edge of the riverbed to see the sun rise on the surrounding hills. We happened upon several ostriches and giraffes. It was way flipping cool to see giraffes while on foot, to be roaming about with them in the wild. We didn’t try to get close to them. In fact, we made a point of circling around so they didn’t run away. Still, it was interesting to get a sense of their size compared to ours while standing with them in the sand. The perspective from outside a car is different from the perspective from inside a car.

The ostriches were funny. They caught a glimpse of us and took off across the desert plain. They ran and ran. When they got far away, they didn’t stop. They were tiny specks racing across the desert last we saw them.

Seeing the beautiful day in store, we decide we’ll drive out the riverbed a ways, and if the going isn’t awful, we’ll stay here another night.

Jen and the truck on the hill.

The view from a rocky hill.

First, however, we decide to drive up a rocky knoll for a 360-degree view of the valley. To me, this little hill looks like something we should walk up, not drive up. It’s steep and narrow with big rocks to climb.

(This is when we spot some Himba women and visit their village, which you’ll hear about next time. This post will be about the rest of the day.)

The sandy riverbed with trees and brush.

Hoarusib riverbed.

Our camp is somewhere down there in the green area.

A giraffe in the Hoarusib riverbed.

Wildlife. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

There is wildlife down there, too. See? A giraffe.

The Hoarusib river valley.

Where we are headed: Up the Hoarusib riverbed. Clickable pic.

This is where we will head, up the Hoarusib riverbed.

A track in the sand.

Our track.

Our track up the riverbed.

Palm trees and brush in the Hoarusib Riverbed.

So much green in the riverbed. Clickable pic.

The riverbed is lush.

Giraffe under a shady tree.

Another giraffe.

We spy a couple more giraffes as we head up the valley.

Hoarusib River valley.

Looking back.

At the top of the valley, we head up a rocky pass into the surrounding mountains. That’s the Hoarusib valley back there.

Rocky pass above Hoarusib River

Rocky pass above Hoarusib River. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

We’re going this way.

Tree in rocky pass.

Rocks. A pass. A tree.

Not much up here but rocks and a few trees. Very few trees.

Gemsbok comfy in the shade.

Gemsbok comfy in the shade.

And a gemsbok.

Gemsbok running from comfy shade.

Car! Run away!

Gah! A big, rumbling white thing! Run!

Gemsbok re-thinking its decision to run from the shade.

Is this really necessary?

Dang . . . I really want that shade.

A mud hut and a small shelf holding a few rocks.

A rock shop.

Wonder of wonders: a rock shop offering quartz, rose quartz, crystal-wannabe rocks, and the like.

Mud hut.

Shop-owner’s abode.

The shop proprietor lives here, I guess. Sometimes. Probably during the peak travel season. I wonder how many people come out here during the peak travel season. Not very many, I suspect. It’s a wonder a shop can stay in business.

Me with an oryx horn on my head.

Oryx gazella jenella

The fire poker is a gemsbok horn.

Look. I’m a gemsbok

Jen picking up rocks.

Rockhounding.

With the rock shop closed for the season, we’ve no choice but to find our own rocks.

Our track over the pass.

Our track over the pass. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

It’s pretty easy. Cool rocks are everywhere.

Beyond the pass.

Beyond the pass. Shall we go? Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

At the top of the pass, the road continues on and on and on to another green valley in the distance.

Rocky top.

Rocky top.

We’d love to continue on, or at least camp out here, but we left our tents set up back at the campground. We turn around.

Two waterholes dug by elephants.

Elephant-dug waterholes.

We take a different track—or several tracks—through the Hoarusib riverbed and discover waterholes probably dug by animals, probably dug by desert elephants. We read about these waterholes in the guidebook, and we hoped to see some. It would be nice to see the elephants, too. Maybe there are some around after all.

Apr 162015
 

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

We re-supplied in Opuwo and headed southwest to Puros, or Purros, depending on the source. I’ve been spelling it with one r, so I’m going to stick with that. Puros is a tiny Bush village out in Kaokoland.

Grocery shopping in Opuwo was fun. Really. It was fairly early on a Sunday morning. I was well rested and alert. The appearance of the town was not a surprise. And we were on our way out of town, not looking for a place to safely and comfortably sleep. All those things make a big difference.

The unassuming store was well stocked, and at 9:30 a.m. was already crowded and hopping. While I get great pleasure from being well stocked with food, what made shopping fun was the variety of people in the store and the opportunity to watch and walk amongst them. I pushed my cart up and down aisles with the following models of humanity:

  • Himba women clad in goatskin skirts, no shirts, ochre-covered bodies, and jewelry to beat the band: necklaces, bracelets, hair ornaments, and sandals with lacing half-way up the calves
  • Herero women in long, voluminous European colonial dresses with triangular headpieces made to resemble cattle horns
  • Regular old Africans in jeans, shorts, and t-shirts, often in combinations Americans would deem unmatching

Some smiling guy came up to me as I selected a loaf of bread and started yammering away at me, not in English, as far as I could tell. When he finished, I giggled, shook my head cluelessly, and said, “Sorry. I don’t understand.” He laughed like it was a great joke, waved, and went on his way with his loaf of bread. I put my bread selection back and grabbed one from the cart where he had gotten his.

When I hauled my purchases out to the car, Mike was studiously ignoring a small crowd of locals hawking their hand-crafted jewelry wares. He had long since given up repeating “No, thank you.”

I, myself, was accosted by a young Himba woman as I exited the store. “Hungry baby,” she said, hitching her baby up and thrusting a handful of bracelets and necklaces at me. She followed me to the car where the swarm around Mike quickly swarmed around me. Three women and one man holding baskets of handicrafts surrounded me as I stuffed the groceries into the truck anywhere I could make them fit. I was being mobbed, which is like being mugged but less dangerous. I think. I hope.

I hate that situation, and we face it pretty much everywhere we go. But I was in a good, sturdy mood, so I went ahead and engaged. I didn’t mind buying a bracelet or something, but I despise this scenario, the pushing hawking of wares and the refusal to accept “no” for an answer. Of course, by buying something, I’m rewarding and encouraging the very thing I hate.

One of the three women spoke English. She answered my questions: Each person made the articles in his/her basket; the “beads” were seeds; the fibers were from palm fronds. I selected a bracelet from the woman with the baby. “That’s no good,” said the English-speaking woman. “There are three of us.” The man didn’t count, I guess. She indicated that I should buy something from all three of them. Believe me, I understand how much more I have than these people, and I have plenty of guilt for not giving more and more and more, but I also don’t have the resources to help every person I meet who is needy or has less than I. This is a big part of why I hate these situations and generally avoid them.

So there it was: my limit. I would buy the one or none. I was finished with the interaction, no longer willing to engage with the relentless pushing.

I wound up buying the bracelet, and the English-speaker pushed one more time, but I was done. No amount of pushing was going to move me.

Finally, we got out of town and headed out to the Bush where we could relax and feel comfortable. We drove along dry riverbeds, through canyons, and over rocky passes. The scenery reminded us of the southwestern US. Take a look. What do you think?

Rocky mountains near Puros, Namibia

Rocky mountains near Puros, Namibia. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Sand and bright green groundcover.

The sand accentuates the bright green ground cover. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

That yellow-green ground cover is something, isn’t it?

03 Tree on a Hill, Sesfontein, Namibia

Tree on a hill. Sesfontein.

This little tree is in Sesfontein. Not much else is. There must be six fountains somewhere, but I don’t know where.

Sandy river bed with green trees growing.

Ephemeral river bed. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Sandy river bed with green trees growing.

Ephemeral river bed. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

This is an “ephemeral river,” which means that every once in a while for a brief period of time water runs on the surface here. Most of the time, however, water is underground, where only tree roots, well drillers, and thirsty elephants can find it.

Mountain scenery, Namibia

Mountain scenery, Namibia. Scenic photos always look better when they’re big. You can click this one, too. Use your back button to return.

Red rocks and sand

Red rocks and sand intersperse with white. Clickable pic.

Ostriches in the Namibian mountains.

Ostriches. Clickable pic.

Ostriches. That’s not like the southwestern US.

A giraffe in the shade of a tree.

Wildlife!

As we neared our destination, we finally found a mammal.

Giraffe under a tree

If the tree fits, stand under it.

And it had found a tree big enough to provide ample shade.

Wide, sandy plain with a few dry grass tutfts.

Sparse vegetation. Clickable pic.

There’s not likely to be a ton of wildlife here, you know? I feel hungry and parched looking at it.

Wide, flat sand road.

Our road. Clickable pic.

The road to where we’re going.

Apr 152015
 

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

Here again, we’re going to play fast and loose with the term “daily.”

We got to Kunene River Lodge just after 7:00 p.m. when the gate and office closed. No matter, they accommodated us anyway. The following day was a day off to catch up, rest up, and clean up. And then we were off again, traveling from the Kunene River to Opuwo via Epupa Falls, which is not at all on the way, but close enough to make a detour easy.

Kunene River, Namibia

Kunene River. Now there’s some water.

Kunene River Lodge is on the Kunene River (surprise!), only the second substantial river we’ve seen here in Africa, along with the Zambezi. The river is low due to the current drought, but it’s still a good-sized river.

Kunene River and Angola

Kunene River and Angola.

Here, the Kunene River is the border line between Namibia and Angola. We’re at the tippy-top of Namibia. You’re looking at Angola. Neat, huh?

Vervet monkey with stolen bag of chips.

Bad monkey!

The lodge warns guests about thieving vervet monkeys, and they do what they can to deter such nuisance behavior. Being from Alaska, where there are grizzlies and black bears, we are accustomed to keeping a clean camp and keeping food in the car.

What we aren’t accustomed to is such heat as requires open windows; cheeky beasts willing to enter a car through an open window; and tiny, lightning-quick, too-smart-for-their-own-good monkeys.

Gah!

Vervet moneky eating stolen potato chips

Campground pest.

The monkeys seem to be in cahoots, willing to share, and teaching the young their wily ways. The bag was stashed out of our reach in the tree, and when the wind blew, chips rained down. The camp dog helped us clean them up.

Bad monkeys!

Not especially good campers, either.

Red sand, rocky hills, no understory

On the road to Epupa Falls. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

More rocks, sand, trees, and no understory, also more mountains and more red color into the bargain. It’s beautiful country. This is Kaokoland, said to be Namibia’s last wilderness.

Huts on the way to Epupa Falls, Namibia

Residential area on the way to Epupa Falls. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

There are a few people around, though, namely members of the Himba tribe, nomadic cattle herders who continue to live much as they did 100 and 1,000 years ago. We saw a few walking along the road. The women, more so than the men, are dressed in native attire, like you see in National Geographic. I wanted to gawk, but we were driving by.

More than that, I wanted to spend a day with a Himba woman, but that goes beyond my comfort zone. For starters, just taking photos of people feels too intrusive to me. Some don’t mind but expect to be paid. How much? Beats me.

Then there’s a language barrier and my personal social-standoffishness barrier.

But I’m curious, and I would love to spend a day or two or even a week living as a Himba woman does. Sort of. I’d want my long-sleeved shirt, hat, and sunglasses, thanks.

Mike on the edge of Epupa Falls.

Mike on the edge of Epupa Falls.

The waterfall at Epupa Falls was dang nice. That’s the Kunene River splashing down through the canyon. “Epupa” is a Herero word meaning “foam,” and I’ll leave you to guess why the falls are called this. The Herero are another native tribe. Like Himba women, Herero women have a style of dress that they stick with, but there the comparison ends. The styles are vastly different. I’m not sure we have any pictures of Herero women, so if you’re interested, Google it.

Our guidebook said that tourism at the falls is “developed,” so I figured that meant there was a park, a path to the falls, and an entrance fee. There were none of those things. In fact, there isn’t so much as a sign pointing out where to go or park or walk or where you might fall over the cliff and die.

There were some small, not-fancy campgrounds nearby inviting visitors to stay, but that was it. We parked on the rocks and found the falls on our own, which was no great feat, mind you, since they’re just sitting out on the rocks in the open, rushing, crashing, and making mist.

A local man was bathing in a pool at the top of the falls.

The Kunene River crashes down Epupa Falls.

The Kunene River crashes down Epupa Falls.

The Kunene is a sizable river. The water level is down, I’m sure, what with the drought, but that’s some serious water moving through.

The canyon below Epupa Falls.

The canyon below Epupa Falls.

And off is goes out into the desert.

Red rocks at Epupa Falls.

Rocks at Epupa Falls.

The rocks of the canyon offer great colors and patterns.

Good Road Market: the sign on a shop

This image speaks for itself—much more highly than I would speak for it.

We headed south again toward Opuwo. This market provides cold beverages for the long, hot drive, and a few other things.

“Opuwo” is a Herero word that means “the end.” What do you make of a town named “The End”? The end of what? The end of the road? The end of the world? The end of all that’s good and decent? The end of a great time?

I wonder if there’s a beginning of something else here. I sure hope so.

Huts in a compound, Namibia

Where the people live. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

As we neared Opuwo, the largest town in the area (a large area, at that), we saw evidence of more and more people. We also saw evidence of The End. Words like “rinky-dink,” “ramshackle,” and “dismal” come to mind.

Our guidebook listed just one accommodation that had Internet access, and after a week of no Internet in Etosha and uncooperative satellite Internet at Kunene, access was a higher-than-usual priority. However, as we pulled into said accommodation, Mike and I decided we were willing to do without the luxury of Internet access. In fact, the idea of sleeping in the car anywhere out of town was appealing. This accommodation, said to have a “strong Christian ethos,” looked and felt more like a drug den to me. Appearances, I know, can be deceiving.

When we indicated to the Kunene River Lodge owner that we’d be staying overnight in Opuwo, she said, “Well, of course you’ll stay at the Opuwo Country Lodge,” as if there was no alternative, so we headed there. The approach to the lodge left much to be desired, but we determined to have a look. Once in the gate, I breathed a sigh of relief. Ahhhh, comfortable, familiar territory. I am not proud of my response to Opuwo, but so it was.

The lodge was lovely. In fact, the main lodge building boasts the largest single-span thatch roof in the country. It was impressive. Did we take a picture? No.

And the lodge had Internet access, too.

We stayed in the campground on the property and had the place to ourselves. Well . . . we were the only campers there, anyway. There were also three domestic cats and Benson, the night watchman. Benson arrived and introduced himself shortly after we arrived. He spent the evening sitting or lying on the kitchen counter of the ablution block, watching over us as we slept some 100 feet away. I wonder if the lodge called Benson after we checked in or if he would have been there even if we had not.

I’d never had a personal guard before. I chose to not think about why the lodge felt the need to have a night watchman in the campground. I also ignored the five police cars that arrived silently but with lights flashing as we entered the lodge to get online after dinner.

Welcome to Opuwo.