The Daily Dozen: Kunene River to Opuwo

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.


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.

Categories: Africa, Africa, Travel

3 replies »