Searching for The Himba

So there we were, middle of Namibia with some cut up tires holding Franks front suspension in place and looking for someone that stocks the part. Long story short, 4 hours, 10 stops and 3 towns later we finally stumbled across a town that looked as though it could help us, but being a Saturday we would have to wait for everything to reopen come Monday morning. Namibians seem to really cherish their weekend with almost everything, fuel stations aside, closing down after 5pm on the Friday. A night in the town we chose was not to be a relaxing one with the local shebeen at full tilt and a church meeting with an over zealous pastor fighting to see who could be the loudest or excise the most demons. Spoiler alert, the Shebeen won, kindly closing its doors at 4.30am. Sadly our trip out to a beautiful local farm in favour of another night in town was not to be too relaxing either as Tash decided to compete for Namibias sickest person and after 2 days of high fevers, chills and everything else in between she was admitted to hospital for a further 2 days. Begging and pleading with the kind staff on the 3rd day saw her release (probably helped along by the fact that I was now camping in the emergency department parking lot), only under the premise that a cocktail of pills be taken several times a day for the next 5 days. A few more days of relaxation and recovery followed and apart form a late night raid by a gang of organised porcupines nothing much else happened. We fixed the car with some mechanical wizardry and finally saw some improvement in Tash’s health meaning that we could happily leave Otjiwarongo, our unexpected home for the past week.

 

 

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Looking for something else to see but not wanting to stray too far from medical help if needed we headed to a local wildlife reserve that boasted black rhino in the area. An odd place that didn’t quite seem finished and with no sign of other visitors or cars. We drove for kms without seeing another soul, in fact the only thing we seemed to come across at all were damara dik-diks. For lack of a better option we pushed forward and finally came across some larger animals, 2 giraffe, right in the middle of the road. Not only unusual due to the fact that it was 2 bulls together but unlike most giraffe they were not at all skittish, allowing us to get within only a few metres of them before casually wandering off. Even when we hopped out of the car they seemed undeterred by our presence. A few average animal sighting later we made camp in a very remote spot on a plateau within the park, our only neighbour seemed to be the local who appeared out of the bush on his push bike who spoke 3 words of english. A weird but stunning place to say the least, and as it turns out the place wasn’t completely devoid of life as once thought, we found gemsbok and 3 more giraffe just outside of our camp the next morning.

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The second (and apparently more important 🙂 birthday of the trip was coming up fast and after a long time staring at the map we decided to head back towards the coast to Palmwag and the remote Northwest section of Namibia, Kaokoland. An overnighter in Uis and a quick look at Brandberg Mountain, Namibias highest peak, and we were underway. Having read about Grootberg pass lodge and its stunning views we decided to pop in, unaware that the little detour was going to test Frank, our driving capability and our nerves. A steep gravel hill lead up to the pass where we were faced with the steepest one way track to a lodge that either of us had ever come across. with Frank and all his 3 tonnes in low range, seatbelt on and holding our breath we made our way upwards hoping whatever lay beyond the summit was worth it. The view from the top was absolutely spectacular. A deck with an endless pool spilled over the edge of the cliff giving a clear uninterrupted view of the deep canyon below, certainly a place deserved of a beer before we had to face the only thing scarier than driving up that track. Going down.

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Thankfully back on level ground after a terrifying 15 minutes of hoping and praying the gears alone would hold Frank and stop us from careening off the side into the valley below, a near miss with a doof impala and we were soon in Palmwag. An oasis that seemed to appear from absolutely nowhere (as most oases tend to do). Ready to enjoy the scenery and crack open another cold beer we plugged the car in, only this time there was no usual reassuring beep from the inverter letting us know that it was receiving power, after trying twice and checking a few connections we plugged a kettle into the mains willing the issue to be with the plug, but as the orange light clicked on we realised we had bigger issues. 2 hours, much swearing and a sad Beani later we realised we would need to go to people who could fix this and that meant Windhoek……

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The following morning brought with it Tasha’s birthday and not the day of the broken inverter so we pushed aside the ever looming prospect of a return to Windhoek, and went to find Hoada Camp. An amazing camp in the middle of nowhere, with only 8 pitches, private open air showers and a pool with sundowner deck both spectacularly built into the top of a kopje. Needless to say after an afternoon spent by the pool it was decided that the deck would be the perfect place to crack the vintage bottle of wine that we had been (carefully) dragging around with us since leaving Pretoria. This left the evening to relax by our fire and both guess at which constellation is which and laugh over how the treacherous roads could break 2 diesel cans, the bracket, two latches, shocks and an inverter but not the bottle of red!!

 

 

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Facing the reality the next morning we set of towards Windhoek, but couldn’t resist trying to find the local Himba village we had heard about, and with very crude directions from a local we set off. 8kms down a basic, but fairly well driven dirk track we came to a fence, turns out it was the vet fence that covers the entire width of the country. The guy manning the gate was kind enough to let us know that we were on the right path and that we should just continue down the river bed (yep another one of those ‘river bed’ adventures) for about 8kms. Unlike the last encounter this river bed still had evidence of the wet season with pools of stagnant water dotted all along which fed the banks leading to a small valley of lush grass and tall palms which were out-of-place in the otherwise barren rocky surroundings but made for a stunning oasis in the valley.

 

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As we bumped along the track we came across a guy dressed straight out of the 80’s, track-suit pants, disco style shell-suit jacket, mirrored aviators and puma watch to boot. Soon he was telling us how he lived at the Himba village but had just been into the city and was on his way back. Within seconds of smooth talking his walking stick was in the cab with us and he was hitching a ride by standing on the drivers’ side step whilst hanging on to the door handles and snorkel as we drove on, a little confused and wondering if everyone else in the village would be dressed like they had stepped out of an episode of the fresh prince of bel-air.

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The road worsened and soon we were navigating large boulders, sharp rocks and deep sand, the only thing more impressive than Frank was the guy still managing to cling to the side of the car as it bounced all over the place. What seemed like an age later finally mud huts appeared on the horizon, driving in ‘old mate’ told us to park under the tree as he jumped ship, and there we found ourselves in the middle of a group of excitable and traditionally dressed kids with women cooking around the fire. Slinking out the car, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible (which we failed at) we were soon surrounded by kids pulling at our arms trying to be picked up, offering us the half chewed bones they were eating and attempting to climb in the car. We found out that ‘old mate’ did indeed live in the village and he was back next to us, in far more suitable attire for the surrounding village and was offering to show us around.

 

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A very friendly and interesting society every woman came to greet us whilst our new friend spent time happily explaining their life from how they make the red paste that the women smear over their bodies in place of bathing and its multiple uses as deodorant, insect repellant and sunscreen to the co-habitation of one husband and his 5 wives.

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After kindly showing us inside one home and having one lady give a demonstration of how they make the red okra paste we began to feel we were maybe intruding in their home whilst they are getting on with their daily lives, and with neither one of us being particularly good at playing the typical tommy tourist we felt a little uncomfortable at his offers of allowing us to walk into the other huts, touch the chicks hair, or pose for photographs with them and so after awkwardly standing around for a while, buying a few trinkets and politely smiling we gave the kids some sweets and headed off.

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Back in Windhoek and unable to get the inverter fixed, or afford a new one, we decided to get solar installed. The fact that we had come across more giraffe than clouds meant this was an easy decision and seemed to be a very sensible option. We found an amazing company that knocked the work over in a day but unfortunately managed to crack the fibreglass roof. To their credit they found a place to fix it and paid for that along with our accommodation over the weekend (thanks again to the weekend Namibian shutdowns) and 4 days later we were back on the road with a better than new roof and now running 50 percent green energy. We were thinking about ignoring a couple of issues we were having with the starter battery the last week or so as we were dying to get to Etosha and that’s exactly what we did. I didn’t think I would have to get out the car and jump it in an area rife with lion but we have come to accept that we never know whats going to happen next when the lead mechanic on this trip is me. More Etosha coming soon.

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