Thursday 14th July
Today’s travel would take us inland leaving Rundu early and a 250km drive to Roys Rest Camp which would be our overnight destination and staging point to enter Etosha National Park the next day.
One of the more refreshing things we were encountering was the diversity of camp sites we were staying at. Each one was unique and funky in their own right. Roys Rest Camp although simply named was anything but. The one familiar theme running through most of them was their liberal use of recycling materials up to and including cars (as we found at Roys).
The trip to the camp site was reasonably uneventful now that we had no further border crossings. The roads were still sealed at this point (but for not much longer as we were to find out). Traveling along observations were made such as the roads were flat with minimal traffic (remember this is a country of only 2 million people), the land was dry (go figure), there were at times foot & mouth disease containment checkpoints we went through (how effective were they?) , the truck of choice seemed to be Freightliners with pickups of choice being the good old Toyota Hilux.
Upon arriving at camp the brief was simple, get the tents up, get lunch ready,eaten and cleared as by 1pm we had to be on the road to travel 70km inland to visit a San living museum . This area is home to many of the San people or Bushpeople which apparently seems to be a more accepted naming term. Before we left the Baker made a breaddough that we would use for dinner later that evening (well so we thought) Remember when making bread not to forget the salt. Use 20gm of per kg of flour!
As we arrived we noted another overlanding company and their clients had set up camp next to us. Before long it was also noted to our guides that they had larger tents, two cooks and a dining table set with table cloth and cutlery so perhaps they (our guides) to head off any impending mutiny organize for us a similar dining table. It was put to us that those customers were possibly putting more resources into their trip than we were (paying more).
We were back on the Blue Elephant headed inland on a sandy and bumpy road for an hour. It was a taste of roads to come over the coming days. After around an hour we pulled up at a veterinary checkpoint where we were boarded and checked out by officers. For some reason as they were leaving they asked Noelle how life was in North Korea. They had from memory asked what nationalities were on the truck and for some reason, North Korea came out of left field and stuck with Noelle for the remainder of the trip.
From there a short drive took us to a sandy track that we headed up for 6km. 2WD vehicles were not advised to travel it and T.K our driver told us the last time he traveled the road he got his truck stuck. The record will show that we made it in and out without getting stuck.
The Living Museum of the Ju/’Hoansi-San gives an interesting insight into the life of the friendly San. The Living Museum is an authentic open-air museum where you can learn about the traditional culture and the original way of living of the San. The Ju/’Hoansi bushmen demonstrate and describe everything with great dedication and the guide translates into english. The program was interactive because it was also fun for the Ju/’Hoansi when we made bows, and tried to shoot an arrow to hit a targets they had set up. Since July 2004 the Ju/’Hoansi have run the museum completely on their own.
The Living Museum consists of several huts, but actually this is only the surrounding of the open-air Museum: the San focus on showing their original lifestyle. They present the old, almost forgotten culture in traditional dresses in the midst of their reconstructed “nomad-village” from the ancient days. A visit to another farm where our host would teach us how to survive in the desert would also be a history lesson with a difference on the bush people.
The San of the Living Museum set a high value on presenting the hunter-gatherer culture as authentic as possible. It was authentic down to the dress of which the loincloth was the clothing of choice. Their skin was a dark tanned/brown that looked leathery and although they wore only a loin cloth to cover their lower regions a life spent under the harsh African sun did not seemed to have aged them prematurely. Although there was no embarrassment of their or our behalf I personally did feel uncomfortable taking photos of the women so left that to Noelle.
Their complicated language is characterized by the typical clicking sounds which can be found in all San languages.
This is truly a unique experience and although they do not hunt these days for the bigger game animals as they used to (Giraffes, Zebras etc). After an introductory briefing our guide took us on a walk into the bush where we were taught about tracking animals & hunting animals (using only their bows & arrows they for want of a better word sneak up to around 50m from their prey – and they moved silently and effortlessly through the bush with us as we all talked and broke as many branches as we could step on – silent it was not) , trapping by making snares, bush medicine (plants and roots that can be used to treat ailments) & making fire.
Returning from that the kids were then given the opportunity to make a bow each with assistance from their San mentors. a branch from a certain bush was chosen and then stripped of it’s bark and whittled at both ends to narrow it. The bushmen then made from plant fibers a rope which they fixed to the shaped branch and voila…a bow. They then gave the kids some bone and metal tipped arrows which they used for trying to hit targets that had been setup. (we did get the bows and arrows back into NZ where we will get them framed at some stage)
The San women were busy creating arts and crafts around the centre of the open air museum which were then transferred to the craft shop they operated where traditional tools, weapons and jewellery were for sale.
There was some truly exquisite pieces that would look good on the wall at home but given the nature of what it was made of and that bringing weapons into the country is generally frowned upon we opted not to purchase.
By this time the sun was setting once again (and once it goes down the temperature drops almost as quickly) so we were back onto the truck for the 75km drive back to the camp. The drive down the sandy and rough track back onto the main (dirt) road with a setting sun made for spectacular viewing.
Unfortunately given it was a sandy and rough track and chance of getting a steady shot was slim to none. As mentioned in previous updates our collection of sunsets in Southern Africa was growing rapidly with each one being special in their own right. If we had to choose one that stood out it would have to be the mokoro ride at sunset in the Okavango Delta but then we still had plenty more sunsets to enjoy so it was soon to be surpassed.
Darkness was almost upon us as we arrived back at the veterinary checkpoint. After a short stop there (and no more mentions of North Korea but being entertained by a hyperactive local youngster and his dance moves ) it was onwards back towards the camp. Traveling in darkness the kids were a little more subdued than was usual.
The journey took us about an hour to return where we found Charles had our dinner ready to be served (still no set table). The Baker whose dough had been proving all afternoon then set about making/baking the flatbread which we would have for breakfast in the morning. Andy gave us the usual next day briefing where we had to make a choice – leave at 8am and head direct to Etosha National Park or leave at 7am and take a side trip to see the Hoba Meteorite which was a little out of our way. The general consensus was to leave at 7am which would mean a 5am start.
Dishes done, kids (and us) showered (hot water at this camp) and into bed Noelle & I then took a walk up to the bar of the camp lodge where we found Harald and Kylie and soon we were in conversation with a South African lady who lives in Australia and takes tours for returned Australian service men (ones who from memory had been wounded) and she was taking a group of (again from memory) seven soldiers and was being accompanied by her daughters and friends. They were self driving and traveling in convoy. She (and the rest of them) were great to talk to and when she discovered her oldest daughter was ordering shots from the barman she flipped. After about an hour of interacting with these guys we called it a night. (it wouldn’t be the last we saw of them as our paths would cross 2 more times)
Another day in the heart of Namibia comes to an end. We were now really into a routine and enjoying all that was on offer in this magnificent country. We were also excited as we were heading into Etosha the next day which was home to most African animals you could imagine.
As an aside – I had been reading a book before we departed and only made it halfway through before I had to return it to the library. It was set in Namibia and Botswana and although fiction it was based around some historical events and actual places. I have since finished it and have found many of the places scenes are set in the book we had either been to or have driven past (Ngepi camp is one). I am therefore making this my read of the week !
More next week……….